There are few things more disturbing than the taking over of politics by uninformed emotion. One thing that actually is more disturbing is when media are using and inciting such take-over for their own cheap profit. I had hardly caught my breath again after Spiegel Online’s last, mildly put: questionable spin of the ongoing Tibet crisis, when my eyes fell on this story today:
(The headline says “People like that don’t belong on our streets” (as a quotation), and the teaser and the article insinuate that the blue-clad chinese security guards accompanying the torch relay – who, as far as I know, haven’t committed any sin – are some “ominous” elite soldiers “moving like robots” and “allegedly trained to kill when necessary”.)
This in my eyes not only borders on, it is a piece of shitty propaganda journalism. In a badly understood, emotionally charged situation like the pre-Olympic Tibet campaign, this is an example of irresponsible reporting if there ever was one. And its effects go far beyond the domestic readership. I guess the staff at Spiegel Online are not aware of the fact that German media are closely watched by Chinese netizens in online forums, and that it is not only the dreaded state and party leaders that might feel attacked and offended by such biased reporting and the mindset expressed in it, but also a broad majority of ordinary Chinese who happen to care a lot for the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games (and its torch relay), for many reasons, not least because they are seeing the event as a symbol of their nation’s rise out of poverty, a symbol of openness and hope.
And may I add that, after the notorious “Yellow Spies” title story, Der Spiegel gets (and deserves) special attention in China, and not exactly for its investigative depth?
Well, I guess, not much of this will be heard at a time when moral righteousness comes so cheap, and we all know so much about China and Tibet and what is right and what is wrong. So let me just humbly remind us all of the rules of professionalism, especially of a maxim of the late doyen of german journalism, Hanns Joachim Friedrichs, which I slightly alter for my purpose and reduce it to the low standards we are here dealing with: A journalist shouldn’t back a cause, even if his gut feeling tells him it’s a good one.
It is the job of good journalism to contribute to the explanation and understanding of a complicated situation, not to exploit it for sensationalism and propaganda.
(Fairness demands to add that in the Spiegel Forum discussion there are some other readers’ voices as critical with this story as me. Would that the Spon staff start to listen to them!)
Update 09.04.08, 8 pm: Well, obviously SpOn hasn’t even done too much genuine research on this matter (surprise!), but is just surfing the wake of mainstream British media, even in the use of its pejorative vocabulary. See this wonderful analysis of the current scaremongering and its historical background by Brendan O’Neill, editor of the leftist british online magazine Spiked. (Thanks to Jing in the Comments for the reference!)