• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 8:52am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 1:58am

Taxiing towards less controlled media

Bad Chinese emperors spent their time indulging themselves in palaces while neglecting state affairs. Good emperors lost sleep as they tirelessly administered the state and worried about the welfare of their subjects. Some famously travelled incognito to see for themselves how their people really lived and what hardships they suffered.

Those are the stereotypical images of emperors from dynastic Chinese history passed down to us through the ages. They were the subtext to the story last week, now embarrassingly retracted, over which the Beijing-loyalist paper Ta Kung Pao went gaga. It was a nice story about how President Xi Jinping travelled incognito in a taxi while commiserating with the driver about air pollution, traffic congestion and other urban woes in Beijing. The Hong Kong newspaper was, no doubt, eager to portray Xi as a good leader.

The government news agency, Xinhua, at first confirmed the story, but denied it later, forcing Ta Kung Pao to withdraw it. The paper had to issue a grovelling apology. Since then, both news groups have been pilloried online. Many questioned the propaganda authorities as to how the story was true at one moment and fake the next. Even the party's propaganda department has jumped into the fray, saying it is investigating.

But I think many critics got it wrong. It's surely a good sign that news organs of the party openly admitted running a fake story, and even apologised for it. Spin doctors around the world plant this sort of story all the time. Some do it well, others do so clumsily and their clients pay a political price.

Totalitarian states invent stories out of thin air. All other societies have to jazz up stories that have to have a modicum of truth or factual content. As Evelyn Waugh wrote in Scoop, even hopelessly hyped-up stories must contain "an embryo truth, a little grit of fact, like the core of a pearl, round which have been deposited the delicate layers of ornament".

Under Mao Zedong similar stories would have been impossible to verify, and you would be denounced and punished if you questioned their veracity. Sure, the Xi story exposes amateurish spin-doctoring. But it shows China is moving towards more normal journalistic practice, even if its news media remain heavily censored and controlled.

Share

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive
 
 

 

2

This article is now closed to comments

hard times !
the faked story of President Xi Jin-ping riding on a taxi in Beijing and questioned the driver about his views on the smog in the capital is really a good thing since it demonstrated that even a faked story has to carry something true----------the driver even showed off the words written by Xi to him after the ride and he had those words framed and hung on the wall of his house ! Yet now the unscruplous hacker-crook who happened to read pflim040's postings on March 8th about his views on our promised universal suffrage in 2017.From then on up till now,this/these nasty guy(s) continues to send faked e-mails to pflim040,trying to trick him to open some virus-spread attachments.But all his/their efforts failed to work.Now these days,he /they changed his / their tactic by sending numerous garbage e-mails to pflim040 which were all promptly deleted by the latter ! Hurray ! the evil never wins over the righteous !
captam
@"Totalitarian states invent stories out of thin air. All other societies have to jazz up stories that have to have a modicum of truth or factual content"
Inventing stories "out of thin air" for the press is far less harmful to society than contriving political events. Western democracies also get their press to cover "faked" stories. These might have some elements of factual occurrences but these have been cleverly created by intelligence agencies using paid stooges. Remember the "rent-a-crowd" rioters who toppled democratically elected left-wing politicians trying to nationalize Western-owned oil companies in the Middle East during the 1950s and 1960s? Western interference in the Middle East is still going on. You have another contrived "revolution" now raging in Syria, stirred up by Western and Zionist sponsored terrorists. This is no spontaneous and popular mass uprising against an unpopular ruler. Which are the real evil governments?
 
 
 
 
 

Login

SCMP.com Account

or