When actors talk about politics or take up a political cause, most of us just roll our eyes. As star comedian Ricky Gervais warned his audience of Hollywood stars at the start of the 2020 Golden Globes awards: “If you do win an award tonight, please don’t make it a platform to make a political speech. You are in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than [teenage climate activist] Greta Thunberg.” That’s generally true. Now and then, though, an actor does speak up with some courage and insight. And when people or critics start rounding on him or her like a pack of hyenas instead of merely ridiculing them or shrugging it off, you know they have hit a nerve. Like US comedian Kevin Hart and kung fu megastar Donnie Yen. Both have blasted the mainstream Western media recently and they are spot on. The co-star of the latest John Wick movie instalment even gets into trouble for calling the 2019 riot in Hong Kong, well, “a riot”. A “cancel” campaign with more than 100,000 signatures collected is calling on the Oscars to disinvite him as one of the presenters. I don’t see that happening, though. Imagine a retaliatory boycott of Hollywood by patriotic Chinese film-goers. In the end, it’s all about box office. Western media fails to grasp ‘deep interests’ that UAE, Saudi Arabia share However, it’s funny how people always talk about speaking “truth to power”, yet they never say anything about speaking “truth to the mob”, perhaps because they are the mob. Hart was in Pretoria last month as part of his comic “Reality Check” tour. At a press conference, he complained about how Africa is always portrayed in the West as being one step from disaster and that it is seemingly incapable of progress and development, only violence and corruption. “When something about Africa is talked about, it’s normally bad, it’s normally violent… It’s never good, a disease broke. So your perception is what people have forced you to believe,” he said. “Until you get the heart to say, I am going. I am going to see for myself, you don’t know. All I know is what the news says. And in my mind, am I going over there to get kidnapped? I am repeating what I heard… What the media force on me… And then I go, and I am fine. It’s a great city, I feel like I am back in New York, in Malibu… “That’s frustrating because it makes me go to y’all and makes me question y’all as the media. It’s you that’s pushing out everything. So when you ask, what’s your perception, my perception is what you make it. That’s the reality. The media never understood. Why did you do this? I do this because you did it, you started it all.” Wow, bang on! In less academic language, Hart is making exactly the same point as media critics such as Marshall McLuhan, Walter Lippmann and Noam Chomsky. It’s about manufacturing an alternate reality or perception of reality for news consumers to serve powerful interests other than those of the people being reported on. Meanwhile, Yen made a similar point about the Western media’s reporting on China in his profile with GQ magazine. According to the article, “Yen is proudly Chinese (it’s been reported that he gave up his US citizenship in the late aughts; he has since described himself as ‘100 per cent Chinese’) and is still amazed at the progress that he has witnessed in his home country during his lifetime. Li Qiang takes 1 foreign affairs question – on US-China decoupling “‘Most of the people outside of China don’t see it until they are there,’ Yen says. ‘The modernisation. I have been in so many countries in the world, but it’s not even close. The progress – the freeways, the architecture, the convenience of lifestyle’. He is upset when the Western media focuses only on negative stories about China. ‘The BBC, CNN, they never talk about that. They never mention the true side of it. But I’m there, you know?’” But it’s the next paragraph that got him in hot water: “Yen’s Chinese patriotism can get him into trouble – most notably during the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, during which Yen’s pro-Beijing stance prompted many cinema-goers in his home city to boycott his movies. “‘It wasn’t a protest, okay, it was a riot,’ Yen says. ‘I’m not going to be here talking about how to change how people feel about it. But my own experience, like, I was there, I have many friends who were there. I don’t want to get political. A lot of people might not be happy for what I’m saying, but I’m speaking from my own experience’.” Well, maybe it was a politically driven riot, but a sustained and highly destructive riot nevertheless. Now the mob wants to cancel him. Unfortunately for them, Yen is now too big for that.