No doubt one of the reasons the South China Morning Post all but ignored the Hong Kong Journalists Association’s report on press freedom in Hong Kong is that the paper’s own increasingly pro-Beijing bias came in for criticism. The report particularly mentioned the paper’s shift away from serious critical analysis in its op-ed pages. Other observers have noticed a similar pattern in editorials. The paper’s omission of the HKJA’s report and its downplaying of China’s roundup of lawyers show the same bias in actual news coverage – at which point a newspaper ceases to have any use to readers. (The business section, interestingly, remains relatively immune to this propagandizing trend.)
As the Asia Sentinel piece indicates, the smothering of the SCMP is most conspicuous in its China coverage. To media-watchers overseas it must seem strange for a publisher to take his paper’s key claim to international stature and deliberately trash it. But in Hong Kong it is unsurprising to see tycoons displaying loyalty to the Communist Party through ritual self-mutilation.
The decline of the SCMP’s opinion pieces is a bit less depressing, as commentary is abundant elsewhere. Indeed, it can be amusing to monitor these columns to see how heavy-handed and shameless editors must be in delivering ideological correctness. Some of this content is so demented that it must be self-parody – like this thing about the immense joys of watching dragon-boat races and imagining all the extra tourists they could attract. Mostly, though, the op-ed page seems to be carefully calibrated to achieve an ideal balance between insipidness and shoe-shining.
Thus there should always be a ‘hard-hitting’ piece on how something must be done about something everyone knows to be evil, like climate change or the ivory trade. Preferably, it should involve BRICS because they’re emerging and so highlight the decline of the West. Today’s is about exploitation of surrogate mothers in India, which should be regulated (root causes like poverty being unsolvable). Occasionally something vaguely entertaining slips through, like today’s sociology PhD mini-thesis on how ‘third culture kids’ is just a euphemism for ‘expat brats’ and (due to sociology PhD requirements) evil Western colonialism is to blame. If we wanted to be ultra-sensitive about bias, we could point out that both these items reflect badly on benighted, non-Chinese peoples.
In their attempts to seem incisive while remaining politically correct, columns can also be inadvertently funny. The SCMP’s political editor today poses an intriguing question: why do Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing political groups lack independence of thought? Obviously, the question answers itself – as a front for the Communist Party, the DAB is required to lack independence of thought. (Duh.) The writer contrasts the loyalists’ zombie-ness and obedience to dictators with the pro-democrats’ amateurish but ultimately moral, decent and publicly popular devotion to freedom (though not using these exact words). He concludes that it comes down to differences in political talent.
Then there’s the daily glorification of the motherland, preferably by an adoring barbarian. Tom Plate – mentioned here before – blasts Western media for their callous lack of empathy to China as the country endures its stock-market crash.
What has struck me about mainstream Western reporting on this subject, if anything, is actually the lack of gloating. But Plate finds it overwhelming and offensive. In true wumao fashion, he devotes much of the article to how the West is ‘just as bad’, having endured many financial crises itself – which is true but irrelevant. His real error here is to portray Western criticism of China’s policymaking as heartlessness towards the Chinese people. This is pure mendacity. I haven’t read a single word mocking the grannies and cab-drivers who lost savings in Beijing’s bubble-making accident/scam. No more than anyone mocks the lawyers who have been arrested, or the Tibetan monk who just died in prison, or any other victims of the Communist Party. The ‘lack of empathy’ is towards a Leninist dictatorship that has shown itself not only to be cruel but incompetent. It is a boot-licking article truly worthy of the SCMP’s op-ed page these days.
On a separate and brighter note – a pat on the head to Hong Kong Democratic Party. With little more to be said on political reform right now, they got off their backsides, found something wrong and made a fuss. Specifically, they discovered lead in the water at a public housing estate. The story has everything from an uncaring government, to a shady-sounding Mainland construction company linked with the husband of a pro-Beijing lawmaker, and for good measure, Legionnaires’ disease. See how easy it is to have officials and their supporters on the run!
Foreign forces trying to intervene in our….. oh, wait.
I recently came into possession of a copy of the Straits Times. While lining my birdcage with it (what else did you think I was going to do with it?), I skimmed over an article from the health section whose headline was something like “Heroic doctor saves man’s life!!!”. It turned out to be the story of a man who went in for a routine medical checkup at a government clinic, was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer, got treatment, and recovered; PSA about cancer screening, praise for Singapore’s health system, sunshine and butterflies, the end.
Another article about emotional child abuse ran a writing competition for readers. The winning entry was an anecdote about a woman who realized that it was bad to yell at her daughter all the time, got counselling, and reconciled with her. Hurrah. Domestic abuse will be solved if only everyone was nicer.
The SCMP’s not far behind.
To those who write for the Pro China rag: stop validating this pile of recycled bog paper.
SCMP is accelerating towards a brick wall, it will join the standard before long as an irrelevant voice in the wilderness but with none of the tabloid charm of the Gobel Rhymes. I only read the thing to see what the latest party line is and if I did not have a free account from work would not even do that. They have to be loosing money.
I would bet that an increasingly large proportion of their subscribers are employers’ accounts, which is why they haven’t screwed up the Business Post. As long as they remain useful to business subscribers, they can fill the rest with whatever crap they want.
Good point. Today in the BPost there was a scathing review and beautiful put-down of a mainland blogger who had trotted out the tired old tropes of HK not being competitive, having lazy youth, etc. (Oh, and how fab Shenzen was). Even George Chen has the occasional go at the glorious motherland. Being a creature of habit I still buy the rag, but it’s for the cartoons, Times crossword, wordsearch and BPost. And Tom Plate of course.
journalists have again
injured the feelings
… and much the same from RTHK-3. Steve Vines is hardly the most voracious critic of Lufsig. Last week he took on one of CY’s Flexian scumbags — Eddie The Grinch Ng, who undermining local school to drive as many local students onto the private school rosters as fast as he can. Money for his friends and bonus points for cutting the government budget (and the bastard then has the gall to claim the recent test scores are to his credit, and not because local parents spend a fortune on private tutors/cram schools).
Getting back on topic, Phil Whelan is obviously no longer egging him on, but more and more throwing in fluff and disclaimers — and trying to get him onto off shore topics in when Vines speaks on local problems. My guess is Steve will be out of that thankless job in another 6 months or so at this rate.
Seems those “expat civil servant” contracts don’t provide as much freedom from interference as is supposed. Probably clauses in there about being dismissed on moral grounds, and CY and his buddies will have plenty of that dirt on store to weigh down anyone’s scale of fairness.
Feeling vindicated on my comment of a couple of weeks ago if the Democratic Party is now championing the Kowloon City estates on behalf of the people against our so-called government bodies that have effectively tried to poison it’s own citizens with toxic water through it’s own nefarious connections.
My message to the Pan Dems is to keep pushing on this and all the other similar low hanging fruit. It will not be too hard to embarrass these a*******s.
Had a chance to view the harbourtimes.com “news” website introduced to me for the first time here. Apparently it’s just another name for the two man band faux-Flexian outfit know as the Lion Rock Institute. About as biased and atrocious as the SCMP editors page. Great laughs as both Flexians wailed on RTHK at differnt times the government must get out of education, but now that website goes on and on about how the government must interfere with the Canadian
Mental Institute for BratsInt’l School. Like the SCMP, their only guiding principle is “Master, show me the trail of money”