Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Olympic events to watch: Western media v CCP

Disclaimer: This is not giddy advocacy of "western media" which is an overly simplistic label that applies to an incredibly large amount of organisations with competing agendas, points of view, and various standards of professionalism.

Before I worked in advertising, I studied journalism. And all through that awkward year as a student posing as a real journalist in order to get stories for university publications, the one thing that sticks out in my mind is our lecturers consistently on our backs about three things. 1) Information is good. Anybody who blocks information is your enemy. 2) Always get a second opinion. 3) It is your job to keep governments, business and institutions honest. Never believe anything somebody from one of these groups tell you at face value.

On the flipside, the Chinese Gov's relationship to the media seems to be more along the lines of 1) Information is bad. If anyone, especially a maverick journalist, has information, then they are your enemy. 2) There are no second opinions. There is only one opinion that every single Chinese person can hold, and that is the one that the CCP tells them to hold. 3) It is our job to govern the country. As such, we do not need to prove our honesty to you. You take what we tell you at face value.

These two groups don't just speak different languages. They live on different planets.

So due to my background, I can sympathise with a foreign journalist's brain almost going "pop" with indignation upon hearing they can't access a lot of important foreign sites such as the BBC at the world's biggest sporting event. But when I see a quote like the one below, I can almost feel the collective heart rate of the western world's media jack up to 180 bpm and their fingers twitch in anticipation of inflicting pain on the bodies most likely responsible.

"The Chinese Government has put in place a system to spy on and gather information about every guest at hotels where Olympic visitors are staying," Kansas Senator Sam Brownback said.

The event that will be most interesting to watch at this Games is quite possibly going to be the international media boxing the Chinese Government.

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