Perhaps the Chinese government is feeling a little less worried lately about losing public support? Perhaps they are less worried that people will turn against the Communist Party after reading something in the Western media, now that it is no longer fashionable in many circles to believe what the Western media reports?Rebecca points to Roland Soong, of EastSouthWestNorth blog, who has been following the controversy closely, translating Chinese sources. Roland quotes Chinese blogger Drunkpiano:
In the reports on Tibet, I did not find the right proportions in the reporting. The Economist called the rioters rioters, and they were the only ones. That is why many westerners (if not the majority) will get the impression from their media that "a group of peaceful demonstrators were mercilessly mowed down by the Chinese government." [my emphasis]Drukpiano is correct about "proportions" being skewed.
However, skewed proportions are not in themselves evidence of CNN and Western media bias, unless the agencies happened to have been privy to credible reports that would have "set the proportions straight" as we now with the benefit of hindsight know them. The Economist was, in fact, the only Western news agency with a reporter in Tibet at the time -- and its report came several days after the unrest had calmed. CNN, in fact, was among the first to interview him (see this post).
So a most malicious attack against CNN seems to be based on the cropping of a single photograph. Is that fair? The weight of accusations leveled against CNN and the Western media are made with the benefit of hindsight -- which is always 20/20 as they say. They are made without due regard to the practical obstacles the news agencies faced. The seeming domestic propaganda victory for the Chinese government -- noted by Rebecca McKinnon in the above quote -- is lamentable. But we should not blame CNN or the Western media for it.
Look at the "offending" photos, then listen to the extremely harsh accusations being leveled against CNN; note the foul language, the hostility. To think someone constructed an entire website devoted to smearing CNN? This much is clear to me: the vehimence characterizing responses emanating from Chinese sources seems completely out of proportion to the alleged offenses.
As I wrote previously, this whole thing looks like a manufactured crisis to me. Just look who stands to benefit the most from it. First, as Rebecca pointed out, by discrediting the Western media, China makes its own "official" version of the news appear the more reliable. But here's what concerns me far more: By seeing that these accusations get blown out of proportion, China may feel it can gain greater compliance out of the Western media -- like CNN -- in the future, by holding them to task on their Tibet reporting today.
Because errors were made. Some were preventable. Other mistakes made by the Western media would not be so easy to prevent in the future. What we ought to be most concerned about is the prospect of the Western corporate media cowering to appease the authoritarian government of China.* Faced with a torrent of complaints from China, feckless media CEOs in New York or Paris may well decide to call up their news editors and tell them to back off, lest future business deals in China be put in jeopardy.
It takes courage for a news organization to risk making mistakes.
* CNN has changed one of the "offending" photographs to appease those complaining about it. Also, CNN was not among those news organizations invited on an official tour of Lhasa today.