Front Page of the Day

Blaming "people who don't know the truth" does not work


East South Express
July 29, 2009

The official press in China has long explained so-called "mass incidents" (riots, demonstrations etc.) with the formula "ignorant people misled and used by a few malicious bad eggs". The use of the phrase "people who don't know the truth" (不明真相的群众) has served as a standard Party phrase for decades.

In recent years however, it has been tinged with a satirical flavor and even became an Internet meme among netizens, who sometimes call themselves "one of the people who don't know the truth".

Examining the problems with the abused term, the author of this Xinhua op-ed calls for a more prudent way of calling people "who don't know the truth".


Let's have fewer "people who don't know the truth"

by Huang Guan/ Xinhua


"People who don't know the truth" has become the standard expression and been used abundantly in news releases by local governments to explain the causes of mass incidents. In the aftermath of the recent Tonghua Steel incident, once again, this expression was used on different occasions. This practice is problematic and is worth reflection.

First off, if it is true that the "people who don't know" are deluded or instigated by a few "who have ulterior motives", why can the violence not be prevented by letting these people know the truth? Can you not placate the antagonism when it is still brewing by a timely release of the truth? By accusing the people of not knowing the truth, one cannot align himself with the truth; instead, it exposes the fact that some government agency failed to do their job (to inform).

Secondly, criticizing the participants of these mass incidents as ignorant is no different than denying their judgement to tell right from the wrong, which, obviously, is untrue. There is no denying that lack of information plays a role in these incidents. But more often than not, there is a more fundamental cause.

The death which set off the Weng'an incident was eventually confirmed to be caused by (suicide) drowning. But more deeply, violations of local people's interest were frequent; the safety index among the people was low; the government was rough and simplistic in its approach.

All the same, during the Tonghua Steel acquisition, the workers' interests were not taken care of. People mostly want to live peacefully, but their eyes are sharp.

people don't know the truth.jpg
Excuse me, we are just people who don't know the truth

Finally, the interpretation of mass incidents as ignorant people misled by a malicious few makes one suspicious of the government trying to evade its own responsibility. The occurrence of mass incidents in recent years are usually related to incompetent performance and mishandling of local governments. A recent regulation released by the central government has made it clear that government or party cadres would be held accountable for their "abuse of power, ordering or empowering others to breach the law, or malfeasance that causes mass incidents or other serious consequences". Blaming mass incidents on those with ulterior motives can cover the government officials' own mistakes and avoid their responsibilities.

Jumping to the conclusion that hundreds and thousands of people don't know the truth indicates that the old way of thinking is still at work. When answering journalists' questions, Shi Zongyuan, the party secretary of Guizhou Province said that the formula of "ignorant people misled by a few malicious" must be abandoned. It is certainly worth serious consideration.

Links and Sources
There are currently 2 Comments for Blaming "people who don't know the truth" does not work.

Comments on Blaming "people who don't know the truth" does not work

they better come up with better rhetorics,but they are improving too, that's a problem

mmm, the fact is 95% of the Chinese people, actually really don't know the truth! They don't know anything at all, and most of them are even arrogants. After many years in China, my opinion of Chinese people is getting more more negative.

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
laomo2010x80.jpg
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives