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The Internet wages war on the liberal media

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The Biggest Riot in History

There's a war going on over freedom of speech, democracy, and western "universal values."

In the above cartoon we see the forces of China.com (the patriots surrounding the sentry tower on the right) arrayed against the defenders of the Southern Metropolis Daily and liberal democracy on the left.

War was sparked by Chang Ping's essay of 3 April, "How To Find The Truth About Lhаsa," in which he discussed the recent attacks on the bias of the western media in the wake of the Lhаsa riots and applied the same reasoning to the domestic media (from ESWN's translation):

The distorted western reports about China came from an unwillingness to listen and understand because they are too engaged in the sort of Orientalism that Edward Said wrote about. But what about us and the ethnic minorities? If we use nationalism as the weapon to resist the westerners, then how can we persuade the ethnic minorities to abandon their nationalism and join the mainstream nation-building? The Dаlai Lаma asked the Chinese government to reassess him, so what kind of person is he really? Apart from the official government position, will the media be permitted to discuss the matter freely and uncover more truths?

The China.com forums labeled Chang Ping a traitor, and started an assault on the Southern Metropolis Group, where Chang Ping edits the Southern Metropolis Weekly.

Things really got going last Friday with an op-ed that brought the ugliness of the forums to the pages of the Beijing Evening News:

Southern Metropolis Chang Ping and the Freedom to Rumor-Monger

by Wen Feng / BEN

A man named Southern Metropolis Chang Ping, who recently ran afoul of a group of netizens, might want to make another argument for free speech in the belief that the netizens have stripped that right from him. I do not usually concern myself with online forums, but the netizens' broadsides were so fierce this time that I took a look at the so-called speech of this Southern Metropolis Chang Ping. I noticed immediately that this individual had brought "free speech" to an appalling or even "terrifying" degree. The heart of the matter for which he was criticized was this: "Free speech intrinsically includes the freedom of mistaken speech and particularly the freedom to question authority. More frightening than rumors is the removal of free speech." And he openly held this up as a universal value. According to his logic, "free speech" means that you can muddy the truth, fabricate facts, indiscriminately distort history, speak irresponsibly, "freely" rumor-monger, "freely" smear, "freely" toss about labels. Just like the western media's hysterical performance on the issue of China's Tıbet. Was that free speech? That was violent speech. I have never seen the western media enjoy that kind of freedom of speech in their own country, because that would be an infringement on the rights of others, and it would trample social justice and betray fundamental ethical principles. If this is the "universal value" that Southern Metropolis Chang Ping wants to protect, then honor is the price he pays in return.

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I did not know who Southern Metropolis Chang Ping was at first, but after a short investigation, he turned out to be a "trendy spicy chicken" at the Southern Media Group. Not surprising in the least, because the Southern Media Group, with ____ Weekly [Southern Weekly] at the lead, has always set itself up as China's most "western" newspaper, the "boldest," "keenest," and most "penetrating" newspaper, one that tirelessly promotes western "universal values" and "free press." It is no surprise that Southern Metropolis Chang Ping spoke in such a way. And the subsequent huge uproar was due to the western media's brazen rumor-mongering, smearing, and distortion of the Tibet situation. This leads one to believe that he (or they) are not merely seeking free speech; their last fig-leaf is about to be torn away.

For Southern Metropolis Chang Ping and his ilk, who seek so-called "universal values," only things of the west are universal and need to be upheld. Even the freedom to rumor monger needs to be protected. This leads one to wonder: throughout modern history, all of the colonization and wars were instigated by the west; is this a "universal value"? The very existence of the speech of Southern Metropolis Chang Ping and his ilk proves one fact, which is that those people today shouting and parading around "universal values" and "freedom" are nothing more than using a grandiose phrase as an excuse to achieve their own shadowy ends. But lies remain lies, and in the face of facts and the truth, lies only serve to allow people to perceive hypocrisy more clearly, so that the "universal values" of Southern Metropolis Chang Ping and his ilk are rejected by the people.


Blogger Ten Years Chopping Timber posted two responses: one post lamenting that the standard for frothing-at-the-mouth commentary had dropped in the 42 years since the attacks on "Hai Rui Dismissed From Office," then a follow-up that looked back at the "Evening Chats at Yanshan" affair in 1966.

The Chats were a series of columns written by Deng Tuo and published in the Beijing Evening News. Together with the "Notes from Sanjiatun," a column in Front Lines magazine written by Deng and a few others, the Chats were criticized by Mao Zedong and Kang Sheng in March of 1966, and ultimately the Beijing Daily was forced to put together a three-page spread of criticism which ran on 16 April, 1966. Other national national papers followed up in May with Yao Wenyuan's indictment of the articles as anti-socialist poison. The blogger's implication was that with such a history, the Beijing Evening News shouldn't be so quick on the attack.

Chang Ping himself responded in a blog post titled "I'm not your enemy," in which he deflected Wen Feng's overheated criticisms, suggested that he was beating a straw man, and urged more courtesy in future exchanges:

Mr. Wen Feng wrote that "their last fig-leaf is about to be torn away," and mentioned an "excuse to achieve their own shadowy ends." In my opinion, these words make people self conscious, and have shadowy ends themselves. That is the only explanation I have for why, after you finished your investigative work, you got my name wrong in the headline and in the text, calling me "a man named Southern Metropolis Chang Ping," who was a "'trendy spicy chicken' at the Southern Media Group." If I called Mr. Wen Feng a "man named Beijing Evening Wen Feng" who was "'tanghulu at the Beijing Daily Group," that wouldn't be very nice, would it? And I won't say that it's "not surprising in the least" for Wen Feng to come out of the Beijing Daily Group; instead, I would remind myself that the Beijing Daily once published that fine article by Yu Keping, "Democracy is a Good Thing."

Perhaps all of this is a good thing. Taizhou-based journalist Zan Aizong suggested that even though Wen Feng and the anti-Southern Metropolis may mock Chang Ping's appeal to "universal values," at least they're having a discussion:

Returning to the topic, I applaud the open controversy with "Southern Metropolis Chang Ping" that Wen Feng brought to the pages of a newspaper. Perhaps you can find a platform for open debate, where you can discuss universal values and how they are measured.

Update: Zan identifies "Wen Feng" as Mei Ninghua (梅宁华), president of the Beijing Daily Group, vice-chair of the All-China Journalists Association, and director of Beijing's Bureau of Cutural Relics.

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There are currently 15 Comments for The Internet wages war on the liberal media.

Comments on The Internet wages war on the liberal media

中国人的真实写照.靠,我们拿的竟然是红樱枪,没有他们武器先进.

Ah, I was waiting for Edward Said to make an appearance. Naturally Edward Said only applies to Westerners and not the other way around...

J B: Wasn't part of Chang Ping's point that Said applies the other way around?

"Was that free speech? That was violent speech. I have never seen the western media enjoy that kind of freedom of speech in their own country..."

...says someone who has clearly never watched Fox News. Or read the New York Post. Or read any British tabloid.

This is fish-in-a-barrel stuff, really, but it does show the depth of misapprehension. Many otherwise intelligent Chinese people really do believe that criticism of authority is stepped on just as hard in "the West" as it is in China.

If only I had 5 RMB for every time I heard some Chinese "patriot" say "Why doesn't Mr. X protest about [insert hot domestic issue]?!?" not realizing, of course, that in all likelihood Mr. X is merely taking a short break from a career of domestic protest to "criticize" China!

I'd say sortof. I think the most basic question is do the Tibetans have any interest in joining Chinese "main-stream nation building."
But you are right, I'm being rather harsh. As I see it, the Tibetan's right to determine their own identity is the key issue, hence my comment... but in all fairness Chang Ping is essentially saying that it can be applied the other way around and I was a bit too quick to criticize him.

in a better world, this would be a far bigger issue in China than it is already.

We always emphasize on human rights, freedom of speech. However, it must be monitored. What if someone who uses it as an excuse to bullshit, even
promote his own ideology, like CNN. You have freedom of speech , it does not necessarily mean u can bullshit and talk crab when u r playing the role of a reporter who is supposed to be fair and subjective.U R HURTING OTHERS' FEELINGS!

@ overseas student:

The whole point of freedom of speech is that you have the freedom to say what you want, even if that is a bit insulting or hurts the feelings of others.

America =! Singapore, and hopefully never will.

Maybe the chinese people work to hard
but their memories are short.On the day
the 150 year old economic powerhouse of HongKong was handed over to the chinese government was there one chinese official
shot or murdered in the west.
Chang Ping gave a balanced view on the Tibetan issue a rare comodity in todays media

Chang-Ping is gravely mistaken. ..doesn't he know that the "nationalism" occurs afterwards,ie, the killings caused by the riots in Llhasa . It is not only aimed at the West, but also to anyone who tries to insult and inflict physical harm towards people of Chinese decent .

>>You have freedom of speech , it does not necessarily mean u can bullshit and talk crab when u r playing the role of a reporter who is supposed to be fair and subjective

I've never seen such a complete misunderstanding of free speech in my life. Everything is subjective and biased. Freedom of speech has NOTHING to do with "objectivity." That is really the nub of this entire mess: a bunch of people attacking "free speech" when they don't even know what it is.

A journalist who obviously isn't Truth itself, gives himself the authority to decide who is to speak about "truth" and who isn't.

We have freedom of speech because we don't know what Truth is. There are a number of truths that may or may not be true. Since noone knows what Truth is, it's up for anyone to bicker freely.

Wen Feng, get down from your high horses and join the mortals of the west. You're as lost as the rest of us.

Let me get this straight for you, all of you:

If we all know the truth, all have the same judgement, then we DO NOT need freedom of speech, because there will only be one interpretation of a given event.

If we are required to know and the truth and be absolutely fair before we speak, I bet 99.99999999999% of mankind would have to stay quiet for a given event.

Technically, others' right to say is equally effective to your right to say otherwise, and vice versa.

Take the tibetan incident for example, if the above two requirements hold true, then everybody should shut up, but as far as I know, thats not the case.

"If we all know the truth, all have the same judgement, then we DO NOT need freedom of speech, because there will only be one interpretation of a given event."


PeterYang, you are clueless. Freedom of speech is not, not, not only limited to contrary opinion. Freedom of speech means exactly what it says, the freedom to speak at will, to speak one's conscience, to speak of those matters that may be forbidden by the government or fashion of the time, to publicly analyze and criticize without fear of oppression or legal recrimination. Surely even you can understand there are basic truths known to all but forbidden by certain authorities to be said in public?

PeterYang, you are clueless. Freedom of speech is not, not, not only limited to contrary opinion. Freedom of speech means exactly what it says, the freedom to speak at will, to speak one's conscience, to speak of those matters that may be forbidden by the government or fashion of the time, to publicly analyze and criticize without fear of oppression or legal recrimination. Surely even you can understand there are basic truths known to all but forbidden by certain authorities to be said in public?
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What I said meant to defend freedom of speech, I was to prove it's not possible to have everyone sharing the same view or judgement, thus freedom of speech is necessary and a common sense. You just understand it otherwise.

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