Is China’s media a ‘mouthpiece’?

The Chinese know their government censors their media. That’s not a secret in China. China has had censors for 2,000 years. They’re called ‘censors’. They censor stuff. The current government’s censor publishes a list of the stuff he censors and the stuff he promotes. He publishes his censorship policies and explains them – a level of transparency unknown in Chinese history or, for that matter, in any country today.
100% of Chinese know this and, guess what? 95% of them approve of it and consequently trust their government media 80% of the time. And 80% of Chinese approve of their censor’s work.
100% of Americans know that their media is censored, too. They’re not sure how it happens that some policies and people are condemned and other policies and people are promoted. They don’t know because their media has no obligation to tell them; it is, after all, privately owned. Americans have allowed public information – the lifeblood of the body politic – to be privatized. Consequently only 20% of Americans trust their media. [Gallup June 1, 2016].
Funny that.

Stanley Baldwin, as leader of the British Conservative Party in 1931 during a newspaper campaign against him, denounced newspaper proprietors for seeking “power, and power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”. Western media sell themselves to the highest bidder. This has led to the disastrous decline of the West in general and the USA in particular. Allowing our public information to be privatized was the seed of our destruction.
You’ve probably noticed that our media invariably refers to the Chinese media as a “government mouthpiece”, which prepares us to distrust whatever appears in it. After all, we have been conditioned to distrust ‘government’ itself. Of course, we don’t see our media referred to the “billionaires’ mouthpiece” or “Corporate mouthpiece”.

Yet the Chinese–who are, as Henry Kissinger observed, “smarter than us”–trust their media. Eighty percent (yes, 80%) of them trust their Government’s media, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, a worldwide survey now in its 12th. year. And their trust is rising. A possible explanation for this is that the Chinese Government ‘mouthpieces’ speak the truth more frequently than our Capitalist mouthpieces do. And over 80 percent approve of their government’s censorship policies.

Chinese have plenty of opportunity to check out their media’s account of things. The often-hostile Hong Kong media (several funded by the US Government) are readily available. Over 75 million Chinese will travel abroad this year aloneand 500 million of them have already been abroad and seen what we and our media have to offer.

Sometime later my father submitted to him a carefully written article for The Times of which he was extremely proud. Lewis read it through twice with enthusiasm before delivering his verdict. Holding the typed pages between finger and thumb, he said: “Old boy, this piece is not only informed but erudite. Its material is accurate and solidly observed; its style polished – and, in my estimation, witty. In fact, it is everything that one imagines to oneself an article in The Times should be. Yet, I am afraid – my instinct tells me – that” and Lewis opened his finger and thumb dropping the article into the waste-paper basket “the cats will have it.” – . December 19, 2015. from The Independent

Pew Charitable Trusts, which have been surveying attitudes towards our media for 22 years, recently confirmed the Edelman findings. Here are the latest results of their survey on how much Americans trust the US media: (emphasis added in bold):

Further Decline in Credibility Ratings for Most News Organizations (Released: August 16, 2012)

For the second time in a decade, the believability ratings for major news organizations have suffered broad-based declines. In the new survey, positive believability ratings have fallen significantly for nine of 13 news organizations tested. This follows a similar downturn in positive believability ratings that occurred between 2002 and 2004.

The falloff in credibility affects news organizations in most sectors: national newspapers, such as the New York Times and USA Today, all three cable news outlets, as well as the broadcast TV networks and NPR.

Across all 13 news organizations included in the survey, the average positive believability rating (3 or 4 on a 4-point scale) is 56%. In 2010, the average positive rating was 62%. A decade ago, the average rating for the news organizations tested was 71%. Since 2002, every news outlet’s believability rating has suffered a double-digit drop, except for local daily newspapers and local TV news. The New York Times was not included in this survey until 2004, but its believability rating has fallen by 13 points since then.

These are among the major findings of a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted July 19-22 among 1,001 adults. The survey asks people to rate individual news organizations on believability using a 4-point scale. A rating of 4 means someone believes “all or most” of what the news organization says; a rating of 1 means someone believes “almost nothing” of what they say.

The believability ratings for individual news organizations – like views of the news media generally – have long been divided along partisan lines. But partisan differences have grown as Republicans’ views of the credibility of news outlets have continued to erode. Today, there are only two news organizations – Fox News and local TV news – that receive positive believability ratings from at least two-thirds of Republicans. A decade ago, there were only two news organizations that did not get positive ratings from at least two-thirds of Republicans. By contrast, Democrats generally rate the believability of news organizations positively; majorities of Democrats give all the news organizations tested ratings of 3 or 4 on the 4-point scale, with the exception of Fox News.

Media Believability Ratings
The Pew Research Center has asked about the believability of individual news organizations for more than two decades. During this period, the Center also has asked separately about the news media’s overall performance; ratings for the news media’s accuracy, fairness and other aspects of performance also have shown long-term declines. (For the most recent report, see “Press Widely Criticized, But Trusted More than Other Information Sources,” Sept. 22, 2011.)

The believability measures are based on those who give each news organization a rating. Roughly one-in-five are unable to rate the believability of NPR (21%), the New York Times (19%), the Wall Street Journal (19%) and USA Today (17%).

As in past believability surveys, local TV news and the CBS News program 60 Minutes receive the most positive ratings. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of those able to rate local TV news give it a rating of 3 or 4. Ratings are comparable for 60 Minutes (64% 3 or 4).

Despite the declines in believability, majorities continue to give most news organizations ratings of 3 or 4. However, ratings are mixed for NPR, MSNBC, the New York Times, Fox News and USA Today. About half give each of these news organizations believability ratings of 3 or 4; approximately the same percentages give them ratings of 1 or 2.

Believability of News Organizations: 2002-2012
Positive believability ratings for the New York Times have fallen by nine points since 2010, from 58% to 49%. The decline has been comparable for USA Today. Two years ago, 56% rated USA Today’s believability at 3 or 4; today 49% do so.

About six-in-ten (58%) rate the Wall Street Journal’s believability positively. That is little changed since 2010 (62%), but in 2002, 77% rated the Journal’s believability at 3 or 4 on the 4-point scale.

Perceptions of the believability of the daily newspaper “you are most familiar with” are about the same as they were two years ago. Currently, 57% give their daily newspaper a positive believability rating, which is little changed from 2010 (59%).

Believability ratings for all three major cable news outlets have declined since 2010. MSNBC’s believability rating has fallen from 60% to 50%, while the percentages giving CNN and Fox News believability ratings of 3 or 4 have declined seven points each, to 58% and 49%, respectively. In 2002, the ratings for all three cable news outlets were considerably higher – 76% for CNN, 73% for MSNBC and 67% for Fox News.

The believability ratings for local TV news are higher than those for the three cable news outlets. Currently, 65% give local news a rating of 3 or 4. Since 2002, credibility ratings for local TV news have remained more stable than have ratings for the three main cable news outlets.

There also have been slight declines since 2010 in believability ratings for the three major TV networks — ABC News, CBS News and NBC News. Over the past decade, positive ratings for all three have fallen from the low 70s to the mid- to high-50s. More than six-in-ten (64%) give the CBS weekly newsmagazine 60 Minutes believability ratings of 3 or 4. That is down 13 points since 2002.

Since 2010, the percentage giving NPR believability ratings of 3 or 4 has dropped eight points to 52%. NPR’s believability ratings had changed little from 2002 to 2010; about six-in-ten in each year rated NPR’s believability positively. Read more..

The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.

In order to protect corporate power against democracy, Western governments give a few private individuals control of public information and deputize them to shape the country’s ideology and control citizens’ understanding of their world. The preeminent importance of ideology as a means of political control was emphasized by Georg Lukas, who analyzed the false consciousness imposed by capitalist ideology on the working class that caused them to accept beliefs that are against their own self-interest. Antonio Gramsci, in his formulation of “ideological hegemony”, also explained how interests of the capitalist class are made to appear to all other segments of society as the natural, immutable order of the world. If you want to know why people in Capitalist countries regularly vote for people who harm them, read Lukacs’ History and Class Consciousness.

In real life, weapons manufacturers regularly buy media support for wars. Those full-page ads for jet fighters keep private media in business. Owners of privatized media even call for the violent overthrow of elected governments – including their own– and support riots and political murders because they are are responsible to no-one and under no obligation to tell the truth or provide balanced coverage. And while owners of of privatized media promote distrust of government they wink at government corruption and endorse candidates who support media’s privileges like tax breaks and immunities like prior restraint.

Privatized media also allows governments to secretly propagandize their own people. The US Government, for example, has long used propaganda against the american people, as this memo to Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, makes clear:

The policy of allowing public information to be owned and controlled by a handful of billionaires has left people in the West uninformed about the world, but the rise of the Internet has led them to suspect they’re not being told the truth. That’s why Americans’ trust of their media is at an all-time low: of Americans aged 18 to 49, just 36% expressed faith in their media. Noam Chomsky says that’s because big, status quo-loving corporations own the media, cater to other big status quo-loving advertisers and filter out stories which question the status quo.

Without the connivance of privatized media, Western governments would have been unable to impoverish their citizens – wages have been falling for 40 years without media notice – and drag them into endless wars by lying to them. The propaganda model,advanced by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, describes how systemic bias in privatized media causes them to explain depressions in terms of structural economic causes: “It’s nobody’s fault your wages have been falling for 40 years,” American media say, “it’s globalization, or unfair trading, or anything but the status quo. The status quo cannot be changed because there’s no alternative. Our form of Capitalism is the best of all possible worlds”. 

China’s approach is the opposite to the Western approach.

The government of China retains public control of public information, insists that publicly-owned media support – or at least explain and accurately report – government policies. It employs a censor to ensure that reporting is honest, balanced and accurate. The government also asks Party members to regularly participate in online discussions and help people understand what their policies.

How do the Chinese people feel about censorship? 90 percent of them support it. And how much do they trust what they’re told? About 80% of them say that what they’re told matches what they see every day. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, “Nine in ten Chinese are happy with the direction of their country (85%), feel good about the current state of their economy (91%) and are optimistic about China’s economic future.” See Chapter 1. National and Economic Conditions.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 80–90% of Chinese trust their government, the highest trust level of any national government. 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer – China Results

So perhaps western media so hostile because Chinese media are competing for control of the narrative and, more worrying, are winning.

Hong Kong Media P.S.: The March First Incident in 1952 incident prompted an editorial by Beijing’s People’s Daily that accused the Hong Kong colonial government of “barbarous, wicked and criminal acts of arresting, killing and persecuting our patriotic fellow-countrymen”. This article was republished by Ta Kung Pao. Its publisher and editor were subsequently prosecuted and convicted after a 15-day trial. The newspaper was suspended for a period of six months. On appeal, the Court held that incitement to violence was not a necessary element of the offence of sedition. “If the article when published, would in the natural course of events stir up hatred or contempt against the Government, it is prima facie evidence of a publication with a seditious intention,” said the judge.

During the 1967 riots, five executives and printers of the Afternoon News, the Hong Kong Evening News and Tin Fung Yat Pao were arrested and charged with publishing seditious reports and editorials supporting the “anti-British struggles” at the time. The articles cited included language such as: “rise up together to defeat evil British imperialism and bury its corrupt reactionary rule”; “the tide of the fight against British rule and violence is rising ever higher”; and “when they attack us, we have to beat them back vigorously”.

The defendants protested that these alleged “seditious” articles only contained political expressions common within the pro-PRC media at the time, and that there was no intention to incite violence. As in the 1952 Ta Kung Pao case, however, the Court maintained that the prosecution did not need to prove that there was seditious intention or that the articles actually incited violence. The Sedition Ordinance provided that “every person shall be deemed to intend the consequences which would naturally follow from his conduct at the time and under the circumstances in which he so conducted himself.” The five newspaper executives and printers were tried and convicted within slightly over two weeks. Each received the maximum sentence of three years in prison, and the newspapers were suspended for six months.

It’s a battle over who controls the narrative. Always has been.

Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news — things which on their own merits would get the big headlines-being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

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