IN A HILARIOUS BOTCH-UP, the BBC yesterday inserted numerous links to anti-China features into an article defending itself from claims that it was anti-China.
Here’s what happened.
BBC journalists wrote an article attacking China-based “citizen journalists”. The bloggers defended themselves by saying the BBC and other Western media had a clearly biased, negative attitude to the Asian developing nation.
The BBC’s editors yesterday printed the article (above) — but sprinkled it with links (see picture below) which powerfully proved the critics’ point that the BBC is biased against China.
In effect, the BBC said “we’re not anti-China — by the way, here’s a link to an article showing how China is a dystopian hellscape! And another one. And another one. And another one. And . . “.
It’s hard not to laugh.
It gets better. In fact, yesterday’s BBC article should go down in history as a textbook example of self-defeating journalism for at least four reasons.
First, you cannot argue against the allegation that you present a strongly one-sided view by including a list of article links that prove conclusively that you present a one-sided view.
Lee and Oli Barrett, residents of China, have become popular bloggers
SENSE OF IRONY
Second, the article attacks ordinary individual bloggers in China (like those in the picture above) by implying, with no hard evidence, that they receive government cash to do what they do, which is to show China in a positive light.
Yet we all know for a fact that the BBC journalists making the accusation receive government cash month after month to do what they do, which is to present China in a negative light.
(The BBC’s annual budget is GBP3.5 billion.)
Staff in the BBC newsroom appear to have had their senses of irony surgically removed.
Outrageous! A government sponsored media outlet in China offers money to stringers, the BBC said
THEY PAY STRINGERS
Third, the BBC report reveals, shock horror, that CGTN, a government-financed news outlet, now offers CASH PAYMENTS to STRINGERS!
The BBC writers mysteriously forgot to mention that the BBC, also a government-financed news outlet, also offers cash payments to stringers (much larger sums). They’ve been doing this for decades.
I know this for a fact because I was a stringer for the BBC for years.
At this point, I became seriously worried about the toddler-level lack of self-awareness in the BBC newsroom.
Jason Lightfoot is another independent blogger attacked for giving another side of the story
Fourth, the BBC writers say: “It’s unclear what drives the foreign vloggers – whether they believe in China’s messaging or are motivated by the lure of local fame and fortune instead.”
It’s only unclear what motivates them if you haven’t watched a single one of their videos. If you do, you can see they are ordinary people doing their best to provide desperately needed balance to the reports put out by dedicated Sinophobes like, well, BBC Newsroom staff, to pick a random example out of the air.
LET’S TALK ABOUT MONEY
Actually, let’s talk about money, something BBC journalists HATE to discuss.
The BBC’s hatchet job presents no evidence whatsoever that the Barretts, Barrie Jones, or Jason Lightfoot are paid a single yuan for having the opinions they have, or for choosing to show the positive side of life in China.
In contrast, BBC journalists have very good salaries for showing the negative side of life in China. I hope the bloggers attacked by BBC journalists Kerrie Allen and Sophie Williams realize they have the moral right to ask them how much the BBC pays them.
I’ve worked at the BBC on and off for decades and I can tell you that some BBC journalists get paid A LOT. When BBC newsroom head James Harding left in 2018, his salary was GBP340,000 a year. Election specialist Jeremy Vine gets more than GBP600,000 a year.
Of course most people in the newsrooms get less than that, but at least 40 BBC journalists are paid more than the British Prime Minister’s GBP150,000 salary, a Press Gazette study showed in 2017. Political editor Laura Kuenssberg gets GBP200,000 to GBP250,000 a year, for example.
Barrie Jones upsets Western journalists by refusing the parrot the US State Department narrative.
The ultimate irony is that the unpaid amateurs in China regularly do a better job of covering China than the salaried professionals.
The same BBC article gives a good example of how history changes when that all-important nuance goes missing.
The BBC reporters say “Citizen journalist Zhang Zhan was jailed for four years after making a number of vlogs during Wuhan’s coronavirus outbreak.”
That’s not what really happened. Zhang Zhan was an anti-lockdown campaigner jailed for repeatedly trying to disrupt anti-covid measures. She herself said that she was not a journalist. Her own videos show clearly that she was the Chinese equivalent of the US anti-vaxxer brigade, refusing to follow health guidelines and creating deliberate public confrontations with people trying to follow the rules.
But that’s a nuanced version of her case, which you can only get if you live in this country and talk to people here — rather than attack from the other side of the planet.
THE 50-CENT ARMY
The BBC reporters also dredge up the old chestnut about the “50-cent army”, apparently unaware that most Chinese government clickers have been retired, simply because they are no longer needed. They’ve been replaced by real voices who speak out without pay.
An SCMP report about the rise of young people in China defending their community by commenting on social media, making the civil service pro-China “wumao” unnecessary
The so-called “wumao” are no longer necessary now that young people who are sick and tired of their community being misrepresented (groups like the Diba and the fangirls) are providing a robust defence of the country, far more creatively and without the need for payment.
They even create quite stylish memes (see below).
Above is a Diba meme from Weibo
The BBC report also omits the fact that it’s actually US intelligence groups such as the SR (military intelligence) and the CIA which flood social media columns with politically charged fake comments, often easy to spot.
There’s something creepy in the article too.
The “expert” quoted at length in the BBC report is Robert Potter, described as a “cybersecurity researcher”. The BBC omits a key fact that commentator Daniel Dumbrill yesterday highlighted. The top two names on Potter’s organization’s funding list are the State Department of the United States and the United States Department of Defence.
Think Mike Pompeo, CIA, Anthony Blinken.
The US State Department
So, to sum it up, honest, ordinary people who spend their own time and money offering useful additional views of life in China, from within China, are accused of receiving government cash by distant people who actually ARE receiving government salaries working for a government news outlet and showcasing the views of people paid by the US government.
NEED FOR INTEGRITY
This is why we need UNBIASED journalists covering China and it doesn’t matter if you have qualifications or not — what matters is that you have enough moral integrity to tell the truth: which is that the community we call China is really not that different from the other major communities around the world.
One last thing: From a professional journalistic point of view, there’s another issue with the BBC article.
Very similar articles have already appeared in other British news outlets. Here is an example below from the Times of London.
Same victims, same news angle, similar headlines, similar allegations, similar quotes.
Copying? Or co-ordination? Journalists don’t normally regurgitate their rivals’ old stories in this way.
There’s something very wrong going on here.
This reporter’s father was one of the first investigative journalists in Asia. He had a saying: “Everything is about something else.”