With Grannis apparently sunning himself, I thought I would update the blog with some quick impressions of the western media’s coverage of the Olympics.
I opened this article in the NY Times today to find out, as the title might suggest, why the US women’s soccer team lost to Norway on Wednesday and what that means for their medal chances. Instead, I got EIGHT PARAGRAPHS on why Beijing and the Chinese generally suck (with some digs thrown in at the IOC and corporate sponsors for good measure). I have finished the article and, frankly, I still have very little idea about the US women’s medal chances. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?
The western media’s coverage of the Olympics thus far has been, in my view, patently unfair and insulting to the Chinese. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am no fan of either the Chinese regime or the unholy alliance between the Communist Party and their business community. Watching in real time as kids your own age get gunned down by automatic weapons fire and rolled over by tanks because they are peacefully petitioning their government for a chance to vote in meaningful elections will generally result in a lifelong sour disposition toward a government. However, the current government has spent $42 bn to stage these games, they have made a sincere effort to address their environmental issues (at least for the duration of the Games) and have given western journalists unprecedented (for China) freedom of movement throughout the country.
It seems to me, we owe them the courtest of witnessing what they have done, listening to what they have to say and trying to understand the way they imagine a world community before pouncing on every mite of soot, Tibetan encroachment or Sudanese bear hug. I have no problem with the press reporting the facts, as they uncover them, around Chinese life and politics, for good and for ill. It would be a disservice to us if all we took away from the Olympics was the Party line and IOC cash corrupted fuzziness.
However, I fear our journalists, with their locust like sniping, may be dimming the very spotlight they are trying to point. No doubt, even in Beijing’s poor air, records will be set and athletes will excel. The opening ceremonies will be spectacular. Don’t we run the risk of the average sports viewer looking at that and saying, “There goes the media again, giving only the side of the story they want you to hear. When you get the “facts”, you see the place can’t be all that bad.”
I’m reminded of a great line from Deepthroat in All The President’s Men. Woodward and Bernstein had screwed up and named Bob Haldeman as a Watergate principal before they had the goods on him. Deepthroat chides Woodward by telling him, “You’ve got people actually feeling sorry for Haldeman, I didn’t think that was possible.” I fear a lazy media might do the same thing for the Chinese, whose policies deserve a respectful and courteous, but thorough, analysis.