What is a bottom-feeder? It usually refers to some fish swimming and feeding at the bottom of a lake or river. Just imagine what generally falls to the bottom. This is what I think of whenever the Western press engages in putting the most fringe unto a pedestal and worships it.
Recently, Newsweek published an essay by Ai Weiwei titled, “The City: Beijing” with the byline, “Ai Weiwei finds China’s capital is a prison where people go mad.” Needless to say, this byline is stupid and so is the essay. I will get into that momentarily.
The story took an interesting turn in the last few days. According to the AFP, “The article, Ai’s first for a foreign publication since he was released from detention earlier this year, had been ripped from copies of the September 5 issue seen by AFP on a newsstand in Beijing.”
Newsweek is in English and distributed in Beijing, and likely nowhere else in China. That is an important background to remember, because, if there is a real censoring of the article, it would have been limited to Beijing. Newsweek’s customers would likely be limited to foreigners who read English. So, before one get tricked into thinking this ‘censorship’ is somehow affecting 1.3 billion people, think again!
The online version of the essay is obviously available. What we do know is AFP saying it saw ripped copies at a particular newsstand.
Remember this retarded NYT article claiming there is a ban of jasmine flowers in China? We know how retarded Western media can be, so we must read this story critically. Did the AFP check other newsstands around Beijing? It didn’t say, though if they did, I am sure they would say so. Did the AFP interview Chinese authorities to find out if the ripped pages were done by the government? If they did, I am sure they would also say so. What did the newsstand owner say about the ripped out pages? Again, the AFP said nothing about it.
Not answering those questions, we can conclude the AFP didn’t really bother to investigate. Or if they did, it meant the details didn’t corroborate with the narrative they want to propagate.
Nevertheless, it went with the headline: “China censors Ai Weiwei’s Newsweek essay.”
Notice how the Western media machinery works:
The Independent, Clifford Coonan: “Chinese censors rip out magazine article by dissident Ai Weiwei”
The Atlantic Wire: “China Half-Heartedly Censors Ai Weiwei’s Newsweek Piece”
Telegraph, Peter Foster: “China censors Ai Wei Wei’s Newsweek interview”
Washington Post, Elizabeth Flock: “Ai Weiwei’s Newsweek interview censored by China“
None of these articles shed any more information about this supposed “censorship.” I have said in the past – the reason the Western media are going bankrupt is because they are not doing real reporting. Why pay all these people so they can regurgitate what some other media outlets have written? I digress.
Furthermore, a Tunku Varadarajan who is the editor of Newsweek International has become the ‘news.’ The Telegraph wrote the following:
“Ai Weiwei’s piece for Newsweek, his first in defiance of the Chinese gag order on him, was a cry from the heart in which he likened Beijing to a vast prison. It ran on the last page of the magazine, and the Chinese censors ripped that page out in every issue,” Tunku Varadarajan, the editor of Newsweek International told The Telegraph.
The clumsy attempt to remove the piece from physical circulation was not however matched by China’s usually vigilant online censors who did not block the article which was still available on Friday for anyone to able to read English.
“We had flagged the piece on the cover, too, but they left the cover alone, so it delights me that astute readers will have seen the coverline, noted the ripped page, and then gone straight to the Web to read Ai’s courageous piece,” added Mr Varadarajan.
What is more interesting is the lack of facts offered by this Mr. Varadarajan about the supposed censorship. Was Newsweek told by the Chinese authorities that Ai Weiwei was barred from talking to Western press? The Newsweek magazine can simply be defaced with and that’s it? There has to be some legal ground for pages to be ripped out. What were the circumstances?
Reading between the lines, it is interesting to note how eager Newsweek is in publishing Ai Weiwei’s essay and in agreement with what the essay had to say.
I am just laughing out loud thinking Mr. Varadarajan might have found out about the ripped pages through the AFP! I am sure he is happy to bask in the attention his magazine is getting in the West. The Washington Post wrote:
Tunku Varadarajan, editor of Newsweek International, told the Telegraph, “Journalistically, you know you’re doing the right thing when the Chinese censors tear up your magazine.”
That is political bullshit. Let’s suppose the Chinese authorities were indeed behind ripping the pages.
The West may have certain values about censorship. The Chinese have the right to have their own take on it too. If he wants journalistic integrity, he should openly state his paper having a different value judgement about censorship.
What about respecting Chinese law; that Ai Weiwei is still under parole? His bail condition is that he not talk to Western press. Perhaps the bail condition precludes him publishing in the Western press too. Isn’t Newsweek engaging in violating Chinese law by publishing Ai Weiwei’s essay in the first place?
Now we must get into the substance of Ai Weiwei’s essay which Newsweek eagerly peddled. And, this goes toward the point I made at the outset, that Newsweek is engaging in bottom-feeding. If you prefer to read a serious rebuttal from someone who actually sympathizes with Ai Weiwei’s politics, you can go here. I have less patience, and here is my take (essay on the left column and my comments on the right.):
|The City: Beijing
Aug 28, 2011 10:00 AM EDT
By Ai Weiwei
|Beijing is two cities. One is of power and of money. People don’t care who their neighbors are; they don’t trust you. The other city is one of desperation. I see people on public buses, and I see their eyes, and I see they hold no hope. They can’t even imagine that they’ll be able to buy a house. They come from very poor villages where they’ve never seen electricity or toilet paper.||I suppose people could make such a claim about any city. Let’s be practical. With the infrastructure upgrade and revamps of many Beijing neighborhoods, I’d say the opposite is true; people are more upbeat about Beijing than ever. I was just in Beijing few months ago and met friends who recently bought homes or are thinking of buying homes.|
|Every year millions come to Beijing to build its bridges, roads, and houses. Each year they build a Beijing equal to the size of the city in 1949. They are Beijing’s slaves. They squat in illegal structures, which Beijing destroys as it keeps expanding. Who owns houses? Those who belong to the government, the coal bosses, the heads of big enterprises. They come to Beijing to give gifts—and the restaurants and karaoke parlors and saunas are very rich as a result.||They are not slaves. What Ai Weiwei won’t tell you is that vast majority of the 19 million Beijingers who live in Beijing today were migrant workers and “outsiders” to begin with. They have now become part of the city and more people are further taking up residence there! Beijing cannot accept the whole of China’s rural areas, so we must be mindful of that too.
If Ai Weiwei has a better plan to develop the poorer Western part of China, he should offer it. China is in fact investing heavily into poorer parts of China to alleviate the phenomenon of people crowding into richer coastal cities. The new 5-year plan also calls for building more affordable housing.
|Beijing tells foreigners that they can understand the city, that we have the same sort of buildings: the Bird’s Nest, the CCTV tower. Officials who wear a suit and tie like you say we are the same and we can do business. But they deny us basic rights. You will see migrants’ schools closed. You will see hospitals where they give patients stitches—and when they find the patients don’t have any money, they pull the stitches out. It’s a city of violence.||Ai Weiwei is being very irresponsible here. Buildings that are unsafe and schools not accredited must be shut down. If mishaps occur, he will be the first to come out and blame the government.
The Chinese government does not have a policy that says patients unable to afford medical care will have stitches removed. His attribution of blame to the government in some bad hospitals is retarded. A city of violence is one where women get raped and murder rates are high. I suggest he look at cities elsewhere.
|The worst thing about Beijing is that you can never trust the judicial system. Without trust, you cannot identify anything; it’s like a sandstorm. You don’t see yourself as part of the city—there are no places that you relate to, that you love to go. No corner, no area touched by a certain kind of light. You have no memory of any material, texture, shape. Everything is constantly changing, according to somebody else’s will, somebody else’s power.||I would actually agree with this general statement; that judicial corruption in China is still high. This is a fact recognized by all segments of society in China.|
|To properly design Beijing, you’d have to let the city have space for different interests, so that people can coexist, so that there is a full body to society. A city is a place that can offer maximum freedom. Otherwise it’s incomplete.||I wonder why he doesn’t convert his art studio into a slum for additional migrant workers. There is a rational reason. At the end of the day, it is always about the balance of interests. If he has better ideas on how to strike that balance, I am sure there will be willing ears.|
|I feel sorry to say I have no favorite place in Beijing. I have no intention of going anywhere in the city. The places are so simple. You don’t want to look at a person walking past because you know exactly what’s on his mind. No curiosity. And no one will even argue with you.||I like many places in Beijing. For example, Gugong, Guijie (ghost street, full of restaurants), Qianmen Dajie, Temple of Heaven, Wangfujing, and so on.
No curiosity? Sounds more like he is looking for people to fan smoke up his behind.
|None of my art represents Beijing. The Bird’s Nest—I never think about it. After the Olympics, the common folks don’t talk about it because the Olympics did not bring joy to the people.||Conceited and delusional statement. Chinese people all over took genuine pride in Beijing and the 2008 Olympics. Beijingers appreciate their city having had a major infrastructure upgrade due to the Olympics!|
|There are positives to Beijing. People still give birth to babies. There are a few nice parks. Last week I walked in one, and a few people came up to me and gave me a thumbs up or patted me on the shoulder. Why do they have to do that in such a secretive way? No one is willing to speak out. What are they waiting for? They always tell me, “Weiwei, leave the nation, please.” Or “Live longer and watch them die.” Either leave, or be patient and watch how they die. I really don’t know what I’m going to do.||“Live longer and watch them die.” That’s really mean actually. I can suggest some ideas. How about donating to The Hope Project? How about stop being a political clown for the Western media?|
|My ordeal made me understand that on this fabric, there are many hidden spots where they put people without identity. With no name, just a number. They don’t care where you go, what crime you committed. They see you or they don’t see you, it doesn’t make the slightest difference. There are thousands of spots like that. Only your family is crying out that you’re missing. But you can’t get answers from the street communities or officials, or even at the highest levels, the court or the police or the head of the nation. My wife has been writing these kinds of petitions every day, making phone calls to the police station every day. Where is my husband? Just tell me where my husband is. There is no paper, no information.||Given his plight, I sympathize with Ai Weiwei. I do hope that China continues her legal and judicial reforms such that the individual enjoy more rights. China’s reforms are real, and I see her moving in the right direction.|
|The strongest character of those spaces is that they’re completely cut off from your memory or anything you’re familiar with. You’re in total isolation. And you don’t know how long you’re going to be there, but you truly believe they can do anything to you. There’s no way to even question it. You’re not protected by anything. Why am I here? Your mind is very uncertain of time. You become like mad. It’s very hard for anyone. Even for people who have strong beliefs.|
|This city is not about other people or buildings or streets but about your mental structure. If we remember what Kafka writes about his Castle, we get a sense of it. Cities really are mental conditions. Beijing is a nightmare. A constant nightmare.||His parole limits his movement within Beijing, and I am sure he’d like to leave. What does Washington D.C. say about America’s mental structure? Lunacy.