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The kind of trash we’re dealing with

Not too long ago, James Fallows, a writer and editor for the Atlantic wrote a piece about Jeremy Lin. In that article he claimed that his fellow Atlantic writer Bob Wright’s claim that Lin’s success is somehow partly due to him being Asian as “horseshit.” I really don’t want to harp on either of the articles main points but Fallows seems to have made one glaring error in regard to a claim he made in it that said,

 

[C]onsider last summer’s “basketbrawl,” in which the Chinese
military team Bayi Rockets slugged it out with the visiting Georgetown
Hoyas. The gratuitous aggression all came from the Chinese side, as
many Chinese commentators noted. [emphasis mine]

I emailed Fallows concerning this error. It may not be Fallow’s fault, I thought, for not seeing the clear video and other evidence that the whole brawl precipitated from a sucker punch thrown by the US player as I made clear in a previous post. Such a lapse is understandable for the video and the Chinese side is given rare attention by the western media and it’s taken as obvious fact not in need of any evidence that the fight was started and ended by “gratuitous,” violence from the Chinese side while the American players are innocent victims.

His response?

James Fallows:

Thanks for your note.

I’m basing what I said on someone who was at the game and showed me her videos. I don’t expect that to change your mind, but my point is that this wasn’t something I just made up. It was an opinion I came to on the basis of watching a first-hand video.

 

Me:

I can to my conclusions on first hand video as well. The difference is
that the video I saw was from the game’s professional cam, not some
handheld phone cam. Someone’s mistaken here. Grossly mistaken and the
quality video clearly shows what started the brawl

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/georgetown-basketball-team-brawls-china-14337130

I don’t expect damning evidence like that to convince you either.

Fallows:

Wow, THIS is your evidence?

No offense, but wow..
Me:
“Wow” indeed. It clearly shows the Hoyas player throwing the first
punch. But I guess someone already committed to horseshit will always
find a way to avoid the obvious. I guess throwing a sucker punch
precipitating the whole fight is now not in any way shape or form
“gratuitous violence”…
I bring this exchange up to show people the kind of sociopaths we are often dealing with. It should be constantly reminded that what we hear is a constant stream of propaganda from thoroughly corrupt individuals with axes to grind. When confronted with damning evidence, people in the western media behave like rabid wild animals cornered; they foam at the mouth, stomp their feet, throw hissy-fits but will never admit they were wrong no matter what. It’s not just that they are incompetent (which they clearly are). It’s the fact that they act with such incompetence combined with such ferocious arrogance, petulance and lack of accountability that makes them so dangerous. Journalists are some of the most incompetent and irresponsible people in the world at evaluating evidence but unfortunately are the very people that the public trusts to bring them the news.
See here and here for more of the same from journalists.
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  1. silentchinese
    February 18th, 2012 at 19:01 | #1

    Fallows is actually least worst of amongst journalists.

  2. February 18th, 2012 at 19:03 | #2

    @silentchinese

    Least worst among knaves is not that great a compliment…

  3. silentchinese
    February 18th, 2012 at 19:11 | #3

    melektaus :
    @silentchinese
    Least worst among knaves is not that great a compliment…

    he is the least of your problems.

    He at least has some sense and understanding of the general issue regarding china.

    you could have presented your views in generalities with out going to specifics.

    for example you could say that one line is really a punch line born of a entrenched opinion.
    Because as any one who played competitive team sport would tell you a brawl between two teams 99% of time don’t involve ” gratuitous aggression” from one side only. doesn’t matter who throw the first punch.

    you can do so with out specifically arguing over his entrenched opinion’s validity. Journalist should instinctively dislike punch lines, even if they love to use it. because they like to believe they are rational and intellectual and don;t use these debasing one liners.

    and if it has to be specific, the facts better be earth shattering to change some pretty entrenched minds.

    I have once convinced a stanch texan republican gentleman over some strong drinks that today’s chinese leaders in some sense is actually is better than political leadership in US.

    simply because none of them are career lawyers.

    James fallow should be easier than that.

  4. February 18th, 2012 at 19:16 | #4

    @silentchinese

    He’s not any of my problems.

    you could have presented your views in generalities with out going to specifics.

    That’s ridiculous. He wouldn’t even know what I was talking about if I only spoke of “generalities”.

  5. pug_ster
    February 18th, 2012 at 19:19 | #5

    What Western Propagandists like Fallows neglect to mention that College and Professional basketball fights in the US is commonplace.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fubv056TVwo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTuJ-lwssAM

    It even happens in Knicks games as last year.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbP5ACQLuW4

  6. February 18th, 2012 at 19:22 | #6

    @pug_ster

    They’re unfortunately common the world over, especially in college and pro games. Fallows seems to be the type that only sees the world in black and white much like most of American culture and cannot form complex concepts and apply rigorous analysis. Sad and dangerous for a professional journalist.

  7. silentchinese
    February 18th, 2012 at 19:23 | #7

    melektaus :
    @silentchinese
    He’s not any of my problems.

    you could have presented your views in generalities with out going to specifics.

    That’s ridiculous. He wouldn’t even know what I was talking about if I only spoke of “generalities”.

    arguing over who throw the first punch and pointing him to a video with fleeing scene of first punch is, imho, stupid.

    pointing out that his one liner is a punch line not deserving the very embodiment journalistic excellence that he is. (stroke his ego, flatter him)

    …and that in a sports brawl everyone is dishing it out.

    is IMHO, smart.

  8. February 18th, 2012 at 19:31 | #8

    @silentchinese

    Only a xiao ren, a toady, would “stroke” the ego of someone like Fallows. It takes incredible naivety to think that any journalist would retract his statement instead of being encouraged to behave the same way with flattery.

  9. silentchinese
    February 18th, 2012 at 20:02 | #9

    melektaus :
    @silentchinese
    Only a xiao ren, a toady, would “stroke” the ego of someone like Fallows. It takes incredible naivety to think that any journalist would retract his statement instead of being encouraged to behave the same way with flattery.

    Oh you have no idea….

    the people we are dealing with are Xiao Ren.

  10. February 18th, 2012 at 20:07 | #10

    I’d be curious to see what video Fallows saw that has him thinking the ABC video to be “wow.”

    Whatever … Good to know Fallows is trash. But in some ways, why should I care? There is a lot of trash in the world – so there is now another. Big deal. I haven’t really found anything James’s written that’s original that’s worth discussing here. So if he’s a trash – it’s a nonissue really…

  11. February 18th, 2012 at 20:20 | #11

    @Allen

    I think he mentioned he is “basing” his claims on hearsay of someone at the game and her video. that video is likely a phone cam.

    These days, journalists think that just because you can get a couple of witnesses, you have solid facts, physical evidence like clear video or other conclusive evidence is irrelevant. they do not have scientific training and are not scientists, philosophers or mathematicians, or even educated layman, people who know how to evaluate evidence and that to me is very scary.

  12. February 18th, 2012 at 20:31 | #12

    @melektaus

    Agreed. Anecdotal reporting – probably even selective representation of anecdotal evidence – as facts – that seems to be the standard of many so-called journalists today.

    Funny a quick browse of the web on who started the fight – the people who say it’s Chinese base off crappy videos that show nothing. The people who say it’s Georgetown use in general better videos – at least videos that show that first punch so clearly shown in the ABC video you linked…

    Maybe you are onto something….

  13. idarklight
    February 18th, 2012 at 20:33 | #13

    Andrew Jacobs is definitely trashier judging by the responses.

  14. Truman
    February 18th, 2012 at 21:01 | #14

    Groan. This blog just had one of its best, most intelligent discussions ever (the Eric Li one), and follows it up by calling James Fallows “trash.” Needless to say, if Fallows came onto this blog and called Melektaus ‘trash,’ it’d be rightly censored by YinYang for being a personal insult.

    In any event, what Fallows is saying strikes me as perfectly reasonable. He saw a first-hand video of the match, and drew his conclusions. Melektaus draws his conclusions from an ABC news edit. Now, if Fallows were an anonymous blogger, I’d say that his claim was dubious. But he’s not (unlike Melektaus). Rather, he’s one of the best-known and most respected journalists working today, and he’s not going to risk his reputation on spurious claims.

    But what I find most distressing about this post is the lost opportunity. Here Melektaus has the chance to open up a dialogue with one of the most influential American voices on China. But, rather than reach out with the spirit of friendship, he turns around and writes a post calling Fallows ‘trash.’ What a pity. He, more than maybe any other journalist in America today, has been open to talking to different Chinese voices. A wasted opportunity and, for me as a regular reader of this blog, a grave disappointment. You fellows really need to stop looking at the world in such black and white terms. That was the opportunity to talk to somebody who would’ve listened. I wouldn’t blame him for not listening now. But then you really need to ask, who is going to listen to you now? I’m afraid if you treat someone like him so roughly, then soon you’re only going to be talking to yourselves.

  15. bing
    February 18th, 2012 at 21:23 | #15

    Allen :
    I’d be curious to see what video Fallows saw that has him thinking the ABC video to be “wow.”

    I am pretty sure this is the video Fallows was talking about:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ClAM3zXx-I

    It’s obviously shot form the audience row with a handheld camera, so both the image quality and the camera angle are limited. It didn’t capture exactly what ignited the brawl, but it does give out the impression that Chinese players were aggressively ganging up on a US player.

    Incidentally it’s one of the earliest videos about the brawl, it has the most view counts w.r.t to this incident. I guess we can say it defined the narrative.

    It’s also rather interesting to note that fellow poster “Truman” framed the amateur video as “first-hand video of the match”, and the high quality game footage from ABC as “news edit”. I guess technically it’s true, but it’s also very disingenuous and sinister, very much in line with the usual narrative on China in western media, like how China always has a “regime” in stead of a government.

  16. pug_ster
    February 18th, 2012 at 21:29 | #16

    @Truman

    Fallows? Journalist? Oh please. A creative writer at best. A journalist’s job is to report the news, be objective, to show both sides of the story and not to take sides. You can tell with the interaction with Melataus, Fallows already have taken a side. Objective journalism died in the US a long time ago.

  17. February 18th, 2012 at 21:41 | #17

    @Truman

    Thanks for the constructive criticism.

    You are probably right…. It’s a lost opportunity. We can do better … and will strive to.

    But this also shows we are human … with emotional baggage, personal warts and all.

  18. February 18th, 2012 at 22:51 | #18

    @Truman
    I think you should have watched the ABC News version, because the phone cam version just so happened to have veered away during the start of the brawl. For example, in the phone cam version, you didn’t see the player being shoved to the floor. IMMEDIATELY before that, the Georgetown Hoyas player threw the sucker punch.

    The ABC News version clearly showed that. So, it’s not that ABC News ‘edited’ a fake sucker punch into the video!

    That said, I personally think James Fallows is an incredible journalist who has been around the industry for a very long time. He knows the business well. But I don’t think he knows China very well. (Though there are moments I find his efforts – for example to moderate against hysterical predictions from Niall Ferguson an imminent confrontation between the U.S. and China – helpful.)

    In this instance, you must also read Melektaus’ email exchanges with Fallows. Melektaus provided the video link – all Fallows had to do was to watch it, especially since Melektaus have already explained about the sucker punch.

    Instead, Fallows responds with such arrogance. Melektaus’ reaction was understandable. I agree with Allen in that this was an unfortunate missed opportunity. But fault Fallows on that!

    Don’t forget that during this game, there were 57 foul shots penalized against Georgetown whereas the Bayi Rockets had 9 against them. So, based on statistics, the Hoyas were way more aggressive. Hence, that could explain why the Bayi player shoved after the sucker punch.

    Some may argue that the referee were unfair to the Hoyas in awarding too many shots to the Rockets, and that caused the Hoyas to be frustrated. Well, that actually speaks towards the Hoyas instigating the fight!

    My biggest issue, and as is the case for Melektaus, is a brawl like this is actually common in basketball, but the U.S. media sensationalizes this story into a ‘bad’ China vs. a young American college team! The reaction from Chinese fans is actually to still fault the Bayi Rockets because they were the hosts.

    Do you see the difference?

    Like all ‘China’ reporting in the West, the smearing campaign is over on that particular episode. (See my criticism of NPR in how they reported this story in a dishonest fashion.) From hence forth, another bad mark is tallied against ‘China,’ never-mind how ridiculous and shaky the original narrative was.

    Truman – honestly, your reaction is an example of how the dominant narrative got cemented in your own mind and perhaps you are finding it hard to change.

  19. Wayne
    February 19th, 2012 at 02:04 | #19

    Fallows, seems in previous writings, to aspire to some pretensions of impartiality and nuance.

    But he is a racist toubab all the same. Also a self-indulgent American toubab. I am not American. But I sometimes go to seminars in HK and Australasia. Everytime it is a American toubab he spends half a fucking hour telling everyone about his life history. In Fallows case he talks a lot about how he considers himself a great pilot. Typical self-absorbed toubab.

    Most toubab’s hate Chinese. They especially hate Chinese men.

    In any case, good to see the Chinese dudes stand up for themselves.

    I will derive even greater satisfaction when they smash a pure toubab team into the deck, and maybe even cause some severe injuries.

  20. zack
    February 19th, 2012 at 03:39 | #20

    coming from Fallows of the Atlantic, i am deeply deeply disappointed to hear this. Up until now, i’d given Mr Fallows the benefit of the doubt that he was genuine in not wishing to propagate Anti Chinese hate; that he was genuinely concerned about true jouranlistic integrity.

    Sadly, the evidence of this exchange has proved otherwise. Fallows is just as dirty and just as propagandistic as any American Journalist with the glaring fact of his own nation’s decline and the rise of China. It’s only natural, i suppose, and we can only expect more unprofessionalism and dirty tactics from those who feel that America’s decline can be reversed if China and the Chinese are continually bashed.

  21. LOLZ
    February 19th, 2012 at 06:32 | #21

    I like Fallow’s writings and still think he is one of the more balanced Sino writers coming from an American perspective. It’s unfortunate that the email proved him to be a major snob. I don’t mind the arrogance, after all most people in Fallows’ position are probably even more arrogant. However, as Allen said all Fallows had to do was the watch the video. Alas, he probably thought Melektaus was just another Fengqing and automatically dismissed anything Melektaus would have written. Sadly he will never understand the truth.

    This makes me wonder though, why does Fallows even bother to exchange email with Melektaus in the first place?

  22. Hong Konger
    February 19th, 2012 at 09:21 | #22

    It’s probably a bit much to call Fallows “trash” and a “sociopath,” over a short email, even if it was sarcastic and a bit rude. Not to excuse him, but most famous columnists don’t bother responding to readers emails, and probably most of them aren’t particularly nice personally.

    But this is a blog, and blogs are places for personal venting. So I understand why the poster was irked, and decided to write about it.

    Still, I disagree with commenters saying he’s racist and hates China. Most of us have read his writing, and he has critical things to say about the US, and interesting things to say about China. He seems genuinely excited about Jeremy Lin. I liked that he condemned the Yellow Girl ad, and that he’s for welcoming more Chinese students to America.

    I had to look up toubab to see that it’s a term for a white person. I hope this thread doesn’t divert into being about race and threats.

  23. pug_ster
    February 19th, 2012 at 16:08 | #23

    @Hong Konger

    While Fallows perhaps not a racist toward Chinese, he is obviously biased towards them by the interaction towards meletaus. He might not hate China in general, but he obviously hate the Chinese government and does not agree with their policies, especially in the global stage. While I don’t agree with Wayne’s tone, I agree with him in certain aspects. Fallows eloquent writings still reflects the biased and ignorant attitude of what many Westerners think of China and the Chinese people in general. This is the kind of the White Man’s burden thinking of Chinese. There are many Westerners who does think like Shaun Rein and his views are shouted down by many other Westerners.

  24. February 19th, 2012 at 17:01 | #24

    I really have zero respect for Fallows as I have no respect for most journalists. This is someone that gladly calls the claims of his colleague, Robert Wright, “horseshit” (is that what truman would consider “dialogue”?). Despite the fact that I agree with Fallows in his argument with Wright, Wright’s claims weren’t that obviously false. But Fallows not only makes an obviously false claim, he keeps affirming it in the light of damning evidence shown before his very eyes. I think that is a serious character flaw on his part. This is a thoroughly untrustworthy individual.

  25. February 19th, 2012 at 17:39 | #25

    Interesting note: I briefly saw Fallows today on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS show. He made another ridiculous claim: That China is now the world’s worst in terms of economic inequality. Granted China is quite bad in this area but the country Fallows lives in is just as bad if not worse and many other countries are far worse than both. It’s clear that journalists rarely care about facts nor do they have the competence to do basic research.

  26. February 19th, 2012 at 18:56 | #26

    Though he’s technically retired from the beat, Fallows really is one of the good China journalists out there. There aren’t many, so at worst he deserves a pass for that line about “gratuitous aggression.”

    @melektaus: your sentiment isn’t misplaced, but I wish you’d direct the anger at the truly bad China correspondents who’ve earned their criticism.

  27. ryan
    February 19th, 2012 at 21:49 | #27

    I played college basketball and I have watched a number of different videos of the incident and no matter who threw the first punch, it was the Chinese team that acted so badly by ganging up on the American, by kicking him when he was down, by bringing chairs into the fight and by allowing the crowd to join in. Say whatever you want but this was the worst example of basketball sportsmanship I have ever seen. This does not mean all Chinese are unsportsmanlike, but it does mean that in this one instance the Chinese team behaved horrifically and anyone who does not believe the Chinese are always right and the white man is always wrong would agree with this, which means none of you will.

    If you are interested in Chinese in basketball, I suggest you read this and do an article on it. http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2012/02/chinas-new-sports-problem

  28. pug_ster
    February 19th, 2012 at 22:46 | #28

    @ryan

    The problem with American Basketball is that it is a failing sport. People who only care lured by scholarships and teams only care about people who can jump higher, move faster, or people who are taller than others. The dumbest way is how the people who are fouled, you can essentially push someone while trying to shooting a basketball and the person who get pushed gets fouled. So the only thing that gets people to watch Basketball games is by promoting a few person’s within the NBA. You had Bird, Jordan, Lebron James and now Lin. So people who are playing in the NBA nowadays is rarely is about a team sport anymore.

    FYI, the economist article shows the problem with American Basketball and not Chinese ones. If paid scholarships are the only way to get people in the American Basketball system, then how come Lin is not in there?

  29. February 19th, 2012 at 23:21 | #29

    @ryan

    in this one instance the Chinese team behaved horrifically and anyone who does not believe the Chinese are always right and the white man is always wrong would agree with this, which means none of you will.

    That’s nice of you to pigeon hole all of us here.

    In my view, I think it’s pretty clear who threw the first punch. However, if you want to beyond that first punch – I happen to also think that it doesn’t matter who threw the first punch. What matters is that a brawl resulted.

    And when you have a brawl, both teams must take the fall. It’s a double technical. It’s a off-setting penalty. No one should feel good leaving; both in my eyes look bad. So, like you, I don’t think the Chinese are saints and actually do put part of the blame on the Chinese team. However, unlike you, I wouldn’t just blame the Chinese team.

    As for the economist link you gave, I don’t think China has a problem with Lin at all. Linsanity has hit both mainland and Taiwan like a tsunami. (I’m in the process of writing a post on Lin.) Some in Taiwan may want to claim Lin as Taiwanese only, but Lin’s Grandmom is from the mainland and even runs a scholarship for a school in Mainland. Chinese in general are proud when one of their own succeeds.

    As for whether Lin would have made it in China (Taiwan or Mainland) – the answer is probably no. But that’s to be expected. Think about it: the thing that makes Lin’s recent rise so noteworthy is the way he has come from so out of left field. If we were to ask – just a few weeks ago – whether he could make it in the NBA beyond the year (here is a guy who had been dropped by 2 dreams, and the prognosis for him at the Knicks wasn’t much better), the answer would also probably be a no. After all, the outlook for Lin – even in sunny U.S.- was definitely drab just a few weeks ago.

    Reality is Lin could have easily gone to play in Shanghai – and then be rediscovered – and then picked to start in some NBA team a year or so later. If so – would you be asking – in a politically laden context – why it’s China not U.S. that give him a chance to excel?

    Sometimes we should admire what real life has bestowed for us – and cheer for those who have against many odds succeeded – and not try to politicize everything.

    Sheesh…

  30. jxie
    February 20th, 2012 at 13:46 | #30

    ryan :

    If you are interested in Chinese in basketball, I suggest you read this and do an article on it. http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2012/02/chinas-new-sports-problem

    I will wait for Allen’s post on Lin to give my two cents on the Linsanity. As to the Economist report, one word: Yuck! Don’t know who G.E. is and if s/he is another Economist writer with pimply complexion, but it certainly shows this topic is way out the writer’s range. Likely s/he didn’t follow much Chinese sports and had to piece a lot of erroneous misinformation floated in the Internet together, due to the new demand.

    Beech’s book “Operation Yao Ming” isn’t fascinating but rather downright awful and totally offensive. An Occam’s Razor question is, if China put Yao’s parents together with the intention of breeding its next generation tall basketball prodigies, why only bred one? If Yao’s mom’s reproductive laboratory was to remain in business for another 2 decades and give births to more boys and girls, wouldn’t the center positions of the Chinese national teams have been nicely pre-filled for years to come?

    The writer obviously didn’t follow sports much in China. First s/he may want to fact-check Lins’ link to Pinghu and see when it started. Even when Yao Ming was hot in NBA, without the supposed Lin problems (ROC flags in stand, presumable identity issue), a lot of games in awkward hours weren’t shown by CCTV5. Moreover, changing pre-scheduled NBA games is a much bigger undertaking for CCTV5 (or ABC, ESPN, TNT for that matter) than for say BTV. The writer again is likely clueless about it.

    In short, I gave the Economist’s report an F.

  31. February 20th, 2012 at 14:58 | #31

    @ryan

    That’s just retarded. It’s like when a kid says “I’m gonna hold my breadth till I get my way”. it does matter who threw the first punch because that’s what precipitated the fight. No basketball team in the world, Chinese or American or anywhere would allow another team top throw a sucker punch at one of their players and not retaliate. That’s just idiotic. The Chinese player only retaliated by shoves at first.

    And yes, look at my previous post on the incident. The Americans also brought a chair into the fight. The difference is is that you will rarely hear about it in the racist media or if it is mentioned, it is always given convenient excuses.

    The American players seemed to have started the fight but the Chinese players finished it. the bottom line is is that Americans simply are just sore they got their asses kicked on the court by Asian men. That’s what it really comes down to.

  32. February 20th, 2012 at 15:04 | #32

    Even if it doesn’t matter who threw the first punch (which it clearly does matter) the fact remains, both teams engaged in the brawl. Both teams attacked each other. Both teams had members who wield chairs. Thus anyone who keeps maintaining that only one side committed “gratuitous violence” is morally if not intellectually bankrupt. The reason why so many people in the west are angry is because they simply can’t handle the fact that their players got a serious ass kicking from Asian men who are supposed to be docile, meek and nerdy. It’s the westerner’s pride that is getting in the way of them seeing what’s in front of their noses.

  33. LOLZ
    February 22nd, 2012 at 16:10 | #33

    It doesn’t matter who threw the first punch? LOL, talk about a desperate attempt at establishing false premises. In the world of “ryan”, Chinese players should just take a sucker punch and quit complaining. Complaining about China is okay, but complaining about unfair treatment which China gets is not okay.

    Why do so many China bashers act like this?

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