I really don’t know how anyone can defend James Fallows. Ever since I had this exchange with him, I knew the guy to be a scoundrel (what better evidence does one need?) but some people still insist on defending him.
Fallows is cut from the same rotting wood as most western “journalists.” He had another, shall we say, episode recently when he displayed righteous indignation at CCTV Dialogue‘s host Yang Rui’s outburst on his personal Weibo account. Fallows then wrote a pouty response urging western journalists not to go on that show. Anyone who has seen Dialogue knows that it is a quality show, far better than any comparable show in the US and it has a diversity of opinions represented from real experts and sometimes criticizers of Chinese policies (including Fallows).
But reading Fallows’ latest “piece,” one realizes that the controversial and xenophobic comments (which I know few people would want to defend) by Yang Rui are but a convenient excuse for why Fallows does not want to go on Dialogue anymore and urges other western people to do so as well.
The first portion of Fallows’ rant has nothing to do with Rui’s personal Weibo post but with a general “complaint” (bitch fest) about Dialogue‘s temerity towards their foreign guests (they tend to ask critical questions, questions people like Fallows are hard pressed to answer) .
Now, the tricky part. Many foreigners who have been on the show know the experience I had during my few appearances, early in my time in China. When you’re on the set before the show begins, there is a lot of light and non-dogmatic chat with the hosts and the other guest(s). But once the show begins, the tone often shifts, with an opening question from the host on the lines of: “To our guest James Fallows, I must ask: do you not agree that the United States is being unfair and unreasonable in the demands it is making of the Chinese government? Especially considering its many failures at home and its relative decline in standing in the world?” Then once the show is over, it’s light, easy, non-agitprop chat again.
As we can see Fallows considers questions such as “do you not agree that the United States is being unfair and unreasonable in the demands it is making of the Chinese government?” to be “dogmatic” (i.e., CCP propaganda). Its’ “tone” is equally unsettling. It is “agitprop.” He would prefer that the “tone” be kept “light;” no doubt he wishes to be asked questions that even a stupid and ignorant journalist can answer without being flustered.
One can imagine the thoughts Fallows has in mind perhaps something like “How dare this Chinaman ask me, a white man, an American no less, these hard questions!? It’s my job to ask the hard questions and it’s the Chinese that must answer them. I am a journalist with credential. People admire me.”
Why can’t they just throw him a softball like American journalists do with American politicians to make the later looks smart and competent?
When journalists from other countries do the job that journalists are supposed to do, that is, start with asking critical questions (something that appears to be wholly alien to Fallows unless when he directs them at defenders of Chinese policy), we can see the response displaying an attitude that can only be described as arrogant, defiant entitled.
Fallows tail-tucks to protect his vulnerability, gets angry at the exposure of an almost pathological insecurity. His pride is wounded. He yelps in fear and must wait for his wounds to heal so he can strike back in some way. Everyone else treats him with the regard he thinks is entitled to a white man in China so why don’t these hosts do the same? Aren’t they his ‘”friends”?
So we see the mindset of Fallows. He cannot handle true dialogue. Dialogue presupposes the potential for questions, some of which may ask for good reasons. When good reasons cannot be given, that is reason itself to be suspicious on behalf of everyone else. Of course, my brief exchange with him through email already shows him in this light.
Yang Rui dares to ask questions western journalists are often too cowardly or too incompetent or too corrupt to ask anyone including other journalists. Dialogue also allows, as Fallows makes note, the opportunity for people to respond to questions unlike many western and especially US political talk shows which will not even air truly divergent views or cuts people off and edits the response to construct a much weaker response.
“Divergent” voices on comparable US talk shows “debate” positions such as whether invading Iran using nukes or with conventional weapons is the best option. Truly divergent voices are rarely ever heard (right before the Iraq invasion, FAIR did a study that showed the pro-war voice in the US media outnumbered the anti-war voice by a factor of 25 to 1). So one can imagine the shock (‘startled’ in Fallows’ words) some people might have when coming across actual journalism.
Fallows then quotes approvingly the comments from a blogger that calls Yang Rui’s angry Weibo comments “racist”. Fallows also calls it a “David Duke-style diatribe.” As angry and as xenophobic as they were, they were not racist. Here’s the offending post from Yang quoted in full:
The Public Security Bureau wants to clean out the foreign trash: To arrest foreign thugs and protect innocent girls, they need to concentrate on the disaster zones in [student district] Wudaokou and [drinking district] Sanlitun. Cut off the foreign snake heads. People who can’t find jobs in the U.S. and Europe come to China to grab our money, engage in human trafficking and spread deceitful lies to encourage emigration. Foreign spies seek out Chinese girls to mask their espionage and pretend to be tourists while compiling maps and GPS data for Japan, Korea and the West. We kicked out that foreign bitch and closed Al-Jazeera’s Beijing bureau. We should shut up those who demonize China and send them packing.
This shows that often, it is the racists themselves that often like to play the race card. By playing the race card, racists can better hide their own racism by pointing an accusatory finger at others. Also it is those who have the most to hide that often accuse others of being defensive while behaving defensively themselves.
So xenophobia is mistaken for something more serious and a personal blog is taken to be signs of something deeply insidious of the show Dialogue and even of the whole Chinese media.
Now one can only compare this paranoid response at someone’s personal Weibo blog with the blatant racism or anti-Chinese bias within the mainstream media (see here here here here and here from Fallows’ own reporting just as recent examples). The west does not need to veil its racism and prejudice when directed at the Chinese. They can be as explicit, as over-the-top, as they wish because it is so accepted in mainstream western society to be racist towards the Chinese. No one even bats an eye at it. That is what real racism looks like.