What If There Was An Anti-Gov't Protest In China And No One Showed Up? Would Press Reports Use Other Photos?

from the looks-like-it dept

There has been some talk about how China is quite afraid of how the various anti-government protests in the Middle East might lead folks in China to try the same thing. In fact, there apparently had been something of a push outside the country to get Chinese citizens to participate in their own sort of “Jasmine Revolution,” but at the time the whole thing was supposed to go down, apparently the only people who showed up were a ton of police and a whole lot of reporters. No actual protesters, though. Without protesters to bully, the police went after some reporters, but that was about it.

However, Glyn Moody points us to a report noting that despite this being a near total non-event, it appears some publications around the world used photos from other events with their own news coverage to imply that they were actually from the “protests” in China. Here are a few examples, though there are a bunch more at the link. I was unable to confirm much of this, since I speak almost no Mandarin, and read even less (i.e., none) so if there are more details please feel free to let us know in the comments:

This one apparently comes from the news site “Online USA News” (sounds credible, huh?), but the image comes from a demonstration in Beijing in 2005, found via a Baidu photo identification tool.
This photo is apparently of a prisoner sentenced to the death penalty in Beijing and has nothing to do with any protests
The photo here is apparently from a job fair, as the signs say “seeking workers” and “hiring people,” and have nothing to do with protests, though apparently the story is about the so-called protests.
This story and image, from the Independent, in Ireland, is using a photo of police from an anti-Japanese demonstration in Lanzhou city from last year, again having nothing to do with this particular story.
This image, used in a Norwegian story is apparently a photo of a political rally in Taiwan (the green signs apparently say Taiwan on them), rather than anything having to do with the non-existent “Jasmine Revolution” in China.

As mentioned, the link above has many more examples of this from a variety of other publications. The whole thing is pretty odd. Why would these publications bother putting up photos that have nothing to do with the event in question?

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Comments on “What If There Was An Anti-Gov't Protest In China And No One Showed Up? Would Press Reports Use Other Photos?”

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17 Comments
Marcus Carab (profile) says:

By my observations, it usually goes something like this:

1) Experienced editor, who has become set in his ways and perhaps a little too entitled, thinks he can immediately figure out any story based on a couple lines of information.

2) Editor assigns that story to a writer along with a pre-conceived verbal outline of what the key points will be and what sort of sources, quotes & photos are needed.

3) Writer discovers that the story is not at all what it seemed like, and that the real story might be more interesting but will also require a lot more digging – or that the real story is no story at all, and barely worth a single paragraph.

4) Writer, working on a deadline, simply finds anything that fills in the blanks of the outline the editor gave them, and submits the story they are expected to write.

5) Editor sees the final story as exactly what he anticipated, thinks ‘boy am I good’ and pushes it through to publication with minimal review.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not accusing all journalists and editors of this – nor am I even saying that all those who have ever found themselves caught in this cycle are thoroughly bad at what they do. But this is the sort of insidious procedural pattern that leads to so much of today’s flimsy journalism.

Kevin Stapp says:

It is all about soap

It driven by advertising. Big Media Dinosaur must sell X ad space so they publish any drek they can to drive eyes to the publication/content. Eye catching headlines and photos slapped together with some formula based story structure makes for cheap content.

I laugh every time some big media elitist drones on about ‘journalistic integrity’ and ‘professional editors’ being the differentiator between the ‘pros’ and the riff-raff of the blogosphere.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

This is priceless. I’ve copied and pasted some fragments of the story:

“Few expected Chinese citizens to answer the “jasmine revolution” appeal, which urged them to express their desire for reform by “strolling” past a McDonald’s on Wangfujing shopping street. Shanghai police used whistles to disperse a crowd of around 200, although it was unclear if the people were anything more than onlookers. Officers detained at least four Chinese citizens in the city and two others in Beijing. It was not clear, however, if those detained had tried to protest. A US journalist was punched and kicked in the face.”

BuzzCoastin (profile) says:

"Jasmine Revolution"

Being an American living in Beijing for over two years now, I can say that the “Jasmine Revolution” is a non-event in Beijing. The only people whom seemed to respond to this call to action were the government & the police. I had to explain the “Jasmine Revolution” to my Chinese wife, who, though pretty informed and able to access media from the “free world,” didn’t know about it.

True, there could be more freedom of speech in China, (and there is a modicum of free speech, especially on community issues) but the socioeconomic conditions in China right now make a “Jasmine Revolution” pretty unlikely. Whereas, the socioeconomic conditions in the West could easily create a “Jasmine Revolution” there.

The anti-Chinese bias in the “free press,” especially the British press, is pretty astounding.

Anonymous Coward says:

The reality on the ground (from my sources in China) is that most people don’t even know about it, let alone intend to participate in it. It is something very narrowly restricted to a few locations, and mostly featuring the “usual suspect” and a few students here and there.

In Beijing, police used street cleaner water sprayers to wash and re-wash the site of the supposed protest, alternating with police dogs and other dissuasive tactics. For the most part, the only people present were foreign journalists looking for the non-story.

It must be said that while Western people don’t believe it, Chinese people are mostly happy with their lots in life, and are generally seeing much progress in their standards of living and such. They don’t have time or the desire for an unneeded revolution.

BuzzCoastin (profile) says:

Re: D' accord

Being on the ground in Beijing, I can confirm your informed observation. I know lots of Chinese people and I haven’t yet met a disgruntled protester; though I am sure there are some in a country of 1.35 billion people.

The NY Times had a fairly evenhanded report on the situation, which appeared on page 10 of the Times. One Chinese merchant interview at the scene thought the extra police presence had something to do with the meeting of the legislature, which began the same day.

Heather Hadden (user link) says:

We got used to reading stories made up out of thin air in tabloids. However, one would expect the facts to be meticulously checked and confirmed with multiple sources in a highly regarded newspaper like Independent. It is sad that the rampant commercialisation of the newspaper industry has meant that newspapers of nowadays will pretty much print anything as long as it sells papers and gets clicks on their website.

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