by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
china, journalism

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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  1. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), 1 Mar 2011 @ 2:41pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Mr. Smarta**, 1 Mar 2011 @ 3:08pm

    Yeah, right.

    These photos have nothing to do with China... Just ask the RIAA and MPAA. These are all the people protesting against piracy and showing how horrible the stealing of intellectual property is. Those people in the pictures are the ones who lost their jobs!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Kevin Stapp, 1 Mar 2011 @ 3:21pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    William, 1 Mar 2011 @ 4:14pm

    Being bilingual in Chinese & English, I see this ALL THE TIME. Western media is far from neutral, especially when they feel there is no one to do the checking & balancing - in this case, they don't expect their readers can tell the difference.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Eugene (profile), 1 Mar 2011 @ 5:31pm


    Basically the Baltimore Sun newspaper room from The Wire.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2011 @ 6:15pm

    So much for mainstream media investigative journalistic integrity. What a joke. and isn't copy'right' supposed to help journalist organizations with their credibility by giving them incentive to fund real investigative journalism?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), 1 Mar 2011 @ 6:30pm

    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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    BuzzCoastin (profile), 1 Mar 2011 @ 7:22pm

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2011 @ 7:49pm

    This is so awful.

    The revolution will not be told-in-lies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2011 @ 8:25pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    BuzzCoastin (profile), 1 Mar 2011 @ 8:38pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2011 @ 2:50am


    This is the kind of thing a troll would love to have: a massive reaction to a protest which does not happen at all. I wonder if causing the reaction with no apparent cause was the intention.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2011 @ 5:40am

    They're looking to exploit popular uprisings for ad revenue. So they have to "create" the next big popular revolt, even if it means using photos from unconnected events. News is all about the ads. The truth comes (much) later.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    weneedhelp (profile), 2 Mar 2011 @ 1:57pm

    Why would these publications bother putting up photos that have nothing to do with the event in question?

    "News" or news entertainment, has nothing to do with reporting anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Heather Hadden, 5 Mar 2011 @ 10:05am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Cow, 7 Mar 2011 @ 8:27pm

    The Norwegian one: Chinese government saying there *will not* be a revolution in Beijing.

    Lame use of picture, but at least they are not reporting lies (at least not in the small amount of the article that can be seen).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Lumiere, 12 May 2011 @ 9:37am

    How twisted news reporting can be these days for the attention-grabbing antics resorted to by media agencies!

    Regardless, I'm just happy I'm a Canadian able to enjoy life in Canada.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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