Why the Fake Pollution Billboard Story Matters

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“The smog has become so thick in Beijing that the city’s natural light-starved masses have begun flocking to huge digital commercial television screens across the city to observe virtual sunrises.”

Lied The Daily Mail in an article last week. Although they gave no proof for this assertion besides a photo, their horrible reporting inexplicably caught on at Time, Huffington Post, and CBS News.

There’s so many things I want to say here.

  • First, this isn’t the first China lie that gets picked up and broadcast by Western news media. Mike Daisey’s fabricated NPR story on this American life comes prominently to mind. This is what happens when you cut foreign bureaus and let playwrights and people who know nothing about the country #Chinasplain on reputable platform.
  • Second, it took the blog Tech In Asia to take down this story. It’s not even their beat. Hell yeah blogs. Even though we don’t have the kind of staff that these news organizations (don’t worry, I don’t count HuffPo or The Daily Mail) a good blog can sometimes get it really right.
  • Third, we derive a good deal of satisfaction laughing at Global Times headlines, but when US news outlets get it wrong we don’t call them on it with enough force. At least Global Times is reasonably straightforward about being a state-run propaganda rag (with some nice people at it).
  • Fourth, everything Quartz said in “Westerners are so convinced China is a dystopian hellscape they’ll share anything that confirms it.”

So start making a hit list of news sites not to read on China. You might have a place to start.

3 Responses to “Why the Fake Pollution Billboard Story Matters”

  1. David Fieldman

    You’re so right, Patrick. Once you cut the news staff of reliable foreign media outlets, restrict the visas and residency permits of those reporters and investigative journalists of integrity — the results are Onion-and Inquirer-style “reporting.”

    The West, however, laps it up and laughs.

    As you so wisely wrote: “So start making a hit list of news sites not to read on China.”

    Reply

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