It was November 2007 and back then the Shanghai Maglev train, travelling at 431 kilometres per hour, took you from Pudong Airport to Longyang Road Station in about eight minutes. From there it was a hop, skip, and a jump to my chum’s appartment near Century Park. Well, it wasn’t actually his appartment, but rather it belonged to his friend, who was a journalist with Xinhau. Not only had I just experienced travelling 30 kilometres in about seven minutes, but I had also arrived at a place in China where there was unlimited access to Western media.
Fast forward nine and a half years or so, and ego is supping his afternoon cappucino in a German High Street Cafe while embarking on Yang Jisheng’s “untold story of Mao’s great famine”, ‘Tombstone’. After graduating, he was assigned to Xinhau News Agency and exposed to facts that contradicted the party line, he writes, before going on to say, “as a Xinhau reporter, I learned how “news” was manufactured and how news organs served as the mouthpieces of political power” (ibid:11).
In the Kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed man is King, perhaps, but while it might be imagined that knowing what they know could have been at least source of frustration for both Xinhau journalists, in a country where trains travel at 431 kilometres per hour, it is to be expected that today there are a few hundred million Chinese citizens who privately find the party’s narrative total bullshit at best. As the “never forget national humiliation, but forget everything else”, gobblydegook wears thin this is what gives ‘The People’s Republic of Amnesia’ a modicum of hope.
Yes, where there is hope, ….. and what hope is there for the West? The Syrian government is being blamed for a horrific gas attack in the Idlib Governorate this morning, which killed “at least 58 people” . Unsubstantiated “evidence” and there is a sense of Déjà-vu. After all, is it really so long ago that the Western media conjured up a similar narrative when it used the East Ghouta chemical attacks in an attempt to facilitate a crusade against the Assad regime?
Yes, Yang Jisheng might have discovered that news is manufactured and the news organs serve as the mouthpieces of political power when he started to work at Xinhau, but wouldn’t it be a welcome revelation for a BBC journalist to come out and actually confess that he is broadcasting disgustingly dangerous drivel? After all, “not knowing” the truth cannot be, or at least shouldn’t be, an excuse.