In today's tour of state-sponsored propaganda, the Brian Williams of China has some explaining to do, a Photoshop fail has no explanation, and a U.S. congressman wants to repeal a ban on domestic propaganda. We begin in China.
You Can't Say That on Television
Last week a well-known Chinese TV anchor named Yang Rui shocked audiences with an unhinged rant against "foreign trash" who move to China from the U.S. and Europe to "grab our money." The freewheeling rant also took aim at recently expelled American reporter Melissa Chan who had been working for Al Jazeera. "We kicked out that foreign bitch and closed Al-Jazeera’s Beijing bureau," he said, according to The Wall Street Journal. "We should shut up those who demonize China." The rant was unusual because, as The Atlantic's James Fallows explained on Saturday, it's not like Yang Rui is China's Rush Limbaugh—he's more like China's Brian Williams (that is, if Williams worked for state TV).
Today, Yang clarified his remarks to The Wall Street Journal's Josh Chin.
The more serious part of the accusations against me is the mischaracterization of what I said in Chinese; pofu (泼妇) if you look it up on Jinshan Ciba (金山词霸), one of the most popular Chinese traslation sites, and A Chinese English Dictionary (汉英词典; Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, Third Edition, Jan, 2010) means “shrew.”
I hope this will put this issue to rest for those who are willing to listen.
It's a pretty amusing non-apology that essentially amounts to: I didn't call that excellent reporter a "bitch," I called her "a small mouselike insectivorous mammal" or a "bad-tempered or aggressively assertive woman." (Oxford English Dictionary). Much better, Yang!
Even so, his clarification is still probably baloney. According to translator Brendan O'Kane, using shrew in this context just doesn't add up:
I threw out the question of how to translate 泼妇 to a table of translators and interpreters yesterday afternoon. Consensus was “bitch,” since terms like “shrew,” “scold,” “blowen,” “harridan,” etc. are no longer in common usage, but the native speakers of Chinese — both female — said that it actually struck them as nastier than “bitch” in this context, since it is possible to be a reasonable bitch but not a reasonable 泼妇. ↩
China Struggles with Photoshop
Not to pick on China but it's been a quite the week. Earlier this month, an unassuming story about the completion of a landscaping project was published on the official website of the Hangzhou Yuhang government. The accompanying photo was a blatantly Photoshopped picture of officials monitoring the park. And by monitoring we assume they mean floating magically above a brick path and standing at a toweringly tall height.
A week later, the government posted an apology letter, according to China Smack:
Due to unsuitable work processes, there were serious mistakes in the uploaded photograph. With regards to the errors of our work, we deeply express our apologies: We sincerely accept the criticizes of the netizen masses, and wholeheartedly appreciate the concern netizens have given us.
U.S. Congressman defends domestic propaganda
As BuzzFeed's Michael Hastings reported earlier, Congressman Adam Smith is co-sponsoring a bill to lift rules prohibiting domestic propaganda funded by taxpayers. "The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns," reported Hastings. Seems like scary stuff.
But today, Smith, a Democrat from Washington state, stepped into the belly of the beast and defended his bill on civil libertarian Glenn Greenwald's radio show. Have a listen for yourself: