I’m getting more than a little annoyed by the olympic hype. Yes they are a grand world party, but in the end it’s just a bunch of people running around the field, and people who are breathlessly talking as if it was the supreme battle royale between darkness and light get on my nerves.
The Washington Post is this weird paper, because they have some of the world’s best China coverage with John Pomfret, Philip Pan, and Edward Cody, and yet they seem to have an editoral board that seems totally out of touch with the world, and doesn’t actually seem to talk to any of their reporters. One journalistic technique that annoys me is that “statement in the form of a question.” When the evidence seems to point against what you think it should be, you start asking questions, that have no answers.
But we say this without a sense of total certainty, because the true opinion of China’s people is difficult to gauge. What they know about their country and the rest of the world is filtered through the distorting lens of official propaganda and censorship. And for those who exhibit excessive curiosity, or excessive outspokenness, the consequences — loss of work, ostracism, prison — can be dire. So we wonder: How many Chinese inwardly seethe at the pollution hovering over their capital? How many anguish at the forced relocation of thousands of Beijing residents to make way for Olympic venues? How many harbor unexpressed anger at the detention of peaceful dissidents — a flat violation of their government’s promise that hosting the Olympics would bring greater respect for human rights?
It’s actually not that difficult to gauge Chinese public opinion. Ask Pew and the answer is “not many Chinese are angry at the government.” And these rhetorical questions really have no content. If you look closely just what is the Washington Post trying to say? The only thing that I can see is “the facts seem to be against me, so I’ll ask this rhetorical question, and then not bother with the answer, so people can’t argue with me.” If you want to say that “although surveys of Chinese public opinion seems to be against us, we don’t think that people have an accurate understanding of what Chinese really think” then say that.