Friday, August 13, 2010

Playing Defense

Every so often, in different places, I'll come across an article that can be construed as being critical of China, its government or media, in one way or another. Nothing out of the ordinary there. What struck me as interesting, when I first encountered these articles is that there were pro-China comments being made about them (sometimes with Chinese names attached), and in situations where people can vote their approval, there are always a number of recommendations, sometimes way more than one would think for such an article.

Now, I'll admit to not spending much time reading offshore news sources, and I've only looked at Xinhua once or twice. When I look to find out what's going on in the rest of the world, I usually check out the BBC or sometimes Al-Jazeera, and I don't often delve into their comments sections. But I wonder - do Americans go trolling the international internet for critical pieces and either defend the nation or attack the author/outlet of the piece? Part of me suspects not - I don't think that Americans are as invested in what people in other countries think of them. Now, it does seem that we do this to one another. Most of the news sources I read most often tend to be somewhat left leaning, especially the local ones (unsurprising, given that I live in Seattle), and every so often it seems that hundreds of conservatives log on for no other reason than to condemn what they feel is a liberal screed that a biased media has presented as news (and to give each other virtual thumbs-up). And again I wonder - do liberals do this? Are the comment boards of Fox News jammed with loads of left-of-center complaints about this article or that correspondent?

It's an interesting phenomenon, especially when the complaints turn conspiratorial.

Why is the media trying so hard to get the American people to distrust China. Is another baseless war approaching and they are just making sure the US will be on board?
Of course, it's only natural for people to defend themselves when they feel attacked. What always struck me as strange about these situations was the fact that it seemed to be coordinated, in a way. As a general rule, the China effect only shows up in sites that you expect would have a national following - despite the relatively large population of Chinese in the Puget Sound area, this doesn't seem to appear at all in the local newspapers, even when articles on hot-button topics are brought up. Conversely, when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer runs an article that gets conservatives worked up, you suddenly get writers from all over the country logging on to complain (many of whom, judging by their comments are completely unfamiliar with the piece at hand).

I don't know that it's changing anyone's minds. But it's an interesting effect to observe.

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