Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Shaun Rein: "Shame on CNN . . I have no idea if Chen’s being wronged or not"

This latest piece by ultra-apologist Shaun Rein on Christian Bale getting roughed up on-camera really does take the cake:

"CNN’s China team, in a complete failure of journalistic integrity, decided last week to become the news rather than just report it. The actor Christian Bale called CNN to follow him as he drove for eight hours to confront police to try to see Chen Guangcheng, a blind legal activist being held in his home in the eastern Chinese village of Linyi. Bale was in China to promote his movie about the Rape of Nanking by Japanese troops in 1937.

CNN did Bale one better. It became complicit in Bale’s activism by actually planning the trip and driving him to Linyi. CNN reporter Steven Jiang then translated for Bale as he argued with Chinese police officers and refused to comply with their directives to leave.

. . . .

Bale and CNN’s publicity stunt indicts an entire political system without delving deeper into the reality of Chen’s detention and the interplay between the central and local governments. I have no idea about Chen’s detention, and if he is being wronged or not, but if there are issues with his case, I am not convinced that calling the entire political class “disgusting,” as Bale does, can help."

Let's leave aside Rein's plugging elsewhere in the article of his yet-to-be-published book which (at least judging by the title) has nothing to do with the issues discussed in the piece. Let's also leave aside the fact that the "police men" in the video never identified themselves as such, and delivered their "directives to leave" with their fists.

Instead, let's simply focus on what Rein's saying here. Basically, Rein feels quite qualified to pass judgement on what exactly the journalistic standards are that CNN should obey. He also feels perfectly qualified to say whether a camera team that follows an activist is "complicit in [their] activism". However, on the question of whether it is correct to keep an innocent man and his family under house arrest without charge or acknowledgement of arrest, and to beat up those attempting to see him, he suddenly does not feel qualified to pass judgement.

That's right, a man who feels free to comment on everything from the levels of 'real' poverty in China, to who should win the Nobel Peace Prize (answer: Deng Xiaoping, no, really), to whether or not Chelsea Clinton's wedding affected her mothers diplomatic activities, suddenly finds himself unable to say whether an innocent blind man should be imprisoned without charge.

Is this informed commentary? Is this even the attitude of a responsible adult? Or is it instead transparent, self-interested, and cynical shilling for the PRC government - the government that Rein has elsewhere boasted of his connections with, and which is keeping a blind man and his family under house arrest without justification?

I'm not saying that Rein should necessarily have to write about Chen Guangcheng. I'm also not saying that CNN's tactics did not have a certain element of theatre in them - although in my opinion this was justified given the circumstances, since the best way of showing that everyone who tries to see Chen Guangcheng is attacked is to do it yourself.

What I am criticising here is the thinly disguised attempt by Rein to use his Forbes column as a platform to attack Bale and CNN whilst claiming total ignorance of the circumstances surrounding their actions - circumstances which even casual observers of China are already quite aware of. Both the piece itself and Rein's apparent motives for writing it are utterly discreditable, and he should disown them.


justrecently said...

Geez - why don't you explain how unprofitable it is to keep rattlesnakes in a chicken house, Foarp? Is Shaun Rein really worth a long blogpost (unless it's about something more, umm, complicated?

I know - Rein's columns are published on big platforms and all that, and it may be useful to note who's publishing these insults to reason. But the only noteworthy thing in his "criticism" of CNN, if any, seems to be that Rein used the word integrity. That made me laugh.

And while Forbes may get attention by publishing his stuff, I doubt that this adds to their creditworthiness.

Gilman Grundy said...

"why don't you explain how unprofitable it is to keep rattlesnakes in a chicken house, Foarp?"

Wait, that's bad?

But yeah, I get your point. However this really just managed to to not only sink below my already-rock-bottom expectations of the man, but to take a rock drill to that bedrock and go a good mile further.

How could any honest man write this kind of nonsense? How could any "China expert" acquaint himself of the apparent motives behind the CNN piece without at all examining the subject of the piece?

justrecently said...

Thinking about it, I believe my main point would be that this gross misjudgement (being pretty judgmental about CNN's coverage, but not wanting to pass judgment about Chen - probably because it could backfire on China) reveals a bias which makes me distrust Mr. Reins judgement more in general.

But then, I believe, Rein has his inevitable fans, and that's why Forbes is publishing his columns. A majority, even among "old China hands" (I think there are still circles which use this term as brazenly as they did thirty years ago), won't be fans.

I think I've never written a post abut Shawn Rein, but I do remember that I once wrote a post about a certain Shun Issues. Mr. Rein seems to shun certain issues, too.

Which isn't smart. Newsmagazine Der Spiegel carried a story about a German investor in China a number of years ago. That man, who had quite some technology to offer, thought his tech was safe in China because he had once dined with Deng Xiaoping. How he complained to Der Spiegel.

And how I laughed when reading it.

justrecently said...

Forgot to add the link to my Shun Issues post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. For what it's worth, it looks to me like Mr Rein is just playing a very dangerous game that will one day spectacularly backfire on him, leaving him completely discredited or worse.

But, at the end of the day, it's his choice. I think it is positive and a good thing that bloggers like yourself, CLB and Peking Duck keep calling him out, even if it generates publicity for him.

On the subject of Guangcheng, I think it's rather depressing that China illegally jails lawyers for helping people exercise their legal rights and i'm not afraid to point this out. But it's their legal system, their choice at the end of the day. Hopefully one day things will improve. After our own various f**k ups over the last decade, I don't think we are in a position to intervene in other countries affairs any more.

Anonymous said...