February 3rd, 2012
in Op Ed
by Frank Li
This is the third article of the series: “Towards An Ideal Form of Government”.
Is there freedom of the press in America? Yes. But it has not been realized until recently when the Internet finally made it possible. Before that, freedom of the press existed in America in theory only, but not in practice. Why? Because the press was not truly free!
Is there freedom of the press in China? No. But is it all that bad? No, not in my opinion! Why? Because freedom of the press in America, as we know it today, can sometimes be worse than the controlled media in China! Really? Hear me out …
1. Conventional media and America
Conventional media (e.g. newspapers and TV) is not free. For-profit companies own them (mostly), for which ratings are everything: They give you what you want (e.g. Charlie Sheen or China bashing), and you give them what they want (e.g. putting up with the ads). Simply stated, it is all about “I help you feel good and you help me make some money.” Little else matters, often not even the truth, especially in politics.
Three net results:
(1) The media and the politicians work in sync, because they both want the same thing: high ratings! The politicians need the media as their PR machines (e.g. Obama meets with left wing hacks Ed Schultz, Ezra Klein, Arianna Huffington and others at the White House), while the media craves the access to power (e.g. Diane Sawyer and Jake Tapper on the challenges of interviewing the President). Because of this type of cozy relationship, the media simply failed to question, let alone prevent, such a tragedy as the Iraq War. Worse yet, the media tends to go to the extremes (e.g. MSNBC on the left and Fox on the right), often without balance, for the sake of making sensational news! Together, they help, consciously or not, to undermine America, with the extreme left promoting destructive socialism (Democracy and Communism: Are They Really The Same?) and the extreme right (i.e. neo-con) promoting imperialism with out-of-control military spending and naked aggression against other nations (e.g. Iraq).
(2) The media is powerful (e.g. ’Nightline’ Nukes Newt), but not very trustworthy (e.g. Fox News Most Distrusted (And Trusted) Name In News: Poll). This is a terribly dangerous, even frightening, combination!
(3) America, as compared with China, is not only generally under-informed, but also often misinformed, about many world affairs, especially on the Middle East and Asia, with the Iraq War and the situation leading up to it being the worst example. Here is the bottom line: In my opinion, an average educated person in China today (e.g. a college graduate) knows a lot more about America than the other way around. More broadly, an average educated Chinese understands world affairs far better than an average educated American!
2. American media about the world
Still unconvinced about the deficiency of the American media covering world affairs? Here are three specific examples:
(1) Watch this BBC series, showing what the Chinese are doing globally. Now, the question: Why can't we, as Americans, produce a quality program like that? Okay, it’s BBC, the best in the world! But what about Al Jazeera?
(3) China’s crackdown on capitalism. What a sensational title! The negative story is largely true and it’s what an American typically wants to read (i.e. China bashing). However, the sensational title alone has distorted the big picture: China, despite its pervasive endemic problems, is succeeding over the West because of capitalism and China will likely become more capitalistic than the U.S. soon, if the current trend persists. Want more evidence? Read this: A CEOs guide to innovation in China.
No wonder the U.S. Middle East policy is a failure. No wonder many Americans still think China is a communist country. Thank the media and the politicians for having brainwashed you! In fact, brainwashing is yet another similarity between democracy and communism, which I will discuss in-depth in a future article.
3. Media in China
There is simply no freedom of the press in China. This is largely because of the inheritance from China’s communist past, although solid progress has been made to open up the media over the past decade, with more to come.
No question, the Chinese government has much more direct control over the media than the American government. But is this all that bad? No, not in my opinion! Here is an example for a Chinese domestic issue: About two years ago, it was a news blitz about “another bad guy in China hurting some school children with knives.” Do you know what happened afterward? The Chinese government banned the media from reporting these kinds of stories in China, with the belief that many sick copycats were inspired by the stories. It worked. I agree with their assessment!
Internationally, the Chinese media is actually better than the American media: more objective, more even-handed, and less ideological. Why is that? Because the Chinese government policy is better than the American government policy! The Chinese government promotes peace and pursues a non-intervention approach that can be simply summarized as this: “let’s do some business, without worrying much about ideology or politics.” History proves, time and again, that this approach is the best, not only for China, but also for the world. Clearly, this is the opposite to America’s approach of trying to be the world’s policemen. (Yes, Ron Paul has got this one right!) As a result, the Chinese media’s job is much easier than that of the American media. No example is more illustrative than this: In China, I saw both sides of the story on Syria (and Libya and Iran) on TV: the government-side as well as the anti-government side. It was very refreshing for me, because the former is totally non-existent in America’s mainstream media today!
4. Welcome to the Internet age!
The Internet has fundamentally changed the Middle East, though not necessarily for the better (Towards An Ideal Form of Government). However, it will certainly fundamentally change America and China for the better!
4.1 The Internet and America
The Internet has already profoundly changed America, from the USPS to the established media. Yes, change is good – what’s bad for the status quo is often good for America! As a result, Americans are now enjoying true freedom of the press for the first time ever. Today, we all can publish, instantly and worldwide! Even an electrical engineer like me can publish big time on politics!
Here is a simple comparison between my writing and the established media (Time magazine) on the same subject Warren Buffett (pictured left):
Can you see the differences between the two articles?
4.2 The Internet and China
The Internet has already profoundly changed China as well. Here is a must-read article for all open-minded Americans: Globalization 2.0: China’s Parallel Internet. Astonishingly eye-opening?
The Internet will further change China for the better, with positive influence from America, hopefully …
As human beings, we all desire freedoms, including freedom of speech (a good thing) and freedom of excessive spending (a bad thing). Therefore, there needs to be a force out there to balance our unbounded desires. It may take the Wisdom of Solomon to determine where that boundary is for freedom of the press. Meanwhile, all of us, especially Americans, must avoid being overly simplistic, such as by dismissing China’s media censorship as nothing but purely evil. To the contrary, given the dire economic condition of the West, I believe it’s time for America to examine itself fundamentally and thoroughly, starting with its antiquated political system.
Giordano Bruno was burned to death because of his Sun theory. I am still alive, thanks to freedom of speech and freedom of the press in America!
About the Author
Frank Li is the Founder and President of W.E.I. (West-East International), a Chicago-based import & export company. Frank received his B.E. from Zhejiang University (China) in 1982, M.E. from the University of Tokyo in 1985, and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1988, all in Electrical Engineering. He worked for several companies until 2004, when he founded his own company W.E.I. Today, W.E.I. is a leader in the weighing industry not only in products & services, but also in thought and action.