May 3 was World Press Freedom Day. The U.S. Department of State launched a “Free the Press” campaign, with its acting deputy spokesperson reproaching China on the very first day. The Voice of America also smeared the state of Chinese press freedom as “dancing in fetters.”*
Just one week prior to this, a 25- year-old black youth died from severe injury to his spine after being detained by police, sparking widespread riots in Baltimore and their subsequent heavy handed suppression by police and the National Guard. Meanwhile, the U.S. media painted a false picture of a Baltimore where the “streets were brimming with an air of gratification.”*
Journalists in Baltimore all got a taste of what it is like to be embedded in a war zone. The Poynter Institute for Media Studies reported that at least nine news workers were attacked while reporting, including one China Central TV camera operator. The U.S. media, however, somehow collectively forgot their love of preaching doom and gloom. That the State Department made such a point of highlighting freedom of the press before the blood dotting the bodies of injured journalists had even been wiped clean is deplorable.
It was white Americans’ discrimination against blacks and a willingness to use deadly force against them at the slightest pretext that ignited the riots. As the uncompromising crackdown on the rioters commenced, did the United States forget to remind itself to “show restraint?” Why has the media of Western nations, so fond of speaking of freedom of the press, seemed to lose their collective voice? Is it because the United States as top dog can simply do as it pleases?
The United States’ so-called freedom of the press has always been strictly scrutinized in others, but been rather more lax when applied to itself. In the Tiananmen terrorist incident on Oct. 28 of last year, U.S. cable television news networks questioned China’s labeling of the act as such, attacked China’s ethnic and religious policies, and even expressed sympathy toward the terrorists involved. But when the United States practically imposed martial law to suppress the Ferguson protests and Baltimore riots, the U.S. media turned a blind eye.
In its ruthless shutdown of the riots, the United States has added another brilliant stroke of the pen to its history of “exceptionalism” in freedom of the press. When riots break out in other nations around the world and governments exercise heightened control over the press, the United States and other Western nations are always the first to come out and encourage the agitators while calling on the affected nations’ governments to show restraint, so as to allow the chaos to grow. If a Baltimore-scale riot arose in China or Russia, would Western public opinion still be tamped down like this?
When Edward Snowden said that the United States is the world’s most dangerous hacker nation, the news media turned to talk about the number of offenses committed by Chinese hackers within days. Why does the uncrowned king of getting to the bottom of a story change his tune at the drop of a hat when the United States is implicated? The reality is that the U.S. media that so frequently touts their freedom of the press is in truth ruled by politics. They say that others “dance in fetters” even as they embrace the ball and chain themselves.
China’s comprehensive disaster relief after the earthquake in Nepal earned the praise of the entire world. The U.S. media, however, claimed that Chinese humanitarian relief efforts were an attempt to vie for influence with India. Are we to take this distorted view of China from the U.S. media as so-called objective fairness in reporting? Raising the banner of press freedom high while using their power of speech to slander their self-identified adversaries and enemies is the primary game played within the U.S. media’s insular culture.
The real substance of the West’s so-called “freedom of the press” is hegemony of words and opinion. The past primal culture of the strong preying upon the weak has done nothing more than garb itself in more civilized attire to deceive the world. The participants in what was once a gory feast have now been primped and preened for a more refined dining experience.
Truth has always been relative and not absolute. Even a seemingly natural “good,” such as freedom of the press, also has its negative points, and absolute freedom of the press does not exist. Indeed, when freedom of the press is used as a tool and a weapon, that principle begins to show a much uglier side.
*Editor’s note: Correctly translated, this quote could not be verified.