Challenging your ideas about the Red Dragon

I wrote this on Friday:

We hear a lot of rumors, and rumors of rumors, about China in the US.  Some of them are true, some of them are half-truths, and some of them aren’t valid at all.

1888 Itcho Hanabuso wood print: blind monks examining an elephant

China isn’t everything the mainstream media in the US cracks it up to be.  I said the other day that trying to describe China is like asking “What’s the weather like in the United States?”  Perhaps a more accurate version of that question is the classic story of the blind men describing an elephant.  If I’m in China, how do I know what mainstream media is saying about the Middle Kingdom?  1) When I’m tuned into it during a visit to the States, 2) When I read online news, 3) The biases/assumptions that come through when people ask me questions/make comments about China.

Coming off my comments above, which weren’t the main point of my thoughts the other day, I hit a gold mine in this article from the Columbia Journalism Review.  This paragraph made my head go up and down like the bobble-head doll it talks about.

We’d just note that once a meta-press-narrative gets rolling, it tends to take on a life of its own, for a lot of reasons. Intra-newsroom dynamics play a role. It’s just easier to get a story in the paper that fits the meta-narrative than one that pushes against it. The former are the kinds of stories that, once pitched, make an editor’s head nod up and down like a bobble-head doll. Continue reading