GVO Summit, Day 2, Session 3

Session 3: When Biases Meet Biases

The March 10 protests in Lhasa on the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Beijing rule immediately won the sympathy and support of Western media outlets, bloggers, and human rights organizations. From the point of view of many Chinese bloggers, however, the international coverage of the protests boiled down to misinformed anti-Chinese sentiment. What can be done to encourage dialogue in times of such heated disagreement? How is the hegemony of truth constructed in the current global media ecology? What is the role of editorialized websites like Global Voices in presenting multiple perspectives on a single issue, while also adding context for an international, multilingual readership?

Moderator: Xiao Qiang

Rebecca MacKinnon, University of Hong Kong and Global Voices

tibetan protests/riots

protests around torch — many people saw this as opportunity to protest widely — many ppl around the world thought chinese citizens would support these protests b/c it’s action against repressive govt., but chinese citizens were angry and called western media biased

anti-CNN web site created by chinese citizens

CNN cropped a photo from tibet that cut out a mob of tibetans throwing rocks (tibetans being violent back) — just showed other part of photo

hoping that Internet will help prevent this sort of disconnect, but in this situation it was chinese talking to chinese and west talking to west — no real understanding/compassion for others’ views, it’s “silos” — alternative, isolated perceptions of reality

the concern is that the “West and China are creating parallel and separate spaces”

instruction video on YouTube for how to log in to Chinese version of Twitter and join conversation

have to do more than criticize & accuse

“if only they could get our information, have access to our info, they’d agree w/us” — this is dangerous idea

lack of conversation is exacerbated by censorship: harder to post info about China from w/in China b/c it’s blocked or censored

key: compassion & understanding

Xiao Qiang

Tibetan protests in March 2008 turned into riots, govt. blocked media

Chinese students abroad accused media of bias

govt. then released info about Tibetans attacking Chinese (which was true), blamed it on Dalai Lama (not necessarily true)

Internet played a dividing role, pushing ppl to extremes

John Kennedy, Chinese Language Editor, Global Voices

Tibetan police called “Chinese police” on CNN

antiCNN documented all of this, their site is in english & chinese

Olympics are an opportunity to push an agenda, but what agenda should bloggers be pushing?

questions to ask:

— how different, really, are the different Chinese views on Tibet?

— is there just one? multiple?

— chinese view of “Free Tibet” protester who knows nothing about Tibet?

— what & who do you disagree with?

— which China do you disagree with?

— what’s the HK perspective on what happened in Tibet? some might consider their views more valid than those of mainland Chinese

— are ppl in China overly sensitive?

— how many ppl are willing to talk about human rights issues w/foreigners who have western view of human rights?

— are all Chinese bloggers anti-CNN?

Isaac Mao, Entrepreneur and Researcher, China

we always think we’re right

barriers come from lack of info, heightened by censorship

Rebecca MacKinnon

similar to Danish cartoon controversy — how to bridge conversation?

Ethan Zuckerman

speech intended for one audience is becoming public — challenge is to adapt your speech for a global audience

Questions

audience comment: “Change is not Viagra. We should not expect instant change.”
John Kennedy: “Twitter is my Viagra.”
Solana Larsen: “Viagra is cheaper on the Internet.”