The Great Wall of Flackery

Dear China,

As a citizen of the People’s Republic of Mississauga, I would like to commend you on your August 19 press release about press releases.

I read with great interest your 660 words of fractured English – Can’t you hack a better translator? – in the online People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party.

In your text headlined Commentary: China Needs to Learn From the West to Work with Media in Crisis, you acknowledge you have not done a very good job providing information on the deadly explosions in your toxic warehouses in Tianjin.

There are two problems with the headline:

  1. You could do better than learn from the West.
  2. Are you in crisis? Are the media in crisis? Or both?

I understand your frustration in dealing with Western media. Once you let them in, it is difficult to shut them up.

In any case, you should be grateful reporters working for the Americans or Canadians did not ask you about Trump’s poll numbers, Hillary’s emails, or the Mike Duffy trial.

As an American living in Canada, who has worked as a reporter and editor in both countries, I offer the following advice and commentary on your commentary (with no rude sics or gaps filled with bracketed words).

You cite eight press conferences in Tianjin as of August 18. “As the first few conferences were chaired by relatively low-ranking officials, the results proved unsatisfactory.”

Don’t worry about it. Watch some video of the Ferguson police department last summer.

“The recent few conferences saw obvious improvement, as evident in the satisfaction of the reporters.”

There is nothing like happy reporters. In my day, all it took was opening the bar early.

“Only initiated from 2003, the press spokesperson system in China still suffers from mixed levels of competence in its spokespersons.”

Try recruiting at the Jungle Cruise in Disneyland. That’s where Nixon found Ziegler.

“They may be well capable of handling daily news, but when it comes to breaking news, their competence is called into question.”

Tell them to read aloud My Pet Goat.

“The public, especially the media, needs to bestow more tolerance and understanding.”

Fat chance. But at least Helen Thomas is dead and Sam Donaldson is retired.

“In dealing with breaking news, the handling of Western countries is worth learning. Upon closer scrutiny, when sudden tragic incidents involving casualties and treasure loss happen in Western countries, the information first released is more likely to depict the situation more seriously than it actually is … Subsequently, as more accurate information is learned through investigation, the government will revise earlier data to a ‘better than expected’ one. In this way, the consequences of such incidents are more easily accepted by the general public, thus relieving the tension and emotional stress.”

You’re getting the hang of it. Just ramble on and make up shit.

“For example, 15 days after the September 11 attacks …”

Don’t talk about 9/11, you Commie bastard.

“The U.S. handled the information regarding Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans in 2005 in a similar manner.”

Brownie, you’re doin’ a heck of a job.

“We always want to play down the disaster, with the motivation to not arouse panic, whereas in fact, with the death toll rising, the public’s fear and tension will be inevitably upgraded. There is rationale of information psychology behind it, which requires a reflecting heart to find out.”

Or consider the words of the great American philosopher, Charles W. “Chuck” Colson: “When you’ve got ‘em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

“Press releases should respect, understand, and obey the psychology of the public.”

Cool. We just use them to spin stuff and sell shit.

“When something big takes place, people instinctively want to know exactly what has happened. If they cannot get the information from official channels, they easily turn to hearsay. They may even rely on their own guesses, and they tell others their guesses and spread the word.”

Watch it, buster. That’s the media’s job.

“In all fairness, it is not easy to work for press releases. A well-trained spokesperson can only be forged by several scorching times under the flashlight and in front of the microphone.”

A cultural revolution might help, combined with SPF 45 sunscreen.

“Just like the old Chinese saying goes, no clever housewife can cook a meal without rice. From this perspective, the ones under the flashlight should not be the only ones to learn about press releases.”

Old Canadian saying: When the moose are rutting, stay out of the woods.

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