Sunday, August 10, 2008

August 2008 Book Club Selection: Mediapolitik, Lee Edwards

Modern media revolutionizing politics

With the eyes of the world now firmly on China as the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games are officially underway, many people the world over are appraising how the Chinese state reacts to the extra attention the Olympics inevitably bring.

In particular, bans restricting the internet access of journalists covering the games have proven to be especially controversial -- and disturbing.

While Mediapolitik actually covers the ever-increasing influence of journalism on politics -- and inevitably vice versa -- on a global scale, Edwards' examination of China is particularly prescient as the Chinese state takes unprecedented steps to control the flow of information into and out of China during the Olympic games.

In particular, Edwards takes note of the Chinese efforts to control coverage of the Tiananmen Square massacre. In an age where it was increasingly being realized that most people around the world -- and within rapidly industrializing China -- often seemed to need to see an event on television before it was deemed to be real, China suppressed knowledge of the massacre simply by restricting media coverage of it within the country.

While still unable to control the international media to the extent that it's succeeded in the leadup to the Beijing games, Deng Xiaoping was able to minimize the internal damage to his regime by, at least for a time, transforming Tiananmen Square from a horrific event witnessed by the world at large into the stuff of rumour and urban legend within China.

Even where the massacre was recognized to have occurred, Xiaoping succeeded in writing it off as an incident provoked by malcontented subversives. What unfolded within China was a masterful act of media manipulation, even as Chinese efforts to discourage discussion of the event on the global stage unfolded as a masterful act of diplomatic manipulation.

The comparison between what is being accomplished in China now and Edwards' account of what was accomplished 20 years ago goes to show how sophisticated and masterful the Chinese have become in manipulating the news media.

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