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Sorry! CNN, We Can't Accept Your "Informal" "Formal Apology" (I)
–An Open Letter to CNN President Jim Walton and Jack Cafferty’s China Comments
Mr. Jim Walton
Dear Mr. Walton:
Greetings from a long-time Chinese viewer of CNN!
Your apology letter to Chinese Ambassador on behalf of CNN for its anchor Jack Cafferty’s April 9 comments on China has been widely reported since May 15. As an ordinary Chinese citizen among your target audience, I feel relieved that, more than a month later, CNN eventually realized the full implications behind Cafferty’s ill-advised remarks, and decided to do something to address this issue.
Unfortunately, your belated response came not so much as a sincere reassurance as a grudging evasion.
I’ve been following CNN since early 1990s, a time when CNN was strongly asserting its institutional stature through an unprecedented stream of 24-7, live reportage on significant happenings around the world. From that time forward, CNN’s professional standards, journalistic benchmarks, and analytic depth have never failed to impress me as one of the most credible sources of information and insights. Indeed, the simple fact that CNN catapulted itself into such a preeminent status in the industry within less than 30 years eloquently testifies to its pacesetting management, particularly its exemplary journalistic operations.
That’s precisely why I found Cafferty and CNN’s follow-up responses too inconsistent with my established expectations of a mature CNN.
On the Cafferty level, I thought I’d seen enough cheap rattles and shallow logic ingrained in all sorts of people’ minds, but Cafferty certainly caught me by surprise –through his shoddy reasoning and blatant usurping CNN’s platform to wholesale his personal biases. A brief scrutiny of his “argumentation” follows:
“Well, I don't know if China is any different, but our relationship with China is certainly different. We're in hawk to the Chinese up to our eyeballs because of the war in Iraq, for one thing.”
Refutation: first, I’m not sure whether Cafferty is accurate in characterizing the Sino-American relationships (too complex and multidimensional to defy simplistic definitions) over the Iraqi war as “in hawk … up to our eyeballs.” His assertion, if true to any extent, seems bent to startle American public that the two countries are in a de facto status of war—a sensational scenario he might privately like to materialize but most Americans would sure hesitate to agree. As a responsible commentator, Cafferty should have known better to qualify himself or forewarn the audience about his personal views. Second, the issue of factuality here dictates that Cafferty, in line with American argumentative traditions, must supply robust rationale, and adequate evidence to prop up his thesis. Nobody is exempt from “burden of proof,” especially when proliferating personal stances on such a global podium of CNN. Third, when even Americans themselves are intensely divided over the legitimacy, and efficiency of the Iraqi war, which has been increasingly calling Bush’s leadership into question, Cafferty was obviously dumping the blame of a seething domestic division onto the innocent, outside Chinese. My advice to Cafferty: Next time, Caffy, try find a better scapegoat!
“They're holding hundreds of billions of dollars worth of our paper. We also are running hundred of billions of dollars worth of trade deficits with them, as we continue to import their junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food and export, you know, jobs to places where you can pay workers a dollar a month to turn out the stuff that we're buying from Wal-Mart.”
Refutation: I must say this evidentiary narrative is as revealing as entertaining, should you agree that the quality of one’s argumentation correlates with the level of one's logical intelligence and secular knowledge. On the whole, Cafferty couldn’t be more transparent in his slippery reasoning toward pinning down why China should trial as “the ultimate culprit” for mostly American own problems: treasury bonds and currency holdings, trade deficit, imports of primary goods, and job displacement, plus a complimentarily snipe at China’s cheap labor force. The big “but” here is that, even for a non-economic or business practitioner like me, Cafferty’s brains are riddled with superficial logic, and simplistic correlation: first, the issue of currency holdings generally reflects such financial strategies as risk management, and value maintenance. Anyone with basic monetary senses knows that China has neither the resource nor the leverage nor the strength to twist American financial arms. Second, trade deficit is always an issue of bilateral responsibilities instead of unilateral attribution, especially when no country has a trusted track record of playing a generous philanthropist in realpolitik. Thus, to hastily shovel the blame to either side’s doorstep would be meaningless (if not senseless) without incorporating more contextual dynamics (rather than mere trade volume) into consideration. Third, for Cafferty’s “we continue to import their junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food and export,” I found it even hard to dignify it as a decent evidence, for even at its face value, it cheapens not just China and its products, but also stultifies the U.S., its businessmen and general public, whose “mediocre intelligence” in Cafferty’s estimation fooled them so much as to voluntarily import Chinese “shoddy goods” for domestic consumers, Cafferty himself probably included. Finally, for Cafferty’s rate of Chinese workers’ wages (one dollar per month), when considering China’s sturdy economic takeoff (over $ 3 trillion GDP in 2007) and nationwide transformation ($ 2,280 GDP per capita in 2007) over three decades, I found his data suspect at best, and groundless at worst. But for his personal and professional benefits, I highly suggest that Cafferty should constantly refresh his China knowledge, and arithmetic skills before plunging into any conclusive proof.
“I think they're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years.”
Refutation: Judging from Cafferty’s argumentative structure, this sentence should function as his resounding thesis. Yet from his foregoing problematic reasoning, questionable evidence, and loose references, I found no trace of positive rationale, and cogent persuasion behind his self-righteous verdict, except a mess of reductive thinking, and intuitive hunches. No with Cafferty’s curt comments, and scanty explication thereafter, we’ll probably never know how he defines such words as “goon” and “thug,” how he ties his evidence to his judgment, and whether his current credentials entitle himself to such generous labeling.
On the institutional level, CNN’s initial silence over Cafferty’s remarks was curious, and catalytic for subsequent escalation of worldwide outcries, and resentments—a typical public relations crisis as which CNN April 9 “Situation Room” originally characterized China’s troubled Olympic torch relay, but now it has boomeranged to descend upon itself. Worse still, CNN’s detached stance while letting Cafferty settle the flying dust by pinpointing his intended target—the Chinese government—only aggravated the matter, for his faulty reasoning, and sweeping claims have not only made it impossible to distinguish the victims between the Chinese government and its people, but also rendered himself both unworthy of trust, and least suitable as a fireman to salvage CNN’s endanered reputation.
(To be continued)