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Sorry! CNN, We Can't Accept Your "Apology"! (I) [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2008-5-20 10:15:00 |Display all floors

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
CNN Worldwide

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)

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Post time 2008-5-20 10:22:59 |Display all floors

Sorry! CNN, We Can't Accept Your "Apology"! (II)

Sorry! CNN, We Can't Accept Your "Informal" "Formal Apology"! (II)

-An Open Letter to CNN President Jim Walton and Jack Cafferty's China Comments

With recent apologetic gestures on several occasions by CNN executives, I can tell that you’re anxious to put a quick end to this undesirable circumstance, but I have to say your letter addressed to Chinese Ambassador remains far from adequate to plug the current public relations nightmare. A critical reading of your letter may in part explain why most Chinese netizens’ receptions are far from what you hoped:

“CNN has the highest respect for Chinese people around the world…”

Analysis: Frankly, your phrasing of the introductory section came across more like dispatching a routine corporate memo on some administrative problem, rather than pronouncing a principled stand of CNN over a high-stake issue concerning Chinese national dignity and emotional attachment. Though your superlative statement is unstintingly ingratiating, yet whatever pronouncement, be it from a President, CEO, Patriarch, or Pharaoh, must be substantiated with concrete proof before its full acceptance by a reasonable audience. Regrettably, I don’t see any solid evidence in support of your profession, either in your letter or from CNN’s recent performances. Short of any such substance, I don’t think your declared stance would cut much ice with the Chinese people.

“… and we have no doubt that there was genuine offense felt by them over the Jack Cafferty commentary."

Analysis: In a variety of senses, this is the quintessential part of the whole letter. Syntactically, your conscious choice of a familiar, existential structure “there be…” is obviously tactical, for it subtly camouflages the agent of the action, and conveniently calibrates all the limelight to those peripheral elements. As a result, who wrought all this clamor doesn’t matter any more--hardly anything else could be more comforting for Cafferty, especially his sleep problems these days. Semantically, first, isn’t it ironical that it took CNN (a leading global news provider) over one month to trudge through the gravity of this matter, and then discovered its spiraling consequences? Second, I’m much baffled by your “genuine offense felt by them.” (From a charitable perspective, I hope you never suspected that the Chinese around the world were merely orchestrating a fussy show of national chest-thumping.) What troubles me most is that offense “felt by them”: do you mean that this offense may be just a unilateral concern, but not necessarily a reciprocal empathy? Put it more bluntly, is it your perception that what bothers Chinese may not upset CNN much or at all? Come clean, Jim, do you share our offense or not? Third, your explicit mention of “Jack Cafferty commentary”—the source of the Pandora Box-- appears at last, yet it serves only as a nebulous, minimalist reference—without any definition, qualification, or categorization of the nature of such “commentary.” Jim, we all know how this whole hell started, but we care more about where you stand on this matter: With us, then stand by it; if not, why waste time and breath?

On the basis of these interrogations, you probably know how I would valorize the sincerity, and impact of your message of apology with the Chinese people around the world.

But let's put personal and institutional stakes aside, and look at this issue from a broader, longer-term cost/benefit perspective.

Since classical times, sophists, philosophers, statesmen, demagogues, and missionaries, in the West and East, have resorted to language, via stump, podium, radio, media, to Internet, to effect their communicative objectives. Language is power: sometimes it emboldens a myopic commentator to indulge in irremediable fantasy; sometimes it inspires a farsighted leader to rise above immediate (in)conveniences; still othertimes it empowers a people’s shared experience to ferment, sediment, and eventually coalesce into a deep stream in her collective consciousness—a resilient memory which can last as far as 5,000 years.

With that, I think I’ve exhausted what I intended to share with you on this evolving matter, and your recent letter. While your best intention, and honest endeavors are duly appreciated by the Chinese the world over, the ball, Jim, I believe, still lies in your court.



A Chinese Citizen

May 19, 2008

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Post time 2008-5-20 11:03:36 |Display all floors
Whoa, hang on a minute. China wants and expects Japan to apologise for some terrible things done in the past and once the apology is given, things would be better between the 2 countries. Here, CNN is actually apologising and some people refuse to accept it? What gives? Can't have your cake and eat it too folks and as tong likes to say, "what's good must be universal".

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Post time 2008-5-20 11:56:51 |Display all floors

Walton's Subtle Phrasing

To Exportedkiwi,

Glad to read your comment. But I'm afraid Walton's phrasing is too subtle and elusive to dignify his letter as a "formal apology." Read my analysis carefully: he apologizes for "for the genuine offense felt by them (Chinese)," so his reasoning could well be that, if some CNN commentator curses you as "goon and thug," but you don't feel comfortable with it, then CNN can say sorry for you and your fussy nerve, though CNN may not believe his labeling is counter-factual. The way I see it, Walton is smart enough to know the linguistic differences and exactly playing with the wording here.

In this sense, CNN's case can't be compared with that of Japan, whose apology sounds much more sincere, despite its often contrary practices.

Of course, I know we can't have cake and eat it both, but in CNN's apology, I think we have neither so far!

[ Last edited by baoer2 at 2008-5-20 12:02 PM ]

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Post time 2008-5-20 11:57:10 |Display all floors
If the earthquake should put anything into stark relief it is that CNN is (1) the least of China's problems and (2) a petty issue that stalks small minds like yours.

Is this what you've spent your time doing? I've spent today talking to lawyers and filling out paperwork for shipments of tents and water purifiers.

You kvetched about CNN. Go you.
"Justice prevails... evil justice."

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Post time 2008-5-20 12:37:42 |Display all floors

Interesting Monster!

To Interesting "Monster,"

I'm shocked at and feel pity for your self-demeaning comments on my posts. My shock is three-fold:

I. I assume this forum is a reserve only for reasonable minds like you and me, but your arbitrary, reductive characterization of China's complex problems, without requisite explication, throws doubt on your thinking ability. Earthquake relief is sure important today, but China has tomorrow and must move on.

II. You arrogantly assume that a timely refutation against CNN's mistreatment of China's image is less important and even peripheral to China's interests, then what would you think of other millions of people endeavoring on other fronts, of which operations are no less crucial to China's stakes; some of them may even include your own folks.

III. You simplisticaly preconceive that I was doing this without involving in earthquake relief. Let me tell you my parents and folks are all in Chengdu, and I've done a lot either myself or to moblize the people around to contribute. Without any such investigation, where does your self-righteous superiority come from? You thought you're ordained as the last saviour on earth to reach out? Look at yourself in mirror, see, an irremediable narcissist!

My pity is that you've probably entered the wrong podium to parade your private idiosyncrasies. This is a parlor for reasoned discourse, not ego self-exhibition.

[ Last edited by baoer2 at 2008-5-20 09:22 PM ]

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Post time 2008-5-20 13:04:50 |Display all floors
I guess the point I was trying to make was the scale of offense. Japans offenses against China were of a magnitude far greater than CNNs could ever be. It might be better to shrug off the small stuff and take little to no offense. The word "oversensitive" comes to mind, yet we must  endure countless offenses against us (westerners, and yes, we all know how many we've committed against everybody), very few of which offend us enough to warrant mention. Having broad shoulders in this day and age is a very handy thing. I mean no offense by what I say here but I'm starting to wonder why we should pussyfoot around China. The truth is the truth and although it can be said more tactfully, it remains the truth.
There's the old saying we learned as kids that goes like this..."sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me". Appropriate in this case I think.
Cheers anyway, despite differences in opinion.

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