Posted by: wanqingluo | July 12, 2009

Is There Absolute “Truth” in Today’s Media?

Some of you guys might have noticed the news from major media outlets reporting a series of severe violent riots started from July 5 in Northwest China Xinjiang Province have taken away 184 lives by far, and the death toll could climb as still a lot of the injured are getting treatment in hospitals. Chinese President Hu Jintao canceled G8 attendance and returned home from Italy early to deal with the situation.

It was easy for me to realize that there have been fundamental differences of the claims regarding the cause of the violence attacks between Western media and Chinese media. Meanwhile, I do think this does not happen accidentally, but under expectation based on what I have seen throughout the years.

Drawn from some of the most predominating media here in US including CNN, New York Times and Washington Post, the bloody, cruel, and damaging attacks broke out because there was increasingly fueled ethnic tension between Hans (the country’s majority ethnic group) and Uighurs, the Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim group native to Xinjiang.

Wall Street Journal–

On the other side, as the case of China media, US-based Rebiya Kadeer, head of the World Uighur Congress, has been accused of intisgating the attacks. And obviously, Chinese government firmly defines these people as separatists and terrorists.

As I was chatting with a Chinese friend at home about the two differentiated perspectives out of this event, he said pretty straightforwardly that he could portray this happening quite easily, based on what he had seen via a similar occasion which was last year in Tibet when people from the West and Home were delivering different arguments on that as well. However, when I asked him for the real truth, since he is living in China right now, he got stuck right away and told me that “Frankly speaking, I don’t even know who is right.”

Considering that the Western media and Chinese media have often not been on the same page regarding news like or as sensitive as this one in Northwestern Xinjiang region now, I was thinking that may be, with the prevalence of mass media, an “absolute” truth seems to be necessarily transplanted by a “relative” truth, serving a limited number of audiences indeed. Maybe similar to the claim that appeared in our reading “Elite Cues and Media Bias in Presidential Campaigns: Explaining Public Perceptions of a Liberal Press” by Watts et al., that by survey data indicating that it is primarily citizens’ partisan view that color perceptions of media fairness rather than assessments of actual bias, it is also true that it is primarily citizens’ political,economic and social background that help them judge the news coverage rather than anything else.


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