Monday, April 21, 2008

User Generated Propaganda for China

I was speaking with media expert and Asia specialist Thomas Crampton this morning about the Beijing Olympics panel we would like to hold at the Carnegie Council as part of our Workshops for Ethics in Business series supported by Booz Allen. We would hope to hold a balanced discussion on what companies have learned from doing business in China over the years.

Tom mentioned an interesting new book to check out: China Price by Alexandra Harney. According to the Penguin website, the book “uncovers the truth about how China is able to offer such amazingly low prices to the rest of the world. What she has discovered is a brutal, Hobbesian world in which intense pricing pressure from Western companies combines with ubiquitous corruption and a lack of transparency to exact an unseen and unconscionable toll in human misery and environmental damage.”

To counter these types of critiques, however, a new genre of web content has emerged. Tom blogs about what he calls “user generated propaganda” here. You can watch several examples, including one PowerPoint style video and a hip-hop video.


Krystle said...

Although they make some seemingly strong points in the videos, their credibility falls short when they try to portray China as being a victim of America's extreme racism and hatred. To imply that China is a victim of circumstance is completely absurd. China has seen double digit percentage increases in their economy in recent years despite all of the American "oppression". Sorry China, you won't get my sympathy vote.

But the bottom line here is that these video campaigns are nothing more than Chinese supporters expressing their feelings and opinions on the internet. These aren't necessarily activists trying to use their propaganda to influence people. And if they are, thats part of what happens during a disagreement. One side tries to prove the other wrong...

But if these videos really are influencing people, then those are the people who need to be told what to think instead of making a decision for themselves. These videos are no more politically significant than, no offense, this blog.

Propaganda? Not so much. More like, "video blogging".


Devin Stewart said...

Krys, thank you for the sober post. I agree that the phrase user-generated propaganda may be a bit over the top. But I think Tom's point may be precisely that in the current media environment two things differ in this case: First, we can't be sure if these bloggers are just "Chinese supporters expressing their feelings." While the mission of traditional media was to be unbiased (yes, that is difficult as well), newer media forms are less clear about that point. Where does the money come from to support blogs, video blogs, and other media? Many places. Second, I think Tom is pointing to the growing importance of user-generated content in general. Getting to your influence point, user-generated content can take down governments or inspire revolutions. I think that's pretty influential.