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The Trump and CNN saga: You can put lipstick on fake news, but it's still fake news

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    11:31, June 30, 2017

Facts over ratings or just ratings over facts? Recently, it is like CNN and other Western mainstream media outlets are living some sort of unawakenable nightmare. In the first week of June, CNN was accused of cooking up a Muslim-led anti-terror protest after the London attacks. The video posted on social media showed CNN directing “protesters” where to stand with their signs and was also accused of providing printed out papers and props. The network called the allegations “nonsense.”

This was just days after the phrase “CNN is ISIS” started trending on Twitter after the website Infowars offered a $1,000 prize for anyone who is seen on TV with a “CNN is ISIS” t-shirt or sign, as an example to point out mainstream media bias.

CNN’s nightmare continued when the cable news network was forced to retract and apologize for its story linking Anthony Scaramucci, an advisor to US President Donald Trump, with investigations into the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Three CNN journalists resigned after the publication of the Russia-related article involving Trump, Lex Harris, who oversaw the investigations unit, and two editors who worked on the piece.

Trump responded to the news on Twitter. “Wow, CNN had to retract big story on ‘Russia,’ with 3 employees forced to resign.” Trump wrote on June 27. “What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!”

CNN Communications responded to Trump’s accusation that CNN is falsely pushing phony Russian stories and losing viewers, saying that CNN just posted its most-watched second quarter in history.

Apart from saying that CNN was “caught cold” cooking up fake news, Trump called other networks and newspapers, including NBC, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, and Washington Post, all fake news.

But perhaps the US media and Trump are kissing cousins in the quest for ratings. “I use the media the way the media uses me—to attract attention,” Trump wrote in his book Great Again, calling his relationship with the media a “mutually profitable two-way relationship.” In other words, one thing, and one thing only matters: ratings.

An undercover video released by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas seems to support the theory that ratings have more value than facts in the Western media. The video shows a CNN producer, John Bonifield, saying that Trump was “probably right” that the Trump-Russia story is a witch hunt. Calling the whole Russia story nonsense, the producer admitted that the continuous coverage is all about ratings in the end. “Our ratings are incredible right now.”

Trump’s recent tweet attacking the Morning Joe show on MSNBC lends further support to the argument that ratings are king. The show, co-hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, is harshly critical of Trump and has even questioned his mental state. Trump called Scarborough a psychopath and Brzezinski stupid and crazy. Though Trump was slammed for his harshly worded tweet, Scarborough recently admitted that Trump is the reason behind his record ratings. “Donald Trump is only making the media stronger,” Scarborough said. “We have record ratings for us at Morning Joe, record ratings for the subscription increases at The New York Times, the Washington Post…Everybody is getting more viewers.”

But it is not just Trump who has been abused by the news media. A recent paper found that US coverage of Muslims and refugees is predominantly negative as well. Furthermore, the Western media has a strong anti-China bias, often exaggerating the country’s negative aspects while downplaying the positives. In fact, China has been on the receiving end of Western media bias and wrong stereotypes for years, unfairly tarnishing its hard-won image on the world stage. The reason for some of the bias is because the Western media is trying to catch viewers’ eyes, other times it is because of ulterior political motives by some individuals and organizations. As the largely negative Trump coverage clearly shows, the US media does take sides for various reasons.

In the case of China, the examples are endless. Countless stories and opinions try to cast China as a threat or a devil on the world stage, from CNN’s distortion of facts in covering the riot in Lhasa in March 2008, capital of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, to how the situation of the country’s millions of Chinese Muslims are discussed, many stories do not present China fairly and accurately.

For example, a Twitter user who goes by the name of “Aisha from China” and who claims to be a proud Chinese girl currently living in Pakistan recently posted a video of Muslims in Shanghai marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The video, taken from a high-rise residential building in Shanghai, shows the entire street below full of Chinese Muslims freely and openly practicing their religion. The famous Huxi Mosque in Shanghai’s Putuo District can be seen in the background, one of the many mosques in China.

In response to the video, one Twitter user said that many media reports say that Chinese Muslims are not allowed to pray or fast during the Muslim holiday, and asked if that was true. This “pink warrior,” as some Western media outlets call young tech-savvy Chinese who love their nation, wrote that Western newspapers just want to defame China, and in fact, Chinese Muslims are free to practice their religious activities. A user responded to her, saying that although “Western media is against China” social media is changing its monopoly by presenting a truer, fairer picture of China and the world. Others showed surprise after watching the video, saying they did not know so many Muslims live in China. One user even wrote that this proves Chinese Muslims are free to follow their religious obligations.

Try as one might, you would be hard-pressed to find such stories in the Western media, because frankly, it does not fit the Western narrative about China. Instead, you will almost certainly be given a completely different picture of China because the majority of stories and opinions appear to be overwhelmingly negative and frankly sometimes just outright dishonest. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that, while there is good reporting on China, media bias and stereotypes about China, as well ulterior political motives by some individuals and organizations, can and do unfairly distort the image of China.


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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