Questioning media coverage of the Beijing Olympics

by Virginia Hoge
August 27, 2008

I have been noticing the alarming amount of China-bashing going on in our media leading up to, during, and after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. , but where are they getting their "information" from? This is the troubling question, one that has not been addressed by anyone in the country (that I know of), certainly not in the national headlines.

For instance, a recent article in Huffington Post was entitled "Mixed legacy likely as China's Olympics conclude". More of the same came from the New York Times whose headline read "After the Glow of Games, What Next for China?" (two blog columnists at the New York Times conspicuously have bashed China: Nicholas Kristoff and Mike Nizza).

Mixed legacy likely as China's Olympics conclude? The "mixed legacy", from what I can see, lies with the Media, more importantly with their sources, and nowhere else.

Almost ALL American media has jumped on the "China-bashing" bandwagon, and has been sounding off about "human rights abuses in China", picking up information sourced by - and here is the point, WHO? Two groups mainly:

Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders.

Yet Reporters Without Borders has been outed for years as nothing less than a U.S. State Department funded propaganda arm with links to Otto Reich (from Contra days) - see here. I found literally thousands of press releases designed expressly for the Beijing Games, here:

I first became aware of them when they mounted an obvious and ugly "media propaganda siege" against the Beijing float in the 2008 Rose Parade in my hometown of Pasadena, CA, Fall 2007. They displayed their "handcuff" graphic on a large billboard in town (a graphic photographed all over the world) and took over the local press (who were already openly sourcing a right-wing extremist, and therefore easy "prey") barraging my city with more "information" than a 3rd year History of Human Rights Abuse in China PhD student could ever care about!! They also co-opted the the tiny Falun Gong club at Cal Tech.

One small moment of "poetic justice" occurred at the end of all this ugliness, when no one less than Diana Barahona (author of Reporters Without Borders Unmasked) was there, unintentionally, in the audience of the parade.

I wrote about it here, but only after ALL of the local press refused to address the issue:

Among other writings about this group, I wrote a recap of their anti-Olympic's campaign. As a graphic designer, I could not help but notice their blatant use of propaganda, via clearly expensive and trendy graphics:

More than anything I have discovered about this group, what is most alarming to me is their proliferation within our Media. They are used as an almost constant source for "news" on a daily basis. Yet, one finds right out there in the open, information coming from them, that is either biased or bogus.

Take their 2008 Annual Report “Freedom of the Press Worldwide”. Reporters Without Borders has built a reputation (and bank account) by outing censorship of journalists around the world - yet give this ridiculous 2008 assessment for the United States, which contains almost nothing more than:

ONE (count ‘em) Iraqi journalist detained in Guantanamo

ONE blogger, Josh Wolf, got three paragraphs detailing his plight

A big plug for the Shield Law

A plug for the Freedom of Information Act (an act that has become a tool for the Right to attack public institutions like public schools)

And that’s it! (come on!)

People around the world have called RWB out for giving out the wrong information, seemingly based on how tight they are with the U.S. - or not. Here, Hossein Derakhshan writes about their misleading "information" on Iran:


"Reporters Sans Frontier, sent out a press release announcing that Iran has blocked access to The New York Times, implying that the Islamic republic has expanded censorship to Western news websites and this is in line with the new anti-Western policies of president Ahmadinejad.

A few hours after that, through trusted journalists and friends in Tehran, I verified the report and realized that almost none of the websites mentioned in the report, including the New York Times were filtered."

In Rwanda, they noticed some funky stuff going on as well: Rwanda: Reporters Without Borders Pulls a Scam Again

This incredibly prolific spread of information (I would call it "dirt") condemning other countries is super-alarming to me, because I often find it clearly politically motivated. Yes, the information exists, but what is not mentioned is how it has been selected and literally shoved down the throats of the entire nation, via the Media, via Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch.

I wrote about the obvious benefits of all this to the Bush Administration here:

Human Rights Watch is up for questioning as well.

For more information on Human Rights Watch, Read Paul Treanor's excellent (and forgotten) article here: Who is behind Human Rights Watch?

Robin Kelley, professor of history and American studies and ethnicity at USC, also noted in a recent lecture that Human Rights Watch does not currently address ANY human rights issues in the United States (unlike their past good work with prison abuse here).

I also noticed that they have "stepped in" as THE most-used source, replacing Reporters Without Borders during the Olympics. Could the fact that Human Rights Watch opened a headquarters in Paris last Fall have anything to do with that? How close are the two organizations?

I'm not saying this group is all bad, I am NOT saying that human rights are not important.

But both organization's "work" in helping America's media to condemn the Beijing Olympics, is nothing less than highly suspicious and needs to be looked into, if only to prevent something like this from happening again. These embarrassing media games, are below the dignity of our great country.

That said, the grace of the Chinese in ignoring this petty "media siege" and continuing on with their work producing the Games, is awe-inspiring.