Mixing, Muddling, and Confusing

This post is related to the last post about Grace Wang’s experience. What I want to say in this blog article is, mixing and confusing issues is not a good strategy (George expressed the same thing in a comment)

Disagree with One Side in a Debate does not Mean Support the Other Side

It is quite common for people to make this mistake. I made this mistake all the time.

Just like the media war between CCTV and CNN. When I say CCTV is not reporting the truth, I can guarantee that I will receive one comment or two claiming that “don’t you think CNN won’t do this?” The problem is, I do think CNN will also do this, but by stating CCTV is doing something wrong does not imply that I support CNN. The same thing happens when I said CNN is reporting something wrong, I didn’t imply that CCTV is always right. It is “you” who think I am implying something, not me.

For a much bigger topic of China, it is even so. I often comment on news and issues in China. When I wrote about the negative side (for example, my blog started to get banned by GFW these days from time to time, due to the “sensitive” topic we have discussed), some people claimed that I am biased, and gave me evidence to show the economic development. Again, the point is, talking about the existence of the GFW does not imply that China don’t have a good economy. The other example is topics like Mega-Projects. Describing the exciting highways, and bridges didn’t imply I don’t know the cases of abusing tax payer’s money. I admit I don’t know everything (who does?) but not mentioning everything in every article does not mean I don’t know the existence of them.

It is the same for the recent hot discussion I saw in many threads. It is just like this: one guy says: “This apple is red”, and the other disagrees and says “Why do you think banana is not yellow? Here is the evidence to show how yellow a banana is” or “No. I don’t think so, didn’t you see the farmer who grow the apple is experiencing economical crisis”. Both arguments may be valid, but they make people confused, or in a frequently used term: “out of topic”. So, sticking to the discussion itself may be more helpful.

Mixing Concepts

Not many people are interested in debating with Einstein about his theory of relativity, anyone can comment on the shape of a building. This is the reason why the life of an architect is more tougher than a physician, and pop-star is easier to be the daily topic than both architect or physician…

Just like that, everyone can talk about current international affairs, and everyone has something to say. So the concepts are often mixed, muddled, and confused. If most people (including myself) did it without a strong intention, media, organization, and governments did it very well intentionally. My reader George W. Shen commented about it better than I can:

My biggest problem with the Western media is that many issues are conveniently muddled. It applies to both sides of the propaganda but more so to the Western media outlets than to the Chinese side given the latest Tibet and Olympics chaos. There are many different issues involved and they should be debated separately. To name a few here, not in any particularly order –

The issue of Tibet

The issue of Dalai Lama

The issue of Western Media

The issue of Chinese Government

The issue of Olympics

The issue of Freedom & Democracy

The issue of Human Rights

Just because one supports freedom & democracy in China it doesn’t mean he/she must support the independence of Tibet. Just because one supports the autonomy of Tibet it doesn’t mean he/she must support Dalai Lama. Just because one supports Olympics it doesn’t mean he/she must support the communist party. And just because one supports freedom & democracy it doesn’t mean he/she must support the Western media. Similarly, just because there is free speech in the US, it doesn’t mean media outlets here are fair, unbiased, or even truthful. Just because there is no free speech in China, it doesn’t mean the government has no right to enforce the rule of law to ensure the safety of majority people.

These are totally different issues. It seems to me many people don’t get that. THE WORLD ISN’T JUST BLACK AND WHITE.

For the China side, it is the same. Among all the voices, the official way to call the whole group is Zangdu (or Tibet-Independence) since this is the most unacceptable thing people in China and can “unite” most of people to fight for the whole group. Just as I said, I disagree with this specific muddling strategy from both side, and I believe wise people should try to stand firmly at the side of truth, logic, rationale, instead of having to choose one from the existing two sides.

On Grace’s Case

So, based on the two stated reasons, I said “death threat” is not acceptable in any situation. Whether what Grace did was right or wrong is another issue, and please don’t mix it with the death threat or the illegal things happened in Grace’s home in Qingdao and please don’t draw a conclusion that Grace did everything right.

I also feel angry for the Chinese translation with analysis (thanks to lin posted the original Chinese here). The analysis is interpreting what Grace said to the worst extend,. Taking any article from my blog (or almost any article from any where), and adding sauces that way, you can demonize a person easily. Due to the ambiguity of language, there is no “right statement” under that kind of intentionally negative “analysis”, especially an article written by university student, not a seasoned politician. We did that for too many times during culture revolution, and anything can be interpreted to be evidence to show you are traitor of the country.

I agree that Grace is naive, or as in some comments, “politically naive“. Who aren’t? My question is, does someone have the right to be naive, or say something wrong? For sure, as adult, for anything we do, or we say, we need to be responsible for it, and accept all the consequences. Grace is of no exception. However, whether the consequence of “saying something incorrect”, or “standing on the wrong side of a perceived political movement” is criticize, or death thread is a question we need to discuss.

The reason I feel Grace was treated unfairly is because I clearly know that I will be treated the same way one day in my country, and so does many people who dare to show his/her opinions. The other reason is, although we have every reason to say Grace didn’t do everything right, she is doing great for her age. For the guess of her motivation of getting refugee status in US – a key reason many people don’t like her – this is not something worth debating. The chance to get famous by this way is lesser than winning a lottery. For the opinion that by publishing an article on newspaper, she did something that negatively impacted China’s image. I agree that it has negative impacts, but it is not all her fault. I would rather fight to make things right in the systems in China and remove mob mentality from people, instead of pretending those don’t exist. I hope my country can be better by solving all the problems we have, so we can be more confident to face the world, instead of complaining a girl who happened to be used as an ideal case to reveal the existence of these problems.

P.S. Before someone asks about my statement of whether I am at the side of Grace Wang (as I am often asked), I want to clarify – in case there are misunderstanding for this post – that I try to avoid simply saying: “I am on this side or the other side”. Just as I am not on the side who claim Grace is a traitor, I am not on the side of Grace either. What I can say is, I agree with Grace on this, or disagree with her on that, instead of simple statement like “with her or against her”. To be more exact, in this post and in the last post, I even didn’t specifically tough the topic of what Grace did, or write. I just stated the fact that I don’t agree with how she is treated.

I have past the age to claim whatever some person said (Grace or whoever) is what I believe in… In this sense, I am not on her side.

15 thoughts on “Mixing, Muddling, and Confusing

  1. mac

    you are a God-like, Mr. Wang. :)

    1 I’m with Grace Wang, basically

    2 I’m not with those who are not with Grace Wang, basically

    2 GFW is bigger than you think, definitely

    time to go

  2. Jian Shuo Wang

    @mac, “God-like” is always what my wife, Wendy, complaining about me. She said, “Everytime, you tried to think as a God as though you are not involved in the whole thing”. or “Why you are so arrogant to think as a God?”

    Remember my personality type in MBTI? I am ENFP. That is because of personality. There are many types of people, and people find other guys with different personality hard to understand, or even claim people with different thinking pattern are crazy. I love the saying: “I am not crazy. We are just different”.

    For the statement about whether I am with the side of Grace Wang or not, I want to clarify – in case there are misunderstanding for this post, that I try to avoid simply saying: “I am on this side or the other side”. I want to make it clear, just as I am not on the side who claim Grace is a traitor, I am not on the side of Grace either. What I can say is, I agree with Grace on this, and disagree with her on that. I think I have past the age to claim whatever some person said (Grace or whoever) is what I believe in… In this sense, I am not on her side.

  3. xge

    @Jian Shuo

    You should translate this article into Chinese. Today’s “南方周末” have several pages on this issue(lacking of rational and free thinking in China) by many famous scholars, but none has expressed it in a way so bluntant as you did here.

  4. rat in hat

    Westerners say:”let young men fight wars with passion, and old men make deals with wisdom”. The passion sometimes looks pointless or shallow,but it paves way for gains or loss in dirty games of politics.To stand in “middle” with ignorance not wisdom,at a moment that all hands were needed, is horribly harmful to her own people,if she still think she is,in this ugly conflict that was not provoked by them.

    But if only stupidity, it was still forgivable.

    The worst thing she did was to politicize her case by providing her distorted story for hostile propaganda. How many Chinese people would read Washington post or listen to Radio free Asia? Her story is for those hostile westerners, pretending to be a victim of Chinese mobism. If she really wants to make peace, make it with her own people first.Or at least don’t make the situation worse.

  5. rockch

    Maybe Grace is naive girl, maybe she is a diversionist, who know?

    The time will prove what kind of she is!

    Calmness,calmness and calmness.

  6. Brian

    WJS:

    Another ridiculous piece….arguing back and forth about whether Grace Wang is naive or not. That’s a minor issue.

    Where is the outrage, the shame, that a woman who tried to mediate or settle a dispute BECAME THE TARGET OF DEATH THREATS….by an enraged mob culture, provoked and abetted by the organs of the state? Why is this not discussed? Instead the focus is ‘Western media bias’ or ‘everything’s OK because the GDP is going up’? Have you all lost your minds?

    Rat in the Hat (now there’s an appropriate name!) : “…pretending to be a victim of Chinese mobism.” Pretending? So you are claiming that the death threats, putting her family into hiding, actions against her parents’ home, and her family’s ID being plastered across the media….you’re claiming this didn’t happen?

    There’s a huge difference between CCTV and CNN. If you can’t tell the difference between slips of detail and outright, government-intervened fabrication, then, well, I feel sorry for you. And so you’re aware; remember that coverage of Grace Wang and the thuggish Chinese government and your Olympics coverups have also been reported by Al-Jazeera. Surely you can’t claim that Al-Jazeera is a tool of the American government?

    And I also don’t like the use of the euphemism “GFW”…you make it sound like it’s some sort of computer malfunction or software. IT IS YOUR GOVERNMENT. If you don’t see any problem with saying, “I’ve had to be careful with what is said because the government blocks my blog”, you need to open your eyes a LOT wider.

    “Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action” Goethe

    “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves” Edward R. Murrow

    “In order to rally people, governments need enemies. They want us to be afraid, to hate, so we will rally behind them. And if they do not have a real enemy, they will invent one to mobilize us.” Thich Nhat Hanh

  7. rat in hat

    To Brian

    1)Nobody cares about CCTV. We are angered by CNN because we are watching CNN. So forget CCTV. Probably you presume we are still in stone age. Strangely why are we talking in the same language?

    2)Death threat,what death threat? “I curse urn family? I want to kill you? it appears very frequently on BBS, a general expression of angers on those people,i.e. eating cat or abandoning their girlfriends. Nobody takes it seriously. I bet she would feel better if not so over-reactive. Actually she is quite safe and she is pretending to be a victim. The words on her is much softer than those words put on Chinese by western netizens. and no one claims victim here.

    3)as for Al-jazeera’case, how many reporters they hv in China? I rarely saw any Arab face on any press conference here.It’s very understandable that CCTV also often uses news from CNN or BBC, on countries of less interest,like Africa or middle east. It’s not political. It’s just about cost.

    3)the biggest ignorance is that we see u clearly but u don’t see us clearly but still pretending to know everything. Yes, we all look ridiculous and it’s your job to bring the judgment to this hell.

    l’Aounik

  8. GN

    Wang Jianshou, Since I found your site a few weeks ago… and after reading/joining some of the discussions. I couldn’t stopping thinking about a Comment I read some years ago on The New Yorker by Orhan Pamuk.

    I “dug” it out online… to share with you.

    COMMENT

    ON TRIAL

    by Orhan Pamuk

    DECEMBER 19, 2005

    In Istanbul this Friday-in Şişli, the district where I have spent my whole life, in the courthouse directly opposite the three-story house where my grandmother lived alone for forty years-I will stand before a judge. My crime is to have “publicly denigrated Turkish identity.” The prosecutor will ask that I be imprisoned for three years. I should perhaps find it worrying that the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was tried in the same court for the same offense, under Article 301 of the same statute, and was found guilty, but I remain optimistic. For, like my lawyer, I believe that the case against me is thin; I do not think I will end up in jail.

    This makes it somewhat embarrassing to see my trial overdramatized. I am only too aware that most of the Istanbul friends from whom I have sought advice have at some point undergone much harsher interrogation and lost many years to court cases and prison sentences just because of a book, just because of something they had written. Living as I do in a country that honors its pashas, saints, and policemen at every opportunity but refuses to honor its writers until they have spent years in courts and in prisons, I cannot say I was surprised to be put on trial. I understand why friends smile and say that I am at last “a real Turkish writer.” But when I uttered the words that landed me in trouble I was not seeking that kind of honor.

    Last February, in an interview published in a Swiss newspaper, I said that “a million Armenians and thirty thousand Kurds had been killed in Turkey”; I went on to complain that it was taboo to discuss these matters in my country. Among the world’s serious historians, it is common knowledge that a large number of Ottoman Armenians were deported, allegedly for siding against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, and many of them were slaughtered along the way. Turkey’s spokesmen, most of whom are diplomats, continue to maintain that the death toll was much lower, that the slaughter does not count as a genocide because it was not systematic, and that in the course of the war Armenians killed many Muslims, too. This past September, however, despite opposition from the state, three highly respected Istanbul universities joined forces to hold an academic conference of scholars open to views not tolerated by the official Turkish line. Since then, for the first time in ninety years, there has been public discussion of the subject-this despite the spectre of Article 301.

    If the state is prepared to go to such lengths to keep the Turkish people from knowing what happened to the Ottoman Armenians, that qualifies as a taboo. And my words caused a furor worthy of a taboo: various newspapers launched hate campaigns against me, with some right-wing (but not necessarily Islamist) columnists going as far as to say that I should be “silenced” for good; groups of nationalist extremists organized meetings and demonstrations to protest my treachery; there were public burnings of my books. Like Ka, the hero of my novel “Snow,” I discovered how it felt to have to leave one’s beloved city for a time on account of one’s political views. Because I did not want to add to the controversy, and did not want even to hear about it, I at first kept quiet, drenched in a strange sort of shame, hiding from the public, and even from my own words. Then a provincial governor ordered a burning of my books, and, following my return to Istanbul, the Şişli public prosecutor opened the case against me, and I found myself the object of international concern.

    My detractors were not motivated just by personal animosity, nor were they expressing hostility to me alone; I already knew that my case was a matter worthy of discussion in both Turkey and the outside world. This was partly because I believed that what stained a country’s “honor” was not the discussion of the black spots in its history but the impossibility of any discussion at all. But it was also because I believed that in today’s Turkey the prohibition against discussing the Ottoman Armenians was a prohibition against freedom of expression, and that the two matters were inextricably linked. Comforted as I was by the interest in my predicament and by the generous gestures of support, there were also times when I felt uneasy about finding myself caught between my country and the rest of the world.

    The hardest thing was to explain why a country officially committed to entry in the European Union would wish to imprison an author whose books were well known in Europe, and why it felt compelled to play out this drama (as Conrad might have said) “under Western eyes.” This paradox cannot be explained away as simple ignorance, jealousy, or intolerance, and it is not the only paradox. What am I to make of a country that insists that the Turks, unlike their Western neighbors, are a compassionate people, incapable of genocide, while nationalist political groups are pelting me with death threats? What is the logic behind a state that complains that its enemies spread false reports about the Ottoman legacy all over the globe while it prosecutes and imprisons one writer after another, thus propagating the image of the Terrible Turk worldwide? When I think of the professor whom the state asked to give his ideas on Turkey’s minorities, and who, having produced a report that failed to please, was prosecuted, or the news that between the time I began this essay and embarked on the sentence you are now reading five more writers and journalists were charged under Article 301, I imagine that Flaubert and Nerval, the two godfathers of Orientalism, would call these incidents bizarreries, and rightly so.

    That said, the drama we see unfolding is not, I think, a grotesque and inscrutable drama peculiar to Turkey; rather, it is an expression of a new global phenomenon that we are only just coming to acknowledge and that we must now begin, however slowly, to address. In recent years, we have witnessed the astounding economic rise of India and China, and in both these countries we have also seen the rapid expansion of the middle class, though I do not think we shall truly understand the people who have been part of this transformation until we have seen their private lives reflected in novels. Whatever you call these new élites-the non-Western bourgeoisie or the enriched bureaucracy-they, like the Westernizing élites in my own country, feel compelled to follow two separate and seemingly incompatible lines of action in order to legitimatize their newly acquired wealth and power. First, they must justify the rapid rise in their fortunes by assuming the idiom and the attitudes of the West; having created a demand for such knowledge, they then take it upon themselves to tutor their countrymen. When the people berate them for ignoring tradition, they respond by brandishing a virulent and intolerant nationalism. The disputes that a Flaubert-like outside observer might call bizarreries may simply be the clashes between these political and economic programs and the cultural aspirations they engender. On the one hand, there is the rush to join the global economy; on the other, the angry nationalism that sees true democracy and freedom of thought as Western inventions.

    V. S. Naipaul was one of the first writers to describe the private lives of the ruthless, murderous non-Western ruling élites of the post-colonial era. Last May, in Korea, when I met the great Japanese writer Kenzaburo Oe, I heard that he, too, had been attacked by nationalist extremists after stating that the ugly crimes committed by his country’s armies during the invasions of Korea and China should be openly discussed in Tokyo. The intolerance shown by the Russian state toward the Chechens and other minorities and civil-rights groups, the attacks on freedom of expression by Hindu nationalists in India, and China’s discreet ethnic cleansing of the Uighurs-all are nourished by the same contradictions.

    As tomorrow’s novelists prepare to narrate the private lives of the new élites, they are no doubt expecting the West to criticize the limits that their states place on freedom of expression. But these days the lies about the war in Iraq and the reports of secret C.I.A. prisons have so damaged the West’s credibility in Turkey and in other nations that it is more and more difficult for people like me to make the case for true Western democracy in my part of the world.

    (Translated, from the Turkish, by Maureen Freely.)

    http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/12/19/051219ta_talk_pamuk

    …………

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Ferit Orhan Pamuk (born on June 7, 1952 in Istanbul) generally known simply as Orhan Pamuk, is a Nobel Prize-winning Turkish novelist and professor of comparative literature at Columbia University. Pamuk is one of Turkey’s most prominent novelists, and his work has been translated into more than fifty languages. He is the recipient of numerous national and international literary awards. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on October 12, 2006, becoming the first Turkish person to receive a Nobel Prize.

  9. PFru

    In English, we sometimes say “I didn’t imply, you inferred”.

    The word ‘imply’ means to convey an idea by indirect, subtle means, or to give a hint. As though you are deliberately trying to convey a message without saying so directly.

    While the word “infer” means to draw a conclusion based on inconclusive evidence or insufficient information. This is when you listen to some information, and you draw a conclusion from that information which is not directly stated.

    Here is what the Columbia Guide to Standard American English has to say about imply vs. infer:

    “You imply-that is, “hint at or suggest (usually indirectly)”-and your readers or listeners must then infer from your hints what it is they understand your words to mean (which may not always be what you intend to say): If he implies that the mayor is dishonest, you may infer from what he says that he thinks the mayor’s a crook. He later said he had meant to imply nothing of the sort, but from his remarks some of us had inferred that the mayor was a crook. ”

    You can see, this situation is common enough that it is mentioned in the dictionary. So, Wang Jian Shuo, when you say that CCTV is doing somthing wrong, some people “infer” that you think CNN is right. But you did not “imply” that., they “inferred” it.

    By the way, Wang Jian Shuo, I love this blog. Thank you for keeping such a thoughtful, intelligent, and respectful dialog going.

  10. Shane

    If one can really think like God (looking at issues through the view of God) you won’t spend so much time on issues like this.

    Jianshuo, you are intelligent and quite successful with your life and career in the eyes of this World. If you are interested in further improving yourself in understanding what the meaning of life is and what’s important in our life, I would humbly suggest you get to know Jesus Christ and the Bible, which teaches the wisdom that you can’t get from this world or being intelligent , well educated etc … Lord Jesus will lead you to higher ground and look at the world differently :)

  11. Checkmate

    Hey guys. I love this blog. Keep up the good work.

    I’m a white American and my wife is from China. We were discussing the situation in Tibet and I commented that my biggest issue with the whole thing is that China has blocked western media in Tibet. She countered that the Western media were not being fair. So, lets say that the cameras were showing only certain scenes that provided the context they wanted to be seen. Could the Chinese news reporters not also record these events and show them in full context? If in fact, the Tibetans were doing some pretty bad things to Chinese citizens, that could be recorded and easily shown to the world, could it not?

  12. Peter Duong

    Perhaps the mixing and muddling is caused by the fact that neither side really has enough information regarding the issue.

    I noticed that what began as a discussion about olympic protest/ human rights in Tibet has become an argument about — whether western media is biased, whether dalai lama is evil, whether tibet was a feudal society, whether china is evil, whether grace wang is a hero or a villain, whether chinese should boycott french products ….

    Lost in any discussion is what exactly has happened in Tibet most recently and in the recent past.

    It seems it is difficult to know the truth because the issue is so controversial that it is hard to trust the other side. Citing books doesn’t help because books are like CNN and CCTV. Read one book you get one version of the history; read another you get a completely differrent story. So what to believe? Who to believe?

    For me it would be helpful if i could hear from people who have been to Tibet recently and especially Tibetans living in Tibet. I’d like to know what their impressions were? How long did they stay? What part of Tibet did they visit. Who did they talk to? That would be more interesting to me — than repeating editorials from Xinhua or NYTimes.

  13. Jian Shuo Wang

    @PeDu, it is the same for me to read the history of China itself. You get many versions of the same history. My struggle results in the thoughts that all the versions are correct versions. We have to accept the fact that there are many true version of the same fact in this world. It is just from different part or from different perspective.

  14. rat in hat

    @PeDu

    I agree with you this time. We are indeed lost in discussions. I think only the historians in very far future could give a clear look and conclusive judgment on what happened today,and why. we just suddenly found ourselves living at a historical moment that leads to a future of more uncertainty. We shout loudly because our voice would never been heard, or never change anything even if luckily be heard. We fear our emotion dies and view changes along with our growing age. At least I know i would probably hv no more passion to come back to this blog and write down so much bullshit one year from now. So,why not just hv fun for the moment? Even anger has its face of fun. Just enjoy it. .

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