Princelings and Sideshows: LSE and “Biased Media”

Sir Howard Davies has resigned as director of the London School of Economics (LSE).

He said the decision to accept £300,000 for research from a foundation run by Col Gaddafi’s son Saif had “backfired”. The LSE council has commissioned an independent inquiry into the university’s relationship with Libya,

reports the BBC.

Shoe Me Quick

Kiss Me Quick

Boo! Hiss!

OK. Cracks aside.

Was Sir Howard really wrong to advise the LSE to accept the donation from the Saif Gaddafi’s Foundation and visiting Libya to advise its regime about financial reforms?

It seems he was only wrong because the Gaddafi regime, of which Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was a natural member, is now most probably on  its way out in Libya. No power, no business.

Others may argue that the brutality with which the Libyan regime – reportedly – clings on to power so far – was something that its business friends couldn’t have foreseen, and that we now have a new picture of that regime. Which would be bullshit.

Sir Howard, I believe, shouldn’t have resigned. Not for this reason, or not for this reason alone. If money from a Gaddafi foundation is reason to resign, countless other directors or deans elsewhere would have to resign along with him, for all kinds of connections with illegitimate regimes. The London School of Economics isn’t the only renowned international school which would teach dictators’ children from all over the world, and cultivate fruitful relations with them. The only difference between Libya’s, and most other regimes: Libya’s regime is stumbling. It’s no longer good for business. And that hypocrisy doesn’t backfire on Sir Howard. It backfires on all those of us who believe that you can “make friends” with systematic violators of human rights.

When a student in Cambridge, Martin Jahnke, acted in a pretty natural way – he threw a sneaker at China’s chief state councillor Wen Jiabao and added some unfriendly remarks, during Wen’s visit to Cambridge University in February 2009 -, Britain’s then prime minister Gordon Brown wrote a letter of apology to Wen.

But in the light of the current LSE “scandal”, we should think again. Jahnke’s manners left a lot to be desired, but he had tagged a legitimate question to his shoe, which would have deserved more attention than did his shoe’s trajectory:

How can the University prostitute itself with this dictator here?

Yeah, how could it? How can they do that, if connections with Saif-al Islam Gaddafi are, all of a sudden, a reason for a director to resign?

Let’s not become distracted. The issue about “the Western media being biased” in their coverage on a “Jasmine Revolution” in China was just a side show, and a successful bit of agenda-setting by CCP proxies. The real issue is elsewhere.

The number of people showing up for “Sunday strolls” in China last month was small – single-digit in Beijing’s Wangfujing shopping district, apparently. But as the Telegraph’s correspondent Peter Foster pointed out,

the ruling Party, far from taking encouragement from last weekend’s dismal showing, appears increasingly nervous and heavy-handed. They must feel they have something to fear.  Since last Friday rights groups say that more than 100 assorted activists and lawyers have been arrested or beaten or put under house arrest and the internet is grinding slow under the censorship apparatus.

There’s much reason to believe that demonstrations in Beijing would become uncontrollable for the ruling party, if demonstrators had a snowball’s chance in hell to even go back home unmolested by the security apparatus, after a demonstration of, say, an hour or so. Understandably, they aren’t out for getting themselves tortured, or killed, with zero chance of political success.

That a “Jasmine Revolution” or whatever other kind of revolution may not happen in China any time soon is no reason to think more highly of the CCP and its princelings, than of Colonel Gaddafi, and his offspring.

No reason except that the princelings have more money to spend, and that they are closely connected to those in power, that is.


British PM writes to Chinese PM, February 10, 2009

17 Responses to “Princelings and Sideshows: LSE and “Biased Media””

  1. Three poststoday and no comment. Isn’t that a bit discouraging, JR?


  2. JR. You beat me to it on the LSE story and in much greater detail too cf my just submitted on FOARPs site.

    And regarding the Jasmine Revolutionists, Ive taken a fully committed position on CMP:

    Like to thing that this is an original take on the real objectives of Boxun et al, having done a pretty exhaustive news scroll on this one.


  3. Its also all about academic impartiality and the ability to undertake research without fear or favour, and impartiality additionally refers to staffing appointments and grant committees.

    A supporting supplementary reference:

    All the issues and donor countries mentioned above have also had a less than honourable mention in the cash-strapped universities in tubbyland.

    Re: The weeky Sunday strolls in designated areas really focusses one’s attention on the installation of GPSs in mobile phones. Those digital convergences envisioned in the Golden Shield project which I have been fixated on for sometime now.


  4. Taide:

    Your comment is beside the topic – I must frown at you.

    But I do admit that I have asked myself this question, too – about two weeks ago, or so. Listened deeply into myself, and back came this answer:
    I wouldn’t mind more comments – I’d appreciate them. But before I’d get this or that kind of comments, I’d rather get no comments at all. The first kind of comments only leaves me with the question if I should delete them (or let them there as examples of what drugs and CCP propaganda can do to peoples’ brains), and the second kind of comment is little better than spam, because the commenters are usually not out for a real discussion.

    There have been other discussions, with a lot of disagreement, but genuine discussions anyway. That’s when posting takes second seat, and I’ll get focused on discussion, rather than on more posts. After all, a blog is the ideal platform for speaking, and for listening. It’s very dialog. But I’d rather ask too much of potential commenters and scare them off, than having to waste my time on trolls. I believe that everyone who ever read this blog and had something to say has indeed only left these pages after saying it.

    Recently, I have had discussions mostly with FOARP, and especially with King Tubby, who, I believe, has studied in the fields of anthropology, and sociology. I don’t always understand what he says, but I’m trying to fill those gaps in my knowledge and keep the discussions going. And more recently, I’ve drawn more knowledge from a discussion with one, or possibly two commenters, than other bloggers may draw from discussions with dozens of commenters.

    King Tubby:

    Thanks, first of all, for drawing my attention to David Bandurski’s piece about how China’s leaders embrace social media! I believe that the degree to which Sichuan has taken this approach is rather exceptional in China, and other cadres will test the waters very carefully, given their rather orthodox and unflexible communication “skills”. Not everyone is Bo Xilai, and I think it is no coincidence that his underlings are more easily prepared to learn from their master, than are his peers elsewhere in China.

    Thanks, too, for the <a href=""YTelegraph link. It was written almost two years ago, and the column of shame has since been extended further. When Thilo Sarrazin, a former senator of finance of Berlin and a former federal banker with controversial views on Islamic culture, was invited by the German Society at the London School of Economics, along with another outspoken journalist, the forum had to move off the LSE venue, and into a neighboring hotel, only hours ahead of the beginning of the debate. No clarification was possible, because The Director of the LSE was out of the country on that day and could not be reached. I bought into that when I read it, but began to have my doubts when hearing about the Saif-al Islam Gaddafi story first time, the day before yesterday.

    I’ve also read your comments at the <a href="“>Media Project website. But I have to admit that I still don’t quite understand the position you have taken here. Do you think the “strolls” are meant to be art, politics, or both?


  5. Btw, I hope you aren’t discouraged either, Taide! If you write a story and all that’s missing would be a nice drawing, please let me know. The silkroad seems to provide a lot of great stories these days.


  6. My special one isn’t as tolerant of my office hours as yours. But I’m full of ideas, and contact you soon.


  7. JR. I laboured over that CMP post till I thought I had captured my ideas exactly. Oh well.

    Didnt realise till recently that you provided your own art work which I always enjoy. Sort of reminds me of a much gentler version of Ralph Steadman who collaborated with the late Hunter S Thompson.

    I have almost finished reading The Net Delusion by Evgeny Morozov and recommend it to anybody interested in grasping how the internet/spinternet functions in China. Definitely the most sobering analysis of the Web 2.0 as it plays out in the world of competing national ambitions and agendas.

    I am beginning think that most Western sites which focus on Sino matters are already obsolete, at least in terms of the theoretical and practical way in which they engage with their subject.


  8. Taide:

    I’m looking forward!

    King Tubby:

    I think it depends not only on you, but also on your reader if he or she can capture your idea exactly. So I don’t mean my comment as criticism in the sense that you “should” state an opinion more “clearly”. That I may have gaps to fill in my knowledge is just as likely an explanation. It’s a stupid society’s hallmark that people who have difficulty in understanding someone else would start criticizing him right away, rather than start thinking.

    As for China-focused Western websites or blogs, I think the real use that my blog may still provide is that there are translations from Chinese newsarticles which wouldn’t see the light of the English-speaking internet otherwise. But then, I never thought too much about how much or little use it may provide. It must be that wannabe journalist inside me who keeps me writing. I simply enjoy doing it.

    What I find a bit depressing is that newspapers have begun to rely on bloggers, rather than on staff of their own. That’s what is making media cheap, too. Bias, which has recently been the talk of the town, isn’t an issue that would bother me. If people only depend on one paper to keep themselves informed, they only have themselves to blame. I found a controversial article in a German weekly, Die Zeit, very insightful, both in the way it was written, and for the angry (internet) reactions it provoked. Then there’s the BBC – if China-focused blogs aren’t that relevant any more, I’m wondering how relevant the Beeb can still be in a few years. Next program to be culled will be “The Interview” – never been my favorite program anyway, but still more thoughtfully prepared than “World have your Say”, for example (my favorite example for stupid radio).

    But the future of intelligent writing and reading will be somewhere, I’m sure. It may however be with blogs that don’t even exist yet. And different from what a commenter wrote on the Peking Duck‘s threads, I do also believe that ESWN, for example, will continue to play an important role, if Soong keeps it up – with or without a pro-anti-cnn bias. What matters are his translations and explanations. The point is that something published needs to be information that hasn’t been published elsewhere before – and that it does matter to people, of course. Yes – it will depend on how the blogs will engage with their subject.

    My artwork is still very limited, although I must say that it has improved a lot since I started. I’m only making about three a month on average, I think, but once in a while, they help to make an article a nicer read, even if the artwork looks different from what I originally intended. I still find it difficult to sketch legs and feet, for example. And of course, I’ll have to practise much longer before my artwork can be as uncanny as Ralph Steadman’s are at times.

    I’ll think about reading the “Net Delusion” during the summer vacation. What makes me hesitate is that it may only confirm many of the skeptical views I’m holding anyway. The enthusiasm many people show about the “new media” – in political terms – has always been a mystery to me. But if I can help to keep the internet as open as it is these days, I’ll be happy to do so, even if it should take time which would obviously take a toll on blogging. I think that an internet of different speed rates, for example, would make it a less public medium than what it is now.

    And of course, if countries like China start weighing in heavily in international committees (Rebecca MacKinnon has pointed out its beginnings in several past blogposts of hers), that could take a toll on the internet’s openness, too. Too many people are too willing to compromise. I’m not thinking of an open internet as a political weapon so much, as of a thing with value in itself. Openness is natural, and helps a public to perform most efficiently.

    Whoah! What a Sunday sermon. I think I’ll better stop here.


  9. This piece by Howard French makes points very similar to mine in that CMP reference I linked. Ignore the rotten/misleading title, and focus on the last couple of paragraphs where he could have expanded his speculations.(I should have linked this piece the first time I read it. Ditto the LA Times piece.)

    I’m not letting my argument about this being a weekly event creation exercise go. Providing the urban public with a very physical spectacle of state power, and giving them something to think about.


  10. The only permalink available for Mr French’s article seems to be the commenting thread, from where we may scroll upward…

    For sure, the Chinese “Jasmine” factor has changed the way reporters are treated by the foreign ministry (or the state security officialdom, I seem to have heard), which in turn has an effect on international coverage itself. That may be something Beijing is taking lightly, provided that foreign policy and relations is taking a backseat in its policy, to the degree the Economist recently suggested.

    I don’t believe in the political system’s clay feet yet – or not more than I did before the Jasmine revolutions began in northern Africa -, but for sure, the authorities’ reactions have the potential to change the state-individual relations in the urban areas, too.
    As for the countryside, I guess, we will see the same or more of the unrest which has become more or less inveterate there, but big political plans behind it.

    For now, there seems to be lots of gunpowder, but little open light in China.
    But all the same, the quick preparedness of many “China watchers” to dismiss any idea of “Jasmine” momentum in China appears to reflect those observers’ own wishes. Revolution in China? Now, that would be bad for business!

    As for your theory: I think that whoever got the “strolls” started had a bigger game in mind, than just politically-conscious artistry. 😉 But who knows.



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