Western media hypes China’s non-existent ‘live execution’ of pirates [Asia Times]

I was seeing articles about a ‘live execution’ to be televised in China, but I’ve watched Chinese TV on the mainland for several years and the Western articles did not compute at all. Turns out it was all based on a rumor from South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based newspaper that is prone to print rumors and lies regarding mainland news. Of course the UK is just horrified, horrified about the death penalty in the first place, a summarily hypocritical stance given that government’s proclivity to slaughter countless civilians in wars and covert operations abroad without any judicial process whatsoever. – Zuo Shou

by Peter Lee

March 8, 2013

The Western media outrage on the execution in China of Naw Kham focused on the circus surrounding the televising – or non-televising – of the event, which followed the conviction of the Burmese pirate and several of his associates for the massacre of 13 Chinese crew members of two ships on the Mekong River in October 2011…

…By its own – and Western – standards, China’s capture, trial, and execution of Naw Kham appears a model of legality. According to China’s Global Times, the PRC was tempted to assassinate him via a drone strike in his foreign hideout, but declined.

Neither was he shot in the head by special forces and his corpse secretly dumped in the ocean, as was done with Osama bin Laden. Nor was he torched in his hideout with incendiary grenades, as the San Bernadino Sheriff’s Department did to alleged murderer and cop killer Christopher Dorner just a few weeks ago.

Instead, Naw Kham was captured, tried in a Chinese court, and executed by lethal injection, together with three accomplices. The PRC…understandably decided to celebrate this demonstration of Chinese political and legal efficacy with a 21st century wall-to-wall coverage live media festival on the occasion of the execution.

Western media outlets, whose prime directive appears to be to deny the People’s Republic of China any hint of a soft-power victory, were determined to shoehorn the execution of Naw Kham and his fellows into the Butchers of Beijing template.

The heavy lifting was done by the South China Morning Post’s John Kennedy, who…misconstrued CCTV’s promise of live, execution-related coverage from the scene to coverage of the lethal injection itself.

The relevant screen cap from CCTV read “Death sentence to be carried out” and “Live broadcast and more details to be revealed tomorrow”. Perhaps not the finest moment in chyron-writing. However, it’s not just CCTV. If one Googles “Timothy McVeigh TV execution”, (Timothy McVeigh was the Oklahoma City bomber who murdered 168 people and was executed in 2001) the first hit is: McVeigh Execution: C-Span Video Library. Spoiler: the video does not show the actual execution of Timothy McVeigh.

Another hit from the first page of results: TV coverage of McVeigh execution keeps focus on victims. Written by the AP TV writer, David Bauder, the article relates:

During the moments that lethal drugs were coursing through McVeigh’s veins – unseen to television viewers – ABC showed footage of survivors and relatives
And one more: Networks Plan McVeigh Execution Coverage.

John Kennedy, a Canadian and “a longtime resident of southern China” according to the South China Morning Post “Authors’ list” but obviously unaware of such ancient, tedious, and non-Chinese media history, then doubled down with the tweet:

CCTV said, unambiguously and in plain Chinese, it’s going to live broadcast the execution. I’m not going to put words in its mouth. If it turns out CCTV is deliberately misleading the public to boost viewership (and in a way or two I hope it is), that’s a story in itself.

With that, Western reporters were off to the races.

In a story titled “China TV Kills Live Execution Plans at Last Minute”, ABC News Beijing Bureau declared (I suspect on the strength of John Kennedy’s post that live coverage of the actual execution had been promised):

…but as the program neared its close, the station abruptly changed plans and did not show the execution.

The piece rather shamefacedly hedged its bets in the last paragraph:
For whatever reason, CCTV did not broadcast the actual execution.

Maybe the reason was that the Chinese government had never announced its intention to broadcast the actual execution anyway.

Not good enough for UPI’s Kristen Butler, who linked to the ABC News story in order to buttress her piece, “China’s CCTV Cuts Live Execution Broadcast at Last Minute”, staffers adding the apparently ludicrous sub-head: “State-run CCTV cut short the live execution after a poll on Chinese Twitter, Weibo, showed firm opposition”.

Butler provided no documentation for the assertion that the Weibo poll prompted CCTV to drop its plans to broadcast the actual execution; in keeping with the fug of ambiguity that pervades this story, perhaps she or her editors felt that alternate interpretations of “after” – for instance, referring merely to temporal sequence and not causality – shielded UPI from the need to come up with any sourcing for the claim.

Now, at least in the Western press, the TV event was a public relations rout [sic]:

New York Times: Chinese TV Special on Executions Stirs Debate/ Divided Chinese See a Live TV Program About Executions as Crass, or Cathartic

NPR: China’s Broadcast Of Drug Lord’s Final Hours Sparks Controversy

Reuters: “Execution parade” of four behind Mekong murders angers Chinese

The Guardian: China divided on TV ‘execution parade’: judicial resolve or crude voyeurism

Wall Street Journal: Debate Swirls Around China Execution Broadcast

Virtually alone on the opposite side of the ledger, Sinostand’s Eric Fish had questioned the “actual execution to be televised” meme before the fact and was excoriated by commenters for correctly predicting actual events…

With this generous evidentiary and analytic standard, it is surprising that the China’s Western critics confined themselves to the transitory pleasures of China bashing, media criticism, and fisking of CCTV chyrons…

Asia Online’s original article title: “Did China Execute the Wrong Pirate?” — Full article link: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/CHIN-01-080313.html

Also see related: ‘The Teapot Tempest of “Live Execution Broadcast” Showing Dyslexia And Moving Goal Post of Moral Schizophrenia’ [Hidden Harmonies Blog] — http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2013/03/the-teapot-tempest-of-live-execution-broadcast-showing-dyslexia-and-moving-goal-post-of-moral-schizophrenia/

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