Chinese propaganda officials must be thrilled that they’re not responsible for the Olympics coverage in the British papers. Back during the Beijing Games, they worked hard to censor unrest and dissatisfaction in the domestic media. Reports of China’s press freedom and human rights abuses were blocked, the kind of information control idiomatically referred to as “harmonizing.”
Harmonize this: “Olympic security chaos hits headlines around the world” (Guardian); “Chaos hits Heathrow as Games approach” (Telegraph); “More demonstrations in Olympics bonus row” (BBC News). The U.K. press corps is a Chinese media manager’s worst nightmare.
Even American news outlets are impressed with the quality and quantity of dissent on display across the pond. “Anyone reading British newspapers the past few weeks could have been convinced that a nightmarish catastrophe was unfolding along the Thames,” The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl commented. “Complaining could be a British Olympic event,” The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
Officials in Beijing, if they take a minute from containing the flood coverage, might notice that despite the media’s flagrant criticisms, Britain’s leaders have not been toppled. Others will turn with relief to their own news outlets. They are also remembering the glory days of summer 2008, and their conclusions are much more reassuring. “Beijing Olympic Games were widely regarded as the best ever,” one Monday report stated. Thank heavens for Xinhua.