Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fang Zhouzi: The Depravation of Sir Harold Evans

The following post was published by Fang Zhouzi on his blog on February 21, 2013 and was immediately translated into English by xgz. This post is a direct response to Sir Harold Evans' article on The Daily Beast.

Harold Evans is a famous British journalist. How famous is he? In 2000, he was named one of International Press Institute's 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the past fifty years. In 2004, he was knighted by the Queen for services to journalism. When he was a young man, he was a well-known British investigative reporter. He was the first to report many of the headline events of the day, and earned his reputation for his sense of justice and his daring reporting. Later he emigrated to the United States, served as editor-in-chief for the Atlantic Monthly, and then for U.S. News and World Report. Currently he is editor-at-large for Reuters. His wife Tina Brown is also a heavyweight of the U.S. press, an editor for both Newsweek and the Daily Beast
This greatly respected sage of the Western press, recently wrote a commentary on the Daily Beast titled "the persecution of Ping Fu." In this commentary he denounced the criticism of Ping Fu's memoir by world-wide Chinese community as a persecution of her. Evans' wife Tina Brown has been an important supporter of Ping Fu. She had promoted Ping Fu's memoir on the National Public Radio in the United States. Her newspaper, the Daily Beast, has also been heavily promoting the book. This newspaper was among the first to publish a report of the criticism of Ping Fu, but it quoted the criticism out of context in an attempt to label the criticism as an organized smear campaign, in clear violation of journalistic ethics. Evans had himself conducted an interview of Ping Fu on behalf of Reuters, but never questioned the legend-like stories told by Ping Fu. So it is no surprise that he would come out again and continue to speak on behalf of Ping Fu. What is surprising, however, is the horrific writing style and journalistic incompetency displayed by him that is completely at odds with his sagely image in the field of journalism. 
Evans focused on the large number of one-star reviews on the Amazon website of Ping Fu's memoir Bend, not Break. Initially, Ping Fu's memoir received mostly five-star (highest) reviews, written by Americans. At the end of last month, hundreds of negative reviews, most apparently written by Chinese Americans, began to appear and pulled the average rating to less than 2 stars. This seemingly unusual phenomenon actually has a very simple explanation: at the end of last month, I began to criticize Ping Fu's memoir (Note by translator: on microblog, a Chinese version of twitter), which attracted attention to this book. Because I have a lot of followers on microblog (Note by translator: Fang Zhouzi has a few million followers on microblog), it is not surprising that a few hundred of them who are also Amazon users would go there and write negative book reviews. But this was not how Evans thought. He intentionally made no mention of my name in the article (Why is it intentionally? Because previous reports about the incident, including the The Daily Beast reports and Ping Fu's response either named me explicitly, or referred to my article implicitly, so it is impossible for Evans to not know), but attributed the emergence of a large number of negative book reviews to two possible reasons: 
1. Sockpuppets. Evans claimed that, one only needs an e-mail account to post a book review on the Amazon website. Thus, a person can use multiple mailboxes to register more than one account, posing as two people, 20 people, or even 100 people writing different book reviews. He complained bitterly about Amazon's "openness" and its ineffective handling of complaints. As a former investigative reporter, Evans did not even bother to check the basic requirements set up by Amazon to post book reviews there. It takes more than an email address to post book reviews on Amazon. One must also have purchased something through the Amazon website (not necessarily the book being reviewed). Through the purchase, the user will have already left a real name and address with Amazon. Although book reviews can be posted with a pseudonym, but the identity of the reviewer is real. It is very hard for a user who post comments on Amazon to have two accounts, let alone one hundred accounts. 
Lin was the first negative reviewer of Ping Fu's memoir on Amazon, and continued to add the most detailed discussion to her review. Her review had the most comments and was rated most useful by readers, thus was automatically placed at the top of the web page. This brought special attention from Evans, who attacked Lin with the horrible line "Male, female, or hermaphrodite." Lin herself said in her book review that she is a woman, and this can be easily verified by Amazon. Evans also claimed that although the book review written by Lin was negative, she gave a fake five star. There had been some negative reviews that gave five stars for irony, but Lin's review had always been one-star. It is clear that Evans did a very sloppy journalistic work. After repeated complaints from Ping Fu's PR team, Amazon deleted Lin's review on grounds of being "visually disruptive." Lin later posted a new review with an ironic five-star, but this was well after Evans published his article. 
2. A "hate campaign" by Chinese nationalists in the United States or organized by the Chinese government. Evans cited a large body of data to prove that there are people who are hired to post on internet forums, the so-called wumao (Note by translator: these are the people who are hired by the Chinese government to post comments in support of the government. For each post they receive a payment of 0.5 yuan renminbi. This amount is pronounced wumao in Chinese. Thus these people are called wumao). The existence of wumao is not a secret. But one cannot be like celebrities on Chinese microblogs who accuse anyone disagreeing with them of being wumao. If one is to prove that critics of Ping Fu are all wumao, then at least a few questions need to be answered: Why would the Chinese government go through the trouble of organizing such a multinational campaign? Ping Fu is not the enemy of the Chinese government. Quite the contrary, she frequently visited China in recent years to give speeches (for example, she gave a speech at Nanjing University on July 10, 2009). The company she founded, Geomagic software, has a branch in Shanghai. Chinese media had previously published multiple reports touting her (for example: "MoCho · Wisdom Woman" 2009 10 "U.S. Nouveau Riche Fu Ping: My Success Relied on Chinese Wisdom", "Shenzhen Special Zone Daily" 2012 February 24, "Chinese American Woman Entrepreneur Ping Fu Receives the Title of "Distinguished American", "China Business News" March 14, 2012 "Ping Fu, Chinese Woman Entrepreneur's Wonderful Life"). Ping Fu's memoir wrote about her miseries while in China, but that is not a sensitive topic. There are better known books on Amazon that present much darker descriptions of China. Why did none of those books receive such a treatment? There is simply no motivation for the Chinese government to take any action against Ping Fu or her memoir. 
Even if the Chinese government for some strange reason wants to discredit Ping Fu, how can it organize such a thing? Those who wrote negative book reviews on Amazon website were mostly overseas Chinese, in particular Chinese Americans. The website where people can post book reviews is in the United States; reviewers must have bought something from Amazon, and the review must be written in English. Spot checking a few negative book reviews, one can easily see that most of the reviews were written by Chinese Americans who had lived in the United States for many years. The level of English writing in these reviews cannot be reached by someone who have not lived in the United States. How could the Chinese government command so many overseas Chinese, many of whom are already U. S. citizens? These Chinese Americans, regardless of their political ideologies, gave overwhelmingly negative reviews to Ping Fu's memoir, and rebuked her lying. Almost no Chinese Americans supported Ping Fu (not counting one or two "whatever Fang opposes, I support" type of Fang detractors). Since when did the Chinese government have such a strong appeal? In addition, there are also non-Chinese scholars who questioned the truthfulness of Ping Fu's memoir (see the Guardian report). Can the Chinese government command these scholars too? I have not seen any influential person or website to call upon people to post negative reviews. On the other hand, Ping Fu and her team had repeatedly called on supporters to post positive reviews and send complaints to Amazon. 
Evans complained that after Penn State professor of Asian history, Erica Brindley, posted a comment in support of Ping Fu on the Amazon website, she was subject to a "human flesh search" (Note by translator: searching for real identity through google). Evans did not tell the reader the result of the "human flesh search": Erica Brindley is the sister-in-law of Ping Fu memoir's co-author MeiMei Fox. Dr. Erica Brindley spoke as a "PhD from Princeton University", and a sinologist. But what she said did not jibe with her position. This inconsistency prompted the suspicion of a conflict of interest. The "human flesh search" proved such a conflict. In this case, "human flesh search" is entirely justified. This would be similar to when Harold Evans was speaking on behalf of thalidomide victims, if someone spoke in support of thalidomide manufacturers, he would have investigated whether these people had conflict of interest. Evans also complained that when someone by the id of Van Harris spoke in support of Ping Fu, he was subject to personal attacks. First of all, it was Van Harris himself who carried out personal attacks against critics of Ping Fu (I have also been personally attacked by him, although I did not even have any exchange with him), and he also threatened critics. This person is a freelance graphic designer in North Carolina, and is possibly connected to Ping Fu's company which is also located in the same state. 
Evans said that any memoir would inevitably contain errors, and welcomed people to point out those errors. He said that he could not tolerate critics who were trying to destroy Ping Fu's credibility, and even her life. The problem is, we do not believe that the large number of critical errors in Ping Fu's memoir are just lapses in memory. They are intentional lies. If someone builds her reputation and fortune through lies, shouldn't the justice be to remove her credibility and such life? 
By speaking for a liar and abandoning journalistic professionalism, Evans behaved not as a competent journalist, and miles away from the hero of journalism. Such an unusual performance from him, is only possible because of his ignorance of China, his arrogance and prejudice against criticism - prejudice against Chinese in particular. Imagine if another ethnic group, say if Jews exposed those who fabricated their own tragic stories during the Holocaust (such fabrications have happened before), would Evans dare to accuse without basis those critics to have taken payments to engage in a smear campaign? Obviously not. Why did he do this to Chinese? It is racist prejudice at play. To him, Chinese are born without any sense of justice, without independent thinking. They only take orders from the government, and only do things when paid. Even if you have lived in the United States for many years, even if you are already an U.S. citizen, in Evans' eyes, you are still a Chinese nationalist ready to pledge allegiance to the Chinese government - such an accusation by Evans et al., is the real smear campaign in this whole affair.

  哈洛尔德·伊万斯(Harold Evans)是英国著名的新闻人,著名到什么程度呢?2000年他被国际新闻协会评为50年来50名世界新闻自由英雄之一。2004年他因为在新闻领域的贡献而被英国女王封为爵士。在他年轻的时候,他是英国著名的调查记者,首先报道过多起著名事件,因为正义敢言而名噪一时。后来移居美国,担任过《大西洋月刊》《美国新闻与世界报道》等杂志的主编,目前为路透社的非在编编辑(editor-at-large)。其妻子是美国新闻界的重量级人物,《新闻周刊》和《野兽日报》的主编蒂娜·布朗(Tina Brown)。 
  就是这么一位西方新闻界大佬,最近在《野兽日报》发表了一篇评论《傅苹的迫害》( ),把世界华人对傅苹回忆录的批评称为是对傅苹的迫害。伊万斯的妻子布朗是傅苹的重要支持者,曾在美国公共电台推荐傅苹回忆录,其主办的《野兽日报》也力推过傅苹回忆录,并在傅苹受到批评时最先发表报道,违反新闻道德,用断章取义的手法把对傅苹的批评称为有组织的抹黑行动。伊万斯本人曾代表路透社采访过傅苹,对傅苹的“传奇故事”毫不怀疑。因此他在这个时候出来继续为傅苹站台,并不意外。意外的是他在其站台文章中体现出来的拙劣的文风和低下的新闻素养,与其新闻界大佬的形象完全不符。 
  伊万斯主要针对的是亚马逊网站上傅苹回忆录《弯而不折》(Bend, not Break)后面的大量的1星(最低)书评。傅苹回忆录原先在那里基本上都是美国人撰写的5星(最高)书评,在上个月月底开始出现了几百条由华人撰写的负面书评,把它的平均分拉到了不到2星。这个看上去不寻常的现象本来有一个很寻常的解释:因为我在上个月月底开始批评傅苹回忆录,引起了我的广大读者对这本书的注意。我的读者群这么大,有几百个亚马逊用户因此去发表负面书评,根本就不足为奇。但是伊万斯不这么认为。他在文章中故意对我只字不提(为什么说是故意呢?因为此前有关这个事件的报道包括《野兽日报》自己的报道以及傅苹的回应全都点名或不点名地提到我的作用,他不可能不知道),把大量负面书评的出现归为两个可能的原因: 
  伊万斯控诉说,宾州(州立)大学亚洲历史学家Erica Brindley因为在亚马逊支持傅苹,就遭到了“人肉搜索”。伊万斯没有告诉读者的是“人肉搜索”的结果:Erica Brindley是傅苹回忆录代笔者MeiMei Fox的嫂子。Erica Brindley是以“普林斯顿大学博士”、“汉学专家”的身份站出来力挺傅苹的,因为她的发言内容与她的身份不符,人们才怀疑她是否与书的作者存在利益关系,搜索的结果证明了这一点。这种“人肉搜索”完全是正当的,这就好比伊万斯当年为反应停的受害者维权时,如果有人跳出来剧烈地为反应停厂家辩护,他肯定也会想到要去查查此人是否与厂家有着利益关系。伊万斯还控诉说,有一个叫Van Harris的人因为替傅苹说话,就遭到了人身攻击。首先对傅苹批评者进行人身攻击的恰恰是Van Harris自己(我也受到其人身攻击,虽然我并没有和他争论),而且他还威胁傅苹的批评者。此人是北卡罗莱纳州的一个自由图像设计师,有可能与位于该州的傅苹的公司有合作关系。 

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