Last month, I told you that American media was complicit in an immoral propaganda campaign against China, and expressed alarm at how gullible the American public has become. Now that two Chinese officials are dead over the fiasco, the Vice President of Mattel admits that the news was all lies. He says, “The vast majority of those products that were recalled were the result of a design flaw in Mattel’s design, not through a manufacturing flaw in China’s manufacturers.”
Although it should have been obvious to anyone with common sense, I never would have expected Mattel to admit this so quickly and frankly. Few American companies these days, and no Asian company, would ever lose face the way Mattel has voluntarily done. In fact, one of the Chinese officials who died committed suicide (the other was executed) over the toy recall, so strong was the crisis of losing face. This willingness to put transparency and honesty above propriety is perhaps the only good thing that America is exporting to the rest of the world. Now if only George Bush would admit fault and issue an apology, the rest of the world might start to believe that America actually does have some values to share.
Of course, Mattel probably had some selfish motivations in issuing the apology, and I can’t say how complicit they were in misleading the press initially. But the real culprits here are the reporters (and increasingly, citizens who trust reporters). We have been trained to assume that powerful people like politicians and business leaders lie. The press are supposed to “speak truth to power”; to “fact-check their asses”. They are supposed to be our protection against government and corporate brainwashing campaigns, not accomplices. But this time, they completely failed us. And there is no excuse — it was easy enough for someone with common sense to see that the stories didn’t add up. It was easy enough to see that the wild allegations were not backed up with facts. Yet none of the vaunted journalists bothered to do even a modicum of research to see if the conclusions they were publishing seemed reasonable.
Mattel is apologizing, but where is the mea culpa from the American media? When will these jerks run a retraction saying, “The vast majority of the stories we’ve reported about China in the past 6 months have been filled with wild allegations which turned out later to be false”? And yes I mean the whole media. Not even GNN stood up to the lies this time. It’s a bad day indeed for America when the VP of a toy company comes across as being more honest and transparent than the American media.
BTW, I know a lot of reporters read my blog. In last month’s blog post, I challenged the media and laid out more than enough of the case for an enterprising journalist to start unraveling the propaganda campaign. I expected that a story like this apology would break due to a reporter gathering the facts and challenging a corporate executive. Apparently, that was a very naive expectation. This story came about due to a corporate executive disclosing incriminating facts that the journalists weren’t even interested in gathering.
Sigh… Ten minutes later, CNN is running this headline, implying that China is killing American babies. The headlines on Bloomberg and elsewhere are worse: “Chinese-made cribs recalled due to infant deaths”.
When you read all the way through the article, you find that the cribs are being recalled because of a design defect that allows people to install the gate upside-down. So blame the company who designed the cribs (based in Pennsylvania), or the owners who ignored the instructions and put them together wrong. Once again, this article has nothing to do with China. A more accurate headline would be “Pennsylvania-designed cribs recalled due to infant deaths”. Just imagine if one of these reporters was doing a story about Ken Lay’s Enron fraud and used the headline “Thousands lose pensions due to fraud at company which employed black people.” They would be fired immediately, and they should be fired for this headline too. The fact that the cribs were manufactured in China is not relevant to the story, and can only serve to prejudice the audience and mask the real culpability.