By Gary Wilson / Published Apr 20, 2008
Most noteworthy about the protests in London, Paris and San Francisco that targeted the Olympic Torch on its way to the Beijing Olympics was their character.
Take the events in San Francisco on April 9. The biggest numbers to turn out were not protesters. They were from the Chinese community-thousands according to an NPR report-and came to show their support for China. There may have been nearly as many police-more than 3,000 according to city officials.
The anti-China protests were small in numbers. The Guardian (British) reported about 300 in San Francisco; other wire reports said simply hundreds.
The small numbers might be a surprise if you’d followed the big news coverage leading up to the event. No protest in recent memory has received such major media coverage in the week or two before it happened. Such media coverage gives the impression that a big event is to take place.
The small numbers of anti-China protesters might be attributed to the fact that the protesters claimed to be representing the interests of the people of Tibet, but they were not themselves Tibetan. There were at most a handful of Tibetans.
Actually, there are few Tibetans outside Tibet. The exile community is small-estimates put it at 100,000 to 200,000 at most-and almost all are in Nepal or India. So it is not Tibetans who are in London, Paris or San Francisco, but non-Tibetans-mainly North Americans or Western Europeans-who are protesting against China, claiming that they speak for the Tibetans.
When size doesn’t matter
Maybe it wasn’t the size of the event that mattered to the big-business-controlled media in the U.S., but rather the message.
FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) has documented the censorship that dominates the U.S. media. It is a censorship imposed not by the government but by the owners of the media. The political message of an event determines whether it is covered in the news media or censored out.
Most glaring has been the lack of coverage of anti-war protests in all the U.S. media, from newspapers to television and radio.
Several FAIR reports showed the systematic way that the media have ignored or distorted all protests against the Iraq war, for example. Demonstrations that drew hundreds of thousands not only got no attention in the days or weeks leading up to them, but sometimes were never covered at all or were only barely mentioned.
The April 2003 FAIR magazine reported: “In its news coverage in the period before the invasion [of Iraq] began on March 19, the New York Times played down opposition to war and exaggerated support for George W. Bush’s Iraq policy-in ways that ranged from questionable to dishonest. …
“After the invasion began, when more than 100,000 people in New York City demonstrated on March 22, it was front-page news the next day in the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. But the New York Times, whose offices are two blocks away from where the anti-war march started, placed the story on page B11,” FAIR concluded.
The contrast with the coverage of the anti-China protests today shows the political agenda being pursued by the U.S. media. It has nothing to do with the size of the protests.
Washington’s hidden role
The anti-China protests were planned in Washington, London and Paris, not in Tibet or the Tibetan exile communities.
In fact, Washington’s heavy role in the protests, using Tibet and Tibetans as a cover for an anti-China agenda, has spurred public criticism from no less than the former leader of the Free Tibet Campaign.
Patrick French, once the director of that group in London, wrote an opinion piece that the New York Times published on March 22. He said the exile community led by the Dalai Lama in India is making outlandish demands and claims.
For example, part of what he calls the Dalai Lama’s “Hollywood strategy” is to lay claim to a so-called Greater Tibet, demanding territory never considered part of Tibet.
Another example French gives is the claim made by the “Free Tibet” groups in London and Washington that 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese since the Dalai Lama regime was overturned in 1959. His own exhaustive research, he says, has turned up no evidence to back this claim.
Such distortions and misinformation are put forward not by Tibetans in Tibet, French says. They are put forward by those with a hidden agenda who are behind the “Free Tibet” campaign.
“The International Campaign for Tibet, based in Washington, is now a more powerful and effective force on global opinion than the Dalai Lama’s outfit in northern India. The European and American pro-Tibet organizations are the tail that wags the dog of the Tibetan government-in-exile,” French wrote.
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