Image: iStock/metamorworks Top cause was coverage of Hong Kong, followed by the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, say respondents to a social media tweet that quickly turned into a fast-growing discussion
FASCINATING DISCUSSION HAPPENING on social media at the moment. It started last week with Twitter user Leon Lu posing a question: “When did you lose trust in the western media? For me, it was during the Hong Kong riots.”
“Same here,” said Daniel Yang, a software engineer.
Hundreds of people liked, shared and commented, with answers ranging from “the Iraq war”, which started with non-existent “weapons of mass destruction”, to the clearly invented fairy tales about North Korea.
Hong Kong top choice
But the majority of responders said it was the reporting of the 2019 civil unrest in Hong Kong that opened their eyes to the untrustworthiness of the media.
Leon Lu said he remembered “watching the CNN reporter wearing a helmet hiding behind a wall of fully geared rioters hurling Molotovs while screaming to the camera ‘these peaceful protesters…’!” He said it was “otherworldly” but at the same time both shocking and hilarious.
Fat Miew, a chef, agreed. “When what you see actually happening in the street in front of your house is so different from what is reported in the media, it makes you question a lot.”
Viola, a Chinese-American, Mora G., and many others, said the false coverage of the Hong Kong story in 2019 made them realise they couldn’t trust news reports.
“We saw it with our own eyes”
Many chimed in with similar comments. Mason C. said he withdrew trust when he saw “Western media saying it was peaceful while there were riots, and firebombs being thrown at police. We saw it with our own eyes.”
“Same here,” said a user who goes under the name Mockingjay, born in pre-1997 Hong Kong. “In 2019, I realised the Western media was not trustworthy; I actually felt stupid having been manipulated by them for years.”
That was also the key date for SK Boz, a video editor. He said: “Yeah, same here… made me wonder about what we’re being told for every other country too.” His new-found skepticism made him suspicious about other news coverage and how it changes suddenly. “It’s weird how they’ve just ghosted [halted coverage of] Myanmar after they found their audience is more interested in white people getting killed in Ukraine.”
Immigrant shops trashed
Although the Hong Kong protests started with large, mostly peaceful marches in June of 2019, the non-violent demonstrators quickly withdrew as a violent faction, rich, well-organised, and equipped with vast amounts of specialist gear, took control. By July, Hong Kong people watched in horror as violent thugs regularly marched down the street trashing restaurants and shops owned by mainland immigrants – while the BBC and the New York Times painted them as noble heroes. Revelations about millions of US dollars used to fund the protests went almost entirely unreported.
Mi Katoschka was another person horrified by coverage of the Hong Kong protests. “Now I don’t even believe anything they say. Including non-China related stuff.” Marco Maiocchi agreed: “Many of us were radicalised by that event.”
Ho Ho Chan said he was “late for the wake-up call” because it was “not until the tail end of the 2014 Occupy Central ‘unrest’ that he realised that a false narrative was being presented to the world. “My family had a close encounter with some ‘protestors’ which led to a physical altercation; that incident really opened my eyes to how ‘peaceful’ and ‘spontaneous’ those protests were … NOT.”
Trust lost worldwide
Trust was lost outside Hong Kong too, said Tan Yan-yee. “Westerners increasingly don’t trust their own media due to the constant lies.”
Yet the fall in China’s reputation in most countries of the world show that the sheer volume of negative news has had a harmful effect on the people of this region.
Some respondents said there were individuals, even in Hong Kong, who still follow the western narrative and blame the victims, such as police officers, whose reputation was unfairly blackened. “I still can’t understand how some of my ‘friends’ who live in Hong Kong, still can’t see how the media manipulated the riot in 2019,” said Charlie Chow. “They are still blaming the government and police.”
Palestine and Corbyn
But some pointed to other news events. Curt McArdle, a British teacher, said he was turned off the mainstream press by the biased coverage of Israel-Palestine clashes, and the awful treatment of one-time Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn. With regard to China, he realised just how false the mainstream media narrative was when he read “their reporting on the ‘crackdown’ on Mongolian language and culture”. This was later shown to be entirely fictional.
Several said they had changed their minds much earlier than 2019. Jiu Shijiu said he stopped trusting the press “long before that… the Hong Kong riots just pushed [the distrust] to new heights.”
Iraq and Ukraine coverage wildly unbalanced
For many people living outside Hong Kong, the US invasion of Iraq under false pretences, with the media as cheerleaders, was the key issue. The media relentlessly and viciously condemns countries which invade others (see Russia) but gave a totally free pass to the west when it invaded Iraq to punish the leaders for holding weapons of mass destruction – but they had none, and had repeatedly pointed this out. Events in Ukraine have had similarly unfair and unbalanced coverage since 2013.
Lyon Winchester said: “I’ve been skeptical since the Iraq war but became certain that they couldn’t be trusted in 2014 when my ex living in Odesa refuted the claims in western media.”
C.V. Neuves said he lost faith in 2013 watching coverage of the protests in Maidan, Ukraine. “That’s when they started lying openly.”
Covid, Libya and Syria
Covid coverage was the key issue for several people, who lost faith more recently. Robert Bazin said: “It started from the Hong Kong riot and went to a peak after the pandemic started.”
Others were horrified to learn the unreported factors below the surface of world events. Aaron C. Douglas said that for him, it was when he learned that the “Libya and Syria wars were financed by the USA and the EU.”
Karyna Morris, a mother of four from Cornwall in the UK, said: “My faith in mainstream media was already shaky after the invasion of Iraq but I never trusted it again when it lied about Libya and the so called ‘no fly zones’. I never watched it again after that.”
Xinjiang and Huawei
Some respondents said issues such as the false reporting about phones from Huawei raised their awareness and caused them to start looking for other sources of information, such as Quora and Twitter, where they could hear from ordinary people, without the news being made to fit the agenda of the west by journalists working as pro-NATO propagandists.
For others, the wild stories about millions of people in “concentration camps” in Xinjiang, China’s most popular travel destination, made trust impossible. “Before the Xinjiang ‘genocide’, I believed 50 per cent of news from the western media,” said GH. “Now: one per cent.”
The story about ten thousand students being machine-gunned to death in Tiananmen Square in 1989 has been repeatedly shown to be a creation of western intelligence services, who no longer hide that fact. Yet the media continue to repeat it.
Jimmy Kudo said: “The Western media has been lying about China since 1989. They keep saying the students were killed, where witnesses who were IN the square at that time saw no corpses.” At the same time, the west has been involved in numerous genuine massacres where many more people died, but those are simply never mentioned.
Warren See, a Singaporean, said he lost faith in 2015 “when I saw what they did to Bernie [Sanders] and started to wonder what else they lied about especially on international news. Finding out Tank Man wasn’t run over by the tank was the last straw.”
But false coverage of Hong Kong, painted as dead when it clearly is not, was the most popular choice as a catalyst for loss of faith. The mainstream media continues to mislead in its coverage of the city. “It has only gotten worse,” said Taro Taylor, a lawyer.
Mitch Kowalski said he agreed 100 per cent. “Just when you think they can’t get worse – they do,” he said.
As people lose faith in mainstream media, and opportunities to travel return, there may be hope for a peaceful future, some respondents said. Howan Cheung, who travels between Europe and China, said: “The more you travel, the less sense the western media makes.”
This article was posted in Fridayeverday in HongKong on 22 July 2022