When governments lose control, as sure as night follows day, the first group to get it in the neck will be the journalists. The Chinese politburo is a classic example of this. Its tight grip on all things economic has looked pretty shaky of late, as the stock markets in Shanghai fall like spring cherry blossom to the grass.
So, in an attempt to ease the embarrassment of the heirs of Mao, the Beijing hard men put the squeeze on the hacks for ‘rumour mongering’ and peddling untruths. Round up a few business writers and let them cool their heels in a damp cell for a few days. Maybe even knock them around a bit if they've been especially uppity and quoted Adam Smith.
There are subtler ways of doing this, as well. Use the features pages for serpent-tongued insinuation. Tell the world hacks make lousy lovers. The China Daily, the mouthpiece of the regime just told its readers that journalists ‘may be narcissistic, patronizing and find it hard to accept advice. They are too choosy about everything, including partners.’
This is clearly such a travesty of the truth, it’s hard to know where to start. Never mind the fact that our equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath is to bring truth to the world and weed out lies when they are told, but some of the nicest, funniest, decent and loyal people I know are hacks. And, excepting those who preen themselves on HD telly and think they are ‘slebs’, not that many are narcissistic. Indeed the image of the journo as the poorly dressed, dishevelled wreck is still reinforced by many living examples. I can see a number of them around me now.
What’s even weirder is that the attack on hacks came within a broader article entitled ‘Top 10 highly paid jobs for single people’, which included actor, athlete and PR person. It’s well know that in China journalists who attend press conferences routinely get an envelope of cash along with the press release to ensure they remain on message. But over here single folk in search of a highly paid job would be better off looking into banking, PR and even nursing rather than journalism, if a decent wage is what they are after.
I sit here (dishevelled) in Fitzrovia banging this out with a Nespresso for company, but some journalists risk everything in their mission. 85 journalists have been killed in Syria since 1992. And last year 221 were jailed worldwide for courageously doing their jobs. One of my dearest friends was rewarded with a debilitating case of PTSD for the amount of time he spent in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans reporting on wars. Mind you as he resembled a better-looking version of Mick Jagger with twice the charisma he was admittedly quite choosy about the dozens of partners he collected and discarded along the way.
So the China Daily and its masters are talking crap. For all our faults we’re on the side of the angels. (Most of us wouldn’t have the first idea how to hack anyone’s phone.) Hug a hack today. Let us feel your love.