Washington Babylon — August 13, 2008, 10:33 am

NBC: Nothing Bad about China

From the Washington Post:

Political protests? Not on this channel; no sir. Beijing’s fearful pollution? Maybe, but only if a marathoner coughs up a lung or it spoils a beauty shot. Doping scandals? In passing, perhaps. Tibet? China’s role in Darfur? Now, wait just a second. . . The aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake? Why be unreasonable. . . Tiananmen? Mao’s barbarities? No, and hell no…

For two nights running, NBC’s chief China promoter has been correspondent Mary Carillo, who has presented two of the glossiest travelogues imaginable. On Monday, she breathlessly reported on China’s wonders: Maglev trains! World’s tallest man! The Great Wall (which, Carillo said, can be seen from outer space — although it’s not clear if it can). She even oohed and aahed over the massive Three Gorges Dam, offering some astounding statistics about its construction but not a word on the 1.5 million people forcibly removed from their homes to build it. All that was missing was a feature on panda bears.

Carillo got to that on Tuesday night, first going all warm and fuzzy about the critters and then all wink-wink-wink about the Chinese program to mate them (awkward and non-hilarious moment: Her suggestion to a perplexed Chinese official that male pandas might offer “Whitman Samplers” to females during courtship).

Meanwhile, a Wall Street Journal blog picked up my item about NBC’s “expert” analyst, Joshua Cooper Ramo, how happens to be “on the payroll of Kissinger Associates, a consulting firm that trades on the strong China ties of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.” Though NBC didn’t disclose that, which the Journal called “professional malpractice.”

The Journal item also said:

Mr. Ramo is a former Time magazine editor who set himself up as a China hand a few years ago, writing a vacuous book entitled “The Beijing Consensus” that purported to explain China’s brilliant, alternative model of development. (Hint: There is no consensus or model, they’re making it up as they go along.)

For instance, Mr. Ramo was asked by his co-presenters about Beijing’s decision to revoke the visa of American Olympian Joey Cheek, who planned to protest China’s role in the Darfur genocide. His response was that the government likes to “avoid conflict.” That would be one way to put it. Shutting up its critics would be another.

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