From Inside Beijing News - Part 1

For the overall background, please read Danwei:

The following is the translation of an essay written by a female Beijing News worker published at Chen Xiaoshou(晓守博客)'s blog at Tianya.

[in translation]

Never Give Up -- For The Brothers And Sisters At Beijing News

(1) We have walked far down on the road of compromise

It is noon.  I am hanging the laundry out to dry while listening to the television.  Yan Lianke said that he did not imagine the literary field would be so tolerant.  Then Xu Gehui said that it is definitely going to be more tolerant.  The whole society is going to more tolerant.

I am thinking: when people use the word 'tolerance', what do they mean?  Have they forgotten what it is supposed to mean?  Sometimes, they really mean 'tolerant.'  Other times, we use it to mean something else.  Why can't we say that we want freedom of speech, we want freedom of thought, we want freedom?  We do not use those 'shocking' terms.  We use 'tolerance.'

Once, I was writing an article and the leader said that I cannot use the term 'vulnerable group.'  So I used 'poor people' and 'people at the base.'  It is like that.  The term 'freedom' cannot be used.  'Democracy' obviously cannot be used either.  So we step around them.  Sometimes, we say 'market' and other times we say 'rule of law.'  We are patient.  We convince ourselves that we cannot just commit suicide.  We must patiently and determinedly fight on.  Therefore we seem to have all gotten used to employing a trouble-free term like 'tolerance' which is vague and indirect.

We have walked far down the road of compromise, but we are still not being tolerated.  On the road of compromise, we convince ourselves that we must reduce the risks, we must not be rash, we must be optimistic about the distant future and we have no opportunity to gain anything if we don't compromise.  But we are still not being tolerated.

(200 words or so have been deleted in the original blog post)

I did not attend the meeting yesterday.  Every weekly meeting causes me to feel ashamed.  I listen to people lie.  I listen to people lie shamelessly and authoritatively.  And you cannot refute them.  You cannot stand up and say, "You are lying.  What are you lying?"

Tolerating lies is regarded as wisdom.  Those who are anxious to speak the truth are regarded as being victims of too much hormone.  People make fun of themselves this way, and then wisely say: "Those naive actions will only bring even worse consequences.  Be mature, be rational, be practical.  Research more issues and talk less about theories."

But in the atmosphere of lies, we have invented our secret codes.  We say that we are pragmatic, we speak of humanity, we speak of diversity, we say tolerance and we say market.  In a world of lies, we construct a club of truth with our secret codes.  But we cannot live only in our own world.  We still have to breathe in the lies in the air, just like we have to drink water with excessive cadmium and benzene.

I grew up this way.  In order to resist the atmosphere, I have gone through a harmful phase of detesting the world.  Not the kind like the angry youth today, but I reassessed all the knowledge and values that my education gave me.  I doubted everything and I started all over again.  The destruction and the reconstruction after the destruction caused me to be unable to be natural with things that are true and accurate even now.

I think that I am like others.  I think I am like many others.  Amidst the lies, we can only compromise.  During the process of compromising, our personalities are twisted and distorted.  Obviously, we are paying a price.  None of us can imagine what kind of person we would turn out to be if we were born in a family living in Switzerland.  There is nothing to complain about, for this is fate.  We were born in China.  But accepting that fact does not mean that we can obliterate any sense of right and wrong, or good and evil.  We must remain aware that we are paying a price.  We are being changed for compromising, but we are still living.

(2) I Do Not Believe

In the afternoon, the solid information came that YB was relieved of his duties, and LDY and another Nanfang group deputy editor-in-chief were also relieved of their duties.  Guangming Daily will take over completely and manage the editorial duties at Beijing News.  This was a naked power struggle.  For the sake of interests, they trotted out the ultimate weapon of political security.

(230 or words were deleted from the original blog post)

Who made them so happy to lie and hide the truth?  Who let them be afraid, cowardly and hypocritical?  Who let the news profession have a natural sense of mission and honor?

Only those who a particular sense of mission and honor choose to enter this profession.

A few days ago, a former intern told me happily that he has just been employed by the Nanfang Daily group.  He said that the place was a sacred turf for all his classmates!  Why?  If you say that there was something particularly attractive about that building or if you want to explain the miraculous emergence of Southern Metropolis Daily, then that might be considered naive and idealistic.

We have learned to be pragmatic idealists.  We have no intention of going to war directly with anyone.  We only want to fight for it bit by bit, one issue at a time.  But those disgusting people want to take over our resources and our base.  In this unimaginable county, our idealism and our sincere goodness are precisely our weak points and their excuse.  These filthy people are disgusting, but the people behind them are even more infuriating.

I do not believe that those people do not know that they are lying. I do not believe that those people can find any logical line to tell themselves that they are the good guys.  I do not believe that just because they got away with it this time that they will always get away with it.  I do not believe that they have peace of mind in the still of the night.

I do not believe in lies.

I do not believe that this dream is false.  I do not believe that there are no payouts and paybacks.

(3) We Cannot Give Up

On the big issue of social development, nobody here believes in rapid progress.  There is no danger of creating disturbance.  We are not against society.  We have no hostile intention of engaging in subversion and revolution.  We only want to say and do right on each and every concrete issue.  To change things one bit at a time.

We see what a good society can be like.  We can be patient, for we know that it will arrive.  We believe that that things will get better.  We believe in the strength of progress.  We believe in the strength of truth.  We believe that things that are based upon facts will eventually win out in fact.

These remote beliefs cannot liberate the present.  We are right now living under total darkness.  There are sighs from the people in the editing office and it feels as if there is total discouragement.  Nobody lives solely for ideals, because it is so dangerous.  There are so many others things that can divert our attention and help us make our choices.  There will always be the private life in which one can hide away.  But the ideals are also where self-respect lies!

Everybody is saying that ZSW will be in a difficult situation.  They have isolated him, and there are not many people by him.  Beyond those bad people, he still has the great (if not absolute) majority of the editors and reporters supporting him.  Under this power structure, our support seems to be meaningless.  But is our support really meaningless?  I am not going to lose hope, because there is nowhere to retreat without hope.  Once upon a time, we were united in thinking about how to safely say what we want to say.  With that experience, with that experience of fighting together, can we really retrogress to become mouthpieces?

Many people are depressed.  Perhaps things had been too good around here before.  When we worked, we forgot that our work involves ideals.  Now that we are living in this dispiriting darkness, we realize that we cannot just work for that bit of salary.  Ideals are where self-respect lies.

The show is not over and the flag has not fallen.  We can still fight one headline at a time, one topic at a time and one article at a time.  They can kill (note: the standard industrial phrase is "death by firing squad" (枪毙)) them one after another, but they will only increase their workload and increase pressure on them.  I innocently believe that to fight is not the same as not fighting in the end.  To insist is not the same as not insisting in the end.  I innocently believe that there is no way that they can find so many people who have no ideals and who are not interested in the truth.  Of course, we cannot abandon this place.  We will stay here and try our best to seize every possible opportunity.  This place was founded and developed by us and our predecessors.  It cannot be the case that when the bad guys show up, the good guys retreat.  We cannot give up.

In the comment section, there was a re-post from elsewhere:

I spoke to the editor today and confirmed something that I expected already: my final report for year 2005 will not be published due to a colleague's resistible but unavoidable reason.

At this point, I have received six assignments in the past two months.  Three of them were spiked (note: the standard industrial phrase is "death by firing squad" (枪毙)), one was rejected, one was abandoned because the subject refused to be interviewed and one was used for someone else's report.  I wrote more than 22,000 words.  In the end, about 22 words were published.  My publishing rate was therefore 1/1000-th.

Today, the newspaper was setting up the year-end special.  The traditional tribute to the media was spiked and they needed someone on fire-combat duty immediately.  The editor got me for an assignment that needed no interviewing.  So I had the chance to salvage some of my reputation at the end of 2005.  Just as I was going to start, I was then told that fire-combat was no longer necessary because it was too late.

My experience in the last two months of 2005 compresses the fucking situation at a newspaper, and partially compresses the fucking situation of the entire newspaper industry.  There is nothing more to comment about. 

From Beijing News (December 30, 2005)

Time: Yesterday

Place: Number 106 Yongan Road (the office of Beijing News)

Scene: A leader leads a block of birds across the sky.  Although the sky was not too clear, they still kept heading to the distant destination of their hears.

Photograph: By Kang Yafeng (康亚风)




本报记者 康亚风 摄

Related Post: From Inside Beijing News - Part 2