Will this be the media’s Lady Di/Mother Teresa moment?

Posted: October 8, 2010 in internet/free speech, opinion/news
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

On Sept 5th 1997 on the PBS’ news hour the talk was of the death of Lady Diana, near the end of the segment Mike Barnicle at the very end of the chest thumping made one of my favorite statements in the history of the show:

Well, I think the past week has been, you know, nearly totally media-driven. I think it’s–we’re crazed by celebrity in this culture, not just here in this country. And much of the coverage of the funeral is certainly media-driven, and much of the attraction to the coverage is because it’s so media-driven. And an odd thing happened today. If you believe in God, or a higher being, it’s almost as if God tapped the news media around the world on the shoulder at about 1 o’clock this afternoon and said, “It’s time to straighten your priorities out. Mother Teresa is dead.”

For five straight days we have been making Princess Diana larger than life. She seems like a very wonderful woman, a nice woman. She was 36 years of age. A woman died in Calcutta today who spent all of her life touching the poor and helping the poor. And I’m going to be interested, and I think many Americans would be interested to see if Peter Jennings and Dan Rather and CNN and Tom Brokaw go to Calcutta.

Looking at the Nobel mania that hit our media last year I can’t help but think of this. Every network covered the awarding of the peace prize, every morning show covered it, blog after blog (including mine) generated pixel after pixel of commentary.

Now this year the peace prize winner is Liu Xiaobo what do we know about him? Well here is a smidgen:

Liu Xiaobo was tried by the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court on December 23, 2009, and pleaded not guilty to the charge of “inciting subversion of state power.” The trial lasted less than three hours, and the defense was not permitted to present evidence. Two days later, on December 25, Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison and two years’ deprivation of political rights. The Beijing High Court rejected his appeal on February 11, 2010.

Ok outside of the Free Speech diva also known as Rebecca MacKinnon and Jay Nordlinger… (who wrote about him just two days ago saying):

A group of 30 congressmen has asked President Obama to bring up a couple of human-rights cases when he next meets with Hu Jintao, the Chinese boss. That will be in November, at a “G-20” summit in Seoul. For a press release on the congressmen’s admonition, go here.

The cases are those of Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng. These are two of the greatest dissidents and democracy activists in all of China. And, of course, they are in prison. Unspeakable things have been done to them. I have written about these two men extensively. To know them is to be in awe of them.

…did anyone here really know his name? Ironically Nordlinger mentioned the Nobel prize:

I mentioned the Nobel Peace Prize: The 2010 winner will be announced on Friday. A lot of people want Liu Xiaobo to win. He is the leader of the Charter 08 movement, a movement modeled on Charter 77 — which was, of course, Vaclav Havel’s movement in Czechoslovakia. Havel is backing Liu for the Nobel prize. And 120 Chinese intellectuals just sent a letter to the Nobel Committee, urging the selection of Liu.

For many years — at least 25 — Chinese dissidents have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and they are always among the “frontrunners.” Wei Jingsheng was once in this position. But they never win — at least they haven’t so far

Now the MSM is put in the same position that it was in 1997 when Mike Barnicle wrote in Sept 7th follow-up column on Diana vs Mother Theresa titled There was no comparison:

Realistically, nobody expects the coverage of Mother Teresa’s passing to equal the volume accorded Princess Diana. After all, Mother Teresa does not have two handsome children to
appear in solemn procession behind her casket. Will not have millions of bouquets tossed in
the street outside her palatial home. Wore only one outfit. Touched the emotions of a
largely invisible group and did so far from the light of glamour…And most people have legitimate difficulty identifying their own lives, their own mortality, with a woman who spent every waking moment honoring the least among us.

That gets us to the end game: If Diana’s life, causes, and commitments did indeed come up in conversation only one time prior to being snuffed out in a Paris traffic accident, it was
probably one more mention than Mother Teresa got.

Take that paragraph and re-write it substituting the works of Barack Obama for Lady Di and Liu Xiaobo for Mother Theresa and it stands up pretty good. After all when Obama was “organizing” his community, Liu Xiaobo was in Tiananmen Square in 1989 organizing under slightly different circumstances.

I don’t expect to see one tenth of the coverage of Liu Xiaobo in the media, when the prize is given and the speech is given for him as he rots in a Chinese Prison camp it will rate a 30 second mention on the TV. The Outraged Chinese communists will see to that

The Chinese state media blacked out broadcasts of various channels during the Nobel announcement and when reports about the award were being aired. This was followed by government censors blocking Nobel Prize reports from various Internet websites.

but in the end just as Barnicle’s last sentence in his 1997 column still holds true today:

And anyone who equates the deeds of Diana’s life with those of Mother Teresa’s is a fool.

I think the same can be said for Liu Xiaobo and last years Nobel Prize winner as well.

Mike Barnicle, Globe Staff. “There was no comparison.” The Boston Globe (Boston, MA). 1997. Via HighBeam Research. (October 8, 2010). http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-8439494.html

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