Thursday, December 06, 2007

Edwin Maher: Sellout or Shill? You Decide!

Sherman Oaks, California

"How do you become that guy?" my friend Chris asked while we were watching television in Beijing. "How on earth does that happen?"

That guy is Edwin Maher, the anchor of the CCTV Channel 9 English-language news. Every weekday evening, Maher would read the news with a slow, punctilious delivery aimed at viewers who had learned English as a second language.

It was an odd sight, a vaguely patrician Western man, somewhere in his 50s, reading propaganda pieces dictated by the Chinese Communist Party. The broadcasts were simultaneously fascinating and boring (although not as boring as the newspaper China Daily, in which it is common for every paragraph of the lead article to end with the phrase "Hu Jintao said.").

My friend's question has been answered. John M. Glionna of the Los Angeles Times reported this morning that Edwin Maher made a career as a wacky weatherman in Australia. His wife of 33 years died in 2001 after a traumatic illness and, after taking time off, Maher jokingly offered himself to the Chinese government as a pronunciation coach. The Chinese accepted and, several months later, gave him the job of most visible foreigner in the People's Republic.

Although he is routinely dismissed as a mouthpiece for a repressive government, Maher brushed aside the criticisms. "If the reports aren't balanced, there's nothing I can do," he said.

Some of the producers at the CCTV Channel 9 news must chafe at their bit. At times, the program would broadcast a brief report, usually near the end, about a protest somewhere in the world -- never in China -- about a "parliamentary reform," the eupemism for democracy. It wasn't often, though.

Maher, for his part, is happy to have a front-row seat for the Chinese economic miracle. "I'm proud to be a part of that," he said. "People can see it differently. I don't care."

Which is the attitude needed in order to be that guy.

LINKS: A profile from The Australian. Maher's official page on the CCTV website.

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Anonymous JB said...

You're quoting him out of context - rather unfairly.

Reading the article - He seems to think that Chinese news coverage is gradually becoming more open and he is proud to be a part of that.

There are many Chinese people too(lawyers, government employees etc.) who are also seeking to influence things from "within" the system. They never seem as heroic as the people who fight from the outside. They are often dismissed as naive or as sellouts, but the truth is often less black and white.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there is no democracy in China, it is the Chinese people that care most about it. How come a foreigner come and make comments like a "dictator"?

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The two comments are far more sensible the blog post. Shame on the blogger.

4:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strictly speaking, that's Maher's personal decision, anyone has not qualified to talk on this.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article is too subjective and has a strong biased attitude towards Edwin Maher!

10:03 AM  
Blogger richardtrombly said...

Someone only brave enough to be "anonymous" said, "If there is no democracy in China, it is the Chinese people that care most about it. How come a foreigner come and make comments like a "dictator"?

thank you for demonsrtating ignorance and xenophobia. Free people will criticize things, even those they love rather than blind ignorance and acceptance. I love China and its people but i criticize it since it could be better and freer and more open and support its people more. SO could USA. or any other country and if you do not speak out then you must accept it when they come for you because you sat back and said nothing when it was someone else's turn. How do you think oppressive regimes start?

another brave "anonymous" said
"Strictly speaking, that's Maher's personal decision, anyone has not qualified to talk on this." To which I truly must respond, that everyone can comment on and criticize public personalities and part of being an educated and intelligent person is developing critical facilities so that we can criticize people and governments and other organizations. In fact it is part of the duty of citizens to criticize their leaders and actively work on grassroots levels to improve the world around them.

Journalism in China is slowly improving. Maher may be glad to be part of that process, but there is of course a cast he is paying to be operating under that current system
and many journalists would not pay that price so he is likely getting rewarded enough by the position and fame he receives in that position.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your article is a piece of shit coming out of your mouth.

2:14 PM  
Blogger richardtrombly said...

Dear anonymous

all humans are born with the inalienable right to free speech. No force can silence free thought.
You are so brave to say
"your article is a piece of shit coming out of your mouth." while hiding your identity.
My name is richard trombly
my number is 13818837641

I proudly stand behind my words, while you cower in tiny words of hate, as all cowards do.

only idiots and morons are blindly patriotic. A true patriotic soul thinks, evaluates and criticizes all of the organizations around them. Governments, media, corporations, public figures and all other facets of civil society are open to critique even if ignorant people would like to silence me, but all humans are born with the inalienable right to free speech and I will exercise mine no matter how your hate speech and ignorance is propagated.

If you want to share some words face to face I am eager to take this discussion onto a more personal level. I stand behind my words. I am not and anonymous coward.

12:55 AM  
Anonymous Peter Berrett said...

I have been fortunate to correspond with Mr Maher a few times and found him to be a thoroughly affable and helpful gentleman. I think the criticism being leveled here is quite unfair.

If you really believe in free speech then that means you have to put up with hearing the opinions of some people you disagree with. Now the Chinese Government may have a number of objectionable features but it does some good too. It's not all black and white. And ditto for western media who sometimes exhibit biases (even the BBC).
Now I am not pro-communism but I still want to hear what the Chinese Government has to say on a number of issues. And I want to have that done by someone who is professional and presentable. Mr Maher does that job very well. I don't believe he ever presents anything from a personal endorsement point of view. He just is hired to do a job ie present news written by his organisation in the most professional manner he can.
And whether the Chinese like it or not I am sure his background and experience will have a positive effect on his fellow staff.

By all means take issue with what is presented and highlight any faults there but don't shoot the messenger.


Peter Berrett

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say what you want about China but they are quickly surpassing us economically and in nearly every way. I am an American living in the Kingdom of Tonga and I watch CCTV English edition nearly every day. It took us 100 years to accomplish what the Chinese have in 20 years. Why does everyone pick on China anyway? What about Guantanamo bay? Iraq, Afganistan, Blackwater, Dick cheney's prisons and concentration camps in AMERICA!!! How about the infestation of drugs and gangs in our country? No health care for millions? We are the biggest hippocrates on Earth! The Chinese have extremely healthy philosophy with no such belief in an end of the world scenario or armageddon, Satan, etc- Look at our evil Illuminati, Free Masons, Bohemian Grove, Club of Rome, Builderburghers, etc. rampant esoteric and Satanic cults, etc. etc. The West is the biggest danger to the long term security of the world, not peaceful Taoist China. This is the pot calling the kettle black!!!

1:31 PM  
Blogger richardtrombly said...

I agree with you totally. I know plenty of hard boiled journalists that would never take that position, but I know more that sold out to do PR since the paycheck is many times higher. And Maher is a nice guy that does not endorse Beijing government policy.

And to the point that China is surpassing the west economically.... Is that the only measure ?

I just like that in the USA I was able to say that Bush should be on trial in The Hague for his crimes against humanity, war crimes, and on trial in USA for violating the constitution and for authorizing torture. And maybe criminal stupidity. And I never ended up in jail or taken out and executed.

China has improved greatly on its human rights. and it is opening in so many ways. The people are experiencing many freedoms. But There are journalists and bloggers in prison in China for expressing their criticism of problems in China. It is unfair to good Chinese people that they can not criticize their government in print.

let's not make economic success the ultimate metric.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Ron said...

"Say what you want about China but they are quickly surpassing us economically and in nearly every way" was the first sentance to my previous comment. China is breaking all of our records. I believe that if there is any hope for the future of humanity it certainly does not lie with the West. Our CIA covertly crippled so many nations economies while China is helping them back onto their feet. We are sliding towards a totalitarian police state while they are opening up to more and more freedoms. All the fear mongers saying that China is going to attack America have no insight whatsoever into the hearts and minds of the Chinese people or their core philosophy. They want nothing more than for all nations to prosper and thrive giving them more trade partner with which to do business with. We are an immature upstart culture who believe that we only have one life to live so we "take the money and run" destroying all in our path- while the Chinese believe in reincarnation so they see beyond the horizon long into the future- planning on being here for a very very long time. If it up to us we will burn out everything and then go out in a nuclear blaze of glory.
God bless the Chinese- I believe they are our greatest hope.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. I totally agree with you about free speach. Only one thing that I would like to ask- is our mainstream news in America anywhere NEAR free? I was back in the States for nearly all of 2008 and I was appalled at all the pure B.S. that I saw on prime time T.V. I had to go on YouTube and watch Russian and other foriegn media to really find out what was happening in America and the world. When I turned on "World News" it was mostly watered down crap about America- and not much at all about the world. During the foreclosure crisis there was no news on American T.V. about the recent "tent cities" of recently homeless "normal" American peoples who had lost their homes- but I saw them on Russian T.V. Our "freedom" seems to be more and more of an illusion than a reality. I get WAY more informative news from CCTV or other foreign media here in Tonga than I ever got on mainstream American media when I was back in America. OUR MEDIA IS CENCORED- but thank God we still have freedom of speach- for now.

12:00 PM  

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