Earlier this month when Chinese state-owned news agency Xinhua forbid mainland news media from printing foreign news agency content not purchased directly from Xinhua itself, there was lots to be said from the blogsphere. Here [zh] is journalist-blogger X Marden's take:
Voice of Xinhua
Despite facing long-term censure and bullying, mainland media continue to quote or directly translate foreign media reports with no consequences. After all, the holes in the “system” are not few.
Despite—or perhaps partially due to—the numerous restrictions Chinese journalists have to work around, they are still very clear as to what kind of journalism they would like to be doing, and they eagerly cross the lines when given a chance. But what would Chinese journalism look like if all the censorship laws were dropped overnight? With the death of an industry hero last week and a look at several journalists’ blogs, we are given a bit of insight:
My Idol Is Dead
On the evening of September 14, seventy-six year-old Oriana Fallaci passed away from sickness in Florence. I took Interview With History down off the bookshelf. These interview reports, published back in the years just after my birth, which created in me an unstoppable curiosity towards records and observations, were my first course material way back in journalism school. Her question, asked of all the big names she'd interviewed—”How they, in and out of power, influence our fates”—which to this day remains an article of faith for my profession, has deeply influenced my opinion of news.
[Interviewing Kissinger] “Dr. Kissinger, I've been trying to guess your experiences of the last few days. I'd like to know whether or not you feel disappointed like most of the rest of us here on earth. Are you disappointed? Mr. Kissinger?”
[Interviewing Nguyen Van Thieu] Mr. President, today, in the friendship that you said exists between you and Americans, it would be more accurate to say that hostility exists. This is already not a secret. In October, you rejected Kissinger's hard stance taken during deliberations. At Xmas, when you met with General Haig, you took a very cold stance. These all suggest that you have already arrived at the point of battle. One-by-one, people are asking, ‘how does Nguyen view this comedy.’
[Interviewing Habash] Doctor Habash, your Front specializes in carrying out terrorist activity. And many of these activities have taken place in Europe. Why are you forcing upon us a battle that doesn't belong to us? What are your criterion? What right do you have?
[Interviewing Indira Gandhi] Doctor Gandhi, I have many questions I want to ask you, some of which are personal, some political. The personal questions I will ask later, after I figure out why so many people are afraid of you, say you're very cold and hard when it comes to dealing with others. After the difficult part, I'll ask you again.
[Interviewing Bandaranaike] Mrs. Bandaranaike, it's already been four months since the rebellions in Ceylon, but fighting continues in many regions and the whole island is still under curfew. The state of emergency has no signs of ending; aside from being extremely anxious, people are just painfully waiting for the next bloodbath. Madam, I'd like to ask you the question that everyone wants to ask you: how could all this happen under a left-wing government? Especially in a country supportive of a socialist government?
[Interviewing Haile Selassie] Your Majesty, ever since I saw those poor people chasing behind you, tearing at each other just to get a bill worth 240 lira, I've had a question that's left me feeling uncomfortable ever since. Your Majesty, how do you feel when you give handouts to your own subjects? And faced with their poverty, how does that make you feel?
Female Italian journalist Fallaci has passed away from illness at the age of 77. Her questions were included in Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping
On the 15th, female Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who once interviewed Deng Xiaoping, passed away in a hospital in her hometown of Florence, aged 77. For the several years prior to this, she had been suffering from cancer.
Every journalism school student has been required to read Fallaci's works and research her interviewing techniques. When I broke the news to some classmates today, someone shockingly said, “she only died now?” This definitely was not to disparage her, but because she's someone who's been written into so many journalism textbooks and most of her works pertain to events from the middle of last century, this gives one the misperception that she was already a historical figure. But now, she really has become a historical figure of the past.
Her emotional experiences really blow one away, a strong woman who lived a hundred lives, revered by countless men on the world stage but beaten by the men in her life, all for love.
Fallaci is dead. September 14, Florence, Italy, a private clinic. Fallaci died. Seventy-six years ago, Fallaci was born here. The best journalist on this planet has died. Her defiance and romanticism, her life of anti-tyranny scoop-chasing, work in opposing dictatorships, have all died along with her.
Fallaci stood just 155 cm tall, but as she said, ‘you once thirsted for war; do you still have the spirits to fight now? Fine, but I have to say, as long as there's breath left in my body, I'll still be fighting.’ Now, Fallaci can stop her lifelong battle.
In my youth, I read Fallaci's Letter To A Child Never Born. In it she said, ‘if you're born a boy, I hope you turn out to be the kind of man I often see in my dreams: sympathetic to the weak, disdainful of the arrogant, generous to those who love you, struggling life-or-death against those who dominate you. Finally, you will understand that anyone who tells you that Jesus is the enemy of the people of the Lord and the Holy Spirit is a woman who could never possibly have given birth to one of them.’
However, Fallaci has died.
May your soul be as proud in paradise as it was on earth. May your thoughts go on burning brightly in heaven. May your shouts and fury become hymns praising beauty in heaven.
May you rest in peace.
After undergoing surgery, she insisted on seeing the tumor extracted during the operation. The doctor said nobody had ever requested to see their own cancer-ridden flesh.
She said, “it's my body, I want a look”
And then they brought it in, it was both long and white. She started saying to it, ‘you despicable bastard”
She hated it.
She kept going, “don't you even think about coming back. Did you leave any babies in my body? I want to kill you! I want to kill you! You won't win!”
When the doctors saw this spectacle they muttered, “Oh Lord…”
During WWII, when American planes were bombing Florence, she was just a little child, stowed away inside a coalbox, crying so loudly out of fear her parents got angry and smacked her roughly, saying, “girls do not cry.”
When she was 22 she was already a bit of a celebrity journalist. Because she never thought of herself as just a reporter, “think of Kipling, Jack London, Hemingway, who all left the news world to become writers.”
In Iran, she tried wearing a black burka and going into a Muslims-only mosque. After doing a sketch of those praying in the forbidden zone, she sarcastically quipped, “I thought they were doing Swedish style muscle and joint exercises.” When she interviewed members of the royalty, other reporters demanded she hold a press conference. Headlines the next day read ‘She Kept the Empress Waiting‘.
But her editor let her go, because he demanded she write a satirical report of some political assembly, but she persisted in not accepting the bias. “First let me see what he has to say, and I'll write based on his speech.”
“Fine, then I won't write it.”
Two hours later, she received a letter of dismissal. The editor said to her, “Never spit up into your meal bowl.”
“I want to vomit, and then give it to you to eat.”
“You're just like an angry bull,” one renowned Spanish bullfighter told her. “Your questions come at me just like the horns of a bull.”
When interviewing Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, she mentioned that unlike men, women can't go to school, work or even go to the beach without wearing a bathrobe, and smoothly asked, “how does one swim in a bathrobe?”
“That's none of your business; our customs and habits don't concern you. If you don't like Islamic dress you don't have to wear it, because it is prepared for proper young women.”
“You're too kind. Since you say so, I'm going to take this silly medieval rag off right now”
She tore off the burka she had been wearing out of respect, and threw it at his feet.
He flipped, and stormed out of the room.
She still didn't lay off. “Where ya going? Do you have to go to the bathroom?”
And then she just sat there. Even the pleas of Khomeini's son were of no use. Not until Khomeini swore on the Koran to meet her again the next day did she finally agree to leave.
In 1982, she interviewed Israel's Sharon, and accused him of bombing civilians: “I've personally experienced all the wars of this generation of ours, including the eight years of the Vietnam War, and I can tell you that neither in Hue or Hanoi have I seen the kind of cruel, inhumane bombing that has taken place in Beirut.”
He answered by saying that his troops only bomb Palestine Liberation Organization bases.
She said, “not only did you bomb those regions, but you bombed downtown areas as well—residences, hospitals, newspaper offices, hotels and embassies. Just ask people who were there at the time, ask the reporters who stayed in the Marine-approved hostels.”
When Sharon started dragging his feet on answering the question as to whether he had bombed and injured children, she opened her purse and took out a photograph of a group of one- to five-year old children's corpses.
After the interview concluded, Sharon said to her, “you're tough to go up against, very tough, but I liked this rough interview, because nobody has brought so much information along to interview me with as you have today; nobody has ever showed up so armed with so much prepared ammunition just for one interview”
In the preface to a compilation of her many interviews with many heads of state, she wrote:
“In 1931, he took me to see some of the people involved in the Greek resistance movement. What we saw wasn't an idol, or a flag, but just three letters: OXI, Greek for ‘No’. These three letters is what those who yearned for freedom during the time of Fascist occupation wrote on a tree. Thirty years later, this ‘No’ remains there, and despite being baked in the sun and soaked in the rain, it still hasn't faded. The military government commanders once spread lime paste to erase the word, but like magic the rain and sun quickly dissolved it and over the passing of time the three letters held strong, became more apparent, and stubbornly reappeared.”
Once when I was five or six, I was standing on the bed. Mama had just put a rough wool shirt on me, small and tight. I put my hand on mama's shoulder and turned to see tears running down her face,” she said.
What her mother said she was never able to forget. “You must not do like I have! You must not end up like your mother! Don't end up somebody's wife! Don't end up an invisible slave! You must go and find a job! Work! Travel! Go see the world! The whole world!” In the novel she published when she was thirty-one, in the scene where the heroine Gia's mother is ironing clothes, “her teardrops rolled down and dropped onto the iron, letting off a hissing sound as they touched the scalding metal…as if they were just drops of water and not tears”
——From that day on, Gia swore she would never iron clothes, nor cry.”
She never did marry.
“The shackles of love are freedom's most oppressive yoke,” she said.
In 1993 she came to China, and gave a lecture in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. People knew who she was because she had once interviewed Deng Xiaoping.
One Italian language major stood up and said, “I didn't come here to ask questions, but because I've been reading your books ever since I learned how to read; I already know the the answers. I came here today to thank you. You've taught me the two most important things in the world—bravery and freedom…please don't ever die, we need you so much”
Today, Fallaci died.
“Dying without any offspring is the same as dying two deaths, just like a plant with no flowers, as terrible as a tree with no fruit. It implies an eternal death,” she said.
But she left behind countless words.
“In the light, I hear a sound. Someone is running, yelling with despair. But in other places, thousands upon thousands of children are now being born, and thousands upon thousands of women are becoming mothers. Life doesn't need you, and it doesn't need me. You're already dead, and maybe I'm about to die too. But all this doesn't matter, because life does not die.” —Letter to a Child Never Born