Damage Control Needs Dexterity
|Jul 25, 2008|
My translation of the article:-
“The newly appointed county mayor of Weng’an Xie Xiaodong told the Southern Weekend reporter that their most important task at present is to call on the village door to door to spread the truth about the 6.28 mass incident. For this reason, cadres of various organizations have been asked to target territory by territory in carrying out the job, so that the extent of coverage has basically reached 100 percent. In some territories, the message has been repeated three or four times, making some cadres say that they feel a bit bored.
So, what is the end result of the promotion of the truth? Now that 20 days have lapsed since the occurrence of the event and after the various Guizhou newspapers have repeatedly reported the ‘truth’, why is it that people I meet are still asking me this question: ‘What is the truth?’
The truth has apparently been revealed, but people are still not at rest. Why is it that people who ‘don’t understand the truth’ are still inclined to think, even to this day, that there is no easy way to obtain the truth? This is because subsequent efforts are often half effective due to their late arrival.
In the first six days after the girl Li Shufen got drowned, nobody from the party or government departments ever took notice of, let alone clarify, the incident. They were even ignoring those gossips that were popping up everywhere. At the initial stage, as there was no official statement, the information feed was severely slanted. The ‘people who don’t understand the truth’ were only able to come into contact with rampant gossips – the gossipers pre-empted the speaking right from the start. In the end, even when the key stories in the gossips (like the suspects included the children of the deputy mayor and relatives of public security bureau officers; the deceased’s uncle was beaten to death, etc.) were all proven false, yet it is the proof itself that is being questioned.
Then, in the official clarification, terms like ‘a minority group’ and ‘not understanding the truth’ are again widely used. The issuers of the official statement may not have noticed that such kind of terminology has long lost its trustworthiness in the many years of usage in the past. In a modern law-abiding society, citizens have no obligation to ‘believe’, but they have a right to raise doubt. Damage control is not only an exhausting job, it is also one that requires dexterity.
The Weng’an incident has reminded me of one of Aesop’s fables – The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Isn’t this fable about communication too? The lesson of the fable is: sometimes even if you tell the truth, it is still hard for people to believe you.”