Lie to Me

by Patrick Nohrden

Note: This article was written April 2012. Since then, world political and financial conditions may have changed. But some things never do.

Living in China, I observe firsthand how a government can manipulate information to control the thoughts of people. The Chinese Communist Party is the sole arbiter of what information can be disseminated and it controls all aspects of the media, including newspapers, television, and the internet. Facebook and Twitter are completely blocked in China, as well as web sites that the Party deems as containing dangerous information. My own website, has been blocked several times, depending on the state of paranoia gripping the Party.

The Chinese people do not benefit from the truth unless the truth benefits the government or the Party. They are lied to about everything from news, sports, and history. Most Chinese now believe that China defeated Japan which ended the Second World War. Most Chinese believe that Taiwan has always been a part of China. Most Chinese believe that there is a gun in every home in America.

Some things cannot be hidden—for example, air pollution. China’s air pollution has caused such embarrassment to China, air quality readings are considered a state secret. I live in one of the most heavily polluted cities on Earth, Zhengzhou. An article naming Zhengzhou the fourth most polluted city in the world appeared briefly on the internet about a month ago, but it was removed soon after it appeared.

I hate being lied to.

In America, we have a free press. Our news comes to us in America free from government interference and censorship. Newspapers and television networks vie for our attention by competing over whom can provide the most truth, and there is nothing the government can do to stop them. But are they really telling the truth?

I was fortunate when I learned that I could install a “licensed” TV satellite dish on the roof of my apartment building, because now I can watch CNN, BBC, HBO, and about eight other English channels. I get CNN International, and sometimes I think I am watching BBC, because most of the anchor people and reporters have British accents. But it is not Chinese news, and I can learn the news uncensored by the Chinese government. Maybe.

I am still suspicious, though, because in order for me to receive anything on my TV through the satellite, the receiver has to be hooked up to the internet. So when I have no internet service, I have no English channels. Strangely, I lose reception when some interesting reports come on CNN. One day, CNN was just about to broadcast a half-hour segment about Chinese women working as prostitutes in Barcelona. Just as it started, I lost the signal for CNN but not for the other channels. This is a bit of a fluke, though, because most of the CNN reports are complimentary for China, or, more precisely, the Chinese government.

But it seems as though CNN has an agenda of its own. Whenever CNN mentions China’s pollution, it never fails to mention that the United States is right behind. Today I heard a report calmly state that China had the worst air pollution of all countries in the world, just ahead of second place America.

I live in China, but I have spent most of life in the United States. I remember being in Los Angeles in the 1960’s and 1970’s when breathing was hazardous. I remember when the Cuyahoga River in Ohio and the Hudson River in New York caught fire. But I also know how much work Americans did to clean up the environment. I know you can now eat the fish in Lake Erie. I have been in downtown Los Angeles in the spring time and breathing unscented fresh air. So I do not believe that America is the second most polluted country in the world. I will admit that there is pollution, and we still have some cleaning to do, but it is not that bad.

CNN lied to us. The World Health Organization (WHO) has gathered air pollution figures from 1,100 cities in 91 countries all over the world, and their research has some rather startling results. Basing their calculations on an average concentration of 10 microns of particulate matter (PM10) and measurements are based upon how many particles of 10 microns are present in a cubic meter of air. So a country that has 32 microns of particulate matter, such as Singapore would have its average air pollution score denoted as such: 32ug/m3.

Using this formula, the country with the most polluted air in the world is not China but Mongolia, which has a score of 279 (279ug/m3). The country with the second most polluted air is Botswana with 216, then Pakistan (198), Senegal (145), Saudi Arabia (143), and Egypt (138). China is tied with Ghana in 16th place with a score of 98. The United States is not even close. Its air pollution score using the same formula is only 18, tied with Monaco, Bhutan, and Luxembourg. Only five countries have cleaner air than the United States: Ireland (15), Canada and Australia (13), Mauritius (12), and Estonia (11).

So why did CNN lie to us by saying the United States has the second most polluted air in the world after China? I cannot answer that, but, like anybody else with half a brain, I can guess. It is pure propaganda, and in that regard CNN and similar media outlets have an agenda. Somebody at CNN is trying to make the American people believe something that is not true, and that is no different than the propaganda produced by the Chinese Communist Party.

CNN is certainly not providing the American public with fair and balanced reporting. As Americans with our freedom of the press and freedom of speech, we have a right to say what we want. We have a right to turn the channel. We can watch MSNBC. Unfortunately, those media outlets that do not follow the political bent of networks like CNN suffer accusations of being unbalanced, of distorting the truth, of misleading the people on issues of national importance. But I do not think that Fox News ever said the America has the second most polluted air in the country. But the Chinese Communist Party knows the truth about Fox, no doubt; otherwise I would be able to watch Fox News on TV in China instead of CNN.

There is one big difference between the Chinese Communist Party and CNN. In China, taxes pay to produce the misinformation. In America, advertisers pay for it.

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