Fake news on Dune epic in China cinemas

27 Oct

In a comment exchange below a post last month I spoke of “fake news” as:

a charge often levelled by corporate media which daily serve up the stuff in spades

And here’s what I said four posts ago, apropos the Guardian’s sinophobic output:

such smear constructs as “has been accused of …” – variants include “it is thought that …” and sources say …” – are evidentially worthless. But when they chime with overarching narratives, they do their work on the more dimly lit corridors of consciousness.

Earlier in that same post I’d written:

Few things are more predictable than the demonising by corporate media of ‘regimes’ which obstruct Wall St. And nothing has rattled Wall St more than the rise, faster than foretold, of China from sweatshop for the West to global challenger of dollar hegemony.

I’ve written about major aspects of this demonising – Xinjiang .. Taiwan .. Tiananmen Square – and alluded to others: undervalued renminbi .. damming the Mekong .. high carbon output (with per capita figures, lower than the West’s, omitted else tucked several paragraphs below sensationalist headlines as in this BBC report 1 ).

But sometimes the little things are the most telling. Like the sheer pettiness of this lie on the promotion in China of Dune the movie. Here’s how the fib was relayed in yesterday’s Times:

in a marketing push for audiences in China to see the science-fiction epic, there is little evidence of Sharon Duncan-Brewster, a British actress of Trinidadian heritage.

Duncan-Brewster, 45, featured prominently in the original US poster for the Warner Bros adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel. However, according to reports, she has been removed for the promotion in [sic] the film in China.

For both the Times and earlier Mail story (now removed without comment from Mail Online) the central insinuation – those racist Chinese 2 – is or was wrapped in quote marks in the headline. So neither Murdoch’s minions nor Rothermere’s were sure of their facts but it suited them to run a story which, had writers and editors done the jobs they’re ostensibly tasked with, could easily have been shown to be false.

If you’ve ten minutes to spare – five will do but it’s worth watching in full – I highly recommend this splendid take-down, by Brian Berletic at New Atlas Report, of the lie’s smug authors, a pair by the names of Winston Sterzel and Matthew Tye.

(NB if you want to see the film and don’t know the Dune story, or like me can’t remember it, there’s a minor spoiler.)

And here’s what Nury Vittachi, a FB commentator I’m now following, had to say:

TO ANYONE WHO CARES for Chinese people, this is what we are up against. As I reported two days ago, people planted an ENTIRELY FAKE story on social media that a black actress was removed from posters in China. Now the already-debunked lie is mainstream news on one of the biggest new websites on the world. The way undeserved hate is being generated against the Chinese is seriously scary.

Indeed it is Nury. And sickeningly irresponsible. So thanks for alerting us, and thanks too to one of your Chinese followers, Mark Chia, who commented:

“Here’s definitive proof that it’s a false accusation. This is from online movie ticket booking.”  


As for me, I’ll be placing steel city 3 derriere on plush seat at Beeston’s new cinema complex at the earliest op.

Like every self respecting toking head back in the day, my meagre bookshelf held – up there with Zen Macrobiotics, I-Ching, Siddhartha & Gormenghast – a well thumbed copy of each volume in Frank Herbert’s gripping saga.

I’m a (grudging) fan of David Lynch too but his 1984 effort didn’t cut it. By all accounts Denis Villeneuve has pulled it off where the legend in his own lynchtime could not.

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  1. “… tucked several paragraphs below sensationalist headlines …”  News stories are written to the pyramid principle, as discussed in another post, on Sinophobia at the Guardian. Busy (or butterfly) readers take in headline and top paragraph, then move on. In the case of that BBC report they won’t get to paragraph six: “[China] has the world’s largest population, so its per person emissions are still far behind the US, but the research said those emissions have increased too, tripling over the course of two decades.” (And even if they do get this far they won’t learn that China is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. That’s a more ambitious and, given state predominance over private capital when in the West the reverse applies, more credible goal than anything in the Paris Agreement.)
  2. You can almost admire the brass neck of the Daily Mail’s none too subtle allegation of China’s film promoters pandering to a racist population. Not only is the West’s wealth premised pivotally on half a millennium of plundering the global south, but the Daily Mail’s history is littered with particularly obnoxious instances of the racism necessary to justify said plunder. I used to have the Daily Mail Songbook, circa 1930. Among its many fun-for-all singalongs, in those halcyon days before political correctness ruined everything, was this gem: “all through de trees dere am dis mournful sound .. all de niggers am so low cast down .. cos de pore pore masa is in de cold cold ground ..”
  3. It’s been suggested that, three years after the Big Move and with no plans to Go Back – you can’t, says Bob Dylan – this site be renamed ‘Lace City Scribblings’. Don’t think I haven’t considered some such rebranding, and this particular suggestion loses little on the alliteration front. But call me sentimental, I just can’t bring myself – hard on the heels of the John Lewis pull out – to add to Sheffield’s cup of bitterness.

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