September 14, 2000

The Orvillian Newspeak of Orville Schell


"Nine-tenths of good journalism is writing a piece over and over until you get it right... Journalism is in peril... but what is possible is to send young journalists out into the world with at least the ability to know what writing with integrity is."

– Orville Schell, "Schell set to beef up journalism school" by Joan Smith, San Francisco Examiner, Sunday June 16, 1996


"The news is whatever I say is the news."

– David Brinkley, former NBC Anchorman and media industry icon

"What is news? You know what news is? News is what you news directors interpret it as. News is what we at CNN interpret it as. The people of this country see the news that we think they oughta see."

– Ted Turner, Founder of CNN


Orville Schell is dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley and Vice-chairman of Human Rights Watch/Asia.

The San Francisco Chronicle describes Schell as a "China expert, journalist, cattle rancher, human rights activist... Schell grew up on the East Coast in a well-to-do family with a commitment to social justice. His father started Helsinki Watch, the precursor to today's Human Rights Watch, and his brother Jonathan wrote The Fate of the Earth,' an apocalyptic account of nuclear devastation, in 1982."

In other words, Orville Schell is both a journalist and an advocate. We should not be surprised therefore to learn that Schell is an "advocacy journalist," what libertarian media analyst Edith Efron termed a "News Twister." And an old money, east coast limousine liberal, to boot.


Let's examine what "China expert" Schell has been saying about the subject of his purported expertise.

In an opinion piece entitled "China's Dysfunctional Public Relations Barrage," New York Times, September 2, 2000, Schell writes:

"As Beijing sees it, the reason China's diplomatic and trade relations with the United States don't always go smoothly starts with unfair American press coverage and hostile politicians in Congress.

Still believing in the efficacy of political propaganda, the Communist Party hopes to change things with [a] public relations offensive. "

"China's leaders... export blame for China's less-than-perfect global relations, obscuring two crucial facts: China is no longer being preyed upon, and the means to solve many of its key international problems are actually in the hands of the government itself.

... suggesting that "hostile foreign forces" are the problem in hot spots like Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong is a curious abdication of the very sovereign power that Chinese leaders aspire to protect. And externalizing the cause of problems preempts... initiative at home on their own.

... there is a larger ailment that this dose of public relations will not cure, and that is Beijing's anachronistic but stubborn tendency to see China's national progress as obstructed by foreign interference."


Let's translate Schell's patronizing, innuendo-laden Orvillian Newspeak into plain English, the kind of unsubtle, unadorned text professional actors refer to as "on the nose."

Schell says American press coverage is not unfair and politicians in Congress are not hostile. And if they are, what of it? It's China's own fault. If the Chinese would just pay attention to us and do what we tell them, we might cut them some slack.

Schell says only Beijing is clueless enough to still "believe in the efficacy of political propaganda." Our own Pentagon/CNN Military-Media Industry Complex would naturally never attempt to "change things with public relations offensives."

Never mind that in 1995 Cassidy and Associates, retained by ROC president Lee Teng-hui for the princely sum of $4.5 million, greased enough palms in Congress to clear the way for Lee's politically-motivated "private" Cornell University trip, that Cornell admits receiving a $2.5 million donation from a "friend" of Lee Teng-hui afterwards.

Never mind that in 1992 Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs, hired by Croatia, Bosnia, and the Kosovo Albanians successfully circulated fabricated reports of massive rapes of Moslem and Croat women by the Serbs.

Never mind that in 1991 Hill and Knowlton, hired by Kuwait, successfully circulated "Wag the Dog" horror stories of Iraqi soldiers looting Kuwaiti incubators leaving Kuwaiti babies to perish on cold hospital floors, stories uncritically parroted by CNN, Amnesty International, and get this, Orville Schell's own Human Rights Watch.

See: Are the Serbs Demons? by Benedict Neumann

Whom does Professor Schell think he's talking to? Does he imagine we are suffering from amnesia? Does he imagine we are like goldfish, who don't remember from one moment to the next how far we've swum?

A Chinese official introducing China's new exhibit suggested that "understanding between peoples is the most important thing to stress when discussing the relationship between two nations.''

See: "China brings its PR message to US" Straits Times Interactive: East & SE Asia, September 7, 2000.

Uncontroversial, right? Platitudinous maybe, but hardly controversial, right?

Wrong. Beijing's "A Close Look at China" is what got Schell into his barely controlled snit, what provoked him to launch his preemptive strike against China even before the exhibit opened.

What was Schell's problem?

Schell's problem was Beijing had the cheek, the effrontery, the gall, to suggest that there might be a way to perceive China other than the way Schell's media/academia/government elite has ascertained is the correct way, the approved way, their way for Americans to perceive China.

What right did China have to cast doubt on The Gospel according to Schell? What right did China have to confuse the American public with half-truths? That was a right reserved for Schell's opinion-making elite. Schell actually entitled a June 29, 1997 New York Times article of his "What to Think About China." I kid you not.

Humanitarian Interventionists fancy themselves not only as "holier than thou," but also as "more conscious than thou." Certainly infinitely more conscious than the "clueless gerontocracy in Bejing."

In fact they flatter themselves.

Most media establishment insiders such as Christiane Amanpour and the good Professor are intellectual conformists, mediocrities who have never formulated a truly original concept in their life. Their value systems were absorbed unconsciously and uncritically from the intellectual mainstream around them. Their timidity when challenged to "think outside the box" is rivaled only by their defensiveness when other, more original minds confront them with heretical alternatives outside their zone of comfort.

The notion that perhaps the wisest, most farsighted policy for America might simply be to LEAVE CHINA ALONE, to allow China to succeed or fail, on her own terms, is simply unthinkable to these post-Woodrow Wilson, post-Teddy Roosevelt Babbit busybodies.

If Schell is as convinced that our American system of government is the finest in the world, as his Human Rights Watch moralizing implies he is, libertarian anti-interventionists challenge him to redirect his energies toward getting our own house in order, so that our American Experiment might offer a more convincing example to the rest of the world.

"Rogue nations," excuse me, "nations of concern" might even fall over each other in their rush to emulate us, without any need for us to hold a gun to their heads to persuade them of the error of their ways.

Who knows? Schell could experience a Road to Damascus conversion. But you'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath.

Schell says China "is no longer being preyed upon." When Chinese complain about foreign meddling in China's internal politics, they are merely diverting attention from their own failures. There are no hostile foreign forces creating problems for China in Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong.

No longer being preyed upon???

If you did a double-take here, if you're still picking your jaw off the floor, you're not alone.

Never mind that as recently as 1959 CIA black ops types supplied weapons, training and "advisors" to the "pacifist" Dalai Lama and instigated a violent uprising in China’s Tibetan region.

Never mind that as recently as 1996, four short years ago, our Humanitarian Interventionist commander in chief dispatched two carrier battle groups to the Straits of Taiwan and in a brazen display of 19th century gunboat diplomacy sided with a separatist elite in a Chinese Civil War.

Never mind that as recently as 1999, just last year, he provided an encore by "accidentally" bombing the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade with precision laser-guided smart bombs delivered by a state of the art B-2 Stealth Bomber.

As the Wizard of Oz put it, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

Schell says for China to complain when meddlesome foreign elites [which mind you, don't exist] persist in interfering in China's internal affairs is an "abdication of sovereignty." Presumably NOT complaining when foreign elites interfere in ones' domestic politics constitutes an "affirmation of sovereignty."

To top it off, Schell says Chinese who object to foreign interference "have an ailment," in other words, they are sick in the head. Chinese presumptuous enough to dispute Dr. Schell's diagnosis and demand a second opinion are being "stubborn" and their perception "anachronistic."

Text-only printable version of this article

Bevin Chu is an American architect of Chinese descent registered to practice in Texas. Currently living and working in Taiwan, Chu is the son of a retired high-ranking diplomat with the ROC (Taiwan) government. His column, "The Strait Scoop," now appears occasionally on

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Schell warns us that,

"Old notions of sovereignty are changing, and to gain permanent normal trade status with the United States, coexist successfully in a changed world and win global respect, China needs to look at new ways of relieving tensions."

Translation: China had better wise up to the way things are going to be under the New World Order. Or else.

As Strobe Talbot put it in a now infamous July 20, 1992 article "America Abroad: The Birth of the Global Nation" in Time Magazine,

"The internal affairs of a nation used to be off limits to the world community. Now the principal of "humanitarian intervention" is gaining acceptance."

Jiang Zemin's speech at the United Nations Millennium Summit declaring that "Without sovereignty, there will be no human rights to speak of, that respecting the right of nations to run their own internal affairs is the principle of democracy as applied to world affairs" is sure to receive a failing grade in Professor Schell's compulsory course on "Human Rights under the New World Order."

As the good professor puts it,

"Instead of trooping over to New York to engage in transnational propaganda, its leaders might better serve their country by staying home and seeking ways to reframe its relations, on its own, with both its own constituent parts and the larger world."

Translation: Just shut up and bend over.

As Madeleine Albright told the NBC Television 'Today' show on 19th February 1998,

"If we have to use force it is because we are America! We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall, and we see further into the future."

No translation needed.


Schell informs us that,

"Anti-foreignism took root and was confirmed by the Japanese occupation in World War II. It was codified during Mao's revolution as Leninist anti-imperialism. In the fever of today's marketplace such revolutionary ideology has been muted... "

A century and a half of naked "might makes right" foreign aggression, summarized in one dry, lifeless sentence. Not even to provide historical context, which might evoke unwanted sympathy for China’s point of view, but to establish Schell’s controlling premise:

"China has a bad ATTITUDE."

Schell speaks of "anti-foreignism." He informs us "anti-foreignism" "took root," "was confirmed," "was codified" and is today "muted." Muted only because Chinese today are afflicted with "marketplace fever," which Schell makes sound like a bad thing.

"Orville Schell," his Berkeley predecessor Tom Goldstein assures us, "has worked at some of the highest levels of journalism for more than a quarter of a century and he is just full of wisdom and terrific ideas."

Either Schell is working at levels too high for us mere mortals, or else Schell has a problem communicating in plain English.

China was minding her own business in 1842 when the British Navy sailed halfway around the world, held a gun to China’s head, and said "Buy my opium, or else," and "Sign over Hongkong, or else."

China was minding her own business in 1895 when the Japanese Navy sailed across the East China Sea, held a gun to China’s head, and said "Sign over Taiwan, or else."

China was minding her own business in 1900, when the so-called "Eight Powers" held guns to China’s head and said "Give us Treaty Ports, or else," and when Chinese resisted, murdered thousands, sacked the Summer Palace and looted it three ways from Sunday.

China was minding her own business in 1931, when the Japanese Army marched into Mukden, held a gun to China’s head and said, "Sign over Manchuria, or else."

China was minding her own business in 1937, when the Japanese Army marched into Nanking and in two months slaughtered 300,000 unarmed civilians.

So what if foreign powers invaded China, extorted Chinese territory at gunpoint, murdered millions of her citizens, and treated others like second class citizens in her own land? None of those are the REAL problem.

The REAL problem is China has a chip on its shoulder. The REAL problem is the Chinese have a bad ATTITUDE.

Schell may be full of something, but it clearly isn't "wisdom and terrific ideas."


During an IC Interview, "Is There a Clear and Future Danger?" June 26, 1997,

former GOP presidential candidate Pete DuPont asked Tom Clancy, author of "Red Storm Rising" and numerous Cold War thrillers,

"Could China be a realistic fear? Ross Munro and Richard Bernstein's book "The Coming Conflict with China," has certainly captured the attention of many in the defense community. What do you think?"

Clancy’s sharp, almost testy reply was highly instructive.

"How can we have a conflict with China? The Pacific Ocean's in the way and they don't have a navy."


As Clancy astutely observes, if we have a conflict with China, it will be because our Benevolent Global Hegemonists deliberately went out of their way and crossed the widest ocean on the planet for the express purpose of picking a fight with a distant nation with which we don't even share a common border.

In other words, WE are the ones provoking a showdown with China. China is not the one provoking a showdown with us. WE are the aggressors, not the Chinese. WE are the ones initiating force, not the Chinese.

Does anybody remember the Monroe Doctrine? Forget the Monroe Doctrine, does anybody remember the Golden Rule?

Neocon hawks posture as devout Christians, but seem to have forgotten Christianity’s central ethical tenet, the Golden Rule, namely, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Or as pre-Christian era Chinese ethical philosopher Confucius worded it, "Do nothing to others that you would not have done unto you."

We sent our navy 8000 miles west across the Pacific Ocean in 1996 and threatened China’s Fujian coast. We got right up in China’s face. We butted into a Chinese Civil War which has no bearing whatsoever on America’s national sovereignty or territorial integrity.

China did not send her navy 8000 miles east to threaten our California coast. China did not get in our faces. China did not butt into our American Civil War in 1861, because it was none of China’s business, having no bearing whatsoever on China’s national sovereignty or territorial integrity.

As Charlie Reese, anti-interventionist columnist with the Orlando Sentinel lamented, "We're supposed to be the good guys, but we aren't."


Andrew Marshall notes in a 30 August 2000 Independent piece entitled "The US is thinking itself into a new global conflict" that "The Pentagon's target, apparently, is China – the new global enemy for the 21st century."

"The US is thinking itself into a new global conflict. This time, it is not in Europe; it is in the Pacific... in a document called Asia 2025... the China threat – a nuclear power, two billion people the other side of the world – is satisfyingly Soviet-shaped and justifies... more heavy airlift, more sealift, more attack submarines, aircraft carriers and long-range bombers, not less... Of all of the projects spawned by the new "menace", the really big one is the National Missile Defence (NMD)... America says it is aimed at North Korea and Iran; it isn't, or at least not only at them. It is aimed at China, and maintaining US dominance in the Pacific."


Remember "Red Corner," Jon Avnet’s "Two Minutes of Hate" propaganda film, starring Richard Gere? Remember how Richard Gere had the premiere deliberately moved up to coincide with Jiang Zemin’s state visit to America?

See: Salon’s review of "Red Corner."

In what has to be the supreme irony, our own federal law enforcement has been treating the hapless Lee Wenho almost exactly the way the Richard Gere character was depicted as being treated by a "human rights violating" Beijing government in "Red Corner."

In fact as American expats in Shanghai or Beijing can testify, American businessmen who run afoul of the law in China are NOT treated as depicted in "Red Corner," but are simply declared persona non grata and deported.

If Schell is serious about exposing xenophobia, or "anti-foreignism," as a menace to world peace and human rights, he need not look 8000 miles west across the Pacific.

He need only look at the neoconservative National Review and Weekly Standard, where primitive xenophobia and paranoia really do fester just beneath a thin outer skin of "civilized, scholarly discourse."

From Schell's ivory tower perch in Berkeley he need only look a few hundred miles southeast to Los Alamos, where a Kafkaesque nightmare is being visited upon American scientist Lee Wenho in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, where neocon "human rights champions," better known as lynch mobs, have brushed aside all concern for Due Process and Presumption of Innocence, and are shrieking, "Fry the spy!"

Or maybe that’s a little too close to home?


Schell writes,

"Far from losing face, China would gain nothing but world respect and gratitude if, for example, it could see its way to unilaterally renouncing the use of force in the Taiwan Straits and evince more respect for the right of Taiwanese to determine their relationship to the mainland. It would gain similarly if it could grant Tibetans a greater quotient of real autonomy and then encourage the Dalai Lama to return to Lhasa, and if it would permit Hong Kong the political latitude to elect its leaders in a truly democratic manner."

Schell's unsolicited advice to China about how she can curry favor with Schell's Humanitarian Interventionist nomenklatura is so Politically Correct and Conventionally Wise, therefore plain wrong, simply figuring out where to begin taking it apart is a challenge in itself.

First, Schell has it exactly backwards. What Schell should have said is,

"Far from losing face, America would gain nothing but world respect and gratitude if, for example, it could see its way to unilaterally renouncing the use of force in the Taiwan Straits and evince more respect for the right of Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to determine their relationship to each other. America would gain similarly if it could acknowledge her individual states a greater quotient of real independence, as is their constitutional right under the original articles of confederation."

The Taiwan region of China would not remain separate from the mainland were it not for our Benevolent Global Hegemonists and the Taiwan Relations Act. Taiwan and the mainland are being artificially held apart by active, sustained, ongoing US military intervention. Absent this foreign military intervention, the minority Taiwan independence elite would be forced to compromise and to negotiate in earnest for genuine autonomy, rather than to pay insincere lip service to reunification while stalling for time and plotting eventual independence.

Second, Schell is mighty cavalier about China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity. "Just let Taiwan and Tibet go," Schell opines, "Why be such a tightass? What's the big deal?"

Is Schell a champion of Southern Secession? American Indian secession? Of Alaskan independence? Hawaiian independence? Texas independence?

See especially "The Overthrow of the Monarchy," by Pat Pitzer, Spirit of Aloha, May 1994 (The in-flight magazine of Aloha Airlines) for a real eye-opener.

Is Schell prepared to allow California, as of this year over 50% Hispanic, to hold a plebiscite, secede from these United States and possibly be annexed by [or restored to, depending on one's point of view] Mexico?

Is Schell prepared to allow south Florida, overwhelmingly Cuban in population, to hold a plebiscite, secede from these United States and possibly even be annexed by a post-Castro Cuba?

Notwithstanding Schell's Strobe Talbot-esque political [as contrasted with economic] globalism, is Schell as cavalier about American national sovereignty and territorial integrity? Is Schell as willing, nay eager, to "just let Alaska, California, Hawaii, Texas go?"

If he is, can we anticipate Schell vocally demanding Alaskan, Californian, Hawaiian, Texan independence or autonomy? As vocally as he demands Taiwan and Tibetan independence or autonomy?

Why do I doubt it?


Schell concludes with,

"The truth is that most solutions for what internationally bedevils China will not be found in New York because what needs fixing is in Beijing. What China needs is not better global propaganda, but bold new vision and leadership dedicated to recasting the way it imagines itself in the world. Whether the present leadership is imaginative or strong enough to undertake such a reappraisal is another question. But... China's leaders would have accomplished something to be truly proud of. Moreover, their world stature would soar and they would find that myriad other tensions, around issues like trade arrangements with the United States, would dissolve on their own."

Inverting Schell's unsolicited wisdom we get,

"The truth is that most solutions for what internationally bedevils America will not be found in Beijing because what needs fixing is in Washington. What America needs is not better global propaganda, but bold new vision and leadership dedicated to recasting the way it imagines itself in the world. Whether the present leadership is imaginative or strong enough to undertake such a reappraisal is another question. But... America's leaders would have accomplished something to be truly proud of. Moreover, their world stature would soar and they would find that myriad other tensions, around issues like trade arrangements with China, would dissolve on their own."

Amazing, isn't it?


"Imperialism and nationalism are incompatible notions. A genuine patriotism entails respect for the patriotism of others. It is clearly incompatible with invading other countries, humiliating other countries or subordinating them to one's geopolitical needs. An American patriot loves his country, appreciates its system of government but accepts that it works very well only here. It is not for export, any more than Islamic theocracy or the Eastern Orthodox Church is. This is what differentiates the patriot from the imperialist. The empire builder is sure that his country has reached the pinnacle of civilization and therefore is obligated to impose it on the rest of the world."

– George Szamuely

"Podhoretz's Paradox," by George Szamuely, Decline of the West, July 6, 2000

Got it, Orville?


Next to neocon warmongers Robert Kagan and William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, or Richard Bernstein and Ross H. Munro, authors of "The Coming Conflict with China," not to mention sundry crypto white supremacist websites on the net, liberal bleeding heart Orville Schell comes across as positively innocuous, a veritable Teddy bear.

So why pick on him?

Because China-baiters who have difficulty repressing and camouflaging their racial animus give themselves away, and thus limit the amount of mischief they are able to inflict.

Schell’s cavalier misrepresentations of China's history and lazy stereotyping of the Chinese people, on the other hand, while every bit as biased as that of more strident China-baiters, come across as intellectually respectable, "scholarly."

Given that Schell’s "kinder, gentler" China-demonization provides convenient intellectual cover for anti-China, anti-Chinese, and anti-Chinese-American bigotry, the mild-mannered, professorial Schell may turn out to be more, not less dangerous than the "Let's nuke Beijing!" thug with spittle dribbling out one side of his mouth.

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