Distraction news #1: Baiji vs “Chinese dolphins”

Monday, 18 December 2006


I noticed a small article in the news on the 13th about one of the most interesting animals on the planet—a river dolphin. Many people don’t even know they exist, yet there are a few species of them around the world from the Amazon to the Ganges, Indus, and Yangtze.

The news was that the Yangtze species—the Baiji (白鱀豚), Chinese River Dolphin—is probably extinct. It takes 50 years of absence to make it official but none has been seen in two years and an expedition just concluded without any sightings. This is something everyone should know about but it isn’t exactly news.

China’s headlong rush into industrialization is chilling. It defies all the horror stories of history from the decimation of the US forests to the poisonous blooming of London. China is on its way to becoming a giant Superfund site. There were millions of Chinese drinking toxic water due to the sorry state of Chinese rivers just this year. They can hardly be concerned about a bunch of animals in a country where eating tiger cocks and endangered seahorses is considered necessary for a good Friday night with the ladies.

I’d also like to mention that “The Independent” made this claim–

…the first big aquatic mammal to become extinct due to human activity.
Steller’s Sea Cow

Which is nonsense. The Steller’s Sea Cow (a cold water manatee) was much larger than the Baiji and it was eradicated throughout its range along the north half of the Pacific rim of fire first by American Indians and aboriginal Japanese—maybe, it was before recorded history—and then by the European hunters and explorers who found the last hold-outs further north.

Especially troubling is not the extinction supposition. Everyone knew it was coming 10 years ago. I’m amazed the sub-continent species are still holding out. What’s troubling is that the little news piece I first saw in Yahoo was quickly pushed out of the “most popular” news by a puff piece about “Chinese dolphins.”

The story was released promptly on the tail of the extinction news by the Xinhua Propaganda News Agency.

From the suckers who picked it up–

BEIJING - The long arms of the world’s tallest man reached in and saved two dolphins by pulling out plastic from their stomachs, state media and an aquarium official said Thursday. AP, 14 December 2006

So, we learn a couple things from this would-be news.

  1. Chinese are not small or weak, the tallest living man in the world is Chinese.
  2. Chinese love and protect animals.
  3. Chinese dolphins are not dying, they’re being saved via the creative and heroic measures of ordinary Chinese citizens.

Not a bad turn considering the real headline is—Chinese destroy homeland in headlong pursuit of the Evils of Capitalism.

I can’t tell from the little picture but they appear to be spotted dolphins which had ingested plastic from their enclosure. Animals start to do things like eat their cages when they’re going crazy from captivity or mistreatment. Just saying. The point being, you could have spotted dolphin soup all day for the next ten years and you wouldn’t be my hero but at least they wouldn’t go extinct.

The truly disturbing part is that the Chinese propaganda machine is getting so good at this kind of spin—having pegged the West as a bunch of sentimental jack-asses who prefer pictures of baby hedgehogs to any erudition—and that the various English news agencies picked it up and ran with it; content starved mongrels, ribs showing through mange-patched fur, tearing at any scrap of trash.

Hard to keep a good hate on for the Chinese when I’m constantly fighting being embarrassed by the “us.”

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Re: Distraction news #1: Baiji vs “Chinese dolphins”

I saw both stories, too, but was too dense to see the propaganda connection you caught.

Good catch! (pun intended)

By jody on 18 December 2006 · 05:49

A is A

Re: Distraction news #1: Baiji vs “Chinese dolphins”

Thanks. It’s hard to ever be completely certain but this one just struck me as beyond coincidence. The order and origin of the stories. Plus, even in the strange chance it is coincidence, it’s still just terrible that the human interest piece could so easily replace the information which might mean something to the world.

By A is A on 18 December 2006 · 10:05