China v. Cafferty: CNN Should Get up in China’s Grill

international litigation lawyers

Chinese Law Prof has a post up on the two lawsuits filed in China against CNN for Jack Cafferty’s “thugs and goons” comment. The post is entitled, CNN sued for Cafferty’s ‘thugs and goons’ comment, and in it, Chinese Law Prof analyzes the merits of the claims under Chinese (some) and US law (none).

Here’s my two cents.

Cent One: I do not think any of these lawsuits will ever see the light of day. I think the Chinese courts will snuff them out for political reasons based on instructions from on high. The Chinese courts have a nasty tendency not to allow filing of lawsuits they do not like or, if they do allow the filing of the lawsuit, to not allow them to be docketed and move forward. With Beijing making obvious efforts to clamp down on rampant nationalism right now, I am convinced it will squash these lawsuits to avoid any potential bad international PR.

Cent Two:
If CNN had any guts it would leap on these cases and fight them hard. It would counterclaim against the plaintiffs for seeking to violate its free speech rights in China (there are such rights) and really just get up into the plaintiffs’ grills (that is a non-legal expression I learned while helping to coach my daughter’s high school basketball team this past summer). CNN’s defense should be that Cafferty was NOT referring to China when he said this; he was referring to the party in power. CNN could then seek to introduce evidence supporting its accusations.

These are the sort of cases that make litigation fun.

Of course none of this is ever going to happen and I am quite certain nobody will remember these lawsuits six months from now. But if it were to happen. . . .

14 responses to “China v. Cafferty: CNN Should Get up in China’s Grill”

  1. “CNN could then seek to introduce evidence supporting its accusations.”
    Never thought of that aspect of the case. That should be good enough reason for the Chinese government to order the courts to reject the case.
    But it would be quite funny to watch. I wonder how the Chinese government would intervene while its reputation dragged through courts, if it ever goes to court.
    So, may be CNN should courter sue in US courts, just to generate some headlines ?

  2. Are we sure Cafferty was really referring to the Chinese government, not the Chinese when he made that comment? He was saying “China” and “the Chinese” the whole time.
    If somebody says “the Americans are a bunch of idiots” I would think he/she is talking about the 400 million Americans.

  3. Pffeffer wrote, “If somebody says “the Americans are a bunch of idiots” I would think he/she is talking about the 400 million Americans.”
    Yeah, but if that somebody was referring to American militant activities, like China’s militant activities in Tibet, you would naturally infer that he was talking to the government, not the average 老百姓。

  4. Robert,
    Was Cafferty referring to “China’s militant activities in T1b*t”? I don’t think so.

  5. @Pfeffer – So what language would you advise western journalists use to describe people who carry out actions like
    Brave heroes of their country?

  6. I don’t like CNN much but not because of either Cafferty or the fairly sharp Wolf (Blitzer)
    I don’t like those two gals on the international edition who talk back and forth to one another on reciprocal cue and can’t seem to get their starry-eyed phony curiosity and “I just dropped out of heaven and haven’t got a clue what’s really happening in the real world outside the studio” naive look off of their fake faces. (Ralitsa Vatsilava and one other bimbo whose name I can’t recall right now)
    Both of them juxtaposing or interjecting that slimy phony stuff right as they sit and speak about tragic events or people getting maimed or blown up or chopped to bits in Iraq and elsewhere- although I do like the international edition much more than the Stateside version (which is even worse both in terms of bimbos and in terms of their male equivalents) and certainly much more than Fox.
    And, it goes almost without saying I also like it a lot more than China TV.
    Those two particular gals and at times some of the others too (for instance, “insight”) all seem to be designed to create a kind of Dr. Feel-good factor (a lot like Larry King Live) instead of having people listen up and pay attention and maybe be shocked by what they see and hear for just one microsecond before they move on to take another sip of their beer or coffee.
    Depending on what’s being covered the BBC is usually a much more serious channel with much more serious coverage. And I can’t imagine anyone of the caliber and intelligence and broad knowledge of Stephen Sackur ever stooping to saying that all the Chinese or their government are all goons and thugs. He either will prove it on Hard Talk and legitimately nail them to the wall, or he’ll keep his mouth shut.
    And so long live the Brits, at least as far is this particular aspect is concerned. Though I also wouldn’t mind seeing George Bush taking some “prime minister’s questions” in the House of Commons from the opposition once in a while, either. Substance whether one agrees with it or not is always better than “Infotainment”. Unless one prefers comedy or farce in which case there are plenty of good quality ones to watch elsewhere

  7. Robert,
    I did not watch that segment of the show and the only thing available was the video clip. I don’t know if he was prompted by China’s crackdown in Xizang. I know though he was talking about “the Chinese” and “China” the whole time. Somehow “the Chinese” means the “Chinese government”? It is beyond me.
    By the same token, would you call “the Americans” goons and thugs for what they did in Iraq?

  8. Pffefer, “I think they’re basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years.” Even an idiot like Jack Cafferty knows that the Chinese people have been around a lot longer than 50 years. He’s clearly referring to a change that occurred in the country 50 (now almost 60) years ago.
    Americans have been, and continue to be, called much worse regarding Iraq by the Chinese media. And I never would have predicted that the French would be the target of this much hatred.
    I think that when it comes down to it, what most Western people are reacting against are the double standards that the Chinese government pushes.

  9. I pretty much agree with all that max jones wrote, although I consider BBC World to be a bit weak. At least they attempt to deliver the news seriously, though.
    The point is, if you don’t like what you’re seeing on the TV, you can change the channel or turn it off. That’s your decision to make, not your government’s.
    btw, it took some searching to find that Cafferty quote. I couldn’t access the transcript from CNN, because their website is blocked here in China.

  10. @Pffefer – As a matter of fact, I’d call anyone who shoots defenceless men, women and children something much worse than simply ‘goons and thugs’. And if their government encourages them to do so as a matter of policy, then I’ll use the same language on them.
    As for the US government’s recent deviation from the recognised norms that are expected of civilised countries (i.e., use of torture, detention without trial, ubiquitous information gathering etc.) it is my sincere hope that those responsible are punished to the maximum extent that US law will allow, and if British involvement in this is uncovered then I hope that they are punished too. It is just a pity that nobody in power in the United States seems to be actually advocating meting out such punishment.

  11. I agree with Robert above too. One can always turn off the TV or change the Channel (in the U.S., although as you correctly imply, not in China)
    But even in the U.S. the other 99 channels (or 999) (or maybe now it’s 9999) that you can choose from are all nearly the same stuff. In fact the last time I was in the States (and around Christmas time it’s even worse) I was hard pressed to find any channel that wasn’t either putting out an advertisement / commercial for some useless crap or another that I neither needed nor wanted, or some rip-off artist preacher / televangelist trying to convince me about how best to be saved and go to heaven or avoid burning in hell for eternity. (and preferably only after sending him 50 dollars for my very own CD about how best to accomplish that) (which without offense to those who may be religious, I feel I need to hear about, about as much as I need a hole in the head)
    Not to mention Fox Channel which for two years straight only seemed to consider news the case of one woman who got killed or who disappeared on Aruba.- Curacao. And of course even just one life is important but do we really need to hear about that every single evening for two years straight? Is that what “breaking” NEWS is? (or is that “broken” news?) .i.e. “we report you decide”?….To which my short answer is this: Yes, you reported. And yes, I have decided. I have decided that what you report is crap and not news and that you are all a bunch of paid agents of Rupert Murdoch and his reactionary fellow travelers.
    With the exception of C-SPAN and PBS (and maybe 10% of what is on the other old main networks) and which most people can get, and BBC and Al Jazeera in English which most people cannot (or at least do not) get, the whole rest is less than useless if what one wants is to be informed about significant national or international events and issues and matters in a fair and balanced (and relatively in depth) manner.
    So if anyone is half way serious about trying to keep up to date and be informed one really needs to “triangulate” by watching at least a few of the good channels and also read the U.S. papers as well as some foreign ones. (or go to the Internet of course). (and it’s also true of course that a lot of it is blocked in China)
    And how many people actually have the time, interest or inclination to do all of that? Very few. And this lack of interest is also related to the generally low culture of taking an interest in important matters that has been cultivated and has developed over time. Which is why we have an abysmally poorly informed general population in the U.S. which is nearly as brainwashed as the Chinese population. And it doesn’t help to point to the 1% of Americans who are very well informed.
    Even if in theory there is no reason why it should be this way. And by the way the papers that you can get outside the Tube stations in London most readily and easily and that therefore most people end up reading as they go home on the Tube, are definitely NOT either The Guardian or the London Times. (although they are available at the kiosk a bit further down the road) They are the tabloids.
    And so once again although in theory people COULD be informed in the practical and actual reality of the matter (and whether this is intentional and some sort of a conspiracy, or just an accident, or some combination of the two) they are NOT informed, or are informed in some sort of limited, grotesque or ridiculous manner.
    And although I would very much like to see things improve in China I can’t do much about that. What I can do something about though (luckily) is the way things are in my own country, the U.S. Which is why I complain about it. (not because I think it’s better in China, but because I think it’s important to try to improve what one can improve
    and not those things one can hardly do anything about) (The Chinese people themselves in due course hopefully will take care of that, and if they don’t it’s mainly their tough luck)

  12. Robert,
    What have the Chinese media been calling the Americans? Worse than goons and thugs? Please provide your sources.
    How do you know shooting Xizangren is an official policy/decree?

  13. @Pfeffer – Because the Chinese government has not repudiated this behaviour, and because other refugees have reported being shot at, the incident in the Romanian video is just the only such incident to have been caught on camera – one can only conclude that they are doing this on orders.
    Besides, China has long been known to operate a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy on its borders with Vietnam, Nepal, India and Russia for all attempting to enter or leave without permission – as far as I am aware this has never been relaxed. The video is just an demonstration of the extremes to which the border guards are willing to take this policy – in this instance the shooting of defenceless men, women and children who were walking away from them.
    The fact that the government would try to justify these killings as having been in “self-defence” just shows the fascistic mind-set of those in charge – it is something straight out of a 1930’s playbook, like the old one about prisoners being “shot trying to escape”, or the invasion of a neighbouring state being a “victorious counter-attack”.
    @Max Jones – I no longer have a television, and have to admit I am a definite news addict, but even before that I found the Today Program on BBC Radio 4 to be just about the best way of soaking up news in the morning on earth. I suppose it is rather too Anglo-centric for overseas listeners, and no American politician would ever be so unwise as to grant them an interview, but listening to Jim Naughtie or Edward Stourton putting the high and mighty in the British establishment through a harsh grilling is the best way to start your day in my opinion.
    Oh my god! I almost forgot the absolute cherry on the lame cake that is expat English language news – ICRT! International Community Radio Taipei is an almost entirely English language radio station that can be heard throughout Taiwan and also along in many parts of Fujian. It is also attrociously bad, carrying lame music, with lame news features, lame traffic reports, and yes, lame game-shows. It is also very ‘popular’ amongst the student population as a way of practicing their English. If mainland China ever loosens up the restrictions on foreign ownership of the media, I’d love to try and get someone else’s money and invest in an English language radio station – it would be a sure money-looser but an interesting thing to be involved with.

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