Subtle Propaganda

I came across an article from AP about an accident in China. A construction elevator car fell 328 feet, killing all of its 19 passengers on the construction site of a high-rise building in Wuhan city, located in Hubei province.

I happen to work in the construction/demolition industry, so I am quite aware of the fact that it is a very dangerous profession, and that many people lose their lives to it every year (I’ve known a few who have). It’s a tragedy no matter when it happens, as is true of any other loss of life.

However, that is not the part of the story that caught my eye.

What did catch my eye was this series of sentence portions:

Although the government says it is taking measures to reduce fatalities, more than 75,500 people died in work-related accidents last year, according to the State Administration of Work Safety.

This may seem like a perfectly constructed sentence, and it’s implications are convincing. The point of it is to show that it is pretty shitty to be a worker in China. Ok, I’m game. It most probably is pretty shitty to be a worker in China, but this particular sentence doesn’t show that.

The primary implication reveals itself in the first few words. By saying “although the government says … “, this really means that the government is full of shit; there is doubt placed upon the Chinese government. However, then they go for the proof of how bad China is by showing the number, 75,500 workers per year, that die from work-related accidents. This is supposed to be the proof in the pudding that the Chinese government is absolutely not living up to its obligation to “reduce fatalities”. Oh, but wait. Here’s the kicker.

The kicker is the last line, where the AP journalist says that they got the information from (insert Chinese government agency here). I don’t know, but it seems to me that this portion of the sentence almost entirely contradicts the entirety of the sentence, because it gives credence to something that was considered non-credible from the outset (i.e. the worthiness of the Chinese government). It’s kind of like saying, “Although Johnny says that he’ll increase his income, he makes $100,000 a year, according to Johnny”. Not only does it contradict itself, but as can be seen by my analogue, the sentence is completely nonsensical.

But wait, I’m not done.

Putting all of the other crap aside, let’s just take a look at that number: 75,500 work-related deaths per year.

Just by the mere fact that China has a population of over 1.3 billion, it’s pretty easy to see that 75,500 deaths is a really small number. It’s got to be in the fractions of percent when compared to the workforce. Without going on a research spree, I can look at data from Wikipedia citing CIA Factbook numbers showing that only 1.4 out of every 100,000 workers died in 2007 as a result of work-related activities, or about 0.000014% of all Chinese. If we compare this to the 2012 numbers from the BLS for the USA, we see that American workers died at a rate of 3.6 per 100,000, or about 0.000036. That’s over twice the Chinese numbers! And the Chinese numbers are over 5 years old (whereas USA numbers are current).

How about absolute numbers of Chinese deaths? The total work-related deaths in China for 2005 was 127,000. Well, shoot. If today 75,500 people die per year in China as a result of work-related deaths, then this means that over the course of 7 years China has reduced work-related deaths by 40%! Even if we know that the Chinese numbers are BS, we can at least assume that their general methodology hasn’t changed this dramatically in such a short period (unless you know something that I don’t), and that the Wikipedia/CIA Factbook numbers are probably erring on the high side (they probably aren’t low-balling their figures). Certainly, we are seeing an almost unbelievable improvement in worker safety in China, most of which is due to continued industrialization and the further division of labor.

Some of you may ask, “Joe, why in the hell are you harping-on so much about this?”. Well, there are a few reasons. First and foremost, I was bored. Next, I just cannot let slippery reporting like this go unchecked– somebody’s got to point out the wrongs in the world. The last reason is that I know, inevitably, some douche bag is going to throw these numbers at me and think that they’ve got a real zinger (you’d be surprised at what some people pull out of their ass in a pinch). Well, in that case, I can just point them here.

I must break people from the spell of this subtle propaganda. There’s simply no reason that this story should have been international news. It’s only purpose was to propagandize, in my belief.

Explore posts in the same categories: Media, Propaganda

One Comment on “Subtle Propaganda”

  1. sharon Says:

    good job joe

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