A talk with a longtime translator, on why Mandarin does not include a 'super-secret version' for discussing government plans.
China is a complex 10,000 year old culture:
"Confucius (770–481 BCE) was a Chinese philosopher and politician of the Spring and Autumn period who is traditionally considered the paragon of Chinese sages" Britannica :
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
“He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.”
“If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.”
“Silence is a true friend who never betrays.”
“What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.”
“The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.”
“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”
― Confucius, The Book of Rites
A gifted interviewer!
For most Americans, it is hard to imagine living in a cultural landscape like China that is 10,000 years old. Our amalgam is only 246 years old, so new! Those who lived in the East always remark, we finally found out what we don't know. It is really the mysterious East in so many ways and it takes years to decipher a few upper layers of meaning. Thanks for explaining how difficult the language translation can be !
Here is Dan Rather on the art of interviewing, a fine art indeed! :
dan rather on interviewing, vox interview :
Well, the great name in radio when I started coming up was Edward R. Murrow, who founded electronic journalism as we know it and who was an excellent interviewer. I also listened to Eric Sevareid, who was a legendary CBS news correspondent. They were giants of radio news and I was transfixed by both of them and listened to them very closely. Both were very good writers and very good broadcasters, but they were excellent interviewers.
What I learned from them is that the keys to doing a good interview are ... the first three things are preparation, preparation, and preparation. Once you get past those three, the other key is to be a good listener. Often, the best questions come not from what you have prepared to ask, not from your list of questions in your notebook, but from listening to the interview subject very carefully and picking up questions from what your interview subject says.
One skill is to get the interview subject to be in the moment. Sometimes it’s not a problem. Sometimes the person hits the chair and is ready to go. Other times — and this is particularly true with people who have big names, whether it be in politics or entertainment — their minds are scattered on other things, and so one has to develop some techniques for getting them in the moment, to be present. Every interviewer’s nightmare is for the interview subject to be somewhere else mentally.
There really aren’t any secrets. I wish I had some secrets. I think what your mother and father always taught you about a firm handshake and look a person in the eye when they first come into the room. A firm handshake, trying to make strong eye contact, sometimes helps.
Another example of James Fallows' ability to bring clarity out of the muddle. Appreciate you!
I'm a long time contributor to ProPublica and enjoy the investigative reporting they do. However, they clearly dropped the ball in this case and it's is sad to see them not admit that there is a big problem with the story. My background is in biochemistry and I've worked with microbial pathogens and products during my research career before moving into pharmaceutical regulatory affairs. I've visited a BL-4 facility as part of some work I was doing with respect to the Third Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention back in the 1980s.
During the first year of the pandemic, I decided to put out a COVID-19 newsletter for fellow retirees from the pharma industry as well as friends (the newsletters are all archived on my website (Google my name and Covid-19). I did discuss issues related to the viruses origin and my assessment has always been that while you cannot rule out lab leak, zoonotic transfer and resultant mutation is a much more likely explanation.
I'm currently reading David Quammen's book, "Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus," He discusses this early in the book thinking it unlikely. However, I've not reached the end of the book where he discusses this in more detail. Other readers of this Substack might find this book worthwhile.
A friend of mine worked for an organization that was the target of a Pro Publica investigation, and he felt their final report left out important pieces of context, which is part of what seems to have happened here. I’ve viewed them with some skepticism since and would not agree that their reputation is sterling.
So, two major publications based this big reveal on a source claiming to be singularly qualified to root out the truth - because of his knowledge of the version of Mandarin used only by the Chinese bureaucracy? And their editors OK'd this? Seriously?
Look, I'm not a speaker of Mandarin, I'm not a virologist, I'm not an editor or even a published writer. Until now I hadn't even been aware of the controversial articles referenced here. But even I would be extraordinarily skeptical of these claims, and especially of the notion of using the unsupported claims of ONE individual to debunk worldwide consensus. I can't help wondering what on earth they were thinking - and then I recall a major US politician who made similar claims about being uniquely qualified to solve the problems in our nation, the number of people who believed him, and the vast number who continue to do so.
The Scotsman Andrew Lang once commented, "Politicians use statistics in the same way that a drunk uses lamp-posts—for support rather than illumination." I believe that same methodology can be easily applied to these absurd articles.
Thanks for the ‘clarification’ on ProPublica’s bizarre October article on Covid and the Wuhan lab. I am distressed that ProPublica is associated with such a murky article that, even to this observer, seemed riddled with factual holes.
I have welcomed ProPublica and am a contributor to what I thought was an unimpeachable investigative news organization. Please inform me if (or when) ProPublica applies its stated standards of excellence to this most unusual article that seems linked to Republican Senate ‘researchers.’
Thank you Jim and Brendan. Appreciate this critique very much. (My husband Charlie is a visiting professor at Tsinghua University; we have lived on campus for 2 months/year 2010 - 2019.) - Lulu Weschler