Friday, April 20, 2007

Anatomy of an Inaccuracy III

Poor Wayne Chiang...he is at least one of the people of Chinese descent misidentified as the Virginia Tech killer. In Wayne's own words, he does indeed meet some of the criteria of the descriptions of the killer that were circulating the day of the massacre: he's Asian, he recently broke up with his girlfriend, he's got a connection to Virginia Tech, and he's a gun collector. Considering these things, it's no wonder that he was a person of interest to the police. What's disturbing is how media reports seemed to lead to his immediate public conviction.

Amazingly, even after Wayne did interviews on national television to correct the mistaken information, he's still being misidentified; Wayne's photograph is included in a Canadian Television report's montage of the Korean killer's media package photos. Amongst the now all-too-familiar images of Cho's gun poses, two images of Wayne appear. The first image is of him carrying dozens of rifles slung over his shoulder; the second is a shot looking up at him as he aims what appears to be a machine gun down into the left-hand corner of the frame. (Go to and search for Wayne Chiang. The CTV report is currently the third one on the page.)

As the comments on You Tube suggest, it appears that CTV finds it difficult to accurately identify Asians. But even more importantly, shouldn't they have double-checked the source of those images?

One thing that still befuddles me about the case: Wayne Chiang is obviously not the mysterious individual of Chinese nationality mentioned in the original Sun-Times story. That person was identified as a foreign student who'd obtained a student visa out of Shanghai and came to the States last August. Who is that mystery subject? Hmmmm...the Melon will try to find out...

In semi-related developments, an old friend of Korean background who immigrated to the States expresses great shame and fear of reprisal over the Blacksburg tragedy. She's lived in NYC for nearly ten years now, and despite my assurances that retribution isn't likely to happen there and that one individual's actions couldn't possible reflect on a whole ethnicity, she feels both.

Also: I was quoted in a prominent Chinese newspaper, Southern Weekend, in a story entitled "From Anxiety to Breathing a Sigh of Relief," about Chinese relief that the killer was not Chinese nor of Chinese ethnicity. Bizarrely, the article said that I had lived in Virginia -- I've never lived in Virginia and never said that I had. Luckily, the quote is accurate though.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Anatomy of an Inaccuracy II

This is issue is discussed more comprehensively than I could ever do it here,
under the title, "Ill-Informed Columnist Scares the Hell out of China."

Anatomy of an Inaccuracy

By now most everyone knows that the shooter in the Virginia case was not Chinese, but Korean. South Korean, to be specific. In fact, in my view: Mostly American really, since he was raised in the States from the time he was a boy.

What interests me most about this is the reporting -- including the Melon's -- yesterday of the possible Chinese mainland and student-visa status of the shooter. That reporting was clearly inaccurate. But how did it happen? And is it acceptable for a newspaper -- or a blog for that matter -- to report "maybes?"

This will take some time and probably several posts, but I'll try to detail here the source and the process of the inaccurate information being published.

The first reference to the possible Chinese and visiting-student identity of the shooter appeared in the Sun Times article of yesterday. Interestingly enough, because of the nature of the web, there's no record of that article on the site now; unlike the days of the famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline, there's no physical evidence that the report was there. In fact, can it even be called erroneous, since the newspaper framed the story in terms of "may have been?" Hmmm...don't know, but it certainly doesn't look good.

The following lines in a Sun Times story today seem to address yesterday's story:

The initial investigation had led law enforcement authorities to a preliminary suspect who was a Chinese national, accompanied by details and a description. The man was placed on the suspect list before fingerprints could be verified. The list in turn was distributed to law enforcement officials via a national network in place to check on possible terrorism in the United States.

Cho was identified following an analysis of fingerprints and ballistics.

A Chinese colleague's daughter who works for Ming Bao, a Chinese paper published in the States, also seemed convinced of the shooter's Chinese identity yesterday, via emails on this topic exchanged among colleagues.

Monday, April 16, 2007

From the Barrel of a Gun

A famous leader here in China once said, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."

While this has nothing to do with political power, it has everything to do with guns...The Chicago Sun Times is reporting that the shooter in the Virginia Tech university massacre "may have been" a mainland Chinese recently arrived in the States on a student visa.

If this turns out to be true, it's going to be a nightmare for all of us here in China, and for all the Chinese in the States...