Friday, 17 May 2013

控制輿論 Controlling Public Opinion


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無線劇集<金枝慾孽2>收視低得叫人搖頭嘆息,很多人都說劇集沉悶,劇情支節太多,角色不討好兼睇唔明,但係我就偏偏睇落去。就算幾忙,每晚收工返到屋企我都會去睇,除了想知道劇情(緩慢的)進展,這套戚其義、周旭明作品討論一件當今社會非常重要的東西:控制輿論。

淳太妃
某網友於TVB討論區提出令我非常認同的觀點:「這套劇講的是造謠和傳謠, 其實也就是對輿論的控制和引導, 當然還包括權貴對現實事件以及謠言的危機處理。」

劇中一眾事情的開端,都是由流言蜚語去開始,也由另一些流言蜚語去結終。傳言散播於紫禁城內外,聽者從不查根究底,趁過一番熱鬧,又再把似是而非的謠言再繼續傳開去,結果越傳越盛,就連本來是編作出來的故事都被當成真,當中有不同的人於不同的位置賺取各種利益。

這不是跟當今社會一樣嗎?

如妃
如妃跟淳太妃鬥法或像是在<金枝1>裡宮中各主子奴才如何勾心鬥角已不再是劇集的重點(當然偶爾我也被蔡少芬主演的湘菱嬤嬤所牽動)。作為傳媒人,我看到的是當權者如何要靠輿論去鞏固自己勢力,唱對台戲的政客也要靠輿論向當權者施壓。要 execute 就要得媒體相助。

所以不同位置的人就週不時要向傳媒放料,政府,達官貴人等經常會與傳媒茶聚又或是飯局,向傳媒擺出友善姿態,跟您做個 friend?不要儍了,他們的目的都只是想媒體幫忙傳個好話,好得日後要推出政策得到民間支持,或做生意得到這高成效;政黨之間及跟政府的政治角力也得倚賴傳媒,拉布的輿論戰是個好例子,鬧西九超支買藏品也是好例子,art fair 要用傳媒幫它說好話,將一個 trade fair dress up 到是一個推動藝術文化的活動。人云亦云,到最後真相是如何都不是最重要,因為閱讀報章雜誌的大眾跟<金枝2>的奴才都沒有太大分別,只會不加思索的將故事繼續傳開去。
佟吉海

怕就怕我跟辛者庫的佟吉海並無兩樣,自作聰明為淳太妃傳播謠言收料,到頭來可能都只是一場空。



The unusually low ratings for TVB’s costume drama Beauty at War has been among the talking points in Hong Kong over the past couple of weeks. But against the mainstream view I decided to chase this TV series, which is rather unusual for me. I seldom watch TVB dramas, but I was drawn to this one not only because this is supposedly a sequel (or a part II, whatever you call it) of the hugely successful period drama series War and Beauty (2004) by producer Jonathan Chik and Chow Yuk-ming. This show touches upon one very important issue in modern day society: controlling public opinion.

As mentioned briefly in my previous blog post I don’t get it, the show, set in the Qing Dynasty’s Jiaqing period (1796 – 1820) evolving around the politics and scheming among the ladies trapped in palace Forbidden City, draws lukewarm response because the majority of TV audience (i.e. housewives) found it too complex to follow – people just don’t get it.

The prime-time show has achieved a low 19 rating points – an equivalent to slightly more than 1 million TV audiences as compared to the normal 30 rating points. Audiences blame the show for carrying too many intertwining subplots, the characters’ lack of charm, and they have to chase the subtitles as the lines are spoken in rather classical Chinese as compared to daily spoken Cantonese. There was even an online poll in Commercial Radio asking people to vote whether TVB should axe the series before it ends.

Princess Shun, a concubine of deceased emperor Qianlong, acts as if
she falls for Kunju actor Ko in order to trick her sister Princess Yue, whom
she hates to the guts
This was a stark contrast to War and Beauty, which earned acclaims from both critics and audiences when it was aired in 2004. Rounds of applause were given for the complex storyline evolving around the politics of the Forbidden City, resembling today’s office politics.

Nine years later, the duo came up with Beauty at War. But instead of being a story simply about scheming and political struggle among the princesses and servants, Beauty at War is more conceptual. One audience made a very good point in TVB forum: “This show evolves around creating rumours and spreading rumours, but what it really wants to address is the importance of controlling and directing public opinion.”

All the incidents in the show are driven by rumours, and they are concluded by other rumours. Rumours are circulated inside and outside of Forbidden City through an audience that are hungry for entertainment but never question their validity. And after a while, people will start believing these rumours, and even the most fabricated stories will eventually become real. Then different people holding different positions are taking advantages all the way through.

Isn’t it the same as today’s society?

Thus the focus is not about scheming and politics. As a media person, what I learn in this show is how people in charge must rely on public opinion to maintain its authorities over the public. Those who want to challenge the authorities also need the help from the media in order to put pressure on the authorities.
Ladies in waiting caught in between the fights of their masters
Thus the media gets tipped off from time to time. The government, politicians or ambitious businessmen like to get together with the media on a regular basis. They want to make friends with us? Don’t be so naïve. They only hope the media to help spreading a few nice words – the government can get more public support for policies, or businessmen can maximise their profits by creating a better image through the media. Politicians who want to sabotage some unfair public policies or the opposite camp also use the same method by tipping off the media about the dodgy secrets of their opponents.

Thus all these political debates that we see in the media are no difference from the kind of rumours being spread around in Beauty at War. Someone exposed the West Kowloon Cultural District's extreme over budget (as cost has gone up from HK$21.6 billion to a reportedly HK$47.6 billion) to the media to get the public to slam on the arts hub project. Art Basel Hong Kong is branded as a catalyst for arts and culture when in fact it is a massive trade fair dressed up as a cultural event. Paul McCarthy’s Complex Pile inflatable sculpture is a piece of shit because people have said so. As the rumour mill goes around, the majority of the audience with a mediocre intelligence are no different from the palace maids and eunuchs in Beauty at War – they will keep spreading the rumours around without asking any questions.

Princess Shun and labourer Tung, who volunteers
to spread rumours and collect information for Shun
What I am afraid is that I am probably more or less the same as the maids and eunuchs who thought they were smart to volunteer for their masters to spread the rumours and manipulate people's minds. Such kind of work will get them no where, and certainly won’t bring them much luck.


2 comments:

  1. Dear Vivienne,

    I'm hoping this gets to you in time, I'm reaching out from Monocle 24, a radio station in London in the UK. We're doing a story on Art Basel in Hong Kong tomorrow morning at 8.10 am London time, and was wondering if you would be free for a 5-10 minute phone interview. We're trying to get someone who can join us, think that you'll be quite suitable as an art journalist. Let me know ASAP if you can make it.

    Thanks
    Jason
    jzl@monocle.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well said!!! It's too bad Hongkongers never have the patience to think through what they are watching on TV. It's little wonder why the TVB formula continues to work over all these years.

    ReplyDelete