At JimRomenesko.com, Jason Feifer pointed out a 1694 report on developments in the Chinese court, in light of mistakes made in the rush to cover episodes like the Newtown shooting. “As we look at what went wrong,” he wrote, “we often blame technology like Twitter, and reporting protocols that haven’t caught up to our instant news cycle. And yet, the Account reminds us that there has long been an instinct to report before confirmation.” From Account Of The Publick Transactions in Christendom:
We had Yeſterday another Holland Mail , which brings no conſiderable News, except that the Emperor of China, his Court, and a great Part of his Kingdom have embraced the Chriſtian Religion; but this is too extraordinary to be believed without farther Confirmation. Whatever I hear more certain, I’ll acqaint you with in my next.
TIME’s Austin Ramzy saw another contemporary parallel:
Chinese leadership rumors, circa 1694 – bit.ly/V597xx “too extraordinary to be believed without farther Confirmation”
— Austin Ramzy (@austinramzy) December 18, 2012
Talk of China’s leadership this year has frequently matched that description, with rumours frothing intensely around episodes such as the Bo Xilai affair and the fatal Ferrari crash involving Ling Jihua’s son. “Farther Confirmation” is often hard to obtain, more now because of official opacity and obstruction than distance. The Economist lamented this enduring difficulty in September, after Xi Jinping’s unexplained disappearance just weeks before his anticipated appointment as Party General Secretary:
With no hard facts, rumours flourish, even more so today with the rise of social media and a huge global China-watching profession. In the case of Mr Xi’s disappearance, explanations have ranged widely and wildly from a back injury to a heart attack to, most implausibly, an assassination attempt by means of a traffic accident, though the source of this last...
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