Home > Opinion, politics > Glenn Greenwald labeling U.S. hypocricy on Internet Freedom “egregious and shameless;” really shows how weak U.S. foreign policy is

Glenn Greenwald labeling U.S. hypocricy on Internet Freedom “egregious and shameless;” really shows how weak U.S. foreign policy is

December 21st, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Earlier this year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid out the blueprint for U.S. foreign policy in pursuit of “Internet Freedom” around the world. As I stated in a prior post, I believed this is a way to ensure U.S. government can support political oppositions in countries around the world and to lend them a voice with propaganda on the Internet. Glenn Greenwald recently labeled U.S. hypocrisy on Internet Freedom “egregious and shameless,” while responding to Secretary Clinton’s December 8, 2011 speech at The Hague.

This whole “Internet Freedom” thing is indeed a very weak foreign policy. Instead of earning U.S. credibility around the world, I think it is actually undermining it. Alternatively, the U.S. should genuinely invest and listen to leaders, especially in poor countries like China is doing, to help them develop their schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. This will win the hearts and minds of the ordinary, en-mass. The hypocrisy on Internet Freedom only wins the hearts and minds of a small fraction of people in foreign lands.

The article below first appeared on Salon.com.

Hillary Clinton and Internet Freedom

FRIDAY, DEC 9, 2011 12:40 AM PACIFIC STANDARD TIME
BY GLENN GREENWALD

Hypocrisy from the U.S. Government — having U.S. officials self-righteously impose standards on other countries which they routinely violate — is so common and continuous that the vast majority of examples do not even merit notice. But sometimes, it is so egregious and shameless — and sufficiently consequential — that it should not go unobserved. Such is the case with the speech delivered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday at a Conference on Internet Freedom held at the Hague, a conference devoted to making “a stand for freedom of expression on the internet, especially on behalf of cyber dissidents and bloggers.” Clinton has been flamboyantly parading around for awhile now as the planet’s leading protector of Internet freedom; yesterday she condemned multiple countries for assaulting this freedom and along the way actually managed to keep a straight face as she said things like this:

[T]he right to express one’s views, practice one’s faith, peacefully assemble with others to pursue political or social change – these are all rights to which all human beings are entitled, whether they choose to exercise them in a city square or an internet chat room. . . . This is an urgent task. It is most urgent, of course, for those around the world whose words are now censored, who are imprisoned because of what they or others have written online, who are blocked from accessing entire categories of internet content, or who are being tracked by governments seeking to keep them from connecting with one another. . . .

[T]he more people that are online and contributing ideas, the more valuable the entire network becomes to all the other users. In this way, all users, through the billions of individual choices we make about what information to seek or share, fuel innovation, enliven public debates, quench a thirst for knowledge, and connect people in ways that distance and cost made impossible just a generation ago.

But when ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled, and people constrained in their choices, the internet is diminished for all of us. What we do today to preserve fundamental freedoms online will have a profound effect on the next generation of users. . . .

The United States wants the internet to remain a space where economic, political, and social exchanges flourish. To do that, we need to protect people who exercise their rights online, and we also need to protect the internet itself from plans that would undermine its fundamental characteristics.

She astutely observed that “those who push these plans often do so in the name of security.” She added that “the first challenge is for the private sector to embrace its role in protecting internet freedom,” which — she lamented — has not always happened: “A few years ago, the headlines were about companies turning over sensitive information about political dissidents. Earlier this year, they were about a company shutting down the social networking accounts of activists in the midst of a political debate.” She concluded with a real flourish: “Our government will continue to work very hard to get around every barrier that repressive governments put up” even though such governments will try to maintain those barriers “by resorting to greater oppression.”

What Hillary Clinton is condemning here is exactly that which not only the administration in which she serves, but also she herself, has done in one of the most important Internet freedom cases of the last decade: WikiLeaks. And beyond that case, both Clinton specifically and the Obama administration generally have waged a multi-front war on Internet freedom.

First, let us recall that many of WikiLeaks’ disclosures over the last 18 months have directly involved improprieties, bad acts and even illegalities on the part of Clinton’s own State Department. As part of WikiLeaks’ disclosures, she was caught ordering her diplomats at the U.N. to engage in extensive espionage on other diplomats and U.N. officials; in a classified memo, she demanded “forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications” as well as “credit card numbers, email addresses, phone, fax and pager numbers and even frequent-flyer account numbers” for a whole slew of diplomats, actions previously condemned by the U.S. as illegal. WikiLeaks also revealed that the State Department — very early on in the Obama administration — oversaw a joint effort between its diplomats and GOP officials to pressure and coerce Spain to block independent judicial investigations into the torture policies of Bush officials: a direct violation of then-candidate Obama’s pledge to allow investigations to proceed as well being at odds with the White House’s dismissal of questions about the Spanish investigation as merely “hypothetical.” WikiLeaks disclosures also revealed that public denials from Clinton’s State Department about the U.S. role in Yemen were at best deeply misleading. And, of course, those disclosures revealed a litany of other truly bad acts by the U.S. Government generally.

What has the U.S. Government done in response to these newsworthy Internet revelations? It launched what The Sydney Morning Herald this week – citing classified Australian diplomatic cables – described as “an ‘unprecedented’ US government criminal investigation”: “‘unprecedented both in its scale and nature.” It has convened a Grand Jury to criminally investigate WikiLeaks — for nothing more than doing what newspapers routinely do: publishing newsworthy classified information received from sources. It stood passively by — if it did not actively participate in —highly sophisticated cyberattacks that prevented WikiLeaks from being hosted any longer on a U.S. site. It secretly sought from Twitter a slew of records showing the online activities of WikiLeaks supporters, including a sitting member of Icleand’s Parliament. It has serially harassed American supporters of WikiLeaks by repeatedly detaining them at the airport and seizing their electronic goods such as their laptops, all without any warrants. And Senate Democrats demanded Julian Assange’s prosecution for espionage while bullying private corporations to cut off all of WikiLeaks’ funding sources.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s State Department warned international relations students that they had better not discuss, link to or even read the cables — which were making news all over the world — or else they would be jeopardizing their ability to work in government. The White Housewarned government employees not to even look at those documents online — even though the world’s largest newspapers were publishing them — and threatened that they would be breaking the law if they did. The State Department instructed its employees that all of those documents, published all over the world, must still be treated as secret. The Obama administration then blocked Internet access to those documents for hundreds of thousands of federal employees, even having the Library of Congress — one of the world’s largest libraries — install blocks to ensure that nobody could use library computers to read those documents. Those are the acts of a government and a State Department seeking to block access to and discussion of evidence of their own wrongdoing and to punish as criminals those who reported it.

Beyond WikiLeaks, the Obama administration (following in the footstepsof Saudi Arabia) is seeking “a new federal law forcing Internet e-mail, instant-messaging, and other communication providers offering encryption to build in backdoors for law enforcement surveillance.” The Obama DOJ has insisted that it has the right to read opened emails with no warrants from a court. The Chairwoman of the Democratic Party, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, is sponsoring a bill under which “Internet providers would be forced to keep logs of their customers’ activities for one year.” The Washington Post‘s Dana Priest and William Arkin reported in their “Top Secret America” series last year: “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”

Perhaps worst of all, many of the administration’s key allies in the Senate are now pushing a bill – in the name of stopping online piracy (SOPA) — that would vest the U.S. government and the largest corporations with draconian powers literally to shut down or otherwise disable Internet sites without due process. Hillary Clinton personally ”taciticly endorsed that bill,” enabling the bill’s key Democratic Congressional supporters to tout State Department support for it. As EFF’s Trevor Timm recently wrote: “Ironically, we know from the WikiLeaks cables that the State Department has also aggressively lobbied many other countries for strict new laws similar to SOPA. They have even offered to fund enforcement and literally draft the laws that sacrifice free speech for greater copyright protection for Hollywood.”

So let’s review Secretary Clinton’s list of grave threats to Internet freedom and see how it applies to her actions and those of the Obama administration. “Those around the world whose words are now censored . . . who are blocked from accessing entire categories of internet content” – check. Attempting to undermine the Internet’s ability to “enliven public debates, quench a thirst for knowledge” – check. “Ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled, and people constrained in their choices” – check. “Companies turning over sensitive information about political dissidents” and “a company shutting down the social networking accounts of activists in the midst of a political debate” — check. ”Those who push these plans often do so in the name of security” – big check.

Internet freedom — preventing government and corporate control of the Internet — is indeed one of the most vital political fights of this generation, perhaps the most vital. There are many people in a position credibly to lead and support that fight. Hillary Clinton and the government in which she serves is most definitely not among them; more often than not, they are among the enemies of those freedoms.

* * * * *

Last night, I was on Cenk Uygur’s new program on CurrentTV discussing SOPA as well as the pending detention bill; a brief excerpt of that segment can be seen here.

Glenn Greenwald
Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.More Glenn Greenwald

  1. raventhorn
    December 21st, 2011 at 18:33 | #1

    I think I wrote about the use of IP as an excuse or tool for censorship.

    Nothing easier to censor than to label it as one’s “property”.

    Oh, you want to buy? Not for sale.

    No, no, it’s not “secret”, not censored, it’s just not available for you.

    We have IP protection, we have trade secrets, we have copyrights on information that you won’t even know about, we have Patriot Act’s surveillance, we have Echelon program, and we have “export control”.

    Great Firewall of China? child’s play.

  2. zack
    December 21st, 2011 at 21:17 | #2

    where, i wonder is hilary clinton when her very own Obama administration is ‘curtailing internet freedom’?
    doesn’t she know that these ” these are all rights to which all human beings are entitled, whether they choose to exercise them in a city square or an internet chat room. . “, her very own words?

    good luck trying to find a news station in the US willing to confront her about her hypocrisy.

  3. December 21st, 2011 at 23:29 | #3

    Guys – indeed!

    If I am Hillary Clinton, I would think this way:

    By using “Internet Freedom,” “human rights,” and what-not as a pretext to antagonize foreign governments, the U.S. is in fact fomenting negative sentiments toward the U.S..

    The truth is there is a strong proposition for genuine freedom and human rights. Everyone generally want more of them – balanced by pragmatism and with a view towards society as a whole too (not just the individual).

    U.S. foreign policy should be geared towards building trust among governments around the world. This is what leadership is all about. No governments dare to attack America, so I think America’s true threat will always come from non-state actors. Only with that leadership, I truly believe the U.S. could gain greater cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

  4. LOLZ
    December 22nd, 2011 at 01:15 | #4

    While most of the world can easily talk about US hypocrisy on its foreign policy, the fact of the matter is that internet freedom is severely limited in China. However, I also believe that it’s up to the Chinese people themselves to decide what is the best for them, and not the western media and its politicians.

    Clinton has always been a foreign hawk, however in 2008 Obama was elected by portraying himself as an anti-war, anti-neocon, progressive liberal. His foreign policy has been more or less a continuation of W but very few US liberals have the guts to call him out.

  5. December 22nd, 2011 at 11:46 | #5

    @LOLZ
    Just curious what you think the limitations are in China.

    If Google (including Youtube), Facebook, and Twitter openly do not want to comply with Chinese law, I don’t see why it’s not justifiable to have them blocked. It is not that the Chinese don’t have access to similar capabilities service wise.

    Chinese people basically have access to everything with the exception of political speech they deem anti-China. Chinese law prohibits false rumors. Pornography and hate speech are censored too.

  6. Charles Liu
    December 22nd, 2011 at 12:08 | #6

    Didn’t Matt Damen, a vocal Obama supporter, recently criticize him?

    “Internet freedom is severely limited in China” – wow is this a statement of perception or fact? Here’s an example – recent protests in China have been painted as “censored” by our MSM, but when I go to Baidu dot com and search the towns by name, I can find all kinds of stuff on the protests, including criticism of the CCP.

    Just Baidu “海门”, “乌坎” (Haimen, Wukan, respectively) and see for yourself that these news are not censored on the internet.

  7. ltlee
    December 22nd, 2011 at 15:08 | #7

    At least two issues have to be resolved before one can really talk about internet freedom:
    1. Is cyberspace a private space or is it a public space?
    2. How is the internet or part of it used? Is the internet used as a market or is it used as a common?
    Neither of the above has simple answer. For example, participants of a discussion groups could use the space to exchange ideas. They would then discuss issues rationally and respect each other as well as their views. Or they can use the same space as if it is a common. They would then say the darndest thing to accomplish selfish agenda. Sooner or later, no one would want to join the discussion.
    If the answers to both of the question is toward the latter, then the internet has to be regulated.

  8. December 22nd, 2011 at 15:09 | #8

    danwei.org
    foolsmountain.com
    chinadivide.com
    all blogspot, livejournal blogs
    most US social media
    youtube
    wikipedia

    To say you can find something controversial on Baidu does not mean Chinese Internet freedom is not severely limited. It is, and if you ever go there you’ll realize it pretty quickly. Along with the flat-out blocking, sites the government has a beef with, like gmail, can take forever to load. Everything is funneled so bandwidth never matches what you enjoy in the US. Meanwhile, what site do you wish to go to that is blocked in the US?

    Try googling Tiananmen Square massacre (and whether there was one or not is irrelevant) or Dalai Lama or Falun Gong, then compare your results with other non-Chinese search engines, and you will see clearly how the Chinese government routinely and aggressively blocks many sites and manipulates searches.

  9. ltlee
    December 22nd, 2011 at 15:16 | #9

    @Charles Liu
    Well, there were no news on Wukan from approx. 12/13 to 12/18. And there was only one unique report on 12/19. Many reports and discussion afterward. And I think the above results are good.
    1. It prevents media feeding frenzy.
    2. Truth is one. One good report based on thorough and unbiased investigation is as good as 10 or 100.

  10. ltlee
    December 22nd, 2011 at 15:21 | #10

    @richard
    Why does anyone have to compare results with google?
    What make you think search results are the more the merrier?

  11. December 22nd, 2011 at 15:40 | #11

    @richard

    Like I said, China basically blocks web sites who flaunt not complying with Chinese law and web sites containing materials partially or fully “anti-China.”

    Google having no servers in China is a tremendous disadvantage, because Google cannot co-locate servers physically to optimize for latency. Look at the edge networks companies like Akamai provide and you will understand why geographical access is critical for Internet services. There is ZIPPO incentive for Chinese ISP’s to provision fast access to foreign Internet services. Slow Gmail, too bad.

    Personally, I think the Chinese government blocking sites like Youtube is too blunt. There are really good stuff there.

    But then, as I have written in a number of occasions, including this post below, the Chinese are actively seeking out the good stuff from the West:

    http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2011/01/the-open-courseware-consortium-help-make-education-free/

    Make a list of compelling web sites you think the Chinese out to have access to, then perhaps that’d be a more interesting conversation.

    Your own web site seems to be blocked too, isn’t it?

  12. Al
    December 22nd, 2011 at 16:23 | #12

    @Richard

    From home in Beijing, I can open Wikipedia.org, Chinadivide and Foulsmountain with no problem…

  13. Wahaha
    December 22nd, 2011 at 18:24 | #13

    Richard,

    Sure, the internet in China is much limited than in West, but there are much more different voices on China’s website than in West.

    Can you name one, JUST ONE, journalist from west major media who blamed the financial crisis on the so-called “democratic” system ?

    If there are 10,000 internet users bashing China’s system, I doubt if you can find one westerners blaming problems on system. THAT, IS WHY YOUR GOVERNMENT DOEST HAVE TO BLOCK THE INTERNET, not the other way around.

    So in such situation, comparison is meaningless.

  14. December 22nd, 2011 at 18:50 | #14

    @YinYang
    Make a list of compelling web sites you think the Chinese out to have access to, then perhaps that’d be a more interesting conversation.

    Did you not notice that that is exactly what I did? Did you see my list?

    Of course my site is blocked, just like Fool’s Mountain and China Divide. I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually this site is blocked as well.

    Wahaha: Can you name one, JUST ONE, journalist from west major media who blamed the financial crisis on the so-called “democratic” system ?

    Sure, Paul Krugman blamed it on the faults in our political system. Most economists and knowledgeable pundits did. It was not, of course, democracy that caused the crisis, but the perversion of democracy by the greedy manipulators at the top who are accountable to no one and who subverted the system. Just as it wasn’t communism per se that brought on the Cultural Revolution or the Great Leap Forward or Stalin’s Great Terror, but its perversion by power-hungry men who created a cult of personality. There is nothing built in to communism or democracy that cause these aberrations. It’s the work of corrupt men who hold themselves above the laws of the state. That said, I don’t understand the relevance of your question to this thread.

  15. Wahaha
    December 22nd, 2011 at 19:01 | #15

    Sure, Paul Krugman blamed it on the faults in our political system. Most economists and knowledgeable pundits did.

    *************************************************

    Really ?

    They are bashing government!!! for god sake.

    Just compare the ways media reported Arab spring and OWS, you should get a clue what your “free” media has tried to protect.

    Bashing system means that the problem is inevitable under certain system.

    Have you ever thought that political donation should be very hot topic every month, every year ? and it has been getting higher and higher but no “free” media ever tried to make it a topic like they follow Kim K the bitch?
    .

  16. December 22nd, 2011 at 20:37 | #16

    Pardon me?

  17. December 22nd, 2011 at 21:28 | #17

    @richard
    You said:

    @YinYang
    Make a list of compelling web sites you think the Chinese out to have access to, then perhaps that’d be a more interesting conversation.

    Did you not notice that that is exactly what I did? Did you see my list?

    Of course my site is blocked, just like Fool’s Mountain and China Divide. I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually this site is blocked as well.

    I saw your list, but what makes you think any one of them is necessary for China? What harm is caused without the Chinese having access to them?

    My answer is NONE; nothing of sizable consequence.

    One of the key reasons Allen and I started Hidden Harmonies was precisely because Fool’s Mountain was blocked. We guessed the reason Fool’s Mountain was blocked was because the blog opened up to ‘anti-China’ perspectives as well. We figured that type of perspective is already dime a dozen in the West; there is really no point in it.

    As I said, the Chinese are actively seeking out materials on the Internet that is useful to them, like the Open Courseware materials.

    What makes any of the sites you listed compelling?

  18. Wahaha
    December 22nd, 2011 at 21:52 | #18

    Pardon me?

    ******************

    Richard,

    Blaming government is not equivalent to bashing system, because your system is not designed to protect government.

    You think the financial crisis is caused by government ? are you really so naive and badly brainwashed to believe that government had the power to prevent this crisis ? read following from documentary film ‘Inside Job’ :

    “A major theme is the pressure from the financial industry on the political process to avoid regulation, and the ways that it is exerted. One conflict discussed is the prevalence of the revolving door, whereby financial regulators can be hired within the financial sector upon leaving government and make millions.”

    (THIS IS SOMETHING INHERITED FROM THE SYSTEM, YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO CHANGE THAT!!!)

    Do you know what would happen to a politician if he/she refuses to do the “routine” above ? Do you know who Brooksley Born is ?

    It is like you ask a chef to cook a delicious dinner for you without necessary ingredients. What do you bash chef for ?

  19. December 22nd, 2011 at 23:12 | #19

    Greenwald did a decent job pointing out some of the hypocrisies of U.S. ideology / policy. I think his referencing to last year’s actions that led to the eventual shutting down of wikileaks is right on, as I had also noted in a prior post titled “Reflecting on the Wikileaks Incident: What It Teaches About “Freedom”.”

    But as I have also discussed in a post titled ,”What does “Internet Censorship” Mean?,” I don’t think discussions on Internet “freedom” makes sense.

    Hence, I have a problem with Greenwald’s argument:

    Internet freedom — preventing government and corporate control of the Internet — is indeed one of the most vital political fights of this generation, perhaps the most vital. There are many people in a position credibly to lead and support that fight. Hillary Clinton and the government in which she serves is most definitely not among them; more often than not, they are among the enemies of those freedoms.

    The part on Hillary is right on, but why is Internet Freedom the most vital political fight of this – or any – generation?

    It’s probably because many people have the notion that the government is always out to suppress, and is generally only capable of suppressing, and hence the Internet needs to be a refuge of freedom from government. But if you really believe this (gov’t is never up to good), then why limit “freedom” to Internet? Why not just get government off our backs on everything we do and allow people to do whatever they want? I mean if government is so evil, and trust in the people is the battle cry, why not just advocate anarchy – the ultimate society of the people – NO GOV’T, NO RULES, JUST PEOPLE FREELY DOING WHATEVER THEY WANT!

    As I discussed in the “What does “Internet Censorship” Mean?” post,” the notion that the Internet must be a refuge away from the rule of law to me is absurd. We depend on gov’t to regulate so many things in society, including to do things to make a society just and fair (“harmonious” in current Chinese political parlance), why carve out the Internet???

    Even in the U.S., when the gov’t is really threatened, “freedom” is thrown out the window (wikileaks is but a dramatic example of this in the Internet space). So why this drive to drive the Chinese gov’t from Chinese cyberspace (or more precisely, regulation of the behavior of Chinese citizens’ interacting through the Internet medium)?

    Gov’t should be seen as a partner, not as an antagonist. Yes, gov’t – being the only entity I can think of that we in the modern world entrust to manage the welfare of the people (NGOs and corporations and religious organizations don’t work for the “people,” they work for their shareholders or patrons or other special interests) – should be properly managed to ensure they work for the “people.” But “freedom” from government is not the solution. Responsible governance should be the battle cry, not freedom.

    There is one last thing I want to observe though: why are the Chinese gov’t much more paranoid of anti-Chinese (anti-harmonious) activities on the Net than Western gov’ts? Why does the Chinese appear so much more afraid of the outside than the outside is of the Chinese? (It is the Chinese that have the GFW not the West)

    My sense is that it’s because China is still “catching up.” Many Chinese still reverently look to the West for everything. This (as yinyang has discussed before) is just natural human tendency and that as China catches up economically, this reverence will fall. However, for the next 10-20 years, the West will continue to have ideological and political leverage over China. This is what I think is the basis of the asymmetry between Chinese and Western response to “freedom.” China is more worried about “instability” than the West because it is weaker than the West and has much less power to foment “instability” in the West than the West in China. Many in the West – especially now seeing a rising China – sees only a limited window of opportunity to change China.

    The discussion on Chinese “freedom” in the West is eventually but a net result of realpolitik of this struggle. It is a discussion about geopolitics, not “freedom” per se.

    If I have time, I will make these thoughts into a post in the next few days…

  20. Charles Liu
    December 23rd, 2011 at 00:01 | #20

    I have accessed HH from within China (this July on a trip to Zhuhai).

    Very often I find the censorship claim in MSM false. I’d do a simple baidu search and there thy are. Here’s another example:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2011/01/china-blocks-internet-searches-for-egypt.html

    Another example is the xinjiang mummy exhibit. MSM claimed censorship on the mummy’s western origin, but when I searched on baidu I find stuff.

  21. Charles Liu
    December 23rd, 2011 at 00:37 | #21

    There are other demonstratable facts that contradicts these “severe”, “aggressive” visceral trigger words to narrate a policy of complete intolerance. Rather, the Chinese government’s policy to not let internet go out of control is very nuianced.

    For example, China’s firewall can be circumvented with little or no technological knowledge. Services to bypass the GFW is completely legal (VPN, proxy; most porn seeking high schoolers know how to use ProxyHunter 代理猎手).

  22. Al
    December 23rd, 2011 at 01:30 | #22

    @Richard

    I’ll say it AGAIN, I live in Beijing, and China Divide is NOT BLOCKED, nor is Wikipedia or Foulsmountain…..Looks like ur list is a little exaggerate…

  23. Al
    December 23rd, 2011 at 01:31 | #23

    @Richard….and no, Hidden Harmonies is not blocked at all in China

  24. LOLZ
    December 23rd, 2011 at 02:05 | #24

    @YinYang

    yinyang :
    @LOLZ
    Just curious what you think the limitations are in China.
    If Google (including Youtube), Facebook, and Twitter openly do not want to comply with Chinese law, I don’t see why it’s not justifiable to have them blocked. It is not that the Chinese don’t have access to similar capabilities service wise.
    Chinese people basically have access to everything with the exception of political speech they deem anti-China. Chinese law prohibits false rumors. Pornography and hate speech are censored too.

    As much I like to bash the anti-China posters myself, I don’t think it should be a crime to be vocally anti-China inside China. I am against Western nations’ aggressive intervention of Chinese domestic policies inside China, but I also think that Chinese people should be given a voice and outlet. Otherwise they will revolt sooner or later. The problem I see with the whole situation is that the Western media often misrepresents the Chinese voice by focusing on the radical few rather than the general Chinese society (which IMO is by and large conservative). To make matters worse the Western governments actively support radical groups with aims to destabilize China. However this doesn’t mean that the genuine complaints from Chinese people should be ignored and censored, because this really is the only way to improve a country. Social media is generally a good thing.

    On a more personal level I think the whole internet censorship thing simply makes my life more difficult. The VPN connection to the US can be super slow and I can’t even access my US banking account sometimes when I need to.

  25. ltlee
    December 23rd, 2011 at 07:32 | #25

    @Allen
    “The discussion on Chinese “freedom” in the West is eventually but a net result of realpolitik of this struggle. It is a discussion about geopolitics, not “freedom” per se.”

    Excellent point. If I may, I would add a historical perspective suggested by Immanuel Wallerstein in his THE DECLINE OF AMERICAN POWER

    “…the fiercest political conflict with Europe in the twentieth century has come from precisely the three regions that were only “semicolonized: the Soviet Union, the Chinese People’s Republic( and North Korea), and “Islam”.”

  26. December 23rd, 2011 at 09:13 | #26

    @richard
    Censorship and misinformation goes both way. Frankly, I think you are severely under informed about China as well. Tell me what original thinking you have about the ills of China? All you have to show for is proved that you have been brain washed by your own media. Tiananmen Massacre? (Is there really one?), Falun Gong, Dalai Lama are what the men in power in your society want you to focus on. Don’t tell me this is the priority of the Chinese people. Your argument is that the Chinese people are misinformed about these issues and thus not concerned about them don’t hold any water. The Chinese have their own priority and know what they want.

    I’ll just give one example to show how messed up the information game have failed the general public. How many people have heard about the April 12th Massacre? It is also know as 4.12 incident by Chinese historian, and can be known as Shanghai Massacre etc. Try to do a google or bing search and the return is pitiful (less than one page on those sites).

    To me as a Chinese historian. This event is one of the most significant event to affect China in the 20th century. Its importance is on par with the 1911 revolution, Sino-Japanese war etc. However, it would return blank stares if you put this question to any so-called western “China expert”. This is the real massacre that started the civil war between the communist party and nationalist party of China. It ended the cooperation of both parties that would continue until the nationalist fled to Taiwan.

    Frankly, not too many Chinese people even remembered this incident which is the largest massacre ever committed by Chinese against Chinese in the 20th century. All those examples you have quoted simply showed the selectiveness and weakness of the mass media. You are a drone and you don’t even know it.

  27. raventhorn
    December 23rd, 2011 at 09:39 | #27

    @Wahaha

    Yep, Richard’s argument holds no water.

  28. aflame
    December 23rd, 2011 at 09:53 | #28

    Allen :
    As I discussed in the “What does “Internet Censorship” Mean?” post,” the notion that the Internet must be a refuge away from the rule of law to me is absurd. We depend on gov’t to regulate so many things in society, including to do things to make a society just and fair (“harmonious” in current Chinese political parlance), why carve out the Internet???

    I agree that the goverment is not entirely ‘black’, that doesn’t make them pure ‘white’. They got a loooong way to go before they can achieve true harmony, and you need some kind of method to ‘regulate’ them while they improve themself. A kind of public ‘feedback/opinion’ similar to the feedback mailbox in front of government offices. The Internet is simply a perfect medium.

    First time posting here 😀

  29. Charles Liu
    December 23rd, 2011 at 10:12 | #29

    @LOLZ

    “I don’t think it should be a crime to be vocally anti-China inside China”

    And it’s not. Words and deeds are very different. I can find you plenty of anti-China voices in Chinese internet, yet these people are not in trouble.

    What do have limit, reasonably, are deeds that exceed limit of free speech, such as accepting foreign sponsorship for domestic political influence and colluding with outlawed group/entity overseas.

    For example, following the Baidu search terms provided in comment #6, you’ll find plenty to voices critical of the Chinese government.

  30. December 23rd, 2011 at 10:14 | #30

    @Al
    They were both blocked when I was there. I am not in China now.

  31. December 23rd, 2011 at 13:43 | #31

    @aflame #28

    A kind of public ‘feedback/opinion’ similar to the feedback mailbox in front of government offices. The Internet is simply a perfect medium.

    I don’t disagree with that per se. I am all for feedback and management. But is “Freedom” the way to do it? What the CCP censors are not criticism per se, but irresponsible speech – speech (often false speech) meant to incite rather than to inform. I personally think holding people responsible for such speech is probably good rather than bad – especially if such speech does lead to social chaos or degradation of social bond.

    Now, I know someone might argue that the CCP is using social cohesion as an excuse for censorship. In the extreme, I suppose CCP can say loss of trust of leadership can lead to break in social cohesion and thus criticism of leadership should per se be illegal. I am sure one might argue that, but I don’t think CCP today is exercising that sort of censorship.

    In any case, this is a big topic. Appreciate your comment.

  32. aflame
    December 23rd, 2011 at 19:12 | #32

    I also agree that there are things better left unsaid. But aside from political stuff like T.Square, Tibet, etc… CCP also censors things like health incidents (sanlu milk, air quality, etc..) ; corruption incidents ; which I think the citizens should know and have the right to know.

    Many of these are eventually re-posted so much that they can’t be censored anymore, but the original posts are gone, the authors can’t debate in their own topic, data twisted by re-posters, so many problems… why censor them in the first place?

  33. Al
    December 23rd, 2011 at 20:18 | #33

    @Richard
    “@Al
    They were both blocked when I was there. I am not in China now.”

    Than, if u don’t know the situation and u are not even here, refrain from such “absolute” statements, it’s be better for you, and your credibility.

    BTW, it’s not the first time I read a list of websites purportedly blocked in China, most of which are not blocked at all when u try to open them from here….Evidently exaggeration is daily work for people like Richard…

  34. December 23rd, 2011 at 23:00 | #34

    @LOLZ
    In addition to Charles #29, I’d look at the recent Wenzhou train crash and netizen reactions to how the Ministry of Rail handled it. How could you say the government don’t allow criticism?

    Certainly, I am totally for government accountability and transparency. (Allen will some day talk in more depth about transparency.)

    It is now Chinese law for government branches to comply with citizen and media right to know. Compliance is still pathetic in China. There are tons of criticisms in China, but with information about how governments (local and central) conduct business, citizens can then hold them more to account in court. This is a crucial step which gives power to the criticisms and will quicken reforms.

    Does more criticisms per se bring about positive changes? I think it is hard to say.

  35. December 23rd, 2011 at 23:06 | #35

    @YinYang #34

    Thanks for reminding me that I still owe people a post on my thoughts on “transparency.” Here was a small preview – based on two comments I had written.

    http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2011/07/eric-x-lis-counterpoint-op-ed-in-the-new-york-times/#comment-42660

    http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2011/10/happy-ten-ten/#comment-45188

  36. December 23rd, 2011 at 23:16 | #36

    @aflame #32

    I certainly agree that censorship to suppress informed discussion / reporting should be minimized – or done away with completely (e.g. sanlu milk, air pollution, sars). But things can get blurry – what about earthquakes and building safety – should they be reported in the spur of moment, when emotions run high, when people just want to blame, when statistics can be manipulated? Suppose more schools than gov’t buildings crashed not because of corruption, but because gov’t buildings usually involve more floors and are subject to more stringent codes, do you think that message can have the chance to get out when people are so incited and out for blood?

    Now I am not advocating for one truth or another (I haven’t dug myself), but I can see that many stories are stories because they can be politicized. Where to draw line that says T.Square, Tibet should be off discussion?

    I concede these are difficult questions.

    What I do believe is that Gov’t always has a role to regulate. I don’t think politics that originate from the masses are by default more true, or even good for the people themselves.

    On a side note, given the rally call of “freedom” across the world: how free do you think people are in the West? People might think they are relatively “free,” but do you know how many laws the West has? In the U.S., just the tax code itself is a monster. We live in a very unfree society where the gov’t (through so-called laws) regulate and where the trappings of capitalism (set up by laws, again) dictate almost every aspect of our lives.

    Getting gov’t off the Internet is not the answer … that’s all I am saying.

    P.S. since this is a political blog of sorts, I want to say: on the global stage, freedom for humanity means getting the U.S. to spend less and pull back on its military so the world population can be FREE from that monster of a thing we call the U.S. gov’t.

  37. February 8th, 2012 at 11:32 | #37

    Thanks for sharing your blog, keep it up.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.