Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on January 23, 2009
James Fallows has a good post on his Atlantic blog about the Chinese censorship of Obama’s speech. He answers the question I’ve been asking myself: Why in the world would anyone - even a Chinese censor - be so stupid as to censor the inauguration speech of the new American president, especially one so popular overseas as Obama? Fallows, who has spent a good amount of time in China and knows the country well, writes “the people in charge of China’s propaganda apparatus are among the least worldly and most rigid-minded people in the entire country, with absolutely the least feel for how people in other countries might react or think. So apparently some of these ignoramuses considered it a good and prudent idea to cut off Obama — even if the vast majority of their fellow citizens would consider such paranoia to be extreme and bizarre. Also, within a part of the government where orthodoxy is everything, an official takes no risks by being too hard-line, but could get in trouble by being too permissive.”
That makes sense. Everybody knows China’s censors have a list of taboo subjects that Net users in the country are not allowed to discuss. By talking about the defeat of communism (albeit not in China) and regimes that try to stifle dissent, Obama ventured into that off-limits territory. So the censors’ knees jerked and they cut. Sure, it means the Chinese censors are now up there with Chief Justice John Roberts among the spoilers of a perfect Day One for Obama. But rules are rules.