When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

20 February 2006

Washington Post: The Click That Broke a Government's Grip

The Washington Post is running what looks to be a terrific series of articles on the Great Firewall of China aka "Golden Shield," and the (often Western vendor-supplied) technology that empowers China's policy of thought control and censorship.

Here's a clip from Sunday's article:
The top editors of the China Youth Daily were meeting in a conference room last August when their cell phones started buzzing quietly with text messages. One after another, they discreetly read the notes. Then they traded nervous glances.

Colleagues were informing them that a senior editor in the room, Li Datong, had done something astonishing. Just before the meeting, Li had posted a blistering letter on the newspaper's computer system attacking the Communist Party's propaganda czars and a plan by the editor in chief to dock reporters' pay if their stories upset party officials.

No one told the editor in chief. For 90 minutes, he ran the meeting, oblivious to the political storm that was brewing. Then Li announced what he had done.

The chief editor stammered and rushed back to his office, witnesses recalled. But by then, Li's memo had leaked and was spreading across the Internet in countless e-mails and instant messages. Copies were posted on China's most popular Web forums, and within hours people across the country were sending Li messages of support.

The government's Internet censors scrambled, ordering one Web site after another to delete the letter. But two days later, in an embarrassing retreat, the party bowed to public outrage and scrapped the editor in chief's plan to muzzle his reporters.

Washington Post: The Click That Broke a Government's Grip

Free thought and free speech terrify tyrants. That's why they are such absolutely vital and fundamental rights, and why the complicity of Western vendors (like Cisco Systems, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft) in empowering thought control is so dangerous.

Congressman Tom Lantos's poignant (and pointed) questions to this new "Gang of Four" - "Are you ashamed?" are chilling echoes of Joseph Welch's famous verbal takedown of Senator McCarthy--"At long last, have you left no sense of decency? Have you no shame?"

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