Friday, January 22, 2010

I'm conflicted, re: Chinese Censorship vs US "Information Imperialism"

So, as you might guess, I'd generally consider myself against censorship or attempts by Authority to control the free flow of ideas. Adults can make those sorts of judgments for themselves.

However, an interesting argument came out of Communist China today that caught my attention.

While, up to this point, I was totally behind attempts to subvert China's censorship of the internet and they made an interesting argument against the US governments opposition to such censorship. Namely, that the US isn't opposing Chinese censorship on any sort of truly principled humanitarian grounds about free-speech etc, but simply as a form of "Information Imperialism" designed to Americanize and Westernize China through exposure to the (numerically superior) American information output.

Now, I don't really think China is being sincere about its intents either. Censorship, for them, clearly serves the end of political repression.

At the same time, I have no doubt that their analysis of US motives is nevertheless correct. I sympathize with opposing the idea of "Information Imperialism". Other cultures are bound to get diluted and globalized if they are all "brainwashed," as it were, with American TV, American movies, American ideas, etc.

Some would take a "free market" attitude and say that this simply means that our ideas are superior and deserve to win, but this doesn't take into account the fact that we produce so much and have so much money behind it...that the sheer volume is bound to overwhelm any other culture's output on world stage, and thus simply increase America's hegemony psychologically.

I guess it's the same principle whereby I'm inclined to be sympathetic to tariffs imposed by Third World countries on our goods (to protect their own nascent industries), but am appalled that we would demand tariffs on goods from poor countries when we already have so much.

Still, I don't really know how, practically, information could be given a "fair playing field" vs American Ideas without it turning into authoritarian repression or mere controlling people through ignorance. How do we get people in other cultures to embrace their own local culture when the world of McDonald's and Coca-Cola is there promising them instant gratification, entangled with the whole American "freedom" narrative of Classically Liberal Democracy and the Protestant Work Ethic??

Perhaps some sort of "tariff" on foreign information, which would allow it, but only for a "toll" paid by either the producer or the consumer side?

I don't know. I totally understand and sympathize with the concept behind what the Chinese are claiming (though I think they are claiming it disingenuously). There is a real problem that the sheer volume of US production in the area of ideas, backed by money and technology, would easily spell-bind any poorer culture and seduce them away from their native tradition with the promise of material happiness. Because of a false but constantly reinforced connection that has been drawn between the ideas, on the one hand, and the material prosperity on the other. Promising them temporal prosperity if they'll sell their souls to American hegemony, to the "progressive" globalizing meta-narrative, to Babylon. When really, all adopting the ideas will do is make them subservient and complacent, unwilling to resist, even when they are only marginally more prosperous and just as disenfranchised on the world stage.

The Second World is fortunately powerful enough to resist American Hegemony without being co-opted or selling out. Unfortunately, Russia and China aren't the nicest places to live necessarily. Though the Orthodox Church is exerting more influence in Russia again. If only China became some sort of Cathodox...then (as I discussed in my post on Globalism) if the Church would join that axis instead of the America-Western Europe-Israel one, and maybe bring the Third World with it...perhaps American Hegemony could crack. After all, it only two proton torpedoes into an exhaust shaft to destroy the Death Star...

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