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by Ben Seattle - Weapon of Transparency (WOT)
Thursday, Dec. 15, 2005 at 12:09 AM
As described by the New York Times article (below) the
corrupt, revisionist (ie: fake marxist) government of China
is attempting to censor all news of last week's massacre
of 20 or more farmers in Dongzhou, in southern China.
This attempt to suppress news of this massacre may (or may not)
be successful in the short run. But, in the long run, these
kinds of attempts to suppress the news are doomed to failure.
This story is of great significance to activists today who
want to build a powerful and militant mass movement for a world
that is not ruled by imperialism and the bourgeoisie.
Comments by Ben Seattle follow the NYT article below:
December 14, 2005
Beijing Casts Net of Silence Over Protest
By Howard W. French
SHANGHAI, Dec. 13 - One week after the police violently suppressed a demonstration against the construction of a power plant in China, leaving as many as 20 people dead, an overwhelming majority of the Chinese public still knows nothing of the event.
In the wake of the biggest use of armed force against civilians since the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, Chinese officials have used a variety of techniques - from barring reports in most newspapers outside the immediate region to banning place names and other keywords associated with the event from major Internet search engines, like Google - to prevent news of the deaths from spreading.
Beijing's handling of news about the incident, which was widely reported internationally, provides a revealing picture of the government's ambitions to control the flow of information to its citizens, and of the increasingly sophisticated techniques - a combination of old-fashioned authoritarian methods and the latest Internet technologies - that it uses to keep people in the dark.
The government's first response was to impose a news blackout, apparently banning all Chinese news media from reporting the Dec. 6 confrontation. It was not until Saturday, four days later, with foreign news reports proliferating, that the official New China News Agency released the first Chinese account.
According to that report, more than 300 armed villagers in the southern town of Dongzhou "assaulted the police." Only two-thirds of the way into the article did it say that three villagers had been killed and eight others injured when "the police were forced to open fire in alarm."
But even that account was not widely circulated, and it was highly at odds with the stories told by villagers, who in several days of often detailed interviews insisted that 20 or more people had been killed by automatic weapons fire and that at least 40 were still missing.
The government's version, like a report the next day in which authorities announced the arrest of a commander who had been in charge of the police crackdown, was largely restricted to newspapers in Guangdong Province.
"The Central Propaganda Department must have instructed the media who can report this news and who cannot," said Yu Guoming, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Renmin University in Beijing.
The government's handling of information about the violence has drawn sharp criticism from a group of prominent intellectuals, more than 50 of whom have signed a statement condemning what they called the "crude censorship by the mainland media of any reporting of the Dongzhou incident." Word of the petition has circulated online, but it has not been published in China.
Not one among several of China's leading editors interviewed acknowledged receiving instructions from the government on how or whether to report on the death of protesters, but in each case their answers hinted at constraints and unease.
"We don't have this news on our Web site," said Fang Sanwen, the news director of Netease.com, one of China's three major Internet portals and news providers. "I can't speak. I hope you can understand."
Li Shanyou, editor in chief of Sohu.com, another of the leading portals, said: "I'm not the right person to answer this question. It's not very convenient to comment on this."
A link on Sina.com - the third of the leading portals and the only one to carry even a headline about the incident - to news from Dongzhou was a dead end, leading to a story about employment among college graduates.
Even Caijing, a magazine with a strong reputation for enterprising reporting on delicate topics, demurred. "We just had an annual meeting, and I haven't considered this subject yet," said Hu Shuli, the magazine's editor, speaking through an assistant.
Further obscuring news of the events at Dongzhou, online reports about the village incident carried by the New China News Agency were confined to its Guangdong provincial news page, with the result that few who did not already know of the news or were not searching determinedly would have been likely to stumble across it on China's leading official news Web site.
The government also arranged more technologically impressive measures to frustrate those who sought out news of the confrontation.
Until Tuesday, Web users who turned to search engines like Google and typed in the word Shanwei, the city with jurisdiction over the village where the demonstration was put down, would find nothing about the protests against power plant construction there, or about the crackdown. Users who continued to search found their browsers freezing. By Tuesday, links to foreign news sources appeared but were invariably inoperative.
But controls like these have spurred a lively commentary among China's fast-growing blogging community.
"The domestic news blocking system is really interesting," wrote one blogger. "I heard something happened in Shanwei and wanted to find out whether it was true or just the invention of a few people. So I started searching with Baidu, and Baidu went out of service at once. I could open their site, but couldn't do any searches." Baidu is one of the country's leading search engines.
"I don't dare to talk," another blogger wrote. "There are sensitive words everywhere - our motherland is so sensitive. China's body is covered with sensitive zones."
While numerous bloggers took the chance of discussing the incident on their Web sites, they found that their remarks were blocked or rapidly expunged, as the government knocked out comments it found offensive or above its low threshold. Some Internet users had trouble calling up major Western news sites, although those were not universally blocked.
(c) 2005 New York Times
Per title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this is distributed
without profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in such information for research and education.
Comments by Ben Seattle:
I thought the article above to be of interest because
it is related to two issues which are very important
for our emerging community of activists:
1) the revolution in communications is increasingly (even in
police states such as China) making it more difficult for
repressive states to suppress protest. As protest
movements develop -- and people increasingly understand
that the movement is just and victory is inevitable --
people lose their fear. State repression cannot succeed
in the long run because news of protest and the politics
of protest are becoming increasingly difficult to suppress.
2) We will never be able to popularize the most important
truth of our time -- that a world without bourgeois rule
is both possible and necessary -- without directly
confronting the prevailing idea (promoted by the ruling
class in imperialist countries like the U.S. -- and the
ruling class in revisionist societies like China -- and
also by clueless "cargo cult Leninist" activists who
consider themselves to be marxists) that the rule of the
working class in a modern society will take the form of
a merged party-state which controls all media and which
suppresses the voice of its political opponents.
Serious and militant activists will succeed in building a powerful
movement of millions by embracing the enormous potential of both:
(a) the emerging revolution in digital communications and
(b) the power of mass democracy.
An example of the emerging power of the revolution in communications is given in a December 9 NYT article:
> mobile telephone technology has made it easier
> for people in rural China to organize, communicating
> news to one another by short messages, and increasingly
> allowing them to stay in touch with members of
> non-governmental organizations in big cities who are
> eager to advise them or provide legal help.
A previous related post of mine (with a number of comments by activists) can be seen at:
More about Ben Seattle:
My posts will often include "WOT" (for "Weapon of Transparency")
in the title. I write extensively about how the emerging revolution in digital communications holds potential to:
(a) transform the terrain of the class struggle,
(b) resolve the crisis of theory which has paralyzed
the progressive movement and
(c) greatly accelerate the self-organization of
an anti-imperialist network for mass action
and information war.
More about my work can be seen at: http://struggle.net/ben
If you like my comments or have thoughtful questions or
criticisms -- then you are needed by the Media Weapon community.
Join me on the Media Weapon community email lists by sending
a blank email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I discuss "Ben's Second Law":
> The long-term suppression of political trends
> is no longer possible in the conditions of a
> modern economy and communications infrastructure
in "The Future Transparent Workers' State" on the web
We Need Mass Democracy
Real organization cannot be built on a foundation of sand
If we can create a mass anti-imperialist organization
where decisions and struggle are based on mass democracy
-- then we will capture the imagination of serious activists
everywhere -- and be in a position to change the dynamics
of the entire antiwar movement
Proletarism is anti-revisionist Marxism
for the 21st century
From the Russian workers' movement (with experience in
underground organizing under the rule of Brezhnev's
"communists" and militant strikes under the rule of
Yeltsin's "democrats") has come a proposal to recognize,
with a new name, a decisive break with the treachery of
the "communist" leadership -- which enslaved the working
class and betrayed the revolutionary movement in a way
comparable to the great betrayal of 1914.
The Media Weapon community
Isolated from one another we are easily defeated.
Connected to one another no force on earth can stop us.
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