foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world

An embarrassment for the free world

, posted: 5-Aug-2008 10:12

In a few days the Olympic Games 2008 will open in China. The Olympic games have always claimed to bring the peoples of the world together in peaceful competition. We like to believe that the games can show mankind at its best, with unity, peace, tolerance and compassion.

Sadly, it also shows us great advances in the sciences of doping and Internet censorship.

Now, doping is a problem with the sport itself. If various disciplines manage to make a complete farce of themselves then so be it. It is a truly sad development for the honest athletes in that field, but also for the others who feel they need to damage their health (or are instructed to do so by corrupt coaches) in order to be competitive. In the end, though, the effect is limited to that field. There have always been cheaters, and somehow this will sort itself out.

What concerns me much more, though, is the blatant Internet censorship by the Chinese government and the apathy with which we allow it to happen. The Internet has the potential to change our society on many different levels, to share free thoughts and discussions, which can lead to true change and improvement in people's lives. But of course, not with censorship in place. Censoring free speech is a crime against basic human rights. Feeling observed and having to fear reprisals by governments is suffocating and opressive to the extreme. By limiting the free expression of human thought and creativity this huge potential for improvement for all of mankind is taken away. It is therefore in fact a crime against all of humanity, even against us outside of that 'Chinese firewall'.

And what are we doing in our 'oh so free' western world? The IOC is outraged. Our politicians are naturally outraged as well. And to really force China to stop this human rights violation, this crime against humanity, we do ... nothing.

Nothing at all. Only cheap, meaningless words.

People will still watch the Olympic games. Sponsorship deals will go on, people will buy the products they see advertised at the games. Politicians will show up, not to miss the photo opportunity.

We choose to 'appease' China. Why? Because, well, we need them. Where else would we get cheap plastic toys from? Or cheap clothes? Or cheap anything? How else would we cultivate a future market for our own products? In the end, China does not only censor the Internet for its citizens and visitors. It also holds all of us hostage: We are too dependend on them - now and because of future potential - to take a firm stand against an oppressive government.

Imagine if all of us would NOT watch the Olympic games. If the TV stations of the world would all boycot the games. China would rapidly allow free Internet access, at least in the Olympic village. They don't want to lose that much face, I would think. The Olympic games are a huge PR project for them.

What puzzles me is that they even bothered to enact the Internet censorship for the Olympic Village, knowing full well that it would mostly house foreigners anyway. Why did they risk the bad press they are now getting? I guess they just wanted to show the world that they are doing whatever they want, and that we can't do sh*t about it?

Of course, they are right. Nothing will happen. And besides, once the games are over, free speech in China will continue be crushed by police boots as always. Naturally, they will get away with it, because we will still need them and will do absolutely ... nothing.

Shame on us.

Other related posts:
Censorship in New Zealand: Wide-spread public brain-wash
Blackout to demonstrate against S92A
Section 92A (three strikes law) is not a New Zealand novelty

Comment by weatherman, on 6-Aug-2008 08:21

Bravo Foobar! I for one will NOT be watching the Olympics on TV, or following the games from any other media source.

Quite apart from the censorship issue, there is the brutal and barbaric human rights abuse practised by the Chinese government. These abuses occur in China itself, but are most graphically illustrated by Chinese persecution in Tibet.

How can the world stand by while innocent and peaceful Buddhist monks are burned alive in their wrecked temples? and women and children herded into work-camps?

Greed. Self interest. Cynicism.


Comment by KevDaly, on 6-Aug-2008 10:01

For once I agree with you.

The political leadership of the so-called free world are prostituting themselves for commercial gain (actually, I suppose that's what one normally prostitutes oneself for, but I digress).

I fail to see any difference between this and the infamous Berlin Olympics of 1936. The one likely difference of course is that we are much less likely to see any shows of defiance or contempt from any of the athletes or officials.

I don't make this comparison lightly: while China claims to be communist, and that label is beloved of China haters in the US who think that all communists or socialists are the spawn of Satan, the truth is that China is not a communist country. With its combination of an authoritarian state married to the commercial sector using ultra-nationalism (along with the usual control of information) to manipulate the population, it is clearly fascist.

Author's note by foobar, on 6-Aug-2008 10:35

@KevDaly: Hey, I didn't know you normally disagreed with me?

Anyway, the comparison with the Berlin Olympics 1936 is interesting, because that was roughly the time when 'appeasement' got its bad rap the first time around. And now we are doing it again with China. Look for example at the statements of various service providers, such as Google et al. in regards to censoring in China:

Yeah, we know it happens, but us being there is better than us not being there, because even though we voluntarily betray our nice sounding "don't be evil" principles for $1.50 and readily censor whatever the Chinese government tells us, people can still get a lot of information from us. So, in the end it's still good for the people there.

Then, they go and threaten to remove their servers from Sweden because of the new wire tapping law there, but make no such moves in regards to China.


And about the common misdefinition of communism: Yes, I think any clear thinking individual should get this by now. Sadly, clear thinking is not a common trait amongst people.

Comment by Darren, on 24-Aug-2008 09:35

China and the Chinese people are a complete and utter embarrasment to mankind.

I just read in the news that they threw a 78 year old woman in to a government "reeducation through hard labor" camp for one year. Her crime??? She APPLIED mutiple times for a protest permit so she could legally protest the government taking her house and land.

Again...her crime was not protesting...but APPLYING for a permit to protest.

Way to go China!!!!! Gee...I know lets give them the Olympic games!!! WTF is wrong this world???!!!

foobar's profile

New Zealand

  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
  • What I like: I'm a big fan of free and open source software. I'm Windows-free, running Ubuntu on my laptop. To a somewhat lesser degree, I also follow the SaaS industry.
  • Where I have been: Here and there, all over the place.

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