A Pathetic Excuse

Sunday, February 14, 2010
The Economist's Democracy in America blog responds to the pathetic excuse by autocratic regimes that they block access to the internet because its content is skewed towards American cultural interests.

The obvious question then becomes -- why don't these regimes allow their citizens to freely create, post and distribute the local content they want?

Case and point made here:

Obviously, authoritarian regimes are using concerns over cultural autonomy as a smokescreen for asserting political control. But even this doesn't quite express how off-point [this argument is]. In fact, regimes like China and Iran (and Vietnam, and others) are not unduly worried about English-language content produced in America flooding their countries, because few of their citizens can read English. (It's not even the same alphabet. Cuba, admittedly, may be different.) What really worries such countries is politically independent material produced in local languages. Such countries often allow the English-language websites of, say, the BBC or Voice of America to be viewed unimpeded inside the country. It is the Mandarin-, Farsi-, and Vietnamese-language sites of such news organizations that are blocked.

True, much of the politically sensitive material produced in these languages comes from diaspora communities in America and Europe. But that is precisely because these regimes crack down so hard on locally-produced political content. It's convenient for China and others to claim that cultural anti-imperialism is the reason for their curbs on internet content. If that's true, they can prove it by allowing their own citizens to post whatever they want. Don't hold your breath.