Thursday, December 20, 2007

Keeping Press In China In Underground Provides Lessons for U.S.

Writing about the constant escalating criminal conduct in high places here in the U.S. has become depressingly routine as lawlessness emanates from every crevice and main office in the executive branch. There is no shock left in failure of regulators to regulate, their powers turned into toadying to corporate offices. Misstatements which former administrations would vehemently deny, today are simply referred to other Departments of Criminal Conduct.

It was wonderful to read then about Chinese journalism. While knowing that the huge size with limited communication and transporatation enabled outlying districts of China to erect their own dams of rivers and energy production, I was delighted to learn that that is a factor in revelations reaching the population of the country.

It’s a guerrilla war of sorts, but it is not a war against the government per se, as is sometimes implicit in black and white foreign reports about the struggle for press freedom in China. Rather it’s more an uneasy alliance of earnest reporters and conscientious officials working in tandem for themselves and their country. Accurate news reporting is useful, indeed essential, to provide an adequate response to epidemics and environmental disasters, and it serves an equally essential role in providing checks on out-of-control corruption and social injustice in a country in the throes of dramatic and fundamental change.

Abuse of power, malfeasance, special interests, and a lack of transparency are the frequently the targets of this new Chinese journalism, and when a story is suppressed it is not because it is critical per se but because the criticism cuts too close to certain vested interests and certain power holders protected by the party. By urgently addressing these issues before things spiral completely out of control, sometimes getting away with it, sometimes not, the Chinese press is both partner and adversary to the government by shining light in dark places.

Properly understood, journalism is a supremely patriotic undertaking, helping society to correct itself, to address errors and grievances before things tumble out of control.
While residual heavy-handed censorship is disdained for its blatant clumsiness, there are ways around it with word of mouth and the Internet, but the new, insidious pressures to censor the net pose new fresh challenges. To some extent this can be met with creative subterfuge; irony, sarcasm, symbolic expression and other zigzag forms of subversive speech can withstand the befuddled gaze of the straight-laced censor. More corrosive of the net’s ability to provide reliable information is the epidemic of hate speech, ad hominen attacks and misinformation, polluting the well of public knowledge.

China is awash in a swirling sea of information, more than ever in its history, thanks to the Internet, cell phones, handy-cams, blogs, satellite television and newspapers. Increasingly you can find what you are looking for if you know where to look, but you must first master the art of reading critically, oftentimes between the lines.

The internet is empowering, and all of us who blog are very fortunate to be able to report on the atrocities. We are occasionally able to report on matters that really need to be told, things that really need to be said. In an era when our government increasingly denies access to the American public, we need to keep an eye on its excesses with an eye to correcting them before it gets to the point we can't report anymore.

We need to repeat that the occupied White House is getting away with criminal behavior, and to call for prosecution of crimes, to begin with impeachment. The country is losing its freedoms, and we need to shout it out. If we don't, we may be the next to be forced to go underground like our fellow journalists where repression has taken over entirely.

(ht to Avedon Carol for the Wexler impeachment hearings site. Please use it.)

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