Friday, May 28, 2010 The New Toy.

The entire text of 1984. Sadly, it does no justice.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Naivety Gone, Thank You Orwell

Thus far, this blog has served as an expansive space to explore, in a sense, my research and own thoughtful musings. I have been researching the role Internet and new media play in the lives of the Chinese people and in their powerhouse government. More specifically, I have been examining new media from the perspective of the spectrum's counterpoints: an avenue for rebellion among the underground (emerging?) human rights activists or a seemingly invincible government weapon capable of annihilating any hope for revolution.

I can honestly say I approached the research process with as little bias as possible. I had never really studied the freedoms either opened or barricaded by the contrastive uses of media. I tried to understand the activities on both sides of the spectrum as well their respective repercussions. I am sorry to say, however, that in true Orwellian style, the government remains the victor.

True, there are plenty of counterarguments regarding Chinese activists rallying anti-government sentiment, however, the countless instances of government intervention, notable abductions and disappearances, and the point-blank removal of Internet services entirely only prove that the government's power is safe. Safe and sound and is likely to remain so.

If you have never read George Orwell's 1984, you may want to stop reading now.

In an oddly transcendent sort of way, realizing the seemingly impenetrable power China holds with its mouse and keyboard took me back to the night I finished Orwell's 1984 for the first time. It was some years ago, but I can still remember my hopeful naivety as I struggled through the last chapter. I still, in a way, hoped for redemption, but with every paragraph, every sentence, realized it would not come. I believe I even cried a little when I finally put the book down and accepted Orwell's future hell. Focusing on China, now, and finding myself nose to nose with a manifestation of Orwell's prediction is quite an unsettling experience, to say the least.

I wanted to be wrong; I wanted Orwell to be wrong. I wanted technology, new media, these creations unpredicted and unforeseen by Orwell, to somehow defy any government's efforts to establish totalitarianism. However, I have to return to Orwell again, I have to admit defeat again and resign my naivety yet again. China is as Orwell predicted; new media, Internet, technological advances have served Big Brother well.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Return to the Text

Lately I have spent a concentrated amount of time researching censorship, Internet restrictions, and the role of new media under China's Communist stronghold. Today, however, I wanted to return to the text that inspired the research in the first place, George Orwell's 1984. I sat at my computer and simply Googled "orwell and china" and was interested by the results.

I found an article by John Bennett which poses the question, Was Orwell Right? His text, though radical in some paragraphs, lists out many of Orwell's themes in relation to global events. While addressing war, censorship, propaganda, and other issues, Bennett also highlights Orwell's infamous slogan Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

This helped me return to the basics, in a sense. In all my research, I have been caught up in tangents stemming from China's exploitation of new media to further drug the people with pro-Communist propaganda and weeding out those "radicals" which would use new media as an avenue for human rights. Stemming from propaganda and censorship, however, is a far more basic principle which governs the actions of the Chinese government. Again, Orwell says it best: Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

For me, the control of history is somewhat distinct from mere censorship; censorship is the way, but the conquest of history is the why. Censorship can erase individuals and events. Entire lifetimes deleted or manipulated. Censorship in China is not to restrict Mr. Chen's privacy or networking space; it is to control Mr. Chen. It is to distort the memory and mind of Mr. Chen, as well as the minds and memories of every other Chinese citizen. When all you hear is support for the government and devotion to the state, what room do you have for complaint? disagreement? rebellion? How can you generate disgusted resentment when, by every account, Tienanmen Square is merely a mausoleum with beautiful grounds?

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Past. The Future?

I was reading the comments from my previous post regarding China's 10-month Internet ban when I came across an interesting question by James. He asked how the Chinese government could maintain such control over the people when their actions seem to only mistreat and abuse. I decided to go back a bit in history, and came across An Illustrated History of the Communist Party of China which shares the context of the rise and adaptation of the Communist party in China. Very interesting read, as it is written entirely from a Communist perspective.

As I was reviewing these pieces of history, I could have hit myself for overlooking China's original--and most poignant--form of propaganda: Mao Zedong's Little Red Book. After Chairman Mao came to power, many of his sayings were recorded and published as a small red book. It became unwritten law to carry at all times for continual indoctrination into Communist ideology. It was produced in mass quantities, and as a result, was the most printed book written in the twentieth century.

Accompanying the shift into digital age, I began thinking of the resources the Chinese government could exploit to publish its propaganda. Without the complicated resources of paper, ink, binding, labor, etc., needed to mass produce billions of Little Red Books, what can China accomplish (is accomplishing?) with the seemingly unlimited resources of new technology?

Friday, May 21, 2010

An Endless Battle?

I was able to research in greater depth the question of technological authority. Again, I'm researching the issues specifically in China, but on a basic level looking at the Internet as a weapon for rebellion or another warhead for government power.

After a 10-Month Ban, Western China is Back Online

I've been sifting though a number of articles which toss the issues back and forth. Colleagues Ben and Dr. Burton suggested some very applicable articles which gave my research a bit more insight. No one has an answer, obviously, as these technological advancements are without precedence. No one can tell whether it will prove totalitarianism's downfall or invincibility. I did, however, find an eerie article that leads me to think the Chinese government would destroy the Internet before it could lead to a revolution. Almost a year ago Chinese governments had to suppress an ethnic riot in the Western region of Xinjiang. In punishment, the government banned full use of the Internet for 10 months. Yes, 10 months. Many individuals whose jobs and livelihoods depended on the Internet were forced to move and the government proved its willingness to cut off a region entirely.

This article really helped me gain perspective. China is balancing. They are content with filtering the Internet, monitoring sites, and imprisoning individuals who seem just a tad radical, however if they felt their infrastructure was truly jeopardized, I would not be surprised if they pulled the plug.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Technological Power Trip

Just to recap, I am writing on the various uses of technology. My last paper began a comparison of China to 1984 where I examined governmental use of Internet filtering and gross information restrictions. To extend the argument, with this paper I am mainly focusing on the opposing forces at work here. On one hand, with the rise of new media and continuous advances in technology, there seems to be an unlimited opportunity for opposition to launch counter-government attacks to undermine Communism's staunch authority. On the other hand, however, the government is adapting just as quickly. They are utilizing new means to squish out any form of opposition be it in the physical world or cyber space. To link in again with my continuing comparison to 1984, I am examining new media as a marker: whether it prevents Orwell's hypothetical world from ever truly existing, or if it will lead to its inevitable domination.


This is my specially-created English 295 blog. The excitement is brimming.