What’s wrong with the South African Secrecy Bill? A dispatch from award-winning journalist and South African PEN board member Ray Louw.
Photo by U.S. Army Africa on a CC license
Haiti in Two Acts: a hard-hitting panel on literature and politics in Haiti on 5/5
In January 2010, Haiti was devastated by an earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people. Three years later, what has changed? What is the role of literature as Haiti rebuilds? What are the untold stories of this vibrant, expressive country? Act I: An expert delivers remarks about the country. Act II: Local writers respond to questions raised.
Participants: Jean-Euphèle Milcé, Emmelie Prophéte, Amy Wilentz, Shoshana GuySource: frenchculture.org
PEN Mourns Loss of Free Expression Defender Edward de Grazia
PEN is saddened by the loss of Edward de Grazia, a lawyer, playwright, and longtime PEN member who devoted his life to fighting censorship and promoting free expression. He will be missed.
photo courtesy of Cardozo Law School
Who’s winning, China or the Internet?
Two respectable publications have printed two contrary views. A Financial Times correspondent in Beijing relates that Communist party heavies may be able to batter Apple into a ritual apology for its perceived “arrogance”, but is losing the online backlash against its heavy-handed tactics.
The Economist, on the other hand, is publishing an entire special section on China’s unexpected success in using the Internet to tighten its control.
In the past three or four years, along with a huge rise in internet users – by the end of 2012 there were 564m, more than double the number of four years earlier – the wave of mockery and cynicism directed against the government has grown exponentially.
High-tech gadgets and social media sites are inherently cool and the fact that online discourse is dominated by snide remarks about the government makes poking fun at the government cool as well.
The Chinese internet has its share of funny dance videos and cats doing silly things but unlike in the west, many of the most popular viral memes are direct or indirect political assaults on officials and their policies.
Not only has Chinese authoritarian rule survived the internet, but the state has shown great skill in bending the technology to its own purposes, enabling it to exercise better control of its own society and setting an example for other repressive regimes. China’s party-state has deployed an army of cyber-police, hardware engineers, software developers, web monitors and paid online propagandists to watch, filter, censor and guide Chinese internet users. Chinese private internet companies, many of them clones of Western ones, have been allowed to flourish so long as they do not deviate from the party line.
The online mob can gorge itself on corrupt low-level officials because the party leaders allow it. It can make fun of censorship, ridicule party propaganda and mock the creator of the Great Firewall. It can lampoon a system that deletes accounts and allows them to pop up again under a new name, only for the new accounts to be deleted in turn. It can rattle the bars of its cage all it likes. As long as the dissent remains online and unorganized, the minders do not seem to care.