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Information Apocalypse: Google and China

Google has decided to lift the government-legislated censorship it was conducting in China. This means that Google is now open and the Chinese can search on any term and get the same results you and I get. This is new.

I’ll leave the political implications to other bloggers. Right now, I want to share a recent experience with censored information that has left me reeling.

Last month my British friends on Twitter (some real life friends, some just close online contacts) sent me some links about the true living conditions for Palestinians. I am ashamed to admit it, but I truly had no idea. I know, the information is out there, but I just never saw it. I don’t know why. But just existing in life, here are the messages I get from American media and culture:

*Israelis and Palestinians have never been at peace for thousands of years, and there is nothing we can do about it.

*Palestinians are lavished with supplies, including arms, by other muslim Middle Eastern countries.

*Palestine is the greatest risk to our security in the Middle East.

The list goes on, but you get the gist. The information my friends sent me blew all of these messages to shreds; they just aren’t true. It has brought the meaning of “disrupt” to my very core. It’s uncomfortable. I’ve shed tears over it (here’s a comparison: I shed tears maybe twice about 9/11. One of those times being on 9/11/2001 when I thought a friend was in the Towers).

With Google opening up its search engine, I wonder what kind of disruption is happening with the Chinese people. Are they wise enough to take advantage of this likely short period of time to feverishly look up all the information on Human Rights activists or Democracy? What happens when they find that information that has been withheld from them? Will they feel sad or angry? Will their hearts be heavy with feelings of uselessness as mine is with Palestine? I am just one person. What if millions of people in China learn that their government is not the loving and protective big brother it purports to be?

My friend Eric Rice has a fantastic term for this: Infocalypse: an apocalypse of information. It’s information coming in from all sides, a flash flood of opinion, news, truth and falsehoods. How do we raise children in this? How do we introduce censored/closed cultures to this? How do we find out when we, ourselves, are being censored and what do we do about it?

How do we wean ourselves off it? We are begging for more and more and more information from Haiti. Right now, we would take information from the most biased, evil person on the streets in Haiti. We will absorb their tweets like water on cracked desert soil. We will work to restore their electricity so we can get them internet access, so they can get information themselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a fan of censorship, and I’m now so accustomed to surfing the waves of info that I am disrupted when I find that some particular waves have been stopped without my knowledge. I’m a big fan of info. But as a parent and a US citizen, I’m wondering what the effect of an infocalypse will have on a oppressed culture and unsuspecting individuals in the long run.

What say you, my fellow superhighway drivers?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • brentjones 14 January 2010, 12:53 pm

    I agree with you on this.
    Brent Jones in Oak Park, IL

    • PurpleCar 14 January 2010, 3:24 pm

      Thanks, Brent, for commenting! Which part do you agree on?

  • James 14 January 2010, 1:16 pm

    Does it ever cross your closed mind that the Chinese people are not as daft as you perceive them to be? That perhaps they love to protect their society from the vices of the degenerate West? Do you ever stop to think that perhaps democracy, as the West preaches it, might not be relevant to a country like China with a very unique past? A little opening up of the mind would help a lot….some people need to realize that their form of democracy aint a panacea to the world’s governance issues.

    • PurpleCar 14 January 2010, 3:27 pm

      James, it has crossed my mind. I’m not being imperialist. In fact, I’m not even making judgments. I’m just wondering what information will do to a culture.The down sides of the Western world are apparent to anyone who looks for them. I can understand the Chinese government’s logic, I’m just wondering what the open google searches will do to it.

  • liu mang 14 January 2010, 1:21 pm

    I’m not usually one to advocate “Eye for an eye” politics here, but excuse me. The Party has stifled their people for too long. Now they’re trying to censor the rest of the world too. I laud Google for their decision, but it’s not enough to combat this VERY SERIOUS THREAT TO THE INTERNET WORLD-WIDE. It is in the best interest of Google’s stockholders to fight back and floodping, phish and worm the Chinese military back to the stone age. Google must do this or face annihilation in the face of companies who ARE willing to violate their customers’ rights for a competitive edge. I also believe it is a moral obligation of every ISP to do the same.

    The Communist Party has rejected ALL Marxist ideals and communal practices in favor of Capitalism. They are in a situation where they provide the Chinese people with NOTHING but lies, threats, and bondage to large corporations. No public food, no public medicine. You have to bribe the fireman to show up at your burning apartment. You have to bribe the cops to protect you from muggers (they’re too busy beating the s*it out of same-sex couples and mentally handicapped folks). The city infrastructures are a total mess. The only “order” imposed by the Chinese government is on the sensory input of their citizens. If we can can break our Chinese brothers and sisters free from that propaganda machine, then the Party will have nothing (yi wu suo you) except a bunch of unpaid teenagers with guns who don’t know what to believe.

    The time for action is NOW. The “Chinese” (particularly ethnic minorities, but even many Han) are sick and tired of being treated this way. They are tired of being held back in the conceptual kindergarten of “guided opinion”.

    Google, you made the right choice! Now back it up. It’s not evil to show some teeth!

    • PurpleCar 14 January 2010, 3:32 pm

      Liu Mang, thanks for this insight. Maybe this whole thing will make us all turn a corner of some sort. Some censorship is good (kiddie porn, for example, should always be illegal). Oppression is never good. People seem to find their way through it. It may take thousands of years, but people seem to catch on eventually, no matter what. Let’s hope things in China go toward a peaceful solution that doesn’t involve oppression.

  • Mike 14 January 2010, 1:26 pm

    I wonder why the media here doesn’t show us this. (Speaking about the Palestinian article) But I wonder about our media here a lot overall. We get a lot of coverage on Lindsay Lohan, and the Leno-Conan wars. But they skip over this type of info. I think it makes people skeptical of anything they see in the media.

    • PurpleCar 14 January 2010, 3:33 pm

      You know, I don’t know why we don’t see it. I mean, Jimmy Carter wrote about Palestine and apartheid, but I totally missed it. Anna Beltzer’s videos shocked me, and I am so ashamed! Who knows why this sort of thing occurs. We need to speak up about it though.