Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Google to stop censoring Chinese searches

The systemic analysis and ideological criticism can wait. We should be pleased with Google's decision, wait to see what the Chinese misleaders' reaction is, and do everything we can to support democratization at grass roots and working class levels. I was fortunate enough to work with mainland Chinese university students at the Asian Debate Institute in Seoul in 2008. There was nothing "programmed" about them. Like all of us, they were conditioned by their contexts, but my conversations with them then, and my continued contact with them on social networking sites now (they negotiate around their restrictions) reminds me that we are all more alike than different, and that people like speaking their minds and sharing information.

It is true, as one comment points out, that Google is merely placing the burden on Chinese internet service providers. Fair enough. Sometimes you have to say "we won't be complicit." And certainly one wonders whether Google would have made this dramatic move if they hadn't been hacked -- their reasoning for this decision is two parts security and one part principle. 

It is true that the busting open of closed societies serves the needs of multinational capitalism. That such a sociological fact could ever serve as a warrant for discouraging the transition from totalitarianism to democracy --even imperfect, bourgeois democracy-- seems unfeeling to me, a kind of prioritization of theory before human understanding. But I may be arguing against opponents who don't exist in this case; I haven't seen any "Google acted in the service of multinational capital" yet. I mean, they did, no doubt. But they also took a defensible stand, and that means something, however safe they were in doing so.

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