How Can Anyone Argue With A Straight Face That China's Approach To Speech Online Is Better Than The US's During A Pandemic

from the authoritarian-nonsense dept

We’ve been writing a number of pieces lately about how incredibly dangerous China’s internet censorship has been during COVID-19, from silencing medical professionals to hiding research results tod trying to ignore Taiwan’s success in fighting COVID-19, it’s shown a pretty clear pattern that Chinese internet censorship is literally killing people. This is not to say that the US government’s response has been much better — it’s obviously been a disaster, but at least we have more free speech online and in the press, which is enabling all sorts of useful information to spread.

But you might not know that if you read this odd piece in the Atlantic by Jack Goldsmith and Andrew Keane Woods arguing that China has the right approach to handling free speech online during a pandemic, and the US has not. While the overall piece is, perhaps, a bit more thoughtful than the headline and tagline, it has moments that simply defy any sense of what’s happening in the world.

In the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong. Significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet, and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with a society?s norms and values.

Again, this defies all evidence of what we’ve seen to date.

The piece, bizarrely, conflates pervasive digital surveillance with open free speech online:

Two events were wake-up calls. The first was Edward Snowden?s revelations in 2013 about the astonishing extent of secret U.S. government monitoring of digital networks at home and abroad. The U.S. government?s domestic surveillance is legally constrained, especially compared with what authoritarian states do. But this is much less true of private actors. Snowden?s documents gave us a glimpse of the scale of surveillance of our lives by U.S. tech platforms, and made plain how the government accessed privately collected data to serve its national-security needs.

And that’s got literally nothing to do with America’s approach to free speech online.

The “second” wake up call does relate to speech, but perhaps not in the way the authors mean:

The second wake-up call was Russia?s interference in the 2016 election. As Barack Obama noted, the most consequential misinformation campaign in modern history was ?not particularly sophisticated?this was not some elaborate, complicated espionage scheme.? Russia used a simple phishing attack and a blunt and relatively limited social-media strategy to disrupt the legitimacy of the 2016 election and wreak still-ongoing havoc on the American political system. The episode showed how easily a foreign adversary could exploit the United States? deep reliance on relatively unregulated digital networks. It also highlighted how legal limitations grounded in the First Amendment (freedom of speech and press) and the Fourth Amendment (privacy) make it hard for the U.S. government to identify, prevent, and respond to malicious cyber operations from abroad.

Yes, the Russians conducted a misinformation campaign — but it still remains unclear how effective that was beyond at the margins (and, to be fair, in a close election, the margins can be meaningful). But that’s hardly a reason to throw out the 1st Amendment. The 1st Amendment has also allowed there to be widespread discussion and debate about all of this, and has helped to get companies better situated to deal with and respond to disinformation campaigns. It has also allowed tons of people to be on the digital frontlines pointing out mis- and dis-information and working on responding to it to limit its impact. There will always be some and there will always be attempts to exploit it, but the idea that China’s approach is better seems totally counterfactual to reality (or what plenty of people who have suffered from Chinese internet censorship will tell you).

Incredibly, the authors blame Section 230 for “the free for all” online… but then when they talk about the companies trying to combat disinfo just two paragraphs later, they somehow miraculously leave out the fact that it’s Section 230 and the 1st Amendment that allow them to moderate the content on the platform:

Ten years ago, speech on the American Internet was a free-for-all. There was relatively little monitoring and censorship?public or private?of what people posted, said, or did on Facebook, YouTube, and other sites. In part, this was due to the legal immunity that platforms enjoyed under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. And in part it was because the socially disruptive effects of digital networks?various forms of weaponized speech and misinformation?had not yet emerged. As the networks became filled with bullying, harassment, child sexual exploitation, revenge porn, disinformation campaigns, digitally manipulated videos, and other forms of harmful content, private platforms faced growing pressure from governments and users to fix the problems.


After the 2016 election debacle, for example, the tech platforms took aggressive but still imperfect steps to fend off foreign adversaries. YouTube has an aggressive policy of removing what it deems to be deceptive practices and foreign-influence operations related to elections. It also makes judgments about and gives priority to what it calls ?authoritative voices.? Facebook has deployed a multipronged strategy that includes removing fake accounts and eliminating or demoting ?inauthentic behavior.? Twitter has a similar censorship policy aimed at ?platform manipulation originating from bad-faith actors located in countries outside of the US.?

It’s the American approach to free speech that makes this even possible.

Then the article argues that misinformation in the age of COVID-19 is something… new. And that it’s so serious that perhaps we should change how we think about free speech:

What is different about speech regulation related to COVID-19 is the context: The problem is huge and the stakes are very high. But when the crisis is gone, there is no unregulated ?normal? to return to. We live?and for several years, we have been living?in a world of serious and growing harms resulting from digital speech. Governments will not stop worrying about these harms. And private platforms will continue to expand their definition of offensive content, and will use algorithms to regulate it ever more closely. The general trend toward more speech control will not abate.

Note that they seem to be conflating a few things here. There is the US government’s approach to speech (bound by the 1st Amendment, there are very few areas where speech may be limited), and there are internet companies’ approaches to hosting speech upon their private platforms. And while those platforms are becoming more aggressive in cracking down on misinformation, there remain plenty of other platforms online that are chock full of misinformation as well. But that’s got little to do with our laws (beyond the fact that, as noted above, the 1st Amendment enables platforms to decide for themselves how to handle these things).

But it seems odd for an article that suggests a governmental approach to stifling speech is a good idea literally days after the US President suggesting injecting disinfectant into people as a way to deal with COVID-19. It’s not the internet that is the cause of misinformation, guys. And saying that government should crack down on misinformation isn’t going to work when it’s the head of state spouting off the misinformation, which is then broadcast live by TV networks.

The article then tries to tie free speech to surveillance, but I’m unclear why or how those two things are as connected as the article suggests they are. You can have one without the other — yet the article continues to assume that if you want free speech, then you must have mass surveillance along with it. It uses the examples of Clearview AI and Ring as examples of greater surveillance, but those have little to nothing to do with the American approach to free speech.

The article all too glibly insists that private company data tracking is the “functional equivalent” of the infamous social score now used in China, without recognizing a number of fundamental differences — with the largest being the fact that the social score in China is a government program and is used in all sorts of nefarious ways. Yes, the article argues that thanks to COVID-19 it’s likely that the US government and companies will be more closely tied, but gives no reason to support that conclusion as inevitable:

Apple and google have told critics that their partnership will end once the pandemic subsides. Facebook has said that its aggressive censorship practices will cease when the crisis does. But when COVID-19 is behind us, we will still live in a world where private firms vacuum up huge amounts of personal data and collaborate with government officials who want access to that data. We will continue to opt in to private digital surveillance because of the benefits and conveniences that result. Firms and governments will continue to use the masses of collected data for various private and social ends.

The harms from digital speech will also continue to grow, as will speech controls on these networks. And invariably, government involvement will grow. At the moment, the private sector is making most of the important decisions, though often under government pressure. But as Zuckerberg has pleaded, the firms may not be able to regulate speech legitimately without heavier government guidance and involvement. It is also unclear whether, for example, the companies can adequately contain foreign misinformation and prevent digital tampering with voting mechanisms without more government surveillance.

The First and Fourth Amendments as currently interpreted, and the American aversion to excessive government-private-sector collaboration, have stood as barriers to greater government involvement. Americans? understanding of these laws, and the cultural norms they spawned, will be tested as the social costs of a relatively open internet multiply.

COVID-19 is a window into these future struggles.

Perhaps. It will certainly be interesting to see where the future heads, but the idea that COVID-19 inevitably means that the US will be less speech protective in the future is far from the only possible path forward. And the idea that China somehow has the right idea has little support anywhere. The authors may be correct that the government will try to expand surveillance and limit speech, but that’s been happening for years. COVID-19 changes little in that regard.

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Comments on “How Can Anyone Argue With A Straight Face That China's Approach To Speech Online Is Better Than The US's During A Pandemic”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Tangential but relevant

I would argue that the White House’s making its internal conversations about the Covid-19 response classified is about on par with the way China’s government has handled things. Yes there are differences, but the Administrations presumption that the people should not know about the stumbling, back stabbing, self serving confluence of missteps and misdeeds that are the hallmarks of the response is none of our business is more than just pathetic. Government for the people, by the people is not within the scope of ‘Governing by Trump™’.

Being limited by the Constitution he turns to what he thinks he can get away with. Instead of censoring social media, Trump just calls anything he doesn’t like ‘fake’, which in his mind is about the same thing.

Is this a better response than the Chinese, or about the same regardless of the differences?

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Tangential but relevant

Is this a better response than the Chinese, or about the same regardless of the differences?

Better, but not for lack of trying on Trump’s part, as I have no doubt that if he could censor critics and control the narrative the same way as the chinese government does he’d do so in a heartbeat.

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Godfree (profile) says:

Re: Re: Tangential but relevant

He can. Anytime he wishes. He may already be doing so since he doesn’t need anyone’s permission. The President simply invokes Executive Orders 10995 and 12472 and, lo! he controls all the information in the realm.

Better still, he can execute without trial American citizens who express unpopular ideas in public. In 2011 the President executed an American preacher, Anwar al Awlaki, along with his sixteen-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter, without trial or public demur.


“The CIA and the Media: How America’s Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up.” Carl Bernstein. Rolling Stone, 1977.

Gekaufte Journalisten (Bought Journalists), Udo Ulfkotte. Kopp Verlag. 2014. The English language edition, Journalists For Hire: How The CIA Buys The News, has been suppressed.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Tangential but relevant

With the magical ‘I can do whatever the hell I want’ powers he thinks he has by virtue of being president, which would be a funny delusion were it not for the worrying possibility that the republicans in the house and senate would back him on that.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Tangential but relevant

Looks like our resident 50-cent army member may have given up on the obviously disingenious bullshit he was peddling about how the PRC was the utopia of freedom and liberty in favor of the neo-russian whataboutist approach where he instead implies that freedom doesn’t exist anywhere else either.

As far as propaganda goes it’s a bit better than the previous works by "Godfree" when he claimed the PRC had a better human rights record than the US, when he flatly denied the Uighur ethnic cleansing, when he tried to guarantee how happy chinese citizens were about government censorship, or when he implied SARS-CoV-2 was a US bioweapon instead of a chinese wet market mutation.

But that’s not exactly a high bar to meet.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'Free speech is great, but...'

If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values, they’re hobbies.’ ― Jon Stewart

The irony of course is that in their gushing praise for chinese government control and censorship of the internet they miss that under that standard their own article, critical of the government they are under, almost certainly would not have been allowed. Making a public post talking about how the US government got something wrong and another government did something better? Well, that simply will not do, that sort of thin could cause public unrest or threaten the authorities and therefore must go.

As always whenever someone tries to talk about how amazing government spying is my response is simply: You first. Make everything public, let everyone pour over every little nook and cranny of your lives online, so that they get to experience what it’s like living with the knowledge that nothing they do online is private, that at any point someone can look at what they are doing no matter how personal that may be. Atop that if they’re going to praise government censorship people should have veto power over anything they might say, able to censor anything that might be objectionable or ‘wrong’ on a whim, with little to no ability for them to object or get their stuff back online.

After all, if it’s good enough for the public they would foist it upon then it damn well better be good enough for them.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe Goldsmith and Woods have been drinking some disinfectant to prevent COVID? Apparently some of these disinfectants can "… interfere with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can … make it harder to think clearly…"

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s wierd for him to make this argument at this time..

Just imagine the social cost if speech and the internet were more government controlled during this time while we are simultaneously in crisis and the gov is our biggest peddler of misinformation and also clearly trying to use government power to control the next election results.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Inverse Sinclair's Law

It appears that the authors are suffering from the corralary of Upton Sinclair’s Law "That it is difficult for a man to understand something when his salary depends upon not understanding it." Namely "It is very easy for a man to believe anything if he thinks his salary depends upon it."

We have seen plenty of so called journalists accepting any absurdity if they believe it will help with a job. See hedging on injecting bleach being a bad idea and cheerleading limiting freedom of the press if it involves somebody else. And well those who can make you believe absurdities can makevyou commit travesties.

ECA (profile) says:

Editing history.

To anyone that understands the ramifications.
If you really want to go into it.
The USA gov. and politicians have been Augmenting things for along time. mostly political. The right to be forgotten is Old, as most people could wonder to another state and change everything.(and why serial killers can get away for a long time)
IF the USA lived and Loved truth and the reality of being a human being. We wouldnt hide behind the facade of religion or Im right everything else is wrong.. That People are what they ARE. Why hide it. You Might take the time to Explain your side of something, but no. We cant do that.
All of you should know, the USA is still at war. But we have not declared the war powers act. And there are reasons they Dont. (strange reasons) but 1 of them is simple. Bring home the military and whats going to happen? more unemployed, and Tons of military jobs will vanish.(its the same with WWI and WWII).

The propaganda machine has never left this country since WWII. And if you know where to look, the USA has been in so many wars its kinda ridiculous. I love those on FOX declaring that this war(s) are the longest in history, but they never look at the Spanish American war, Starting at Cuba, then Central America, then into the pacific. 40 years.
Look down the right side under the Main section.

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RagstoRogseriffic says:

Re: Re:

Correct. Are you also godfree?

If so, please Google researchorganizedgangstalking(dot)wordpress(dot)com

I (ROGS) would like to talk to you.

You have hit the proverbial nail on the head as we see with how they are trolling and flagging you for stating facts.

Techdirts pseudo-community (full of NGO/military/intel agency/big pharma friendly trolls) hates facts and the people who use them scientifically to assess western bullshit.

And of course, we know who Big Pharma is, right?


The last laugh, and they will eat the pills, every time.

BernedUp says:

Re: Click Fools & Convenience

It’s more than sad. i.e. Amazon. For the convenience of free or rushed shipping and saving a couple bucks (you give away anyway in taxes, healthcare costs, etc) that click means users made Bezos the richest man on the planet in short order and continue to fund his diabolical urge to win the game. At great cost to more lives, stepped up surveillance 24/7 (no more masturbation in private folks!) more murders and oppession of poor and POC, a food system that kills, more jacked up unneccesary vaccination (no better margins then to have 100% patient compliance by mandating choice away from them). In the end we do not have hours to prevent. We are long past that. We have minutes to maybe do some plugging of the harms being done to all of us. Jesus, Im a jerk for writing anymore on any of this. My ass in a chair thinking I have something to offer in a comments section when I dont know jack is another version of how to distract the village idiots and keep them compliant, out of the way and thinking they have choices. Oh, we have the power but sitting here would not be that. Lets suit up already.

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Godfree (profile) says:

Dangerous? Dangerous?

how incredibly dangerous China’s internet censorship has been during COVID-19 from China’s results say otherwise: its Covid death rate is 1% of ours.

silencing medical professionals to Get over it. China told an ophthalmologist to stop tweeting about a SARS outbreak until the national lab (which had samples in hand) had finished analyzing its DNA. OF course, the idiot’s tweets had already gone viral, causing 140,000 people to flee Wuhan before the lockdown and thus complicating the entire national effort.

hiding research results to No. China did not hide any research results. Jan. 30 –Dr Bruce Aylward, head of the WHO International Mission said, “In the face of a previously unknown disease, China has taken one of the most ancient approaches for infectious disease control and rolled out probably the most ambitious, and I would say, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history. China took old-fashioned measures, like the national approach to hand-washing, the mask-wearing, the social distancing, the universal temperature monitoring. But then very quickly, as it started to evolve, the response started to change . . . So they refined the strategy as they moved forward, and this is an important aspect as we look to how we might use this going forward. WHO has been here from the start of this crisis, an epidemic, working every single day with the government of China… WHO was here from the beginning and never left. What’s different about this mission is it’s complementing with a lot of other external experts.”

ignore Taiwan’s success in fighting COVID-19 Taiwan’s success was 100% dependent on China’s experience.

Chinese internet censorship is literally killing people. Again, it’s not. If we extrapolate American figures, Chinese internet censorship–assuming it has played a role in this drama–has saved 240,000 lives and counting.

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Godfree (profile) says:

Re: Re: Heya, Godfree!

Social Credit is off this topic but here’s a thought for you: 90% of Chinese–who are smarter, better educated and more widely traveled than us–say SC is just what China needs.

If our media weren’t misrepresenting everything about China, you’d probably support SC in our country, too, because it’s 90% about consumer protection and the penalties are mild.

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RagstoRogseriffic says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Heya, Godfree!

Really, Masnick? re: We all know what country is yours.

[citation neeeeeeeded]

Do you, actually know, or is that just a bullshit phrase for the onlookers?

Africa for example, is full of people who are trying to simply understand our western dialectic spaces. Some of them are propagandized by the Chinese. Others are propagandized by the US, FVEY mobs and christian-Jewish rhetoric.

Its sort of racist(stupidly racist), and RUDE to dismiss the commenters as We all know what country is yours. Or, provide evidence.

SO: Citation, or GTFO.

Or, are you a fan of secret evidence, also?

Over and over, your in-house trolls like SpergStone miss opportunities, and reveal your biases and blind spots, and its not a good look, any way you dice it.

I suspect you had a drink or two tonight, without evidenceof course….

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

90% of Chinese–who are smarter, better educated and more widely traveled than us–say SC is just what China needs.

And I’m sure the fact that they’d be thrown into a reëducation camp or otherwise punished for seditious insubordination if they dared to say otherwise has nothing to do with that statistic~.

Also: Does your using the name “Godfree” when your paymasters are notorious for oppressing religious groups and enforcing mandatory atheism within its ranks count as irony?

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RagstoRogseriffic says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Stephen T. Stone ignorant racist white person

Even if there was a god, he would shit on your face as if you are a toilet because you are too stupid to recognize intel opportunities:

Oh, wait, you are TDs elected Troll King for a Day, never mind.

And even then, you fail at basic fanfiction:

What a stupid fag you are.

And I do mean, what a fucking fag:

a tiring or unwelcome task.
"it's too much of a fag to drive all the way there and back again"
chore · slog · grind · drudgery · exertion · trouble · bother · pain · hardship · bore · sweat

work hard, especially at a tedious job or task.
"he didn't have to fag away in a lab to get the right answer"
work hard · labor · work one's fingers to the bone · work like a Trojan

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Heya, Godfree!

"If our media weren’t misrepresenting everything about China…"

You mean as in "reporting actual fact rather than the official statements made by the PRC propaganda ministry"?

You know, it’s almost embarrassing how this 50-cent circus of yours is so laughably similar to what some old mandarin might have sent out to "enlighten the unwashed masses" with in the reign of emperors.

Incidentally, let me know when Chinas academical and commercial elite mushroomed into being "90%" of 1,4 billion people, hmm? Even counting the disproportionately high education and wealth levels of taiwan and Hong Kong you’re not getting anywhere near that.

"…because it’s 90% about consumer protection and the penalties are mild."

Judging by the various known schemes of social credit scoring it appears to have nothing to do with consumers at all and more on whether the local commissar decided someone was acting…"un-chinese".

It’s fairly telling that on this forum the only one who appears to have become a fan of yours would be ROGS.

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Sure, Lets Do IT! says:

Re: Re: Heya, Godfree!

Khym, maybe start here:

The US system has sent black, white, and "other" low income families into credit purgatory for a century. ANd that, preceded by actual debtors prisons wherein men wer kidnapped and forced into prison labor after the Civil War.

And I would wager that most men in US prisons today had shit credit scores too (drug offenders, and as we see more and more, like Wisconsin and Mississippi, debtors prisons) and that they are there because they spiraled into debt, then addiction, then crime.

I can’t believe the OP got flagged-apparently Techdirt’s community hates factsalmost as much as it hates the Chinese.

Facts like the fact that the US set this trend in social scores in the first place.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Heya, Godfree!

I talked to a Credit card company Boss, long ago about the logic of interest rates. Why not have lower interest on the lower income people, as they would probably do everything they can to pay it back. When a rich person could handle the high interest rate, and if he ever missed a payment, you could get allot more money from them.
He mentioned that he understands the logic, but there were more low income people, and they have a higher chance of missing a payment.

Logic of a situation is great, until you add to it the money parts.
Then comes Company stocks. WHY do these corps need them? Its cheaper then the bank. But the bank Owns the company..

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Heya, Godfree!

The idea sounds interesting.
And something of a Good/bad list for people and companies..
IF’ it is kept Fair and balanced, but DONT get our banks involved. We already have Some of this, and it dont work very well. As to have Money credit in this nation, you must be in debt. A person or family that Never needs a credit card, never gets a good score.

I had a Credit card at 8% for years, based on the federal bank, then they changed it to the Top 4 National banks Credit charges, and the rates went up, now at 15%.
On Social sec. it was fine at 8% and I could keep it up, but not at 15%.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Dangerous? Dangerous?

"its Covid death rate is 1% of ours"

It is amazing what you can achieve if you just lie about the figures, isn’t it? Not only are China’s figures highly suspect, but you’re way off on the death rate of the official figures as well.

"Jan. 30"

Strange how you had to go back to well before the pandemic situation to find any support.

"Taiwan’s success was 100% dependent on China’s experience."

Yes, and if the orange man had learned from that experience in the same way the world would be better off. Instead he opted to lie about it and gamble lives to prop up his re-election chances.

Tin-Foil-Hat says:

Not as bad but still bad

We have, by far, more personally guaranteed rights than Chinese citizens but that doesn’t mean the US government is without fault. Aside from free speech the USA is in many ways, less free than other developed, democracies and its people less represented. Oops I forgot, corporations are people so I take that back. A handful of the wealthiest corporations are represented.

Except for extreme cases such as making threats, the government rarely suppresses individual speech but the US government needlessly classifies information that we absolutely have a right to know. Often for reasons that no government of a purportedly free country should be allowed.

For example, the CDC is prohibited from releasing information if not cleared by the Whitehouse. This is for no other reason than to protect Trump’s fragile ego.

At the same time Trump releases false, sometimes dangerous information. It’s unfortunate that companies must be prepared to issue warnings about consuming poisonous substances after Trump takes the stage.

If anyone should be locked up it’s Trump and his crooked, mentally challenged, pussy of a son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Maybe they’ll get the Senior Kushner’s old cell.

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ROGS says:

Re: Not as bad but still bad

more personally guaranteed rights than Chinese citizens

[citation needed]

Have you ever read the Chinese Constitution? It spells out everything that the US Con does, and more, without the massive Prison Industrial Complex/parole and peonage/gulag system that was built for speech violators and other dissenters there in the US. .

Article 2 All power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the people (The US version is we, the people, whoever they are right? lol fuckin l)

Article 4 All nationalities in the People’s Republic of China are equal ( no "three fifths clause" in there)

Article 22 The State promotes the development of art and literature, the press, radio and television broadcasting, publishing and distribution services, libraries, museums, cultural centres and other cultural undertakings that serve the people and socialism, and it sponsors mass cultural activities

(more or less EXACTLY like the state-NGO-special interest-corporate sponsored "free press" of the US)

Stop kidding yourself, the US democracy/ free speech babble about rights is just that-total gibberish.

The US and its religious-tribal Octopuses across the oceans (the FVEYs) is surveilling targeted speech on a level unheard of in China (or in the very least doing the same and worse), and its private contractors and filtered internet (PRISM, XKEYSCORE, are clearly linked to the causation of mass shootings that start with the online/offline targeting of speakers( a position that China is well aware of, and there is nothing to even compare to that absurdity).

Maybe, grab a ticket and fly over there, enjoy some hilarious internet culture, tech innovation, great food, sexual freedom, and citizen safety. Maybe even criticize the government for allowing the Wuhan Lab to host bat research funded by Galveston National Lab (some 3.4 million).

But leave freezepeach out of it-the US has none.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You can say the same about capitalism. The biggest cheerleaders tend to be the people who benefit financially, or who haven’t run afoul of the major problems associated with a pure capitalist system. The real lesson should be not that one system is inherently bad, but that any "pure" system has a lot of problems and that a mixed system tends to be best. Hence the fact that most rich Western countries have adopted a mixture of capitalism and socialised infrastructure.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Whenever you ask "how can someone say [whatever] with a straight face", the answer’s going to be the same: practice. It is, after all, what poker players teach themselves to do. Although if you’re just reading a quote, you won’t even know whether the speaker had a straight face.

With enough money—not a huge amount, really—you can always find someone to deliver the message you want.

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