Archives for posts with tag: censorship

froglonliness

When I was living in China, the internet was my primary tool for keeping up with life in the Western world. Internet censorship (or “harmonization” as the Chinese call it) limited my access to the Internet Movie Database, Facebook, and a number of other sites, but I was able to regularly access of a number of sites that might expect to be censored like one of my favorite art sites or this awesome oracle for insight into the lives of Chinese people. Living with such restrictions on my internet taught me to exercise caution on the net. One peculiar symptom is my resistance to engage in internet argument, a side effect that may be silencing my voice, but doing so in my best interest. I’m also not sure if credit belongs with the restrictive policies of the Chinese government or with the rise in general awareness of the consequences of web presence. Either way, I fucking hate censorship and that point will come into play further along in this report.

I found a cure for homesickness in the site 9gag which, while an international site, is primarily in English and dominated by Americans. This site introduced me to meme culture and kept me abreast of the stupid jokes Americans were telling to each other. Similarly my wife uses a Chinese site Qiu Shi Bai Ke to reconnect with the stupid humor of her homeland. Globalization enthusiasts will not be surprised to find out that the same material can often be found on both sites. I see a gif of somebody hitting their nuts on a Tuesday and my wife sees it on a Wednesday- one world, one dream. We can’t spread basic health education to all corners of the Earth with all the resources of the developed world, but fart jokes and nip slips travel at the speed of light. As is the case in most instances of intercultural exchange, the information can change meaning from culture to culture.

lazy college senior becomes depressed upon arrival in the middle kingdom

I kept following 9gag for a while. It served as a stupid enough distraction from whatever I was supposed to be doing, but like other sites in the same vein, it became overwhelmed by reposts, pictures of pets, products people bought or desired, and depressed people bragging about their infinite sadness. I eventually made the shift to HugeLOL, a site created by people from the 9gag community who were fed up with humor-lacking material and reposts clogging up the streets of 9gag. While HugeLOL definitely featured more joke-related images, the frequency of racist, misogynistic, and anti-gay imagery noticeably increased. This material wasn’t topical either- über-misguided patriotism condemning Islam or immigrants, but that kind of racism that’s almost too stupid to take seriously like “Black people love fried chicken” or “Women shouldn’t be allowed to drive because of their menses.” There was complaint from the HugeLOL community and the moderators made efforts to purge all racist content with minimal success until they hardened their community standard guidelines and policies and created an alternate site that would be free from moderation called HiddenLOL. At HiddenLOL, a person could post anything and the only thing (except perhaps a child porn post) that could cause the removal of content was the downvoting of the community.

As a free speech enthusiast, I eagerly explored the contents of HiddenLOL and followed it closely in the early days of its inception. I found some of the sexually graphic material disturbing, but mostly I found it pretty funny and some of it quite innovative. The flood and popularity of racist material shocked me. The site quickly became overrun with slavery and Holocaust humor. Hitler became a mascot, giving rise the unfortunate title for fans of HiddenLOL- “HidLers.”

As much as the appearance of desktop Klansmen-rapists-Nazis in my online community surprised me, I was much more taken aback at how these vulgar advocates for free speech often took positions staunchly against material that was sexual in nature. A web democracy of sorts was giving freedom to choose their content and with that freedom, they consciously chose and actively worked to make the platform about hate and then with equal enthusiasm, worked to remove sexual content. I won’t lie and say the sexual content can be equated with love. Some of it featured pretty violent imagery, usually towards women because the some of the community equated rape violence with slapstick. The objective of the sexual material was humor, not romance, but I would say the material was predominantly motivated by a love-driven laughter rather than spite (except in the cases of rape violence I mentioned early).

I’m pretty open-minded about content. I have a discerning taste to be certain, but I approach most content as an artifact of its time, given its the benefit of the doubt that it is has social value. Largely I feel pity for those whose opinions I oppose and I admittedly do feel anger towards them, but I cherish freedom of expression above most things and wouldn’t want to deny someone an outlet for their ideas. The idiotic memes of American rednecks or the “GAAAAAAAAAAAY!” comments on every youtube video and news article don’t scare me nearly as much as the consolidation of major media outlets, encroachments on net neutrality, or the influence of religious groups on education and public policy.  The most alarming conclusion I’ve drawn is that some people prefer Hitler to pornography. I like sex. I like sex in art, in movies, in literature, in real life. The truth is I like sex more than Batman and I like Batman a lot. I can’t imagine thinking about hating any race of people more than I think about sex. Every single citizen of France could take turns pooping on my doorstep for the rest of my life and I would still think about sex more than hating the French, so how much do these people hate?  Is there an equivalent to the orgasm in this depravity?

Should I really be surprised? Kids see a lot more guns than genitals and that’s how somebody (a wicked cabal? the silent majority? everybody) wants it. For a species so obsessed with both sex and violence, we’re incredibly resistant to understanding their consequences.

As someone who prefers pornography to Hitler, I struggle to understand the mindset of people for whom the opposite is true.

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My wife alerted me to this bit of news earlier this morning and I haven’t seen it reported at all in the English-language press, so allow me to share this with you. The message above was allegedly received by a merchant on the incredibly popular Chinese on-line market place Tabo Bao. The message demands that the seller remove all manga that depict homosexual acts or the homosexual lifestyle from their Tao Bao shop. The demand is in accordance with a policy aimed at producing “a more harmonious society”- the go-to justification for anything in the public policy of the Chinese Community Party. While censorship is nothing new for China, the motivation to restrict information is usually political, personal, or related to promoting a favored business (personal relationship business or Chinese firm over foreign firm). Bootleg films and comics are widely available in China. You don’t have to look too hard. Like in most places, the rise of the internet in China has repeatedly threatened and changed the status quo. Like QQ, Baidu, Tudou, Renren, and Douban, Tao Bao has become an incredible force in the on-line consciousness of China, but unlike those sites, it is still very much rooted in the material world. With this policy and its enforcement, the capability of any resistance movement to use the on-line marketplace to distribute unpopular literature is challenged and a precedent is set for all communities using sites like Tao Bao to engage in less than sanctioned economic activity or rather perfectly sanctioned economic activity in which the content of a book compels the government to intervene its sale and distribution.

In somewhat related news, my wife got me a pretty sweet Batwoman statue for the holidays.

sagacollage

The news that Apple has refused to carry Saga #12 on its iOS apps reaffirms my disappointment with the world. I know I tend to primarily discuss DC titles on this site, but I definitely read other books and Saga is probably the best comic being published right now. I really like Saga and love gay people, so I’m going to use this platform to offer my support to two things that help my life feel miraculous- Saga and homosexuals. I think the world benefits from seeing the contradictions in the human condition as exposed by the narrative of Saga. As someone in an interracial/international/intercultural marriage, I feel a certain affinity to the book’s protagonists and I believe anyone who has had immigration all up in their marriage should have sympathy for all the gays putting up with government roadblocks to their attempts at wedded bliss. I don’t think gay people should feel like they have to get married to prove anything though. I worry that the politicizing of gay marriage must put some additional pressure on many relationships. Apple’s decision to ban the book over potentially offense that would be taken over “two postage stamp-sized images of gay sex” is not only cowardly, conservative, homophobic, reactionary, against their economic interests, and universally uncool, but it’s also hypocritical. Saga is a sexy book and its sexuality consistently defies the limits of both our contemporary morality and our scientific understanding. Apple has made the first eleven issues available through their iOS apps despite their being liberally adorned with profanity, sexuality, and nudity. This issue is being singled out for its gayness and that’s not cool.

If Apple is worried about kids, they shouldn’t have ever made Saga available. It’s neither suitable nor intended for immature readers. The violence in the comic alone makes it a questionable choice of reading material for a child. A lot of conservatives speak of the spectre of the gay teacher who will transform classrooms into gay training camps. Gay activists and sympathizers usually try to appease the person in the argument by assuring them that gay teachers wouldn’t teach homosexuality. I think their argument is correct. I’m been pretty certain of the sexual orientation of many of my teachers and I never remember being taught homosexuality. I do remember being taught a lot of heterosexuality in school, brain-washing levels of heterosexuality. As I’ve gotten older and looked at a statistic or two, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are too many people on this planet and that it is in the interest of our species’ survival to teach more homosexuality to future generations.

I would like to recommend Saga to you if you aren’t reading it. You should know it does get a little sexy, gross, violent, clever, satirical, challenging, and funny in some parts. If that’s not something you’re ready for, maybe you should skip it. Finally, one more recommendation- you should consider being gay if you haven’t. It’s at least worth the consideration.

THINGS CAN CHANGE IN A DAY as a somewhat muddled explanation emerges from Comixology saying they made some sort of error…smells like a dog with a tail between its legs. Either way Saga #12 will be appearing on iOS apps sooner than Saga #13

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