Caught behind but not out!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Beyond free speech

This blog borders on the issue of Danish cartoons published in several newspapers. I have restrained for a while to blog on the issue but then its almost like I feel obliged to do so considering how many are doing it. :-) the article concludes with a recent attack on Wikipedia which I feel is an issue that demands some reaction (at least from the blogging community)

What's my stand? Freedom of the press , I feel has been one of the most misused fundamental laws ever. Has the press ever been wrong on any issue? Think hard before swallowing what the press throws at you. On the subject of news analysis, the press has just a bunch of opinionated people who write well.

I have been following a few blogs and its not a suprise that everyone supports the 'freedom of the press'. Bollocks. I think most bloggers feel proud to support the free speech community just as they have on occasions before. The wave came by and they are riding it.

I think with free speech comes a lot of responsibility. My voice for instance is something that will stay within the confines of a few people who chance upon this article, but there ends my ability to reach out. Newspapers on the other hand with their large readership have to be more level minded.

I keep coming across this hopeless argument about the potrayal of Jesus Christ in comic ways and how Christians are not outraged. One, Christ has never had a bomb on his head and two, they never hit upon a stereotype potryal. Muslims are known to the western world as fanatics indulging in terrorist activities and the cartoons strive to be faithful to this.

I think the west simply likes double standards that hint upon racist attitudes. When Prince Harry wore a Swastika symobol to a party the outrage nearly brought the royal family to its news. The world rendered unanimous support. Is it a suprise? The world's sympathy for Jews? What about Prince Harry's freedom of expression? Apparently the press didnt think too much about it.

The press KNEW the fallout of this. The riots are no suprise. The flames will not be quelled easily. On a tangential note, I must take a shot at how religion is a baneful entity in human society.

This brings me to the issue I really want to discuss. Wikipedia and censorship.
China censors access to wikipedia. This article in the Washnigton Post has a write up on this issue. I feel that this is more like the censorship battle that we should be fighting. Doesnt the Chinese government understand the wealth of information they end up blacking out? I sometimes wonder how much does it take to be reasonably smart to know whats right and whats not.

These are some excerpts from the article, possible reasons for this censorship:
In July 2003, a prolific Hong Kong user known online as Lorenzarius sparked one of the site's first political debates with an essay urging people to avoid "China-centrism." He argued, for example, that the war that began when Japan invaded China in 1937 should be called the "Second Sino-Japanese War" instead of the "War of Resistance against Japan," as it is referred to by the party.

The after math:
Then, on June 3, 2004, people in China who tried to visit Wikipedia saw an error page instead. The government had blocked the site on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The political fallouts:

Because users hailed from Taiwan as well as the mainland, the most passionate fights were related to the status of the self-governing island. At one point, there was even talk about splitting the site in two, because residents of Taiwan and the mainland write Chinese with different sets of characters.

Now what?

"By blocking Wikipedia, we lose a chance to present China's voice to the world, allowing evil cults, Taiwan independence forces and others . . . to present a distorted image of China," he said. "We lose a chance to share academic knowledge with the world, and as users, a channel to gain information. . .

Lets now talk about freedom of speech. Lets now talk about all the values that have fueled the recent outrage. Is free knowledge not as important as religion? Let see every newspaper unaniomously supporting Wikipedia. It wont happen. The issue will fade away. After all, there simply isnt enough publicity.

2 Comments:

  • hi there,
    freedom (of any kind) is a plaything in the hands of the powerful. and i agree about the double standards of the powerful. trust me, its all power politics.
    sadly, media houses(as u rightly pointed out) are not interested in free knowledge, they are happy reporting sensational stuff(crap).

    By Blogger nishwish, at 7:57 PM  

  • Hey Kaushik,
    Hi, I am Sandeep. It is kinda strange that we know each other kinda well thru preeti but actually haven't met at all. But, I found ur blogging quite entertaining and snuck a peek. I got bit by the bug a week back and have been churning out my entries too.

    I happen to be providing links to all the blogs tat I visit and was wondering if I cud add ur link to mine and prolly refer to ur blog sometime?

    Lemme know if tat wud be okie and I shall proceed with it. please do feel free to drop by in my blog space sometime too.

    Sandeep

    By Blogger Sandeep M, at 11:20 PM  

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