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Reddit Protests and China’s Control of American Culture (nicholasjrobinson.com)
101 points by theNJR 38 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 117 comments

This seems like another one of those "money is speech and there are no values higher" => "oh no suddenly foreigners are paying huge amounts for speech we don't like" arguments.

> Ultimately, if America is no longer the top exporter of culture, what becomes of our identity?

Every other country is practically a net importer of American culture. Often to the detriment of their own. So they have had the same questions: is this just a market, or should there be cultural protectionism?

Edit: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/07/france... "Culture is like chewing-gum, a product like any other." -- Jack Valenti

You are mixing up two different groups of people.

> money is speech and there are no values higher

The people (Federalist Society, etc.) who make this argument are the ones who want Saudi/Russian/Chinese/Israeli/... propaganda to dominate or subvert American discourse (with the same subversive power also granted to homegrown plutocrats), as long as they can take a cut or they perceive the resulting public confusion to advance their ideological agenda.

And yes: this is a very short-sighted and dangerous road to travel down, eroding republican norms and civic trust and concentrating power among the unaccountable.

No, I don't think they are mixing them up at all.

We either stop believing in free markets or we let everyone play. Maybe there's an untried middle road before returning to isolationism and protectionism. Mercantilism 2.0?

China and Indian companies are just doing exactly the same as the US did last century, and the Japanese and Koreans did a few decades back, or Hong Kong a little before that. With all the same worthless complaining points the US often complains about China now, like espionage, lack of IP protection, propaganda, values, poorer quality, they're good for manufacturing but they'll never design etc, as 19th century Europeans were complaining about the US when they were playing catch up at all cost.

200+ years of history proves it will always happen, aided by those currently leading, and biggest countries (wallets) win in the end. Each and every time someone's culture was "being eroded".

The only ideological agenda is some of their views and norms are different to yours. Newsflash: American mores were different to the Japanese and European too so why weren't they "a very short-sighted and dangerous road" too?

> We either stop believing in free markets or we let everyone play.

The people who “believe in [unregulated and unaccountable] free markets” and the ones who don’t want to “let every [plutocrat] play [at unlimited anonymous propaganda at the expense of ordinary local citizens]” are not the same.

These two groups are more or less independent and have been ideological enemies for generations, and it makes no sense to conflate them.

This is an incredibly incendiary,shortsighted and ultimately self defeating point of view. People can fundamentally disagree with you without being evil, stupid or duped.

One only need to look at how universal healthcare was not implemented in the US because the USSR had it as a pithy example of how damaging this way of thinking is.

I agree this is incendiary, for the reason that it cuts to the heart of these groups’ deeply contradictory self-image / self-proclaimed values. Nobody likes being told publicly that their actions have led and will continue to lead to serious harm for many people.

I didn’t say they were evil or stupid or duped. Just short-sighted and self-interested with a practically anti-republican ideology (though I might also add: often disingenuous in public discussion, and largely unwilling to take public responsibility for the side effects of their discourse and policy).

> how universal healthcare was not implemented in the US because the USSR had it

Universal healthcare was not implemented in the USA because the GOP and allied corporate interests have thrown everything they can against it for 75 years, typically sidelining serious policy debate in favor of slogans and cheap attacks. “Because the USSR has it” has little to do with it, except as a disingenuous excuse.

Republicans and Democrats have both conspired in equal degree to remove everything the new deal stood for in the last 80 years. Were that not the case you wouldn't have the worst homeless epidemics in the bluest cities. The only choice you get is if you put the stars and stripes in your Hummer or the rainbow flag on your Tesla.

It's sad that my generation who made fun of the culture wars of the 90s has taken the culture wars of the 10s seriously enough to vote for Obama not once but twice.

Honestly, even just using this to concentrate power in the hands of few domestically is a dangerous erosion of societal norms. Dis-empowering a populace tends to end badly and result in some pretty strong (usually violent) pressures to restore democracy.

I don't believe any of the people saying this:

>oh no suddenly foreigners are paying huge amounts for speech we don't like

Are also saying this:

>money is speech and there are no values higher

Reddit is very young/liberal and I rarely see e.g. an argument in favor of citizens united. Do you have some examples?

> This seems like another one of those "money is speech and there are no values higher" =

“Money is speech” is a view on the US Constitution that is most frequently cited in that language in the US to rally outrage against it as subversive to democracy and facilitating plutocracy, rather than because it is a popular view.

the US constitution only applies to US persons. someone living in china doesn't actually have freedom of speech protected by our constitution.

What if they are the sole owner of a Delaware corporation? The corporation definitely does have free speech rights, per Citizens United.

It would be a useful test-case. The rationale behind Citizens United type cases is that citizen's free speech rights can be exercised via corporations. But a foreign-owned corporation is a different kettle of fish.

It's a bit silly for people to keep railing on Citizens United in particular. That was a group of people made a movie knocking a particular politician. The 1st amendment gives them the right to do this and also to organise themselves to do this. But officials tried to stop them because the law limited such activity by organisations.

But there will be lots of real-world cases where the corporation is not a political ginger group. There, the free speech (and free assembly) case becomes much weaker. A fully foreign owned corporation being the most clear case.

Interesting, sort of a Spolsky-esque "leaky abstraction."

It's easy-ish to reason about rights of corporations when they are groups of your own citizens.

When you poke through the veil to ultimate beneficial ownership it's a lot less obviously easy to reason about.

No, corporations do not have rights. The owners of the corporation have rights. If the owners are not citizens, then the corporation they own to not have rights only provided to citizens.

Could you dig up the bit of the SCOTUS ruling where it says that?

Edit: link please?

Citizens United, as you mentioned. Read it -- it's clear that the logic is that corporations are collections of individuals and as such, they have the same speech protections as individuals themselves.

This is not the reason, actually. Laws can apply to different types of actors, it has been traditionally read that "natural persons" are flesh and blood human beings, while "persons" can include organizations, this interpretation is part of how companies can be legally held responsible for their actions and really _really_ regrettable and complex. It is possible that the 1st Amendment text was written prior to the distinction between "persons" and "natural persons" was clear, and that has been argued - but for the time being all "persons" are afforded free speech, including corporations.

No, the GP was correct. Read the Citizens United decision. The finding was based on the concept that the rights of the people who make up an organization extend to collective action taken by that organization.

The decision had nothing to do with corporations being considered legal persons or the definition of person.

I'm not saying that's not the logic of CU, but that is exactly the fallacy of composition.

Nope! It applies to persons, it is not limited to "natural persons" (probably due to an oversight) which is why we have issues with money = speech. It is also not limited to citizens and previous court rulings have upheld access to right protections for "people" or "persons" to non-citizens and even non-residents, whether these rights extend to persons not within the US is more hazy but most rulings have shown that US government entities must not act to violate rights afforded by the constitution/bill of rights to persons overseas... sort of like it was an overseas code of conduct.

The person vs. natural persons issue is irrelevant to the Citizens United decision.

Free speech being extended to corporations has nothing to do with the legal concept of corporate personhood. Read the decision, it was very explicit. The rights of the people who comprise a group were held to extend to collective action by that group.

People are arguing that a ban on Muslim immigration violates the first amendment rights of foreigners living abroad. The legal theory goes that the constitution doesn't protect anyone against government action, but rather restricts what actions the government may take, regardless of who is affected by those actions.

By this argument, everyone everywhere has the same freedom of speech under the US constitution that Americans do. It's even the same amendment.

I don't know what people you're talking about, but as I recall, the legal arguments against the Muslim ban hinged on Americans harmed by the ban --- families who couldn't see their Muslim family members, schools that couldn't serve their Muslim foreign students.

It seems pretty straightforward to observe that Chinese residents --- not to mention British residents --- do not in fact enjoy the First Amendment rights of Americans. In fact, neither do Americans, when they're in China or the UK. If they did, British libel law would be different, would it not?

It's true that constitutional rights don't generally apply to citizens of other countries, unless they are in the US.

> neither do Americans, when they're in China or the UK

But American citizens in other countries still enjoy the same constitutional protections--protections which only apply to actions taken by the US government.

I guess? My point is just: people living in China do not in any practical sense have First Amendment rights.

I see what you're getting at, but there are many things that the US government would love to prevent you from saying that the Chinese or UK government couldn't care less about.

For instance, if you're a US citizen and a resident of the UK or China, you might want to call the President of the US a big baby on twitter. The UK or Chinese government probably wouldn't have a problem with that, but the first amendment protections you enjoy, even while abroad, is preventing the President from calling up twitter and trying to have you banned.

Are (serious) people really making such an argument? It's trivial to make an argument about what a government can't do without necessarily bestowing broad rights on people the US constitution does not directly apply to. Especially since the bit of the constitution in question starts with 'shall make no law'.

Yes, serious people are really making that argument.

> It's trivial to make an argument about what a government can't do without necessarily bestowing broad rights on people the US constitution does not directly apply to.

I don't see what you're imagining here. Prohibiting the government from doing something to you is what a right (against the government) is. If the government can't take an action against members of a particular class, then members of that class enjoy the relevant right. If the government can't take an action against anyone, then the class in question is "everyone in the world", and everyone in the world possesses the relevant right.

Can you link some serious people making that argument?

Yes, that's easy. It would have been just as easy for you -- it's not like criticism of Trump's policies is hard to find.


> The Bill of Rights consists largely of structural constraints that limit the power of the federal government

> The text of the First Amendment does not limit its applicability based on either territory or citizenship

> The original understanding of the Bill of Rights does not set territorial or citizenship status limitations on its applicability

> Under the Establishment Clause [doesn't apply to freedom of speech, but the other arguments do] of the First Amendment, the proclamation is unconstitutional and void even as to foreign nationals abroad

Can you explain why you think it's a good idea to be so vocally opinionated on a factual issue you're obviously not familiar with?

Sir, this is a Wendy's.

> People are arguing that a ban on Muslim immigration violates the first amendment rights of foreigners living abroad.

Which people?

By this argument, aren't all immigration restrictions invalid? I don't think anyone is seriously making this argument.

> > People are arguing that a ban on Muslim immigration violates the first amendment rights of foreigners living abroad.

> Which people?

Legal people, because it is inline with other comprehensions of how "persons" are afforded rights. Immigration restrictions are not invalid because the right to immigrate (or even technically resettle) are not covered by the constitution. So a presidential order (or governor's order) could be levied to restrict the emigration of people from one region to another - it would possibly run afoul of the terribly broad 9th amendment (basically, you have the right to do anything you should be able to do) but isn't explicitly banned... interesting this would be wholly illegal in Canada which establishes "Freedom of mobility"[1] explicitly.

Laws are fun!

Politicians often make divisive hyperbolic statements with no basis in fact!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Charter_of_Rights_and...

> I don't think anyone is seriously making this argument.

I'm not responsible for what you think, but I'll note that in general it's a good idea to look at what people are saying before deciding what you think they're saying.

> By this argument, aren't all immigration restrictions invalid?

No; for example, if you apply for a visa and check the box saying "I am planning to engage in a terrorist attack against the United States", I'm pretty sure this argument would have nothing to say about denying your visa. It does invalidate plenty of historical restrictions.

Legally yes, morally no. Citizenship doesn't grant/revoke human rights, and freedom of speech is a human right.

Yes. The basics in the Declaration if Independence are general statements about what rights all humans are given.

Imagine a Russian oligarch with ties to Putin had bought a sizable share, what do you think the reaction would be?

People aren’t concerned by Chinese propaganda or Cultural exports (positive action) so much as concerned by the possibility they could effect censorship on certain topics they’re sensitive about (negative action).

I think we also need to stop assuming the fiction that Reddit isn't already one of the most heavily and arbitrarily censored sites


Why wouldn't the Chinese using media influence to paint themselves in a better light be concerning? Both positive and negative action, as you described them, distort one's view of the world.

Why are they concerned about this at all? Tencent doesn't get any say in how Reddit is run, why would they?

That’s what I don’t get. Tencent in particular has seemed like a fairly benevolent investor in Western companies so far, and I don’t see why that would change.

When viewing this through the lens of Chinese Hollywood investments, it's a slow and often unseen process.

Althoug I don't like everything that comes from the US, Im grateful for the ideas that I've got to know thanks to US academics. Also because I find US books on topics I like easier to read, in contrast to other fellow euro authors. It my be the style, IDK.

I think you have a fair point, but "money is speech" is considered quite controversial in the US.

It's certainly true that American culture >> other culture in popular media, so it's hardly surprising or unfair that others want to influence this to their favor (by which I mean, perhaps, merely reduce US-centric influence).

> It's certainly true that American culture >> other culture in popular media

What does that mean?

">>" can be read as "is much greater / larger than"

I know, I'm just not sure what "American culture is much greater than other culture in popular media" means. Greater how? Says who?

Outsized influence relative to population. Popular media has had a greater influence in spreading American culture than other cultures.

Says me.

Thought it was obvious and conventional wisdom. Feel free to argue the contrary, though.

Other cultures tend to be "americanized" more than the other way around.

Just do a Google search for `americanized india` or `americanized china`.

"Every other country is practically a net importer of American culture."

You don't get out much, do you? There is no denying that the US does have quite an influence on a global scale - culturally and otherwise but there is, much, much more going on that the US is nothing to do with.

I'm a Brit who grew up in some strange places: one was called West Germany and the other was a series of public/private (that probably does not mean what you think it does) schools in the UK. All the schools I attended in Germany were British and public, except for the modern and comprehensive ones or the primary or secondary ones.

I have two employees amongst 25 Brits (Ok, some are English, some are Irish and some are Scots and there are others who don't care, oh and some are Welsh) who are Polish. Their parents lived behind the Iron Curtain.

Well that's nice but the world is turning and although English is still one of the lingua franca (oh the irony - franca - French) there are more changes afoot and those who are able to keep pace will "win" and those who can't ... won't. Britain has always been flexible, linguistically. English is an outrageous amalgam of many languages with a simple structure and vocab. that stretches (with a bit of a wobble) across the entire globe.

Well, my English is and always has been very flexible - I personally take great delight in flexing my language and frankly torturing it through accent or spelling until it delivers the desired result. Some other Englishs are a bit taut and inflexible. Some are so worried about being associated with "British" that they are starting to sound a bit odd and stultifying - they will fall by the wayside.

Tell me about your cultural views, Mr pjc50

>You don't get out much, do you?

>(that probably does not mean what you think it does)

>Tell me about your cultural views, Mr pjc50

Do you think the usage of this tone assisted your argument?

On that note, what's your argument?

Just a brit can be in complete denial about the amount of cultural and linguistic imperialism of America over Europe. I don't know about the rest of the world, but here American cultural influence is strong. Too strong, if you ask me.

American culture influence is certainly growing over places like India and China, but the UK? Have you got any articles on that? I don't live in the UK, so curious to know.

Detail I just learned last year -- lingua Franca doesn't actually refer to French's erstwhile dominance as the language of diplomacy. It was a trading pidgin between franks and Arabs back when Frankish was a thing.

I have trouble what to make of the article. Mainly because it itself points out the central hypocrisy. The US is just as interested in spreading its values by means of entertainment media as any other country on the world, it just had more money in recent history than anyone else.

And with countries like China or India having a larger market, what does America want to do? Not let them invest in the US, accepting that different viewpoints will be expressed? Declare them invalid?

One of the positions that Americans broadly have always held is that when ideas are exchanged, the people overall can figure out what the good ideas are and what the bad ideas are, that's in fact the basic assumption behind liberal democracy. So if these Chinese cultural exports are just propaganda and all around awful, surely Americans will figure it out.

If there's something to them, and they're genuinely valuable and give a different perspective, then it would be bad to try to suppress them.

So by liberal democracies own standards, I find myself puzzled by the flat-out fear of foreign cultural imports.

It's not so much fear of cultural imports as it is about political influence from a foreign government. The article makes a good point about how "Seven Years in Tibet" came out before Chinese money started flowing into Hollywood, and how perhaps that movie might not be so easily made these days.

There's something you didn't mention when you talked about how "USA wants to spread its values too." American companies that invest in Hollywood and sites like Reddit generally aren't partially owned by the government, and certainly aren't subject to as much government control.

"Seven Years in Tibet" was made without Chinese money, so why couldn't the same movie be made today without Chinese money? It's harder because everyone else is taking Chinese money? I don't buy it.

"Make this movie, and you won't get any more investments from us. We've said the same to your distributor and producer. And we'll make sure every corporate board we have influence over will shun you."

And then the next producer will make it, enjoy the financial super hit and get super rich by doing it. That's how markets work, supposedly. If one company doesn't want to do something that is in demand, others will.

I imagine that any studio that wants to continue doing business in China would have second thoughts about also producing a film like that.

This is just conjecture. I don't know to what extent (if any) that such a chilling effect has on a studio's domestic releases.

Censorship by omission is a tricky thing to quantify. If a Studio gets, lets say, $5b a year from their Chinese investments, do you think they'd make a Seven Years style movie (even without the Chinese money directly funding it)?

To personalize it, I had plenty of conversations with Chinese VCs back when I was raising for my VR company. I was incredibly aware of the meta implications of this article while writing it. Had I received Chinese investment, I'm not sure I would have written it at all.

Interestingly, the movie was produced by Peter Guber's Mandalay Entertainment. In 2017, China’s Puji Capital invested in Guber’s Mandalay Endurance Media Ventures.

> “We are at an interesting inflection with China’s film industry – we have China becoming the most important market globally coupled with an increasingly more sophisticated Chinese audience who strive for compelling stories and movies that captivate the heart and mind,” said Puji Film director Lily Zhao. https://deadline.com/2017/08/china-puji-capital-invests-in-p...

So yeah, I think that it's very possible that Guber might have more reason not to make "Seven Years in Tibet" nowadays compared to in 1997.

> So by liberal democracies own standards

Given how easily wars on foreign soil are sold to the American public, you should be well aware that the US does not meet those standards. Few countries do.

I think as Westerners we are used to being dominant. I am German (now in US) and I wouldn't think twice if I heard that a German company bought a company in China but a chinese company buying a German company gives me slight discomfort. I guess I just have to get used to it. The world power balance has changed.

> So if these Chinese cultural exports are just propaganda and all around awful, surely Americans will figure it out.

Hah! Yeah, no. I’m not falling for that one again.

People will happily run themselves off a cliff if someone appeals to them enough, and damn logic.

> So by liberal democracies own standards, I find myself puzzled by the flat-out fear of foreign cultural imports.

The fear isn't so much about "cultural imports," but foreign control of cultural institutions. That control can be used to export different kinds of government censorship and other illiberal practices.

The United States has done this for decades. Why do you think China blocks Google, Facebook, et al? The exact same reason. The difference is the US is substantially richer and more powerful than China is.

It’s a contest, is that really a surprise? The hypocrisy is just the marketing spin on the contest for people who can’t accept that it is a competiton. If the honest question isn’t about right and wrong, but about winners and losers, the hypocrisy disappears.

I don't think "Americans will figure out that something is propaganda" is a reasonable position to take. After all Russian propaganda via the internet was very effective, look at the 2016 election, and native American military propaganda is hugely effective.

> After all Russian propaganda via the internet was very effective

That's a narrative, not a conclusion. It certainly wasn't effective in painting Putin as anything than the brutal dictator he is. I think you mean anti-Hillary propaganda, which there is evidence of...although it was so incidental (in spend and trend) that I'm not sure how this is still a news item. I guess it's just a red-scare-orangeman-bad proxy fight. Russia is not a friend of the US, but Putin and Trump are co-narcissists, dancing around each other.

Still, Americans are vulnerable to propaganda just like all populations are. And pretending that people can't be affected by propaganda because they'll think their way out of it is a dumb position to take.

> pretending that people can't be affected by propaganda because they'll think their way out of it is a dumb position to take

Who is that addressed to? Who would pretend? Just the phrasing of that statement seems strange. It implies an understanding that propaganda serves a function. It always has, that's why the term exists. I didn't imply or assert that a population would "think its way out of it".

Breaking news: The world's 2nd biggest economy now employs the same soft power techniques as worlds largest economy.

World's largest economy is shocked and outraged.

China isn't just a large economy. If it was the European Union buying interest in Reddit, nobody would bat an eye, because Europe shares America's values of freedom, rights, and equality as cornerstones of society, arguably moreso. China is a repressive one-party state where dissidents are regularly silenced by imprisonment or "disappearing", citizens are ranked for party loyalty the same way Americans are ranked in economic creditworthiness, and ethnic minorities are imprisoned in concentration camps. They are the last people we want to be running prominent public forums.

We've all got problems.

China's problems are routinely exaggerated and "othered" far in excess of Western problems. After all, we understand the context for Western missteps. "Its complicated."

For example, can you believe that China is overreacting and violating civil rights after terror attacks from Central Asian Muslims? I've never heard of such a thing. Certainly no Western country aside from the USA, Russia, the UK and France would do that.

Meanwhile, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty doesn't seem to count for much.

They have a different history, different culture and different challenges. Demonization is not only wrong, it's a surefire way to mishandle the situation out of ignorance.

For one thing, that's not an example of "overexaggeration in excess of western problems". Just because Chinese crimes against humanity in their western provinces is new to you doesn't mean they are new.

Do you think the Dalai Lama is living in India because he likes the weather?

When was the last time America rolled tanks onto their university campuses to shoot students until they fell in line?

> When was the last time America rolled tanks onto their university campuses to shoot students until they fell in line?

Well ... May 4, 1970. But there were no tanks and they only killed 4 students.

So... never.

I think you misunderstood my sarcasm. Edited parent post to make it clearer, thanks.

America invaded Afghanistan, Iraq and killed hundreds of thousands of unrelated Arabs last time we were attacked by Central Asian Muslims.

Russia? The UK? They've done plenty too, in response to very specifically the same broad ethnic group.

So how come only China gets a daily 2 minutes' hate on hacker news?

Maybe it's nationalism and the thucydides trap?

EDIT responding to below, I'm rate limited, have a good night:

I'm saying that:

1) There's no genocide. There's a mass internment. You're proving my point about bias by using that word.

2) I'm not qualified to judge relative morality of mass internment of your own citizens vs mass death of foreigners.

But most importantly, 3) I'm not even talking about China so much as I am about hacker news. At least nationalist conservatives are honest about their motivations.

If America's government were like Chinas, secret police would be knocking down your door for daring to criticize the government's warmaking decisions.

Tangentially, the 9/11 attackers were Arab, not Central Asian, and the decision to invade Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, not even as an excuse.

Regardless, you're trying to tell me that invading another country on poor pretenses and botching the occupation is totally the same thing as committing genocide of your own citizens, and then murdering anyone who says fie?

I’m sure they do, and morality is relative anyway.

But from my perspective, and probably a lot of the rest of the western world. China is evil.

You're kinda begging me for a prequel memes response here :)

A lot of harm has been done by people who were positive they were good and the other country is evil.

China is a terrible country to be a minority or dissident. But then again so is much of the world, even developed countries, only a few decades ago to be a black person in the US was horrendous even though the country itself was incredibly wealthy, and while most of China was living in extreme poverty. This attitude of "but we are better" reeks of an adult abusing a child because they can't run as fast.

Take Singapore for example: consistently ranks in the top of quality of life, yet an incredibly dangerous place to practice dissent. China is trying to emulate that model.[0] There's big investments from the Middle East in other social media platforms and I'm yet to see any of them clamping down on content criticising the Saudis.

> because Europe shares America's values of freedom

Interesting take. We certainly look and speak similarly, but there's plenty of differences. Regarding healthcare and education policies who do you think Europe is more similar to: the US or China?

Regarding censorship who do you think is closer again? European states regularly demand removal of social media content, prohibit news outlets reporting certain stories and imprison people for speech that would be clearly protected in the US. [1][2]

In the UK and Australia there are defamation laws that will bankrupt people for simply stating a provably true fact.[3]

The right to bear arms is virtually non-existent, especially for handguns and assault rifles.

The 4th amendment is likewise barely applicable in most Western countries, though sadly that seems to be the case in the US too nowadays.

Things like racial discrimination and LBGT rights certainly are similar. Workers rights too, though I'd call that more a function of national wealth rather than culture.

> ethnic minorities are imprisoned [4]

I'd like to put to you a hypothetical situation where a large region of the USA has a majority Muslim population which has been waging a low level terror campaign for 3 decades? What do you think the response would be? It certainly wouldn't be pretty, the US has no qualms about killing US citizens in assassinations without trial.[5]

Given the prison population in Iraq and Afghanistan during wartime and the horrors[6] found there, it's perhaps a case of walking in their shoes for a day. Democracy won't solve this, the majority of people in China support what's happening in Xinjiang. Anti-muslim sentiment is incredibly common.

[0] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/china-quarterly/arti...

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2017-03-19/free-s...

> To Americans, the idea of the government forcing social media to censor posts may seem to resemble China’s internet censorship. Such legislation wouldn’t just be unconstitutional; it would be almost unthinkable.

[2] https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/17/europes-free-speech-apo...

> Google, Facebook, and Twitter announced in December that they would work to delete anti-migrant sentiments voiced on their networks within 24 hours of request

[3] https://www.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/dissent/documents/defamation...

> if what you said was true but not considered by the court to be in the public interest, you can be successfully sued for defamation

[4] https://reason.com/archives/2015/04/16/can-the-president-kil...

> he was within eyesight in Yemen of about 12 Yemeni intelligence agents and four CIA agents, all of whom collectively could have arrested him. He was not engaged in any unlawful behavior. He was unarmed and sitting at an outdoor cafe with a friend and his teenage son and the son's friend. All four, Americans all, were murdered by the drones dispatched from Virginia.

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_prison

[6] https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/28/us/mass-incarceration-fiv...

> nearly 2.2 million adults were held in America's prisons... nearly half of all inmates are locked up for drug charges...African-Americans continue to make up a disproportionate amount of the prison population

Don't compare Europe to China. We're nothing like China.


Highly recommend the book National Security Cinema by Tom Secker and Matthew Alfred.

They trawled through FOI documents to uncover a lengthy history of US intelligence agencies having holywood scripts changed to suit their needs.

> the US government has worked behind the scenes on over 800 major movies and more than 1,000 TV titles.

> Vietnam is evidently another sore topic for the US military, which also removed a reference to the war from the screenplay for Hulk (2003)

> It seems that any reference to military suicide — even an off-hand remark in a superhero action-comedy adventure — is something the DOD’s Hollywood office will not allow.

> If there are characters, action or dialogue that the DOD don’t approve of then the film-maker has to make changes to accommodate the military’s demands. If they refuse then the Pentagon packs up its toys and goes home. To obtain full cooperation the producers have to sign contracts — Production Assistance Agreements — which lock them into using a military-approved version of the script.

> Strangely, Phil Strub denied that there was any support for Tomorrow Never Dies. But the DOD are credited at the end of the film and we obtained a copy of the Production Assistance Agreement between the producers and the Pentagon.

> changing the code name of the military operation to capture the Hulk from ‘Ranch Hand’ to ‘Angry Man’. ‘Ranch Hand’ is the name of a real military operation that saw the US Air Force dump millions of gallons of pesticides and other poisons onto the Vietnamese countryside, rendering millions of acres of farmland poisoned and infertile.

> They also removed dialogue referring to ‘all those boys, guinea pigs, dying from radiation, and germ warfare’, an apparent reference to covert military experiments on human subjects.

China and Russia really have no qualms about being explicit in their censorship ways, most the population are aware of it. The Americans generally stay coy and go to great lengths to hide or at least minimise knowledge of what they are doing propaganda-wise because culturally it's an embarrassment and would be politically unpalatable to a country where freedom of speech and freedom from government interference are expected.


All of that is frankly irrelevant because it’s entirely voluntary. Any movie that wants to criticize the government/military is perfectly free to do so, it just doesn’t get support from the military in the form of shooting military equipment. That’s not really surprising.

Do you think McDonald’s is going to actively support a movie critical of McDonald’s?

It might not be a bad idea to to set up media ownership rules that exclude entities that are based-in or controlled by non-democratic regimes.

Ignoring the oversimplification aspect for a moment, would that not be quite ironic from a philosophical standpoint?

It's a well-known paradox [0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

According to that 'paradox', tolerant societies could never evolve from intolerant ones.

That is a complete non-sequitur. Free societies need to oppose those who would destroy their freedoms. How does that have any bearing whatsoever on whether free societies can be established?

> need to oppose those who would destroy their freedoms

Of course no-one can argue against it if you re-state it like that. But the paradox goes much further: "Popper asserted that to allow freedom of speech to those who would use it to eliminate the very principle upon which they rely is paradoxical."

And this means that free society cannot be established because....?

Tolerant, not free. The terms are not interchangeable.

The paradox implies it because if the ideas of tolerance are so fragile, that even in a majority tolerant society, intolerant ideas present such a threat as to consider sacrificing even free speech, then how could they have ever come to dominate in the first place?

Will this disqualify Softbank Vision Fund, which is partially funded by Saudi Arabia?

If it were up to me, yes it would.

How about taking it further - private companies are by nature non-democratic and optimising to something other than general wellbeing :)

I think thats pretty common practice - Though if your outside the US you may have to swap "non-democratic" with whatever term is locally used to drum up opposition against another country. Eg "foriegn agents" [1].

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-usa-media-restrict...

The number-1-zeroth-order-term-in-the-Taylor-expansion characteristic of Chinese culture is Han racial superiority. So how the hell is Chinese culture “vying” for cultural leadership when it is intrinsically exclusionist?

Now censorship, propaganda, etc., as well covered in the article — now you’re talking.

I haven't read about Han racial superiority before. Any book or article suggestions? This Economist[1] article seems like a good starting point.


Really? Politically correct Chinese culture seem to emphasize multiculturalism, from me going to Chinese shows and such held in the US and Singapore.

The comparison to Chinese influence in Hollywood is pretty apt. The point being, the Chinese companies don’t need board seats to exert influence.

I've been a part of a lot of acquisitions, and a lot of investment rounds. The stakeholders always want to start stirring the pot sooner or later. Maybe you get a year or two of being left alone, but eventually, it always happens.

Could you elaborate a little? I have no doubt this happens but I’m fascinated in the nuances of how it happens(changing the flag from China to NK for example). Or is it more overt? (Do this or x, y, and z)

I didn't realise Tencent owned so much of Epic. I wonder what that means for the game industry at large given the huge push for the Epic store. Could we see the same effects we've seen in Hollywood?

Are the investors actually making Reddit censor or is this just the latest xenophobic rage bait?

America sure loves its China/Russia scaremongering.

The crux of the article is around the 'investors making' anyone do anything. It doesn't really work like that.

That image at the top is just cringeworthy.

Agreed. If anyone has been paying the slightest bit of attention, the reddit snoo is driving the tank.

> The threat of Chinese censorship was feeling all too real on a site that had historically embraced the extremes of free speech.

Any active Reddit user with non-left leaning political views will most certainly find this assertion amusing at a minimum.

In a similar vein I'd almost rather buy an Huawei phone over an American one because I don't care about China's interests nor live there, so I don't fear them censoring my posts or kicking my door down over some innocuous statement I made online. And for those who think that won't ever happen in the west the UK has already done 2am night raids over a person's tweets. But most redditor's didn't put up a similar fuss over a real life example of the thing they fear from China because he was a (legitimately) douchey right winger who didn't fit into their ideological bubble.

In practice I'd bet far more regular North American and European Reddit users will be banned and have posts deleted for not sharing (by mainstream western standards) the pretty radical left political world-views that is popular on that site's communities - which of course are world-views I see nothing wrong with, people can believe anything they want.

I don't know where I'm going with this other than to say I hope we in the tech community stand against all forms of censorship, not just the one's that fit into their particular pet ideologies. There's plenty of history and literature since the 17th century enlightenment that anything less is a very dangerous path.

Yea. Historically is the context there. Even when presented with examples of censorship on reddit, the users completely ignore it. But... the Chinese come in, and now the possibility of censorship is a big deal.

ffs... they seem to only be able to see slightly past their own noses.

I meant Aaron Swartz historic. Current Reddit censorship (and really censorship on all the major platforms) is very different.

Reddit and all other companies should really reconsider taking chinese money.....

Leisure time on internet 90% of my friends spend their time with:

- Riot Games - League of Legends

- Supercell - Clash of Clans

- Reddit (while waiting for games to load... riding bus.. work etc).

This acquisition will make 100% of their content Chinese owned !

is there an uncensored version of reddit thats any good?

I think a lot of people are missing the point. China is not an open and free society. It has hundreds of thousands of ethnic in concentration camps and is known to kidnap dissidents and silence opposition. It has implemented a social credit system purely for establishing party loyalty.

It's hard to imagine a country so against and anathema to Western ideals.

Let's put it in historical context, should we have allowed Franco, Mussolini or Hitler to have significant sway over US media and opinions at the time? How different might the world be now, had we allowed unchecked totalitarianism to spread its ideas before WW2?

We are approaching similar stakes now, where a country that is vehemently against everything we stand for is trying to influence us. We need to appreciate the severity of Chinese investment and not pretend like they are just another investor.

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