I’ve been having a stab at posting on Chinese media websites over the last few days. Not only was it fascinating to read the comment threads (the same quota of infantile jerks are apparent, be the country China, the US, The Sun or Nigeria) but it was also sobering to see how narrow the subjects were for debate and forum.
They included subject titles like ‘Why Google must bow to China way’, and ‘Explain how careful savings can lead to property purchase’. In other words, commenting was rather like answering an exam question – and sensitivity was not required to work out what the examiners wanted to hear. Clearly, urls are not allowed (not a single hit has come my way as a result of this experiment) and I’d imagine that by now The Slog is a blocked site. Truly worrying for the future is that I did not post a single controversial opinion, instead choosing to suggest gently here and there that property booms can be unpredictable and cheap currencies have downsides as well as advantages.
Of course, for the Orwellian types in the Beijing politburo, having any kind of opinion at all can be read as a sign of dangerously anti-State activities. In short, there is near-zero freedom of speech in the CPR – but before waxing sanctimonious about this, we should note that the average Chinese remains largely unaffected by this, and very proud of China’s achievements; and as experience shows with The Guardian these days, there is no freedom of speech there either.
Two wrongs will never make a right, but two wrongs can sometimes be perfect for each other. In the case of Newscorp and China, it’s hard to avoid that conclusion. Not only is the octogenarian patriarch married to a Chinese, unlike Google Roop has negotiated with his fellow-censors in Beijing, and so far avoided any problems. There is a very good reason for this: their mindset is exactly the same. For while the world of news is going open-plan, Newscorp and the CPR are putting up walls around everything they own.
Be these Chinese walls or Australian ones, another commonality is having a virtual monopoly of the news media. I’ve been trying for months to interest Australians in The Slog, but Murdoch’s url-free comment threads are apparent in almost every Oz title with a decent level of readership.
The walls are there for ostensibly different reasons: with the Chinese it’s mind control, and with the Digger it’s market control. In practice, the only difference is that Beijing throttles creative thought, while Murdoch strangles competition. The end result is the same – no opposition.
The trouble is, these two empires are woefully out of step. China is about to show us – I think, spectacularly – that it can screw up an economy with the best of them. And Rupert Murdoch is about to realise that the sharing economic model of the internet is the future, while he is the past. Both too display amusingly parallel hypocrisy, in that they claim to embrace the free market…but in reality, cannot abide it. Such double standards inevitably lead to the lunacies of controlled currency flotations, and internet paywalls. These are, surely, contradictions in terms.
The Australian nation is up for anything, and the Chinese worker is both shrewd and intelligent. But the men of Beijing and Newscorp are arrant cowards. They belong in the same comfort zone, and there they will stay….rotting away until events overtake them. I wish them every happiness together.