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The fury of bloggers

Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to eleven years in prison today for speaking out against the Chinese government.

The Guardian article begins this way:

One of China‘s most prominent human rights activists was condemned today to 11 years in prison, prompting a furious backlash from domestic bloggers and international civil society groups.

Picture me on this quiet Christmas morning finishing a cup of coffee, listening to a set of tracks I just downloaded from Amazon, my family doing their early slow bustle, criticizing a country a full diameter away from me, and you’ve got the picture of a snug, smug American blogger. Fury? Not sure where to locate it in that picture.

It’s obviously not the same for the Chinese bloggers supporting Liu Xiaobo. This post costs me nothing, but their posts put them at risk. I cannot even imagine what it’s like to press the Publish button having to worry about anything more than losing some reputation points. “What will my pals think?” is a lot different than “Will this start the gears of imprisonment?” That unimaginable gap is our freedom of speech.

The flip side of my ability to blog free of risk is powerlessness. So, I condemn the Chinese government. Let’s say many bloggers do. And then what happens? The Chinese government quakes in its boots because the blogosphere has given it a good scolding?

On the other hand, powerless compared to what? Fifteen years ago, my condemnation would have gotten as far as the person sitting across from me. Or maybe I would have written an outraged letter to the Chinese government. (Actually, I’m sure I wouldn’t have since I never have.) Now at least there’s a chance — but just a chance — that the Chinese bloggers will know that many other bloggers are with them. And this is part of the difference: The mighty are deaf to our words, but our allies and friends may not be.

So, why am I posting about Liu Xiaobo? For a jumble of reasons, as is always the case for us humans. To make myself feel like I’m doing something even if I’m not. To align myself with someone I admire, in part so I’ll be perceived as someone who cares. To contribute a couple more hops to the networked spread of news about Liu Xiaobo. So those at risk can feel the slight weight of one more post comforting them — and to be comforted myself that perhaps our words can connect us for a moment before they evaporate as words almost always do.

2 Responses to “The fury of bloggers”

  1. I found your last paragraph especially provocative.

    I too feel for Liu while reading this. However, I know that I will most likely have forgetten about the imprisonment entirely by New Years.

  2. I echo your sentiments on this regrettable sentencing.

    I find it almost impossible to understand why we have pinned our economic hopes upon a country with such a terrible human rights and environmental record. We have traded our own principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for cheaply made material products acquired at a low consumer price that produce a high corporate profit while our own workers are unemployed. We must begin to change our economic values to reflect our democratic principles. Do we really believe we are benefiting by having our products manufactured in a nation without adequate human rights?

    Over one million Tibetans were massacred in 1949 and the world remained silent. The Chinese are responsible for one of the largest holocausts in recent history. Most of their victims were unarmed religious monks. Our response has been to move our production facilities into their country because of cheap labor (which violates the rights of their own citizens as well) and the lack of environmental restrictions (which pollutes and degrades the environment of the Earth – that planet where we all live).

    The violation of free speech and human rights involves the wider issue of the responsibility of corporations as entities toward the world in which we live. I guarantee that no corporation will blog about the injustice of this sentencing. We have given corporations the legal rights of individuals and yet they have accepted no moral or ethical responsibilities. A corporation is merely an entity beholden to its stockholders and its upper echelon officers. We believe corporations produce products when in fact they create wealth for a privileged few.

    As consumers we must exercise our own belief in human rights through the products we purchase. Yet this can be rather difficult when so many products are made in China.

    Most importantly, the power of internet blogs may alert the rest of the world to the understanding that many of the citizens in the US are increasingly disillusioned with corporate policies that violate human rights and environmental principles.

    We need to free our own citizens from the imprisonment of their unemployment. We also need to free ourselves from economic decisions that benefit corporate executives and stockholders while seducing the public into purchasing cheap, unnecessary consumer goods.

    The strength of words remains extremely powerful. Liu Xiaobo has been sentenced to eleven years in prison for writing sentences. Those of us free of such oppressions must exercise the power of words to align ourselves with the values of democracy, human rights, economic responsibility, and environmental protection.

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