Friday, 3 July 2015

Land Of The Not So Free

In the land of the not so free, there is often a delusion that they are as free as anyone .... this is an age old phenomena, but was far more easily enforced before smart phones opened up the Internet to the globe ... a change that is so revolutionary in its potential to change the world, that we have not yet begun to see its full impact play out.

For instance, in North Korea, most people probably half believed for years, that the rest of the world was at least as poor as they were (although clandestine contacts with South Korea would have ensured that equally they half suspected that this was nonsense), but that is unlikely to be the case now.

Internet Usage Was Restricted To One Screen And One Mouse Driver ..

Smart phones and the technical ability to bypass the 'state firewall', mean that most people will be all to well aware of how backward, politically and economically, North Korea is.

Similarly in China, where although foreign Internet content is supposedly largely blocked or banned for many applications or subjects, and certainly it is for social media such as Twitter or Facebook, state officials still routinely issue information on those platforms, knowing that millions of Chinese have bypassed 'The Great Firewall of China' and use them.

But even for those Chinese who have not bothered to break through the firewall, there are still the copycat (aka stolen) home grown social media applications, such as 'Weibo', which is a Chinese micro-blogging website, which is a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, and is one of the most popular sites in China .... similarly the 'WeChat' application (a copy cat of WhatsApp), services not just the Chinese in China, but also the very large Chinese diaspora around the globe, and it also has an English language version.

This diversity of audience led to a funny 'mix up' recently (at least the tencent holding company responsible for WeChat said it was a mix up) ... the application was updated to give interactive backgrounds when certain keywords used in messages e.g. Happy Birthday, prompted a background of cakes and birthday cards ... well you get the picture. However, when users typed in the keywords 'civil rights' (although maybe not if in Chinese Characters), they were given a background of the Stars And Stripes Flag.

Civil Rights .... But Not Automatically In China

When this was pointed out to them by officials from the Communist Youth League, they said it was a background that was supposed to be shown to its US users for Martin Luther King day (hence keywords 'civil rights') .... Oops.

But the interesting part of all this was that many users of the app asked why the words 'civil rights' only prompted a US background and not Chinese ... didn't Chinese people in China also have 'civil rights'? Of course the answer is that they don't actually have court enforced civil rights, with many cases of arbitrary arrest, illegal imprisonment, secret 'black prisons', illegal land seizures, and numerous cases of bribery and corruption which even the state press have uncovered in some instances (when the state wanted it).

Oddly, portraying the Chinese flag is a disrespectful manner is frowned upon, and possibly punishable by a fine or imprisonment .... a fact which should warn you that you are not in a fully free country, because that's often the case in a dictatorship or even countries such as Turkey.

So even with the access to the world that Smart phones have given them, many Chinese live happily under the delusion that they are as free as the USA .... so the lands of the not so free, are still blissfully ignorant of their lot. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.


  1. Do you think that Kim Jong-un and his cronies are watching a Daesh beheading video in the picture above? or perhaps it's the latest from the Sousse massacre.

    1. More likely its replays of the latest official being executed by anti-aircraft gun ... no need for outside executions, when you are as inventive as the North Korean regime.


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