In Soviet China, novels read you!
In his 1979 masterpiece “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” the prominent Czech writer Milan Kundera wrote about the sad fate of former communist apparatchiks who often saw their faces erased from all public photographs the very moment they fell out of favor with the party (it was in that context that Kundera blurted out ...
In his 1979 masterpiece “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” the prominent Czech writer Milan Kundera wrote about the sad fate of former communist apparatchiks who often saw their faces erased from all public photographs the very moment they fell out of favor with the party (it was in that context that Kundera blurted out his wise observation that “we fight for access to the labs where we can retouch photos and rewrite biographies and history”).
Well, the Chinese seem to have mastered this art of retouching to perfection – at least, in the digital world.. A post over at the China Digital Times points to instanenous keyword filtering found in Chinese ebooks!
On his blog, est electronixtar posted his recent discovery of the Chinese authority’s control over electronic readings.
est’s roommate had a strange experience while reading a chm-formatted novel on his computer. In the novel, there was a line of words with the phrase “????” (which roughly means the same as “dammit” in English) in the end. The magic happened a few seconds after he first read this line as the phrase suddenly changed to”??**” with “xx” replacing the curse word on the screen.
“never thought that river crabs are also crawling all over local hard disks… keyword filtering now is also in chm e-books. Imagine that when you read novels, big brother is also watching you… In Soviet China, novels read YOU!”
Yes, that’s right: even electronic books can now be retouched, with words and pictures replaced with a government-approved set of characters. Unless I misread the post, it also seems to be happening almost on the fly.
A technology skeptic speaks in me again: hasn’t the digital world make such instaneous “retouching” much easier and quicker than it used to be in the analogue era? All you have to do right now is to click “Ctrl+F” and you’ll find any string of text in almost any files without ever having to read it. I still cherish the thought that the Soviet censors actually HAD to read Akhmatova, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn and others; now, it’s all automated…
Photo by oxborrow/Flickr
More from Foreign Policy
Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America
The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.
The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense
If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.
Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War
Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.
How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests
And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.