In his recent column, Mr. Kristof engages in one of those hands-on pieces of vainglory that is the unique domain of the celebrity newspaper columnist.
He visits a Chinese chat room, types in a provocative statement about permitting multi-party elections, and dimples with pride as this piece of freedom-loving straight talk is deleted by the censor.
Then he tells us that broadband will be the death of the Communist regime.
The Internet has changed the way the world masturbates but, as a digital form of communication that relies on government infrastructure for transmission and can be filtered, monitored, and traced efficiently and on a massive scale with public security computing resources, it is not a perfect, irresistible force for righteous political subversion.
Political movements adopt and exploit the tools of the times: cell phones in the recent anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, big character posters during the Cultural Revolution, cassette tapes in 1970s Iran, chapattis in the Sepoy Rebellion, pamphlets in the American revolutionary war, pancakes at the fall of the Yuan dynasty…
More to the point, as conditions permit, every government works non-stop to accommodate, co-opt, or suppress the media and content that threaten its dominance of information management.
It’s a full-time job, pursued with implacable determination, unlimited resources, and resounding success.
In this connection, I might cite the case of a once-great newspaper whose correspondents and columnists still appear unable to acknowledge the fact that they served as befuddled if willing tools of a government campaign of deception that enabled an unprovoked and catastrophic war of aggression…
…even as thousand of Internet-linked keyboards clattered in furious and principled opposition around the world.
In America, the Internet now peddles so much illusion and confusion fostered by the government and its supporters that its potential as a unique and uniquely powerful political voice for the disenfranchised has been lost.
The Chinese Communists are already busy neutering the Internet, as this roundup from China Digital Times shows.
The threat to the regime will come from people, ideology, and beliefs, not a communications process.
Change in China will require political, moral, and human courage. It will require leadership. When it comes, it will exploit a hundred existing and new channels of communication to get its message out and rally and organize its supporters.
It doesn’t need the Internet.
And it probably doesn’t need Nick Kristof.