Beaumarchais and the NannyWritten by Julen Madariaga on January 7th, 2009
That is how I found again this beautiful passage which I can’t resist copying here, although I know in these fast times some readers may find it somewhat old (231 years to be exact). It was written by a watch-maker, inventor, playwright, musician, politician, publisher, spy, arms-dealer, and notorious activist of the American and French Revolutions:
They tell me that if in my writing I will mention neither the government, nor public worship, nor politics, nor morals, nor people in office, nor influential corporations, nor the Opera, nor the other theatres, nor anybody that belongs to anything, I may print everything freely, subject to the approval of two or three censors.
Figaro satirizes. And then goes on to say:
Foolish things in print are important only where their circulation is interfered with; without the freedom to criticize, no praise is flattering, and none but little men are afraid of little writings.
So beautiful and so up to date, every bit of it. A few bureaucrats in this country should read this, and realize that already 231 years ago their same little game was well known to the people. And that some day, in China too, the attitude of silencing, detaining, firewalling and suppressing the freedom of speech will be remembered as one of the “4 Shames” of the past.
Mind you, I know that quoting a comic writer, even if he is a classic of Literature and Revolution, is not exactly a solid scientific argument. But who speaks of science here? This is all about common sense, about opening your eyes and seeing what is obvious, and about concepts so simple that a child can understand. If I am not allowed to criticize you, all of my praise will be empty of value.
And this leads us to speak of the latest little wave of protest in the China blogs. Like it happens every now and then, all the main blogs are (rightly) complaining against the new Net Nanny ’09 campaign. The adult babysitting agency CIIIRC has published a list of websites who have been caught posting “vulgar” pictures of beautiful ladies. And warned them to “seriously clean up their unhealthy content”.
I don’t think there can be a better example of a petty departure getting large circulation thanks to the censors. And if I know my fellow men, Chinese or Western alike, I am ready to bet that the offending sites have noticed a dramatic increase in traffic today since the publication of that list, and that blogs like Danwei have done a great service to the community by putting all the links together on one single page for us to check. Bravo!
Note: Translation of “Marriage of Figaro” by Edward J. Lowell in the book “The Eve of the Revolution”. Some slight modifications from my part.