WOW Word-Of-the-Week #300: Censor

May 17, 2010 by  

Censor – to ban or cut portions in order to control or suppress information.

Do you remember when comedian George Carlin wrote a monologue titled “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television?” It was 1972. Are you aware that Google is pulling out of China over censorship concerns and the strong stance of the Obama administration on Internet freedom?

Google pulling out was all “the buzz” in China when we were there. I read lots of editorials both for and against Google. When I got home I read Barbara Demick’s article in the LA Times titled, “China has its own list of ‘dirty words.’”

Tieneman Square“There are 400,000 words in the English language. There are 80,000 characters in Chinese, and only a few of them are banned outright.  Today there are currently 45 banned words.  But it’s not called censorship; it’s called ‘guidance of public opinion.’ The challenge is you don’t always know when you’re being censored. When searching a sensitive subject, you will be frustrated with a blank screen and a vague error message (‘the connection to the server was reset while the page is loading’ is the most common) so you’re never quite sure whether you’ve hit the wall
(called the Great Firewall of China) or some technical glitch really did cause the problem.”

“Often, the user who’s tried to search something blocked won’t be able to get back online for several minutes – the equivalent of time-out given a naughty child.”

The best thing about traveling is coming home to “the good ole US of A.” I feel so fortunate! When Asians found out we were from the US they would talk about what a great country it is. Many had relatives living here and talked about their dream to come and visit. It is very expensive and time consuming to get a VISA.

This week think about how fortunate we are to not be censored. Do you take our freedom of speech for granted? Do you appreciate how much access we have to information?

Reader Responses

One must use code in china. Like hey babe let’s hook up for a good eggroll:)” – John

“I continue to pray and be thankful for our freedoms and lack of censorship’s.” – Bonnie

“Great word and very appropriate in this day and age. Your comments on China and its relationship with Google are right on. As much as China tries to restrict what its people see, the more information will continue to find its way inside the country. When people are told what they can’t have or get, it becomes the old forbidden fruit. Human nature is such that it will desire that forbidden fruit so much it will find a way to get it. Even if it means eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. A country that has nearly 2 billion people can only be controlled for so long before it has to open up. The Chinese government knows that if it allows ideas, speech and other knowledge from the outside to seep in, its control over those 2 billion people will become even more difficult. Such is the difficulty for China in joining the rest of the industrialized world. The government feels it can only open up so much at a time, but it can use censorship for only so long. As for the USA, the forms of censorship are more nuanced and subtle. We have to read more between the lines to find what is and what is not censored. But there is censorship; it just not as overt as it is in China and other countries. It sounds like you had an incredible trip. It is great to have you back.” – Joe