China's porn obsession not just a coverup for political repression

The thing that stinks - to Western noses - about this whole Green Dam story is the idea that China wants to go to all this trouble, to the point of having a serious showdown with the U.S.

The thing that stinks - to Western noses - about this whole Green Dam story is the idea that China wants to go to all this trouble, to the point of having a serious showdown with the U.S. over it, over porn. I mean, porn ... if people want it, they'll get it. And who cares if they want it, really? So you think, this is really about political repression, about imprisoning dissidents, that sort of thing.

But then you read this New York Times article and realize, for the Chinese government there really is no difference. Political dissent and pornography are two sides of the same coin -- negative forces that disrupt "wholesome society." That's why the same ministry deals with pornography and political speech.

The same public security agencies charged with fighting pornography are responsible for suppressing illegal political activity, said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher in Hong Kong for Human Rights Watch. The government’s statistics for seizures of illegal publications tend to include both pornographic and political documents, he noted. “The two are closely associated,” Mr. Bequelin said. “These campaigns work hand in hand.”

That's why Green Dam is so attractive -- it blocks porn and political speech. It's not that the porn filter is a sham. It's actually really important to the Chinese. Hence, the recent crackdown on Google, which even included a televised, manipulated demo of Google's evil.

CCTV, the state-owned television monopoly, broadcast an interview in which the announcer typed the word “son” into a Google search engine and was dismayed that one of the search terms suggested in Chinese was an “abnormal relationship between son and mother.”

Google’s software makes it possible to analyze the frequency and source of search terms. In a check on Thursday, Google’s Web site showed that no one had entered the phrase “abnormal relationship between son and mother” in Chinese for months until it suddenly became a popular phrase entered only in Beijing in the days before the show, making it more likely that it would pop up as a suggested search term.

And the Chinese apparently have a broad definition of porn, as the Health Ministry announced restrictions on access to health reports on sexual subjects. It's $4,400 per violation with criminal sancation for repeat researchers.

As noted, hand in hand with the porn crackdown, is a speech crackdown:

Liu Xiaobo, one of China’s best-known dissidents, was formally arrested Tuesday on suspicion of subversion, six months after he was detained for joining other intellectuals in signing a document calling for democracy. This month, the authorities refused to renew the licenses of more than a dozen lawyers after they agreed to represent clients in human rights cases.

So what's going on? One theory is that authorities are concerned by what's going on Iran. Maybe. Who knows.