News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Monday, March 14, 2005

More lunatic debates from the forum...

Dude said the following: >>In reality, most of China's intellectuals complain about lack of freedom of speech. What they are reallyh complaining about is not that they can't say stuff after dinner in their houses, if they do, no one will know and they will be safe. What they are complaning about is that they don't have control of media tools such as newspapers, TV's, radios. They wish to spread their "products" to society. But they have not proven that their products have passed reliability testing.<<

More conspiracy theories out of China. One cure for this is freedom of speech. Let people openly argue ideas and most of the bad ones will become obvious to most people.

How do intellectuals gain control of newspapers, TV and radio? They can't. It can't be done in a free society because the consumer determines what's popular, not the intellectuals. Intellectuals have a well-earned record of failure when it comes to impacting the English-speaking public. The impact of PBS, the intellectual-ridden public television station in the US, is practically nil upon the public. Most of PBS is garbage and rightfully ignored by the public because most intellectuals are like most people in all walks of life: they have nothing new or special to say. Most intellectuals are blank cartridges.

Math fears intellectuals presumably because he is not one and because he believes they are smarter than him. But they're not. Most intellectuals are just blue-collar people with a diploma.

The overwhelming majority of successful novelists in the US are high school graduates. Earning a diploma seems to get in the way of literary success.

The public in China has been fooled for five thousand years by its rulers. It remains bamboozled by the Communist Party today. The intellectuals if freed couldn't do any worse. In fact I'm sure they'll do much less harm because intellectuals can seldom agree on anything. They're seldom if ever united in the way that non-intellectuals often become during times of national crisis.

As to blogs in China, show something substantial please instead of cliched humor. Show us blogs in favor of religious freedom, critizing Hu Jintao or critiquing government policy such as the Tiananmen Incident. My point is not that the US or other countries are perfect, but that the conditions there for criticism are much better.

Out of curiosity, can this Atimes forum be viewed in China?
I want things to get better in China just as much as anyone else. Increasing freedom of speech is required for people around the country to know what is going on and how to improve things. It would also prevent the appearance of such lunacy as this article:

Freedom of speech would help prevent such imbecile utterance in the Chinese state press such as, "Chinese people's unwillingness to show wealth also has a physiological reason. Scientists found more dehydrogenates in Chinese livers than westerners' through studies of intoxicated people from various countries. This explains why alcohol poisoning occurs much less frequently in Chinese even though the alcohol content of China's "white spirit" far exceeds that of foreign liquors. The existence of dehydrogenation enzymes in the human brain may have to do with the fact that the Chinese are better at controlling their moods than Westerners."

Biff Cappuccino


  1. Anonymous12:44 AM

    BFC, You're description of the place of intellectuals in popular culture is not supported by history. There has never been a time where the writings of great scientist have reached so many people. Richard Feynman and Carl Sagen are household names whose writings are best sellers. Hollywood movies make eccentric university professors into heroes. Nobel Prize winning authours' book sales regularly exceed 100,000 copies. Newspapers report obscure scientific findings even before they're published in learned journals. Quasi-scientific journals like the Skeptical Enquirer are for sale at Shopper's Drug Mart. The list is endless and in Europe even more true than it is for YOU AMERICANS.

    If it is true that intellectuals don't control the media, it's not because the media is a consumer market. As it is, consumers are screaming for learned knowledge. If there's any truth to what you say, it's because the media is already controlled by the forces that have interests other than promoting the free and knowledgeable thought that its user call for.

  2. Thanks for commenting.

    First off, I must plead not guilty to being an American.

    Second, popular awareness of the existence of intellectuals is not the same thing as intellectuals having influence within popular culture. 100,000 copies of a book is not much if we're dealing with a population of 300,000,000 in the US alone, let alone Europe and the rest of the world. Earning the title of 'best seller' in the US starts somewhere around 30,000 books sold. Pretty miserable.

    I consider myself an intellectual and I can tell you from hard-worn experience that most people, outside of the scope of their professional lives, don't know jack about the hard sciences, the social sciences or literature and aren't interested in anything more than an oral discussion over a beer. As long as I'm entertaining, people are happy to listen. But that doesn't translate to the same people picking up a book on their own.

    Most people work too hard (I keep taking extended vacations that last more than a year) and at the end of the day don't have the energy (or confidence) for the extended reading required to develop competence within a brand new field (ex: foreign policy, SARS, AIDS, media culture, prostitution, etc.) unless they personally or a close family member has been affected by events in that field.

    As to the media being controlled by forces, the US media (like the US government) is full of whistleblowers. If there were genuine forces in control, as Chomsky maintains, I'm sure I would know about it. I updated a news website daily for a year and read a massive amount during that time. What I found is that reporters are usually a combination of overstretched and functionally ignorant in the field they cover. And most reporters are young people who want to fill a resume. Essentially, it appears to my jaded eye that the most important trait incumbent upon reporters is professional credulity. It must make life much easier for their editors and media owners.


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