Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Whole World Is Watching

Last month, images out of Iran that showed street violence and clashes between political groups and police and protesters were praised by advocates for Internet freedom who were captivated by the possibility of a revolution that would finally bring about a Western-style democracy in the theocratic country that has been a longtime opponent of the U.S.

But as Randy Cohen of The Ethicist points out in "The Power of Pictures," encouraging the dissemination of some kinds of graphic images on the Internet while censuring others can make President Obama appear hypocritical, particularly when he praises images of "Neda" dying on YouTube while opposing the release of pictures showing detainee abuse of those held in U.S. custody.

Certainly, although there was some outcry about this story of an online video of a woman being flogged in Pakistan, it's harder to raise objections when the violence shows the shortcomings of the government of a political ally. In the case of our major economic trade partner, China, events described in the Telegraph's story, "China riots: Twitter and YouTube frustrate 'censorship attempts,'" can be more difficult for the U.S. to manage through conventional diplomatic channels, although -- according to the New York Times -- "In Latest Upheaval, China Applies New Strategies to Control Flow of Information."

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