The censors in China are going crazy again.
This time the operators of the Great Firewall of China are blocking any mention of “Jiang,” “Zemin” and “heart attack.”
Yep, the rumor mill is flooded with reports that former leader Jiang Zemin died of a heart attack. And the media masters in Beijing are working overtime to deny it.
The rumors started with a report from a Hong Kong television station that Jiang had died Wednesday. Reuters followed up with a report that Jiang was alive but just barely after a massive heart attack.
Government officials issued a standard denial on the report, saying the reports “are pure rumor.” (At least they did not quote Mark Twain.) Here is the FULL text of the statement:
“BEIJING – Recent reports of some overseas media organizations about Jiang Zemin’s death from illness are ‘pure rumor,’ Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday, citing authoritative sources.”
When no one seemed to believe that proclamation, the words “Jiang Zemin,” “heart attack” and related words were blocked on the most popular microblogging sites.
China Digital Times has pieced together a great article about the situation and the reaction of the “Ministry of Truth”: Rumors of Jiang Zemin’s Death Circulate Online; Censors Respond (Updated)
Is Jiang dead or not? That is not the issue right here. The issue is that Hong Kong media and mainland rumors have more credibility with the people of China than do government pronouncements and the mainland media. (Reminder: Hong Kong media enjoy all the freedoms of a Western democracy thanks to the civil society protections included in the treaty that returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.)
This is proof once again that free and independent media are a stronger force for stability and security than censorship. While there are kooks and wackos who believe odd things (Iraq had WMDs, the US government masterminded the 9/11 attacks, Obama was born in Kenya, etc.), that group is a distinct minority at the fringes of democratic societies with free media.
Why? Because media outlets free of censorship are allowed (bean counters permitting) to investigate any and all allegations.
Censorship and state control of media only encourage people to look for other outlets of news and information. If the main source of information turns out to be unfounded rumors, the society is weakened and made less stable.
The real role of censorship is to keep power in the hands of a few. The actions are designed to protect their stability and security, not society’s.