No one said dictators were stupid, just brutal

Fareed Zakaria brought to the forefront the real issue in dealing with dictatorships. (How dictators have evolved with the times)

It is just not possible anymore for the bosses in China or Iran or Cuba to pull off a good old fashion purge by killing hundreds or thousands of people. Too many people have access to mobile phones and the Internet.

So the dictators need to be more subtle. Instead of constant crack downs, the repression is focused.

Zakaria explains it best:

Consider China. There’s a new study out this week by three political scientists at Harvard. They’ve devised a way to analyze millions of social media posts in China. What’s special is that they claim to do this before the Chinese government gets to censor them – so it provides a unique insight not just into what the Chinese people think, but also what the government deems necessary to censor.

What do they find? Contrary to what you’d think, it turns out criticisms of the state are not more likely to get censored. Even vitriolic criticisms are allowed. Instead, the focus is on stopping mass mobilization. Last year Beijing blocked internet searches for Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” to prevent discussions about the Arab Spring. Similarly last week searches for the numbers 4/6 were censored – the numbers represented June 4th, the anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square.

But for anyone following what the leadership in Beijing has done for the past few years, this is no surprise. It is nice to have it put in context.

Other ways, of course, are to follow the path of Hugo Chavez Venezuela. His government enacts laws that make it a crime to criticize the government in the media. And, at the same time, he sends out party loyalists to threaten and vandalize the independent media that is left.

Like I said: Just because they are dictators doesn’t mean they are stupid.

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Filed under Censorship, Freedom of access, Freedom of Information, Press Freedom

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