“The Anaconda in the Chandelier”

From Censorship Without Borders, in Foreign Policy:

Illustration by Yarek Waszul (via the New York Times)

“… China is setting a 21st-century standard for media manipulation that many outsiders have failed to adequately appreciate. The Chinese Communist Party has leveraged China’s growing economic wealth, using advanced censorship techniques that use market forces to reinforce its political control. …

China’s economic coercion is designed to produce an insidious form of self-censorship. Thus, the Hong Kong edition of Esquire magazine apparently pulled a feature story on the Tiananmen Square massacre in 2009; a prominent legal journal in Hong Kong made a last-minute decision not to publish an article on Tibetan self-determination in 2008; and a blackout on independent coverage of the Falun Gong is believed to be practiced among certain Hong Kong and Taiwanese outlets whose owners have ties to Beijing. …

China’s latest censorship campaign is hardly an isolated case — indeed, it’s only Beijing’s latest attempt to extend censorship beyond its borders. This strategy is designed to prevent the outside world from honoring, or even listening to, critics of regime policies and to squelch discussion of sensitive issues like China’s suppression of minority groups.”

—  Arch Puddington & Christopher Walker, December 10, 2010


“In a 2002 essay in The New York Review of Books called ‘China: The Anaconda in the Chandelier,’ the China scholar Perry Link described Beijing’s censors as a dangerous creature coiled overhead. “Normally the great snake doesn’t move,” he wrote. “It doesn’t have to. . . . Its constant silent message is ‘You yourself decide,’ after which, more often than not, everyone in its shadow makes his or her large and small adjustments.”

Censors Without Borders, by Emily Parker, The New York Times, May 14, 2010


Ha Jin

A dangerous anaconda coiled overhead — that unsettling image reminds us of Ha Jin’s Censorship in China feature story for NGM, which Editor Chris Johns killed days before flying to Beijing to celebrate… NGM’s publishing partnership in the People’s Republic of China. Such a high-profile media partnership required years of delicate negotiations, with final approval coming from NGS CEO John Fahey — and from that snake in the chandelier.

Dear John:
Why did you usher National Geographic into a room
with an anaconda hanging from the ceiling
if you didn’t plan on confronting it?
Your silence makes our Society seem terribly… small.

John rarely, if ever, gives interviews.
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