A Loud Silence

Last week, in the debate over Microsoft’s involvement in China and its decision to work with the Chinese government to censor some aspects of the web logs put up by customers, Robert Scoble made one of the more techy-boneheaded comments I’ve ever seen.
Scoble, who runs Microsoft’s “official” blog and has visited China where, he said, he was assured by a group of Chinese that they have no need for the Western concept of “freedom of speech.”
In the words of former CNN’s former Beijing bureau chief Rebecca MacKinnon: Horseshit.
Today’s New York Times brings us even more evidence of the accuracy of MacKinnon’s insight. A story about a teacher who allegedly raped 26 of his female pupils contains this chilling paragraph:

It is the sort of horrific case that in many countries would be a national scandal but in China has disappeared into the muffled silence of state censorship. That silence matches the silence at the heart of the case: the fact that students considered a teacher so powerful that they did not dare speak out.

That’s freedom of speech, Chinese-style: Don’t ask, don’t tell.