UPDATE: Roger Simon isn’t the only one who’s disturbed by this.
Mark Steyn nails the whole problem in this devastating column:
China hasn’t invented or discovered anything of significance in half a millennium, but the careless assumption that intellectual property is something to be stolen rather than protected shows why. If you’re a resource-poor nation (as China is), long-term prosperity comes from liberating the creative energies of your people – and Beijing still has no interest in that. If a blogger attempts to use the words "freedom" or "democracy" or "Taiwan independence" on Microsoft’s new Chinese internet portal, he gets the message: "This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech." How pathetic is that? Not just for the Microsoft-spined Corporation, which should be ashamed of itself, but for the Chinese government, which pretends to be a world power but is terrified of words.
Does "Commie wimps" count as forbidden speech, too? And what is the likelihood of China advancing to a functioning modern stand-alone business culture if it’s unable to discuss anything except within its feudal political straitjackets? Its speech code is a sign not of control but of weakness; its internet protective blocks are not the armour but the, er, chink.
I won’t be following Roger Simon’s suggestion of boycotting MSN Spaces. I’ve already discovered a few clever hacks to get around some annoying limitations the Microsoft whiz kids built into Spaces, and this just motivates me to look for more. One of Roger’s commenters quotes Lenin:
Regarding Microsoft’s kowtowing to the fascist Mandarins in Beijing, Lenin said it best: "The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them."
I prefer to think of Microsoft as the crony-capitalist who sells me–a less mobbed-up capitalist–a banana. I then put the banana peel under his foot. (Thanks to Maakies for the banana.)
ANOTHER UPDATE (12 June): Rebecca McKinnon thoughtfully and politely calls Microsoft a gang of mercenary weasels. Don’t hit me with that stick! back40 weighs in over at Crumb Trail–he thinks Microsoft may be sellling banana peels to the Chinese.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE (17 June): The indefatigable Rebecca McKinnon seems to be thinking along the same lines that I do; here she hacks the Chinese interface and blogs for freedom, democracy, and human rights.