Gongol.com Archives: September 2021
Authoritarians really do rely upon the stupidest hangups to remain in power. A giant series of bans on what can be shown on Chinese television has been handed down, and the prohibitions include shows that vote participants out with responses from viewers at home, "sissy men", and the children of stars. And if you want to take your fandom for K-pop music online, well, you can forget that, too. ■ Television has contained plenty of dreck since the beginning -- anyone who's familiar with the quiz-show scandals of the 1950s knows that. But television isn't really unique in that regard; every medium that has ever sought to entertain large audiences has contained at least some garbage. Even ancient Roman poetry contained some scandalous trash. There is absolutely nothing new about entertainment content that offends the powers that reign. ■ But it is telling that the powers that rule China seem to think they need to clamp down on the tastes and preferences of 1.4 billion people who ought, by virtue of their birth alone, to be free. It's a symptom of fear -- that even a taste of kicking someone "off the island" from a talent show might be too much experience in self-government. (And all because people were buying yogurt to pick the contestants in a talent show.) ■ Not that many years ago, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew advised his country that "Those with good minds to be scholars should also become inventors, innovators, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs; they must bring new products and services to the market to enrich the lives of people everywhere." Lee himself may have had authoritarian tendencies, but he did understand two things: Even a strict government needs the implicit consent of the governed in order to survive, and people need to have sufficient personal freedom that they can pursue ambitious goals. ■ Putting all of the "best minds" into the preservation of the power of the state is a recipe for stagnation, decline, and ultimate failure. Smart people are needed in every government, of course, but if the only real commitment they have is to protecting the interests of a mob racket in shiny uniforms, then not enough gas will remain in the tank to power the other engines of a society -- be they cultural, economic, or technical. People who are kept back by a government insistent upon tightening its controls over business, culture, and other aspects of life simply cannot expect to live to the fullest -- no matter how many self-appointed geniuses think they're running the show.