I've been thinking about this New Science article on weblogs—The 'blog' revolution sweeps across China—and differing approaches to censorship. (Spotted on Joho the Blog: Bo ke.) This part about blogs being good at finding euphamisms is great:
But the net police found it much harder to purge discussion of Yitahutu's closure in the blogosphere. Bloggers are quick to find euphemisms so that they can continue conversation despite keyword filtering.Keyword filtering and banning seems like a quaint way to control language. If Lakoff, Luntz, and Orwell have taught us anything it's that the power is in redefining words. I think about this whenever I hear the phrase activist judges. If you want to take power away from the judicial branch of the government, one way to do it is to make the word judge itself into a slur. (It worked with the word liberal.) And hey, why not take down the word activist while you're at it? That's so much more effective than trying to stop the use of the words judge or activist. People have to use these words to communicate, and by attaching negative meanings to them you force people to think negatively about the concepts these words represent. Philip K. Dick also nailed this idea:
The basic tool for manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.Chinese bloggers are practicing the new style of word-manipulation to route around an old style of control.