The other political correctness: America's elite universities are censoring themselves on China
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- Isaac Stone Fish
- Sep 4 2018
- Word count
- 6514 words
A long and substantial commentary on the status of self-censorship in China studies among American higher education, from the New Republic.
The author observes the apparently voluntary self-censorship by academics based in the United States when their study crosses into topics deemed "sensitive" by the Chinese authority. This is, however, not a passive adaptation by the Americans. The author describes some of the techniques deployed by China to induce behavioural change in foreign academia.
Instances include the use of "Little Distraction" propaganda to push certain topics out of public discourse, behavioural modification by reward-punish cycles where diverse forms of "access" and its retraction are used, vigilant yet unpredictable enforcements, and trivialization of fundamental issues at stake ("reverse-censorship").
The effect bears similarities to cases of finlandization during the Cold War. The causes are not quite a simple repetition of the history. The author identifies three major causes:
The topic of self-censorship, by its nature, is difficult to study. It's not easy to assess its "epidemiology" accurately. The effect may not be readily distinguishable from bona fide academic judgement. The article provides a rare overview of both the history and landscape of the chilling effect, based on public information and personal interviews.
Outrageous! Were that there might be a mechanism to prevent self-censorship, such as taking away the financial incentives, e.g. money for China for tuition, that breeds the administrations' contemptible behavior. Maybe the Internal Revenue Code might provide a mechanism that jeopardizes the eleemosynary advantages university enjoy when then bow to foreign policies?
Awareness is the first step.
This was a fantastic article, thanks for posting.