Ai Weiwei: How Censorship Works

Life in China is saturated with pretense. People feign ignorance and speak in ambiguities. Everyone in China knows that a censorship system exists, but there is very little discussion of why it exists.

.. The content offered by the Chinese state media, after its processing by political censors, is not free information. It is information that has been chosen, filtered and assigned its place, inevitably restricting the free and independent will of readers and viewers.

.. Judgments become distorted and rationality itself begins to slip away. Group behavior can become wild, abnormal and violent.

.. Whenever the state controls or blocks information, it not only reasserts its absolute power; it also elicits from the people whom it rules a voluntary submission to the system and an acknowledgment of its dominion. This, in turn, supports the axiom of the debased: Accept dependency in return for practical benefits.

.. The self-silenced majority, sycophants of a powerful regime, resentful of people like me who speak out, are doubly bitter because they know that their debasement comes by their own hand.

.. Because the censorship system needs cooperation and tacit understanding from the censored, I disagree with the common view that the censored are simply its victims. Voluntary self-censorship brings benefits to a person, and the system would not work if the voluntary aspect were not there.

.. Managers of artistic and cultural projects, though, need to do more than that; they need to show proactively that they “get it” and will accommodate the authoritarians and protect their public image. They know that if anything causes unhappiness higher up, a project, and perhaps an organization, will be scrubbed.