CNET news hosts an article by Declan McCullagh that Peking Duck picked up, on the China and technology company censorship hearings in Congress. The article argues that Christopher Smith and Tom Lantos are flaming hypocrites on the China and free speech question:
If Smith and compatriot Rep. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, were sincere in this paean to free speech, perhaps we could applaud them for a steadfast commitment to principle.
But they're not. Smith and Lantos voted for a flag-burning amendment that flies in the face of the right to protest, a law to criminalize computer-generated images of nude minors, and the restrictions on election-related speech in the McCain-Feingold law that are now causing trouble for bloggers. Both voted for the Patriot Act, even though a federal judge ruled a key portion violates the First Amendment's free speech rights. Smith also embraced a proposal to restrict the sale of violent material such as video games to anyone under the age of 18.
If we try to reconcile these votes with recent statements, we're left with the unsettling conclusion that this pair of solons may care a great deal about free speech--but only for the Chinese, not Americans.
Or we can consider a second explanation: that they'd simply like to whip up some anti-China sentiment, and Internet censorship is a convenient excuse to do it.
"It's really just hatred of China," says Lew Rockwell, president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Ala. "People like Christopher Smith, the neo-conservatives, the Christian right that Christopher Smith is affiliated with, were planning a cold war against China before 9/11. They've just postponed it."
That last citation is the interesting one. Lew Rockwell is a right-wing libetarian isolationist nutcase whose website provides space for a number of very scary people. Among them are people like Bevin Chu, a right-wing Chinese and son of a KMT diplomat, who regularly publishes anti-Taiwan Independence articles. Another publisher at Rockwell's site is Gary North, one of the leaders of Christian Reconstructionist movement, the far-right Christian fascists whose dream is to snuff out American democracy and replace it with a theocratic state (North has publicly advocated stoning homosexuals). In other words, Rockwell's site is littered with pro-authoritarian types (and, in fairness, some pretty good people as well), and he is hardly in a position to call free speech advocacy "hatred of China" when he himself supports advocates for suppression of freedom. McCullagh is a libertarian as well and seems to have some kind of personal connection to Rockwell. His conflation of the China hearings with the staged hearings on the first Iraq War is simply an obnoxious smear intended to support his analysis by distracting the reader. Mathew Stimson responds both to Richard at PD and to McCullagh:
Richard at The Peking Duck excerpts from an surprisingly hackish article from C.Net’s Declan McCullagh which smears Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) as “hypocritical” China-bashers who claim to care about human rights in China but don’t care about human rights at home. The evidence for this is that Smith has a conservative voting record and both Lantos and Smith have both voted for a flag burning amendment and — heavens! — the Patriot Act. This is raising the bar on “supporting human rights” to a level that no mainstream American politician, from either party, can meet. McCullagh even turns to libertarian isolationist Lew Rockwell, who claims that Smith wants to start a new cold war with China. (In the paranoid libertarian isolationist universe, every politician is in the thrall of the military-industrial complex.) McCullagh’s article is ripe to be picked up by the “USA bad too!” Internet crowd that offer apologies for China on the basis of pointing out America’s sins.
The voting records of Reps. Smith and Lantos may not be Richard’s cup of tea, but it’s irresponsible to get frothy and claim that the congressmen are, in Richard’s words, “spotlight-seeking ignoramuses looking for an excuse to hype the ‘China threat.’” Rep. Smith has long been a champion of international human rights in China, East Timor, Vietnam, the Sudan, and elsewhere. On China in particular Smith has taken a line on human rights that often intersects with that of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Richard’s own rhetoric. Rep. Tom Lantos, as co-chair and founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, has a record on human rights that few politicians can match. These men are honest advocates for the cause of human rights, not the shameful opportunists McCullagh accuses them of being.
The hearings are hypocrisy, no question, and no doubt Smith and Lantos are hycrocrites, as are all of us. But these hearings are not so much anti-China hypocrisy, as they are the usual Congressional impulse to have a hearing on whatever is engaging the public mind. Congress has also held hearings on moving sports team, and drugs in sports (I guess they must have been anti-sports or something, by Rockwell's logic), and numerous other transient topics of no serious interest. The Google hearings are part of this pattern. Tomorrow Congress will forget about Google and move on to something else.
And by the way, Lew, when someone points 800 missiles at you and says that you have to join them or die, hatred is a perfectly understandable response from you and your allies like Tom Lantos.
UPDATE: East Asia Watch points to this article from an American Enterprise Institute member which points out more Congressional hypocrisy on the issue (handle with care: AEI has long been a shill for East Asian governments):
[Taiwan] [US] [China]
Ironically, what Google is saying is not so different from what Congress — supported by successive Republican and Democratic administrations — said when it granted China PNTR. After all, the U.S. government concluded then that doing business with the Chinese Communists was an aggregate good for the U.S. economy. It also argued that promoting economic engagement with China, even without promises of political liberalization in return, was better for the Chinese people than doing nothing at all…
Frustrated with the resilience of Chinese authoritarian rule, members of Congress have anointed Western businessmen (without their consent) as freedom fighters and have declared irrelevant their responsibility to maximize shareholder value. Congressman Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) asserted in a statement that “American citizens and lawmakers have every right to demand that U.S. companies advance freedom rather than oppression.” Similarly, Congressman Chris Smith instructed Google, “Human rights should trump profits.”