Monday, July 12, 2004

the shape of our fight

FUCK, my child, is only in your mind. For some, however, it's an actual movement to be avoided because it makes one feel all dirty, and doesn't earn respect. Earning respect was never the intention of the nonexistent FUCK, of course: if FUCK existed, it would be purely about baser things like agitation and provocation. We'll leave respect for the respectable.

Blinger's board, no longer FUCK (which is fine, since FUCK doesn't exist) is up and running and brimming with a great deal of disagreement and negativity: a lot of what-iffing going on, little of which leans in an optimistic direction. Part of this stems, I think, from confusion about what's happening. Part of this is simply the conflict that comes standard with any BBS. All of it is welcome because it lends perspective for those of us with an analytical bent.

I'm no strategist. Unlike Dr. Vallicella, I suck at chess, despite having one of the world's best teachers. But I think I see our conflict with the MIC beginning to take shape, coalesce, gel into a movement. Here's a turd's eye view of affairs (and feel free to write in with disagreement, agreement, or creative additions):

Some issues (and I credit posters on the formerly-FUCK boards for bringing these items up):

1. Are we being Anglo-Saxon imperialists, imposing our value system on Koreans instead of sitting quietly by with tolerant understanding of censorship? My position is that our actions have absolutely nothing to do with imperialism. It's a bullshit charge. We're holding Korea to its own standards here.

2. A corollary question, then, is whether, by holding Korea to its own standards, we're inadvertently advocating censorship. The argument runs this way: if we're screaming that it's simply unfair to have banned the Kim video without having banned the other beheading videos, we might be seen as arguing that the other videos should have been banned as well. While this interpretation of our complaint is possible, I don't see how anyone would rush to conclude this, especially since other elements of our argument make clear that we despise censorship in other countries like the PRC. The problem is censorship, not merely this instance of censorship.

3. Will taking the legal route be effective? It's possible we'll need legal representation. It's possible this may end up costing time and money. Personally, I can't commit much money, but I can commit time. I'm in discussion with people about how plausible the legal route is. Some of us are hopeful, others not so. More on this as it happens.

If you haven't registered for Blinger's board, I recommend that you do so, and feel free to contribute to the ongoing discussion. Bring constructive criticism, constructive ideas, and a bit less negativity.

The shape of the fight can be seen as a function of the three major barriers before us:

1. The ban itself (and those responsible for it).

2. Korean apathy toward/unawareness of the ban.

3. Western apathy toward/unawareness of the ban.

What is the immediate object of the game, then? Removal of the ban. Switching to if/then mode:

1. If the ban is suddenly lifted by the Korean government:
(a) We stop. The immediate objective has been reached. Or--
(b) We continue the fight, because the ban could happen again, and laws need to be changed. (Etc., etc.; I can come up with quite a few reasons to pursue this.)

2. If the ban isn't lifted:
(a) We don't fight. No movement/concerted action forms, people end up finding new hosting services for their blogs, and we simply live outside the ban.
(b) We fight.

3. Assume 2(b). How do we fight?
(a) The Korean angle. Go deep.
(b) The foreign angle. Go wide.
COMMENT: The above two are interconnected, as you'll see in a moment.

4. What's the Korean angle?
We go deep. I see it this way:
(a) Legal route: petitions to the Korean government. Right now, the two major petitions show a lot of foreign signatures. As has been repeatedly pointed out, this isn't necessarily persuasive to prisoners of the Hermit Kingdom mentality. Which leads to...
(b) Consciousness-raising in Korea. How?
i. Word of mouth. You've got Korean friends, and they'll listen to you. You've also got foreign friends, many of whom might not be aware of what's happening. The more, the merrier-- and you already see that Korean/foreign consciousness-raising is an interconnected thing.
ii. Invade message boards with Korean translations of our message-- preferably in short, easily postable form (i.e., not written by long-winded people like me). If you've got the Korean skills to condense our basic argument into a few brief talking points (and an early draft of Ed's petition had just such points), you've got a weapon. Don't feel guilty about this, either: it's the same tactic Korean Netizens use. Spread it around like graffiti, baby.
iii. Keep pestering the English- and Korean-language press. We're aiming for deep penetration into the Korean psyche here. News has to get out. Ultimately, the news needs to be spread by Koreans who think the government's gone too far. Although time is against us in some ways, time is on our side in this instance: the longer the ban, the greater the injustice. It's a matter of persuading more Koreans to see it this way.
(c) Direct tangling with the MIC. I have no idea what might come of this, but why not try to get in touch with MIC staffers and officials? Why not have someone sit down with them and determine what's up and where we can go from here? That someone probably won't be me. The MIC official will say, "Ah, Mr. Hominid, I see your site uses words like 'shit' and 'fuck' a little too much for my taste. I also see you've got a picture of a rat suffering from megacolon on there, as well as a picture of a woman who appears to be crushing a beer can between her enormous breasts. I'm afraid I can't help you." No; you'll need someone more diplomatic for this task. Since some people have expressed discomfort with the direct approach, I nominate those people for the diplomatic work. Heh. Come on: step up, gents! In any case, we still need some idea of what the MIC looks like-- its departments, their functions, etc.

5. What's the foreign angle?
We go wide, and the object is to shame people, to make Koreans aware that the world is watching and not approving.
(a) The anglophone blogosphere. More anglophone bloggers need to be made aware of what's going on. A lot of people will join a "club," and with the right emblem (probably not FUCK, because people are just too damn prissy), the word can spread. Maybe I need to design a tee shirt. One without the word FUCK on it (or, hell, maybe I'll design some FUCK and FUCKless options). The greater blogosphere should be up in arms about this, even if it's been largely blasé about other examples of censorship, such as in the PRC. If anything, "PRC" needs to become a swear word-- a satanic poster fetus, the Undead Abortion of Censorship. But the blogosphere is only a stepping stone. All the agitation at this level needs to lead higher, to--
(b) The foreign press. On the assumption that Koreans don't want their country viewed as backward and sharing the negative qualities of the PRC, and on the assumption that Koreans do in fact pride themselves on having a great (if incestuous) Internet culture, we need to hammer the Korean government hard by getting the press to notice how bad it's being. Not hammer Korea, mind: hammer the government and, by implication, the Netizens who support its actions.
(c) Blogging service providers. Are they working in cooperation with the SK government? Are they aware of the ban? Are any of their staffers upset by it? Are they even aware it's happening? how do we get in touch with them and start hounding them?
(d) Joe Citizen. Again, tee shirts might be good meme-spreaders. Tees, stickers, etc. And word of mouth is always good.

So I see the fight moving in various directions, but it's not amorphous. If you've got a talent, then play to your strengths and help us out. If you've got connections with the press, let them know about this injustice. If you're currently fucking one of the blogosphere bigwigs, make him/her promise to blog long and hard-- no, harder! HARDER!-- about censorship in South Korea.

And don't be afraid to froth. Pinky-twiddling niceness doesn't get you that far in Korea, either, whereas kicking and screaming works wonders. Think I'm bullshitting? I watched this tactic work time and again in hagwons when foreign teachers were unhappy about their schedules. The Korean managers would give them what they wanted just to shut them up. And what happened to the quieter folks like yours truly? We got shafted with suck-ass schedules. You can bend over nicely and take it up the ass, or you can fight.

NB: Over on Blinger's board, a poster named Beth suggested something radical: we should hold our own blogs hostage, i.e., not post anything, to force our readership to sign the petitions and send emails to the MIC. This is so crazy it might work, but as I think about it, I see some problems, to wit:

Kevin at Incestuous Amplification is one of my favorite bloggers. IA is a hell of a lot wittier than my blog is, and ten times more informative (not to mention bitter about Korea!) but Kevin regularly forces us to endure his unavoidable hiatuses. He's on one now. I doubt I'm the only one jonesing.

The problem is this: IA's numbers are probably dropping, and no one's clamoring for Kevin's return. This isn't because he's unpopular, nor is it because he's simply been forgotten. It's mainly because people learn to adapt to their situation, however crappy it might be. I can't kid myself into thinking that my blog, with under 200 hits a day, is going to be so sorely missed that my meager readership will sign those petitions in droves, desperate to have me back. In the end, I need that readership to get the word out about censorship in South Korea; if they start dropping away on the assumption that I'm simply holding my breath until I turn blue, that's less leverage for me, ultimately.

I don't know. I'm still attracted to this idea, but I think it'd work better for the truly popular bloggers. If Satan's Anus or Andrew Sullivan threatened to stop blogging unless people signed petitions and wrote the MIC, then we might see some action. But the Hominid? No one cares whether I end up face-down in a rain-filled ditch. Not unless my blog shows the photos after a week's decay, of course.

Anyway, the hostage idea is something to mull over.


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