GOOD MORNING, boys and [CENSORED]. My name is [CENSORED]. Today, we at [CENSORED] will be talking about the importance of [CENSORED].
As you can see, we helpfully pre-censored the previous sentence for government censors from mainland China, some of whom now KNOW HOW TO READ. (Oh yes, they’re getting smarter.) The big news is that there has been a major jump in blacking out stuff in that country.
I first realized this after hearing from a reader who went to see the new comedy movie Men in Black III.
It starts with the heroes going to a restaurant in New York’s Chinatown where space aliens disguised as waiters attack them.
This key scene is entirely missing in the version screened in Beijing.
Why? I started asking around my contacts in the movie business. One forwarded me a movie mag report which said that the China film authorities insisted that the scene be removed as inaccurate.
Space aliens would NEVER disguise themselves as Chinese people, but would select low life-forms, such as bacteria, Westerners, dogs, Indians, amoebas, Australians, primordial slime, etc.
I know their methods. The censors would then have challenged movie distributors to provide a SINGLE REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE of a space alien taking over the body of a Chinese waiter. Unable to do so, the distributors would reluctantly chop out the scene.
What advice to give this disappointed movie lover? The obvious thing would be to suggest that he forego cinema visits in Beijing and watch TV instead.
But CCTV recently showed a Michelangelo statue at the China Museum of Art, and TV staff overlayed the statue’s genitals with a mosaic blur.
The result was rather odd. A statue with stone genitals doesn’t look rude.
But any picture with censored genitalia looks indecent, as many people commented. “Without the mosaic, it is art. With the mosaic, it has become porno,” chatroom commentator Yiteng Kaisi said, according to the Daily Telegraph.
To show what I mean, consider the following picture, which isn’t indecent at all (no one is naked) but they look so, because of accidental censorship.
After discussing recent censorship cases with other reporters, one forwarded me a report from Iran: politicians in that county have called for scenes of people eating roast chicken to be banned from all TV dramas.
Poultry prices have soared and the authorities think that the sight of a person biting into a chicken leg would trigger civil collapse.
It astounds me to think one could cause an entire country to implode just by beaming a KFC commercial into it via the internet or something. It is SO tempting to do it, if only to give one something unusual for one’s CV:
“Hobbies: Reading, listening to music, causing civilizations to collapse.”
Censorship can be good, of course. Sleeping Dogs is a soon-to-be US released video game set in Hong Kong. I checked out the previews. The images of my home town are beautiful.
But the draft version was criticized because the player can kill innocent people without penalty.
In the revised version, the player loses points if he mows down vast numbers of innocent bystanders.
It’s worrying that game developers needed prompting to think of that. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?!
Anyway, while writing this, I heard from a colleague that censorship in China has just escalated from “ridiculous” to “facepalm”, the next highest level of alert.
Sina Weibo, China’s copy of Twitter, added the words “the truth” to its list of illegal terms. Any citizens who searched for the phrase “the truth” received no results and a message:
“In accordance with relevant laws, regulations and policies, results of the search for 'the truth' cannot be displayed.”
So there you have it, direct from the government: In China, a search for the truth leads nowhere. It’s official.