Obama and the Great Firewall

Howard Rich

11/23/2009 6:48:56 PM - Howard Rich

Barack Obama predictably proclaimed “American values” on his recent trip to China, criticizing government censorship and praising an unrestricted, unregulated Internet as one of the lynchpins of modern democracy.

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“I’m a big supporter of non-censorship,” Obama said. “I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet — or unrestricted Internet access — is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged.”

Later, in a question and answer session with college students, Obama oh-so-gently expressed his desire to see China (and the rest of the world) adopt an American-style marketplace of ideas.

“I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable,” said Obama. “They can begin to think for themselves.”

These remarks – though perfunctory – nonetheless create a curious set of conflicts for Obama on his first visit to the communist nation.

For starters, America has by-and-large forfeited its right to lecture the Chinese government on anything given our increasing reliance on Chinese loans to fund our continuing government expansions.

At $797.1 billion (and counting) China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. public debt – an amount that has increased by 10% since January. Additionally, the growing trade gap between the U.S. and China represents America’s largest bilateral deficit, something Obama’s organized labor allies are urging the president to address through a variety of new import duties.

Of course there’s only so much leverage that a borrower can hope to exert over his banker. And while the fact that America is relying on Chinese capital to cover its various bureaucratic bailouts doesn’t necessarily preclude Obama from lecturing Beijing, it certainly reduces the gravitas that his remarks might otherwise carry.

Much more fundamentally, however, Obama’s comments regarding freedom of information abroad simply do not square with his actions at home.

Like his great economic betrayal of the American middle class, Obama’s “non-censorship” rhetoric in China conceals a burning desire on the part of his administration to censor here in America.

For example, just last week Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency forced two of its employees to remove a YouTube video that was critical of the administration’s proposed energy tax hike – claiming that the video violated “agency policy.” Also, who can forget the White House targeting messages sent by a private health insurance company, Humana Inc., or setting up an “email hotline” which encouraged private citizens to turn in anyone who was caught criticizing Obama’s socialized medicine proposals.

Obama’s administration has also waged a non-stop war against FOX News, despite the fact that data from the Center for Media and Public Affairs rates the network as much more balanced in its reporting than any of its national counterparts.

More sinister than any of this, of course, is the underlying assault on free speech being advocated by some of Obama’s top appointments. For example, Federal Communications Commission “diversity czar” Mark Lloyd and the spokeswoman for current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski both belonged to an organization that supports the regulation of talk radio and the Internet as a means of bringing about a “marked shift to the political left.” Former “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones – who was forced to resign his post earlier this year after his communist past was exposed – was also a board member of this radical organization.

In addition to such “pro-censorship” appointments, Obama has also signaled a willingness to look at a bailout of the struggling U.S. newspaper industry – one that would place this branch of the Fourth Estate squarely under the thumb of government influence.

The bottom line is that preaching American “openness” abroad – while failing to practice it at home – is yet another Obama hypocrisy.

Of course, in an ironic twist, the President’s message to the Chinese students about “free flowing information” was promptly scrubbed from China’s government-controlled Internet.

Let’s keep fighting to make sure nothing like that ever happens here in America.