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China vs. GaGa

August 25, 2011

Forbidden City

China’s Ministry of Culture took a 1984-inspired turn this week when it ordered the deletion of songs by Lady GaGa, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys from its music download sites. The Asian superpower claimed they were taking action in order to maintain “national cultural security” in the face of such subversive tracks as the Backstreet Boys I Want It That Way. China’s cultural security was thought to have been previously handed over when the first Starbucks opened for business inside the gates of the Forbidden City. Aside from sheer tastelessness, the reasons why the Communist government sought to eliminate Lady GaGa and not the arguably more subversive Radiohead, who actually drape a Tibetan flag over their stage gear, were murky at best. The Chinese government didn’t say that songs scheduled for deletion were unacceptable, just that they had not yet been screened for unapproved content. There’s not yet a digital aphorism for Heinrich Heine’s famous quote “where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also,” but it is certainly easier in this day and age to delete information deemed undesirable on either side of the Pacific.

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