When my heart is this heavy, I find it really hard to find the words. I don’t even know what to ask you for. My spirit is grieving. I know that your love covers all, but I’m begging to feel it. I’m begging for your peace and patience. I know I have sinned a thousand times over, and I ask that you would remind me that I’d be just as lost if not for you. Don’t let me think of my enemy as evil, don’t let us harbor ill against or toward my enemy. Do not let the evil one keep us dwelling on the past.
I ask for your healing. I ask for more healing. Steady us and take away our trembling. Overflow our hearts with your eternal strength and peace. We’re on our knees, broken before you. You’ve redeemed us already. Remind us of how much you love us, how worthy and forgiven we are because of you. I ask again and again for your healing hand. You do not leave us.
Jesus, take her heart into your hands. Guard and protect it. Fill her with your love and your peace. Heal her. Cover her in your grace. Keep her thoughts fixed on you and her gaze fixed on things to come. Jesus, help her see what you see. Love her. Wrap her in your love. Use me and all the safe people you’ve placed around her as vessels for your love in her life.
My spirit is asking for more than I have words for, and I pray that you hear those, too. We praise you for you are the wonderful counselor and mighty God. We ask all these things in your name and power.
When examining both Chinese and American free speech laws, numerous complexities arise. The Chinese government tries to use the “privilege” of free expression to seem less totalitarian. Still, they practice complete control and censorship over what common citizens might think or say. All content is monitored and censored by the government their speech laws are oppressive of their citizens’ rights.
America is on the other side of the spectrum. Where the Chinese government is quick to silence any criticisms, the American government is frequently a proponent of free speech. Even the nation’s leader will jump to the defense of the people’s First Amendment right. This was seen when Obama defended the Trump supporter because America “respects free speech” (Abbey-Lambertz par. 7).
As discussed throughout this series, American free speech laws are more liberal than Chinese free speech laws, and American citizens have easier access to uncensored truth. How can one discover the truth for themselves if they cannot grapple with it openly? All people everywhere deserve access to the unbiased truth, and they deserve to openly wrestle with their opinions. This is how people become well-informed citizens.
Freedom of speech is indeed a privilege, but it is granted to Americans as a Constitutional right. Bearing in mind the oppressiveness of the Chinese free speech laws, an American citizen should be increasingly grateful. They should be careful to speak, knowing and appreciating the weight of their words. In a world where people are denied the right to seek the truth and express their opinions, Americans should be conscious of their freedom and learn how use it intentionally.
We discussed some history, looking at how the governments have shaped modern practices in both countries. We looked at modern conditions. Let’s take a moment to revisit some key differences between American and Chinese free speech practices.
Freedom of Opinions
As mentioned before, the Chinese are only allowed access to sites that are regularly monitored by their government. In America, one can safely post their opinion as long as it does not include child porn, libel, or copyright infringement. Meanwhile in China, every opinion is scrutinized by the Communist Party and filtered through the state’s best interests.
Removing the Mask
The Chinese “free-speech elite” makes it appear that their government grants freedom of expression as a privilege to a few fortunate members of society. However, common citizens have no platform where they can openly express their opinions. The government monitors and censors all content that is distributed publicly, revealing how oppressive their speech laws are regarding their citizens’ rights.
On the other hand, American free speech laws are protected by the First Amendment. Still, content is subject to limited censorship. When compared to the Chinese laws, American laws are for more progressive in their execution. Now, what does this mean for the press in both countries? Since the Chinese government regulates their media so intensely, it would seem that the United States’ press is less censored.
In an article for The New York Times, Beijing writer Hung Huang explains that their media censorship has in some respects loosened up. Specifically, she claims that her magazine has not been censored for the past four years, even though they have published some fairly sexual photoshoots. Because of this, she argues that Chinese citizens do not feel censorship like most Westerners assume they do (Huang par. 1).
Censorship Does Happen
She recognizes, however, that the state does censor political information. For example, when Chinese infants were sickened by contaminated baby formula, no state-operated media reported on the debate (par. 4).
Another example of Chinese media censorship happened when the wife of the director of the Chinese Olympics channel disrupted a news conference to inform the world of her husband’s extramarital affair. This incident happened on live television, but no other stations dared report on it, and the only video of it that was posted on the Internet was later removed by censors (par. 6).
Huang put it best when she wrote, “Yes, Fu Manchu as Big Brother is among us.”
From Huang’s article, it can be inferred that most of the Chinese media’s censorship goes unrecognized. So, it is probably safe to assume that most common Chinese citizens do not even realize that they are being deprived of knowledge. Their television stations are under rigid control (par. 6). As discussed earlier, their journalists are frequently imprisoned, and their Internet is regularly monitored and blocked.
They do not understand that they are uninformed because they do not know anything else. They only know media filtered through their Communist government. Even if they want to further research an issue, they can only pull from sources that their government has deemed unthreatening to the Communist agenda.
Clearly, the constitutional right of free speech reigns supreme in America. But how much freedom is too much? Some argue the autonomy of the American media has led to issues being blown out of proportion. Further, they propose that many American citizens are misinformed.
In an article for The Washington Post, Jennifer Hochschild and Katherine L. Einstein explain how American politics contains several great examples of how citizens can be misinformed. Many citizens have expressed concern over a media bias.
The media tends to exaggerate problems while highlighting the issues that it wants voters to focus on. By controlling what the people see, the media can paint a positive or negative picture of a candidate, and these pictures can often be far from the truth.
Consequently, American voters have pieces of information that might contain facts, but do not accurately reflect the situation. Ultimately, they end up making misinformed decisions, but they are not completely uninformed (“No, We’re Not Arguing from the Same Facts” par. 7). Hochschild and Einstein go on to deduce that:
“In some cases –such as parents’ refusal to vaccinate or Americans’ belief that the Iraq invasion was necessary in order to eliminate the country’s weapons of mass destruction–people died because of the choice to act on misinformation. In other cases–such as opposition by the uninsured to the Affordable Care Act or liberal African Americans’ support for confirming Clarence Thomas to be a Supreme Court justice—people have relied on false ‘knowledge’ to make choices that ended up violating their own interests as they defined them.”
Here, Hochschild and Einstein assert that misinformation is a serious problem because it leads people to act contrary to their actual beliefs. Still, it is important to note that the access to accurate information is available to American citizens.
Even though certain media outlets may be biased, any American citizen can easily pull news from the Internet and properly research their beliefs. If an American citizen is misinformed, they are at least partially responsible for themselves. While their opinion might have been influenced by media bias, there was no reason not to research the topic.
Even though there is risk involved when releasing classified information, the First Amendment typically trumps the Espionage Act. The Pentagon Papers case set the precedent.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara commissioned the papers, and they were officially titled “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force” (“Pentagon Papers” par. 1). In 1971, small portions of the Pentagon Papers were leaked to the media and distributed throughout the country. They revealed that the U.S. was intentionally expanding its role in the war, even after President Lyndon B. Johnson promised that he would not.
Lawsuits followed. Ultimately, the Supreme Court allowed the press to publish government secrets when The New York Times ran the truth about the Vietnam War (“Pentagon Papers” par. 4).
“Pentagon Papers.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web.
Chinese government uses legal punishment to silence dissenders. David Volodzko, national editor for The Korea JoongAng Daily, reported that “in 2005, China had 32 journalists arrested,” and “ten years later, that figure was up 65 percent” (“Is Free Speech in China Really Getting Better?” par. 5). Looking at these statistics, it is clear to see why the Committee to Protect Journalists deemed China the “worst jailer of the press” (Omari par. 1).
Unsurprisingly, the Chinese do not stop at their journalists. They also arrest common people for writing about their opinions without approval from the state. In January 2003, two men were sentenced to nine and seven years in prison for “unlawful operation of a business” (“Freedom of Expression in China” par. 14). Here is the tragic reality: they were caught publishing love poems without the authorities’ permission. Their citizens have limited access to the news, and their journalists have the constant threat of punishment looming over them. This is not a safe environment for citizens to express their opinions.
In some cases, exercising free speech in the U.S. does not come without opposition. The publication of classified information creates tension between the First Amendment and the Espionage Act. Basically, the Legal Information Institute states the Espionage Act is the addition that:
“Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information… shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”
“18 U.S. Code and 798 – Disclosure of Classified Information” par. 1
In other words, anyone who wittingly makes classified information available to anyone who is unauthorized for such knowledge will be fined or jailed for up to ten years. America’s Future Foundation writer Ken Silva explains that “attorneys for the largest publications in the country routinely advise editors that articles containing classified information must be vetted by the U.S. government” (“Can Journalists Go To Jail For Printing Classified Information?” par. 4).
This seems to contradict the First Amendment, thus rendering the act unconstitutional. After all, if one must withhold information, how can their speech be considered free? One might argue that this limitation hinders free speech. The Espionage Act can be used to prosecute the media for revealing government secrets. Many argue that this is contradictory to the First Amendment as well (Silva par. 10). We will discuss more on that in our next post.