I'm shocked… shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

13 January 2010

By way of zenicurean I learn that Google has announced its horror that the Chinese regime has, in fact, not much respect for the right of political dissent.

There's a sort of underground, which is perpetually trying to draw attention to the fact that various corporations from the United States and elsewhere provided support for Nazi Germany prior to relevant nationalizations or declarations of war. For example, IBM supplied information technology, which was subsequently used for such things as tracking-down Jews.

But the Nazis didn't have the first or the last regime to violate human rights, and the firms that sold the means for them to do so weren't the first or last folk to try not to think too hard about whom they were helping. American firms sold war equipment to both sides during the First World War. After the Second World War, businesses sold resources and technology to repressive regimes, variously communist or anti-communist; the United States government often subsidized or otherwise promoted such sales, depending upon what soul-less pragmatists thought to be in the national interest. And it isn't as if American sales have to be to foreign states to support repression.

We need to judge the present and the past with a perspective that doesn't lose sight of either, to understand that doing business with Hitler or with Stalin is part of the same sort of behavior as doing business with Hu or with Putin, and vice versa. We need to see that there isn't some simple discontinuity of acceptability that places Hizzoner on one side and der Führer on the other.

I'm not here telling anyone whom to condemn and whom to excuse. Rather, I'm saying that one should be reluctant to try to draw lines of any sort on slippery slopes. As to one's own behavior, I suggest that a line be drawn before one is on the slope at all.

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