Monday, August 22, 2011

The World May Never Know

The Economist asks: "What’s Schadenfreude in Chinese?"

It turns out that there is a phrase that translates into German as "schadenfreude." It is (in Mandarin, anyway) the idiom 幸灾乐祸 (Xìng zāi lè huò), which means "To gloat over others' misfortune."

But because the moderators at The Economist take "You may not: [...] Post Messages in any language other than English;" to mean NO non-English characters are allowed, even if the rest of your comment is in English, you can't actually post it to their site; and so any comments that actually contain the Chinese for "schadenfreude" are removed. This is, of course, the way of things with no-tolerance policies. This one can be faulted for being somewhat unclear, but, on the other hand, it does seem to be applied across the board, as I wasn't the only person to run afoul of the policy.

Now You See It...
Since this particular post was solely the Chinese text of the phrase, it was a more clear-cut violation of the policy, but one expects that at least some of the moderation staff realize that they've done a pretty good job of sweeping away the answer to the question the magazine itself posed.
Now You Don't

There's something amusing in that. Not the least of which is the fact that The Economist is being fairly draconian in enforcing their website's commenting rules. Of course, since The Economist is not a government agency with any enforcement powers, what they're doing isn't censorship, per se. But they are doing what they've been willing to criticize others (including China) for. Enacting sweeping blocks against what people can say, presumably to protect their readers, and responding sternly to transgressions, even when no harm was intended.

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