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    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    The Dilemma of blogging about Vietnam

    This post caused me to think again about the ramifications of blogging on personal life. Dr. Drezner blogged and it may have (in addition to other things) cost him tenure.

    What about us who blog about Vietnam?? I posted this in the comments section:
    Do we write our true feelings--that may criticize Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, China, etc--or do we neuter our thoughts to protect extended family and friends still living under those regimes? Blogging by definition almost screams no censorship, yet our personal relationships censor us anyway.
    In response, another "conspirator" (one who reads the Volokh Conspiracy) replied,
    There's also the option of writing anonymously to reduce the likelihood that personal relationships will require self-censorship. And blogging does not at all "scream no censorship"; people who write under their real names generally feel obliged not to write about their workplaces, about their most intimate relations, etc. Anonymous bloggers quite frequently seem to be much freer to discuss their family troubles or workplace gripes, whereas those whose blogs would be easily identified with them must be more discreet.
    He is most assuredly correct that blogging anonymously is an avenue out. And, he is very correct in reminding me that blogs do not scream no censorship. I was mistaken. I'm sure anonymous blogs do allow people to be more free in discussing "family troubles or workplace gripes."

    However, is that optimal?? I have deliberately been "less than forthcoming" on my personal biographics because I worry that the Vietnamese government could track me down and harass my extended family in Vietnam. Is it probable? I don't think so. Maybe if I was a bigger blog. Is it possible? Definitely. I've probably already told too much on this blog. Any government with a concerted interest could probably find out who I am very easily.

    However, if I was totally anonymous, to the extent that the Vietnamese government or any other could not find me, would I be able to effectively write? It seems that not only would I have to keep all biographical info off the web, but I would need to neuter all anecdotes in posts about what I do, what experience I base my views on, etc. How could I truly effectively post my views and beliefs if they were sanitized so much? And wouldn't that be what communist govenments want anyway? Sanitized views?

    This has caused deep internal reflection. And I want comments from all readers, whether you directly deal with this or not. Many views are better than none. Have I taken appropriate measures, too few, or too many? Is it a lost cause or am I concerned over nothing? Do other bloggers feel like I do and struggle with these questions??


    Anonymous said...

    I admit it - I am a westerner who blogs from Viet Nam. This week I happen to be somewhere else than in Viet Nam, so I feel free enough to post this comment. Note I am intentionally posting anonymously.

    I most assuredly cannot blog from within Viet Nam and say all I want to say. For one thing, my work has a decidely Christian bent to it, and that would get me a quick trip home if the government saw a posting about "spreading religion" or any criticism of the government. Therefore, I must restrict what I say to observations about the culture, the food, or the people. While I enjoy doing that, it most definately is not all I would like to say.

    Some of you who have not been to Viet Nam, or who know little about it, probably think I am paranoid, but I am not. My daily life is not restricted in any way, and I come and go as I please. But all Internet traffic is monitored (including IP addreses), so I must be careful. Anyone with a long term visa has a police file on them.

    If you read all the blogs coming from within Viet Nam, you will note that none ever have anything but the mildest critcism of the party or government. While Viet Nam is changing fast, it still has a way to go.

    Triet said...

    I agree totally. This puts me in a funny situation. Soon (not going to say how soon) I will be moving from here to Vietnam. I may be there a good while, may not. I would love to continue blogging from Vietnam, but I definitely don't want to get my family in trouble. Can I continue on the blog I write, or should I start a new one?

    I guess I would love to know how coordinated the communists are. Do they track blogs? Do they track blogs outside of Vietnam (i.e. do they have any clue who I am right now)? Is it possible to throw them off by using IP changers?

    My history of blogging has never been a super critical of Vietnam history, but I would love to have my limits delineated.

    VietPundit said...

    I totally understand your dilemma. It's one of the reasons why I'm still blogging anonymously. I have the same questions you have. One thing I know is Vietnam has now firewalled blogspot.

    Triet said...

    Yes, this blocking of blogs worries me. My friend Matt at Action-at-a-distance spent the summer at a law internship in Beijing and had a hard time blogging.

    Blogging anonymously is ok, I'm sorta doing it now, but what'll happen in Vietnam? I remember sitting down at internet cafes last year and reading the signs saying "you are prohibited from speaking about the government or democracy." I'd like to keep blogging while I'm there.

    What I really wish for is a chance to sit down with Phan Van Khai and really pick his brain for reasons why he leads Vietnam like he does...

    VietPundit said...

    About blogspot being firewalled, see here and here. Maybe you can ask pcdinh at that blog about blogging in Vietnam?

    Just Ken said...

    I understand your frustration on the matter. You should be free to blog freely, without fear of repurcussion.

    I wish you the best of luck. Perhaps you will find a way. At least I hope you do.

    Just a thought.
    Just Ken
    CLASSical Liberalism

    VietPundit said...

    FYI ... here is some info on how to get through firewalls from within Vietnam.

    Triet said...

    Thanks for the firewall suggestions. I sincerely wish that one day countries currently repressing information and opinion will embrace free speech. America's founding fathers understood rightly the power free speech plays in guaranteeing the liberties of the populace and progressing the nation.

    I can understand how to others outside of America, it might look counter-intuitive that releasing the reins on a populace might actually drive a country better (it sounds like letting the horses pull the cart by themselves) but it works because in this case the horses are as smart or smarter than the drivers...they are the drivers.

    I dream that one day Vietnam will embrace free speech and push forward into a new and prosperous future on the backs (and minds) of every Vietnamese citizen, and not just the party elite. A Vietnam where I can bring my future children and grandchildren and not worry about sickness, disease, cramped economy or myopic viewpoints. A Vietnam that leads Southeast Asia into a new and glorious future where they can take advantage of the abundant natural resources to entitle and better the proletariate.

    Alas, it is still a dream...

    VietPundit said...

    That's my dream, too, Triet. Hopefully we'll live to see those dreams come true.

    Minh-Duc said...

    I am a contractor for DoD. It does not stop me from being critical of the Sec. Def.