Technology, not politics

Andrew Sullivan asks in his blog a question several readers have asked me (as well as him) directly: Why is his part of the Atlantic blog empire blocked by the Great Firewall of China, while the rest of the Atlantic's site, archives, photos, comments, etc is not?

I love the idea that discerning Communist cadres in Beijing have pored over and parsed everything in the magazine and determined that Andrew's posts are in some basic way more threatening to the regime's long-term legitimacy -- they're betting on Hillary? -- than anything else the magazine serves up. Alas, there's a prosaic and purely mechanical explanation.

For legacy reasons -- ie, his long pre-Atlantic blog existence -- Andrew's blog is hosted on an different system from everything else displayed on TheAtlantic.com. The system Andrew uses is one of several that are subject to blanket black-outs by the Great Firewall; the one that hosts the rest of the magazine is not. Andrew, come join us on the new system! Andrew's aspiring readers in China: try a VPN!

I think of the following episode when considering the how and why of Chinese press-control policy: A few months ago I ran into a man who was operating a fairly daring museum, which had many relics from the Cultural Revolution. I asked him whether the government was giving him trouble. "The government is busy," he said. Saves time just to turn whole web domains on and off.