Chinese excuses

Terry Semel keeps digging his hole deeper and deeper… pretty soon, he’ll reach China.

At the haughty D conference, he was questioned about Yahoo and China. This from the blog:

“I continue to be pissed off, outraged, and feel very very bad about it,” Mr. Semel said.

Well, I’m sure that makes the poor sap stuck in a Chinese prison for 10 years because he used Yahoo mail feel much, much better.

“But you have to follow the laws of the country you’re in.”

Enough with that company line. Would you have done business in South Africa under apartheid and run no pictures of black people? Would you have handed in Jews in Nazi Germany? Oh, but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Someone asked that incredibly obvious question and he had an incredible answer.

One attendee asked Mr. Semel if Yahoo would have cooperated with Nazi Germany the same way it has with China. His response: “Yahoo has a basic obligation not to have a point of view on basic content, and to present content … and aggregate things and to allow people to make their own choices. I don’t know how I would have felt then.”

Good God, man! You don’t know how you would have felt? Who gives a damn about your feelings? This is about human rights. It’s about ethics. It’s about morality. It’s not about content. But now that you’ve brought it up, that’s ridiculous, too. Of course, you have a point of view on content: You buy some and not others. Dig, dig, dig. The next spadeful:

He added, “I don’t feel good about what’s happening in China today. I don’t feel good about some of the things that happen in our own country.”

So in one breath, he has managed to equate America with Communist China and Nazi Germany. Oh, I’m sure some flack will say he was taken out of context. The best way to fight that is to take yourself out of the context of trying to justify supporting dictators.

Semel also said:

Mr. Semel went on: “I don’t think any one company is going to change a country, and I dont think any one industry is going to change a country. “…

See Amnesty International’s call on companies as well as countries to support the cause of freedom.

Still, Mr. Semel said progress is being made, noting that the Chinese know more about American culture than ever before, thanks in no small part to the Internet. “To me, it’s about keeping the information flowing. Little by little, we start to bring about change.”

The Neville Chamberlain of the internet.

  • Mr. Semel might do better to just answer, “Next!” from now on with respect to China. He’s not going to win at any level on this one.

    Also, did you know your site meter stats link (lower right) clicks through to someone else’s site stats? (At least it appears to…)

  • ZF

    Hollywood ethics on display. We can hardly claim to be surprised, though.

  • Jimmy

    “Hollywood ethics”? What silly statement.

    I totally agree Semel is beyond stupid on this issue, but Yahoo is far from the worst on this issue. Google and Microsoft are just as bad and they have the same company line. As always happens with these types of issues, it comes down to the bottom line. Imagine how difficult it would have been for the Soviet Union to come apart if American corporations had become their great enablers as they have with China? What it will take is courage, and stockholders don’t like courage. They like to see their shareholder wealth maximized. Period.

    The thing is, I think all these companies could ban together and tell China to fuck off and little would happen to them. China can threaten all she wants, but it’s those corporate dollars flowing into the country that gives her the money to remain communist long after others have gone the way of the dodo.

    Hypocritical note: I am an avid Yahoo user and no plans to change that, communist enabler or no.

  • Juan

    What a great ending!

  • Before anyone writes Terry Semel off simply as a craven, opportunistic enabler of dictators consider:

    It is possible to believe in freedom and tactically decide that engagement is the best way to change this unique situation. Sure it’s slower than a successful confrontation (and can look like enabling) but who’s going to guarantee that a confrontation would be successful?

    I’m not saying that Semel shouldn’t be questioned, asked to think through what Yahoo does to enable repression and what they should do behind the scenes to keep giving freedom a push and a nudge. This is a good post that makes a great point.

    But there’s a strong case to be made for engagement and small steps. As the Tao says “When two great forces oppose each other, the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield.”

  • “Mr. Semel went on: “I don’t think any one company is going to change a country, and I dont think any one industry is going to change a country.”

    Yep, so let’s not even worry about trying to do what is right. Yes, he’s “pissed off” and “outraged”, but a media David like Yahoo is powerless to change anything, so might as well go with the flow.

    The Neville Chamberlain of the internet.

    *departs airplane, waving document that advertises his stupidity *
    “I believe it is peace for our time”

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  • Semel has a corporate responsibility which is the present modus operandi in the business world, a ‘charge to keep’ for his stockholders, and if he were to bypass the market that China represents, he would be subject to charges of neglecting his responsibilities to those stockholders. Ethics can be expensive in a world of business standards. Can you say ‘fiduciary’? I agree, there are higher issues here, and if he were a bigger, better, richer man he would be praiseworthy by exercising a moral role unlike his peers or his government, which is dealing with China as if it were not guilty of innumerable human rights violations. In his shoes, would I?

    I understand that users of the internet in repressive countries have found many ways to bypass the governments’ controls, can access sites like CNN or WaPo by routing thru remote access sites in Singapore and other open locations.


    Isn’t this guy a little to old to still be claiming that his dog ate his homework? But of course I suppose admitting the policy was pathetic would make it necessary to go out and find a job for an outfit that didn’t help dictators put innocent people in prison. The heck with that!

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  • I agree that it’ sabout time to take a stand with regards to what is right and not just about what the bottom line is when conducting business not only abroad but at home as well. Let’s see if there are any large corporations that would care….. UHHHH NOOOOO!!! Regardless it’s still sad to see. My comment to MR. Semel, GET some B>>>>…