Another day, another vacuous debate over what companies like Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft et al should or should not do in China.
This time, the forum is on Fred Wilson and Jeff Jarvis's Buzzmachine blogs, where there's an ongoing discussion via posts and comments on what Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel's responses at the recent D Conference, to questions about the company's activities in China .
What irks me isn't the debate.
People have a right to express their opinions.
It's when commenters like "Christian" on Jeff Jarvis's post get personal as in this comment on Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel shows:
"Bottom line is Terry Semel is a plain fool."
Utterly irresponsible and uncalled for comment, in my opinion.
If you're going to have a debate, do so on the merits or de-merits of the issue. The moment the discourse slips into personal insults, the referee should call the player off the field.
For the record, I think it's meaningless to rant about select internet companies' behavior in places like China without thinking about the global context of these issues.
To complain about what Yahoo! and Google are doing there misses the larger point of what ALL multi-nationals from ALL countries doing business in China are doing to compete and succeed for their shareholders.
To pick one or two companies out for complaint seems grossly unfair and besides the point.
In my humble view companies like Yahoo! and Google have done noting wrong, and in fact are doing ALL the people of China a world of good by making better information and communications tools available.
They should be applauded.
We need to remember that political development in China or any other place, is an evolutionary process. And it takes a much longer time than we would all like, no matter how addicted we may to faster results.
Those of who have everything in terms of freedom and all the tools of expression, at our disposal, thanks to the efforts of countless generations over centuries of struggle, should get off our high horses once in a while, and look at the incremental good instead of just the incremental bad happening in places like China.
Their people will earn their freedom and the tools of expression as well, most likely on an accelerated basis, thanks to the kinds of companies being taken to task today.
UPDATE: There's a "Part II" follow-up to this post here.
DISCLOSURE: I am a shareholder in Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft and most of the internet companies involved in places like China, along with a quite few non-internet companies that also do significant business in China .