What Katie Notopoulos Got Wrong About the Clash of Cultures

Mike Elgan
Jun 6, 2016 · 1 min read

Buzzfeed’s Katie Notopoulos (@katienotopoulos) wrote a fascinating piece on various problems created in various governments by various American technology apps.

I’m a big fan of Katie’s work and this is another great article from her. You can and should read it here.

Katie talks about how aspects of American culture (such as the face swap, the selfie and the venerable tweet) are wreaking havoc in places like India, Iran and Russia.

She described these problems as a “clash of cultures.”

The trouble is, cultures aren’t clashing here. People in India, Iran and Russia are just as inclined to do face swaps, selfies and tweets as everyone else. The clash is between free speech, which is a near-universal aspiration and an official universal human right, against repressive governments.

Such clashes would exist with the same cultures if those countries suddenly got laws guaranteeing free speech.

And such clashes will soon exist in the United States under President Trump. (Sad!)

I often bristle when journalists, as they tend to do, call the specific actions of specific non-representative regimes as if they did represent. For example: “China cracks down on social media posts.”

No, “China” is the one doing the social media posts. China’s non-representative Communist Party-dominated government is the one cracking down on China.

American technology creates clashes, to be sure. But those clashes aren’t with “cultures.” They’re with tyrants.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store