Science & Technology

First They Came for World of Warcraft…


…and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Rank 14 High Warlord Tauren Warrior.

Not to, you know, reflexively assume the worst about China, but this wire story does set off some alarm bells:

China could become the first country to classify Internet addiction as a clinical disorder amid growing concern over compulsive Web use by millions of Chinese, state media said on Monday….

A top Chinese legislator said in August that about 10 percent of China's Web users under the age of 18, or four million people, were addicted to the Internet, mainly to "unhealthy" online games, state media said at the time.

The story is written straight, as if the major interest of this development is the change in China's mental health diagnostic practices.

But China does have a habit of taking extreme measures to keep political dissidents offline. It's not hard to imagine that troublemakers might spend a significant amount of time online, and the Chinese government might decide that they need to be hauled off for "treatment" of their "Internet addiction."

And then there's this little note at the end of the article:

In 2006, [the Chinese government] ordered all Chinese Internet game manufacturers to install technology in their games that demands players reveal their real name and identification number.

The increase in harmful Internet use in China is probably real (see here, for instance), but as reason contributing editor Thomas Szasz has often noted, diagnosis of mental illness and subsequent imprisonment can be a powerful weapon in the arsenal of an oppressive state.