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Old 03-21-2008, 05:18 PM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Default Riding the Tiger: the Media in China

Modern China has an incredibly ambivalent relationship with media and the Internet. On the one hand, any nation with pretensions to being a world power has to be connected. On the other hand, truth can be horridly inconvenient for an entrenched oligarchy. The tensions between these two priorities lead to a magnificently taut web of alliances and rivalries among demons and Infernal Words that, in large part, define the major Infernal players with their fingers on modern China.

Often put at the top of the rank ladder in this social subset of demons is known to the outside only as Wing. His titles are known: he is a Balseraph Baron of the Fourth Estate and Demon of State-Owned Media. Wing finds China's enormous audience and tight controls the best home for him in the world, and so he spends most of his time here. He commands a number of demons, as well as being in a position of power in China's Ministry of Industry and Information. However, no one beyond his immediate circle quite knows which official he is, or whether he pulls strings from behind the scenes or is a frontline broadcaster. Whether through his demonic subordinates or by commanding humans through his Role, however, he is known to influence China's media storyline significantly. He sees to it that the stories that get published reflect as well as possible on the humans and demons he favors, and disrupt the activities of Heaven in China or upend the plots of his enemies. His Role needs to be extremely secure -- given the pace of the news cycle these days, putting Wing into Trauma for just a short while could be all the window of opportunity an opponent needs.

One thing Wing finds it nearly Dissonant to do, however, and which is crucial to his Word, is censorship. In addition to putting out stories that serve his ends, Wing's job should really include stamping out stories that China's government doesn't want to see published. Being a demon of the Media, though, he is frankly somewhat half-hearted about this aspect of his duties. His Word is State-Owned Media, after all, not State-Controlled Media. You can't *control* the Media -- it's bigger than you. The best you can do is shape it. So this part of the job falls to Das's-t-k!k! , Shedite of Secrets and Demon of Censorship.

Das was originally with Gebbeleth, and has held his Word longer than Alaemon has held his, making ties over the centuries with Asmodeans who find his Word and its attendant Attunements... handy. Being a Shedite, he doesn't have a Role or an identity per se, though in the Internet Age Shedim have started to explore this possibility more. Das moves around as much as one would expect a body-hopper to, but does spend the plurality of his time in China -- more stories, and more desire for control. In fact, despite the rivalry one would think would usually exist between the Media and Secrets, it's persistently rumored that Das serves as a lieutenant of Wing, complementing his activities on the strategic level. He may be intimately involved with the "Golden Shield Project," a.k.a. the Great Firewall of China. On the other hand, it's also suggested that Das is a commanding officer of the Revolution, one of Alaemon's secret societies, having been granted the right to organize this many Alaemish as payment for fully leaving Gebbeleth's service (conveniently just in time to have been stripped of his Rites before they stopped working). The Revolution particularly targets the Media among other Words, so Das may indeed be one of Wing's trusted lieutenants... without Wing knowing.

Of course, even put together these two don't control all aspects of information flow in China. There are still those who want to get out the stories Wing doesn't want to see and Das wants to suppress. This is a matter for the Chthonic Information Network, CIN -- a loose coalition of direct agents of Freedom, Technology, Theft, and the Media that take stories of this cause or that and use means from samizdat to YouTube to publish them widely inside and outside of China. On Freedom's side, the agents can be anything from Free Lilim to temps under hire, to Soldiers who want their pet cause getting airtime. On the Media's side, Nybbas is happy to see people depending on the Media for the survival of their cause, and the Media agents can help smooth things over with Wing when feathers get ruffled. The two groups may be at loggerheads regarding China's interests, but both groups serve the Media splendidly. Rather, it is Das who regards them with the most hostility, and seeks to crush the network mercilessly. In this ongoing effort he has the enthusiastic backing of his Asmodean allies, who regard CIN as far too often giving aid to Heavenly projects like human rights crusades, or its protected figures like the Dalai Lama. However, CIN's agents are all of compatible Words with friendly Superiors, so the network is extremely resilient.

Not all speech in China is political, of course, and here Theft has one of its more lucrative and modern operations, being deeply involved with intellectual copyright piracy. The Demon of Piracy (hat tip to Methariel for the suggestion) was originally a Servitor of Vephar, having obtained his Word in competition with Servitors of Rapine, but when Vephar was killed that entity was unable to soothe the ill-feelings with Genubath, who offed him and had the Word handed to one of his own. The new Demon of Piracy has been around since this time (ca 1700 BCE), and the Djinn has actually been amused to find his Word expanding to include intellectual copyright infringement. China isn't a peak area of his concern -- he still tends to fixate on the high seas -- but he can certainly be found there, encouraging the metaphor and helping keep the mill of copied recordings flowing out the door. Since Valeforians have to stay on the move, a fair amount of the grunt work is done by low-ranking demons of the Media, which is to say that completely humans do most of the actual work and demons of the Media shift the goods and skim the profits so that the Demon of Piracy can collect his cut.

The goals of this collection of Magpies are much simpler than CIN's -- profit and, well, profit -- but its methods are much the same. Faster, higher-quality copies, wider distribution, and more anonymity for points of origin are all of concern to both groups, whereas cracking that anonymity, disabling copies, and blacking out distribution channels are all of concern to Das and Wing. Technology is happy to serve all customers, dishing up shinier publishing software, more powerful hardware, better encryption schemes, better code-breakers, and sneakier tracking methods to the highest bidder. If the PCs want to get in touch with one or more of the groups listed in this description, the Technologists who sell to them might be the most convenient contact point to start with: on businesslike speaking terms with all sides, they offer an entree to any of the desired circles.
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