Scare Quote, Chap. 2

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about China Daily’s use of scare quotes and lower case letters with the event that the rest of the world prefers to call the Cultural Revolution. In that post I failed to mention that “cultural revolution” was not just a mandate for China Daily; I should have added that other English-language publications closely monitored and reviewed by China’s censors are also required to use it.

Or were required to use it.

Last week the censors informed at least one of China’s English-language publications that they could remove the scare quotes and should now refer to the Cultural Revolution as the lower-case-c, lower-case-r cultural revolution (my information comes from someone connected to the publication in question). By myself, and with some others, I’ve been mulling over whether “cultural revolution” is better (meaning, more accurate) than cultural revolution. One friend suggests that cultural revolution is actually worse because it renders the event as something commonplace and regular, befitting no special notice. But another friend felt that the removal of the quotes was actually an improvement in that it took away any sense of irony or deprecation that the quotes might ordinarily endow.