The depraved slaughter of civilians in Syria, which began with sniper fire on peaceful demonstrators and later degenerated into bombings of residential areas and execution-style killings of women and children, masks a darker truth. While the violence of the current crackdown distinguishes Syria today, it emerges from decades of brutal dictatorship, and equally brutal dictatorships are alive and well across the globe. They tend to get noticed only when particularly gross abuses take place or they escape attention almost entirely. For close to one-fourth of the world’s population, intense repression has become routine.
Earlier this month, Chinese authorities were forced to temporarily suspend trading of shares in the online unit of the People’s Daily newspaper, the official mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party. The price had soared so rapidly since the website’s April debut on the Shanghai Stock Exchange—giving it a greater market value than the New York Times—that it triggered regulatory rules aimed at halting speculative manipulation. This development is just the sort of absurd extreme that comes shortly before an economic bubble bursts.