In my first post about this, I said the Shanghai Sex Blogger would probably end up with a lucrative book deal. He’s now entering, oh, I’d say the 4th or 5th minute of his 15 minutes of fame, and if he’s smart he’ll “leverage” (the most used and most useless word in all of public relations) his new-found faminess. The story’s pickup in the UK Guardian tells us he’s on the right track.
Chinese internet vigilantes have launched a hunt for a self-professed British bounder who has sparked outrage by blogging about his seduction of women in Shanghai. The campaign to uncover the identity of the blogger and have him kicked out of China is the latest in a series of online denunciations that have drawn comparisons with the humiliations inflicted by mobs during the cultural revolution.
Traffic on the Sex and Shanghai blog has surged from 500 hits to more than 17,000, thanks to a swarm of castration threats, anti-British rants and attacks on women who sleep with foreigners. The author, who calls himself Chinabounder, introduces himself as a wastrel, “lacking in moral fibre, but coping with the situation”. According to the posts, he is an English language teacher at a university….
Encouraging “netizens and patriots” to investigate the people and the places mentioned in the blog, he [Dr. Zhang] set a goal of expelling Chinabounder by October 1. More than 1,500 people are now visiting Prof Zhang’s site every hour.
“Trial by virtual lynching has become the norm in China’s cyberspace,” Raymond Zhou wrote in a comment article in China Daily after previous mass campaigns. He added: “Online ‘flaming’ wars exist everywhere, facilitated by anonymity. But in China they may have a self-propelling force that sweeps thousands, sometimes millions, into a frenzy. It is nearly impossible, even for the most respected scholars, to give voice to dissension.”
Chinabounder condemned the campaign against him, saying many expats and “a goodly number of local men” were no different to him.
Chinabounder’s last point is well taken, but he’s ignoring the obvious: most of his slut-brothers don’t broadcast the details of their conquest to the whole world. One key learning is that if expats can’t keep their dicks in their pants, they’d be better off not boasting about it on the Internet. Unless, of course, they’re looking for a book contract.
For me, the most interesting lesson out of this is just how volatile and malleable the Chinese masses of today can be, reminiscent, as the reporter says, of the Cultural Revolution. Of course, we saw this with the anti-Japanese riots last year, but that’s an issue that’s been smoldering for years. Here, at the touch of a key, you have a lynch mob that could well move from the virtual realm into the physical. And it all goes back to the same sources – a controlled media, an education system that doesn’t reward independent thinking, and a xenophobia that combines images of China as both the world’s greatest culture and the world’s greatest victim. Toss all the ingredients together, add a few drops of racism into the mix, stir rapidly and, voila, you’ve got yourself an old-fashioned populist lynching.
Update: Good post on this subject, with a great picture.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.