Peeping weekly at the best (and worst) that was, is, and will be on the China blogosphere.
The weblogs which concern us here are a mix of vanity press and sociopolitical discussion forums. But first and foremost, they are terrains where weblords attempt to manage and regulate discussion, cross-cultural differences and those rotten anarchic impulses intended to derail thread trajectory. And it goes without saying that different sites attract different digital communities. Throw in market share, monetisation (“Meet Juicyfruit: I love the hip hop and r@b. Design the handbag”), a couple of the seven deadly sins, and it’s time to discuss those About and Commenting Rules buttons.
China/Divide attempted to address the regulation issue in a democratic manner by attaching a vote up/down button alongside each comment. Okay, the conversation usually oscillated from the silly to the serious, and the voting function pandered to egos of every stripe — it was doomed to failure. Sneaky bastards opened second mail addresses to inflate their ratings. Kai Pan, one of the Amigos tasked with dealing with these sneaks, usually ended up putting IP addresses between certain ranges into moderation mode. While this identified the perp, it also pissed off the innocent. Eventually, the function was disabled and the GFW did the rest. Also, in its day, China/Divide set the standard in terms of layout and appearance, no competition.
Sticking with the Amigos, Charlie Custer tightened up his commenting rules in March 2010 (and again in September 2012) after persistent threats, entreaties and a lot of fucking bad language, all in the vain hope of elevating discussion and keeping it on topic. He took valuable time out of his budding directorial career to write this comprehensive statement on posting sins, any of which would result in partial or total deletion. Logical fallacies were definitely not on the menu, and his wiki link to this multifaceted mortal sin was enough to cow and terrify. That is, unless you had PhDs in Logic and Latin. There were Formal, Propositional, Quantificational, Formal Syllogistic, Informal, Red Herring and Conditional Fallacies to deal with. His shock and awe campaign has been a great success since it has virtually strangled discussion. Or maybe, weblogs of the type Custer helped pioneer have a finite life span.
Hidden Harmonies China Blog adopts an entirely different approach. We are initially introduced to the Editorial Team, Allen, DeWang, Melektaus et. al, and can read about their backgrounds and aspirations for The Great Red Dragon in the 21st century. For example, Melektaus “is a 1.5 generation Chinese American living in the heart of Appalachia. He received his formal education in philosophy and hopes to be travelling to China soon to do some work with educating the youth.” No Deliverance jokes, okay. DeWang comes from my home province Fujian, so it is little wonder he fucked off in 1984, and don’t be surprised if his hometown is Fujiang, aka Snakehead Central.
Before commenting, you must go to the FAQ and read their Terms of Service:
Welcome to Hidden Harmonies! Before you begin participating in Hidden Harmonies, you must read and agree to the following terms and conditions and policies, including any future amendments (collectively, “Terms of Service”):
After perusing the 10 terms, you come away with the feeling that you are either about to buy a massive publishing joint venture or sign up with Jenny Craig. Now many non-harmony folk have attempted to negotiate these terms over the years to post dissenting opinions, clarifications, etc. They have included bright young thing FOARP, Custer, Richard Burger, and all came away sounding demoralized, abused and swearing never again.
Yet, the HH posse have their moments, particularly when they champion human rights as witnessed by their take on Li Xiaojie, the iPhone shopper who got tasered by cops in a hurry to finish the shift with all their paperwork completed. There are dark threats to boycott Apple products, even after Pugster recommends the Galaxy G3. After this “call to action,” we meet firstname.lastname@example.org, the… um… fiance (comment #21):
I am from Boston. Xiaojie Li, is my fiance and the love of my life. She was burtally attacked by the police for no good reason and continues to suffer from the effects of the physical violence, the emotional trauma and the loss of her dignity. (sic)
Then things get positively surreal.
Li is likened to “a present day Rosa Parks, (because) she stood up against prejudice and injustice,” and is advised to involve the ACLU because Apple is “racially profiling Asian customers” (#23). Hugo then mistakens one of his interlocutors for the Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) (#26). Finally, the real facts emerge after a major challenge to this convoluted drivel by some poster called The Truth (#38). Li is a Christian (surely a damning fact in itself) who owns steakhouses in China (# 38). Hugo then takes it on himself to defend Li’s honour (#54):
The fact is, that we do not yet live together yet. She is a conservative woman and has children at home.
So who cares where she sleeps? Anyway it is nobodys business what we do in private.
Forget the Terms of Agreement and the taser biz. The Li story is just another sordid Christian menage a trois divided by two continents.
Richard at Peking Duck skips the comment policy statement altogether and relies instead on a mix of personal authority and warnings to maintain order in the yard. And to his credit, the system works while generating some truly massive threads. However, I’m not sure if I like the view that a blog is like one’s house (or Pommy castle): a lounge room and therefore subject to the owner’s invitation and unstated rules. Wipe your feet, no loud throat-clearing and don’t scuff the furniture.
You get the feeling that he is rather proud of his regular trolls and their capacity to generate FQ-Western thread chatter. The poor bastards are continually told to get their heads right and not indulge in tu quoque arguments. This rejoinder has been used so often now that one suspects his rusted-on FQ posters suffer from some congenital disorder. Put simply, continuous harping on about this commenting crime has drained quoque-ism of all meaning.
We all know that Asians have a long historical record of being perfectly beastly to their own citizens and near neighbors. However, Richard conveniently forgets the fact that, in spite of its much vaunted Constitutional framework of government, Yankee Land has quite a bloody FP record over the past 40 years. Nixon and his SS divided the nation internally, while practicing warfare on an industrial scale in Southeast Asia.* The rebuttal that he was eventually brought to book and disgraced means bugger to those who were on the receiving end of bombs, napalm and defoliants. We can add Reagan and his covert financing and other support for right-wing death squads in the South Americas, plus the Bushies who drained the nation of its blood and treasure in the belief that they could socially engineer democracy in the Middle East.
Oh yes, the response. I voted Democrat, and anyway, we’ve got China under the microscope here.
Tomorrow is a big day for the Christers. You’ve met the type at Hong Kong airport. Porcine males with buzz cuts, wearing drip dry shirts and wide belts, spending their stopover time fiddling with tablets and talking loudly on mobiles. Eric at Sinostand has written a great piece on Cadres and Evangelists. As a bookend, I would go for Tom’s thoughtful piece in Seeing Red in China titled “Eastern Lightning may be a cult, but they still have rights.”** There is nothing more gratifying than watching this inter-Christian franchise war, with larger believer groups grassing on their slightly weirder competition.
And if you find yourself an orphan tomorrow, you can always hit up a google search – evangelical underground Christian cults China – and bone up on the various franchises and their doctrinal differences. I shouldn’t be flippant here, since this is an important topic which gets little blog attention as a general rule. It will be quickly forgotten once the recent spate of headlines on end-times and apocalyptic entrepreneurship enter the archives.
* This is a rehash of a point made recently on Peking Duck.
** Despite being a mainstream Christian, Tom is consistent in his application of human rights arguments.