My Two Pence on the Media in China, HSR, et al

Posted by on Jan 5, 2013 in David Feng Views, Media | No Comments

14:10 (UTC+08:00), 05 JAN 2013 | CHN BEIJING
ITEM FIRST POSTED BEFORE 07 FEB 2014

As of late I’ve been the subject of a major debate regarding HSR on Sina Weibo. I won’t go into that in too much depth other than saying that I made a comment, which simply read:

It’s weird that some media with little better to do can give factual inaccuracies about Chinese high speed rail — and yet freak out when their editorial gets changed all of a sudden.

That on its own got more than “a few people” upset.

However, I’d like to clarify on that a little.

  • First, I’m a little ticked off that “some” media outlets in China are talking bad about Chinese high speed rail. The thing is, we’re talking about media outlets that obviously have a set agenda — and in my PhD years a pretty influential German-language reader told me that that was not a “real” media outlet (because they’ve a fixed agenda). So as someone whose life was positively impacted by HSR, I like HSR. And when you travel on the thing a fair bit, it kind of becomes part of you. So when you hear news about HSR lines being slowed down, there’s obviously a bit of a link between that news and you. Like a Mac advocate, you become an HSR advocate. And when you hear someone talk bad of HSR all the time, well, as a human, you obviously get ticked off!
  • Second, I don’t like what’s happening in southern China right now, where the censor-vultures have started descending on the media. The media’s supposed to be neutral and objective. There’s only a real, verbatim public square (sez Habermas) if both Big Money and Big Government keeps their own 101 miles away from the thing. Trouble is, we’re seeing a crass excess of the latter right now. These are people’s work, for God’s sake. You don’t like it if you’ve worked your back off — only to see your stuff being taken away. Right?
  • Third, I made the comment as an independent individual. Messages on Weibo are always posted as personal views — I made that very clear in my profile. I’m not saying my uni is pro or anti-HSR or anything of the kind.

Even with that, Weibo took no time to set me aflame — ablaze — the whole shebang — as I found myself dragged into heavy, at times even off-colour, debate. There were even fragment elements of a carefully-planned “e-mob” that appeared to descend upon me — but which in the end were found out to be little more than bogus accounts created merely for the occasion. University heads in charge were tagged and tweeted at. Remember that in my original post I said nothing of which specific media outlet I wasn’t happy with. Also, I shied away from George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words and in fact named no blame on any designed counterpart. Like any “real” mob, soon, my education, my nationality — even the family — became “fodder”. Threats of physical action (violence), along with just some of the worst abuse, spewed upon me. I really did not take note of how bad the whole thing was until my friends and family told me — go on Weibo; you’re “big” now.

I don’t like what’s happened right now, but I was born a free soul, not a censor-er (sorry for that word concoction!). As things stand now, I’m not dumping comments made on that post — obviously, if you lost it, you lost it for the whole wide world to see — your fault. Indeed, the last twelve years in China have told me one thing: the more you censor, the more insecurity you show. I’m not apologising for what I’ve posted — because Chinese HSR doesn’t suck — but I’m not coming out with more rebuttals, either. Slowly, this thing will chill down… people get mad, they set themselves loose — and then it’s all peace and quiet, eventually…

As a Lecturer and radio co-host in the early 30s with a fair bit on my end, I don’t have any insecurity to show. I’ve toned down the thing by staying off Weibo for the moment. I don’t think suing people at random is like a good idea to get rid of the whole thing — plus, lawsuits hardly make good neighbours.

My mantra right now? Let sleeping dogs lie.

Oh — and get something up with these kids’ mouths. They need all the Colgates in the world…

06 January 2013 update: The guy who started the smear campaign has been kicked off Weibo as I have been informed right now.