Roland at ESWN gives us this excellent account of the Internet Lynch Mob again blindly rushing after a target… and sadly, this time, it’s gotten the wrong person.
Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) produced the official statement form the Mianzhu Communist Party Committee: “Comrade Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) has not been to Mianyang since May 12. She has not been to the May 1st Plaza of Mianyang. Mianyang and Mianzhu are not the same place. Comrade Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) and her family did not have any tents since May 12, so they could not be staying in one. Each night, Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) and her colleagues slept inside cars. Comrade Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) and her family have never owned a car. The Mianzhu city Communist Youth League car has license number Sichuan F70034. The Sichuan BD3732 license plate has been found to belong to Fan Xiaohua (范小华) of Jiangyou city who is not Mianzhu Communist Youth League secretary Fan Xiaohua (范晓华).
After Fan Xiaohua was involved in first stealing a disaster tent and second assaulting an old woman, arguably, he/she deserved some amount of public scorn. The problem with the Internet Lynch Mob is that it spreads rumors blindly. The Internet Lynch Mob has become judge, jury, executioner in one, and operates with little rational thought and discourse. I increasingly believe it’s becoming a scourage on modern Chinese society.
Roland provided a translation of part of a Southern Metropolis article on this. I’ll translate the rest; I completely agree with its sentiment:
—————- translation begins —————-
In practical terms, Internet-based discussions have become extremely meaningful to Chinese discourse. All of the free postings from netizens has coalesced into an active space for the voices of common men. If netizens adopt a serious attitude, and see their opportunity for free internet speech as an act of preserving their rights as citizens, then internet opinion will become an increasingly accurate representation of society’s opinion. This can act as a more clear reference guide for our government, and also provides traditional media sources a more realistic and logical tone. If theory could become action, then the people’s supervision and monitoring of government will become more effective, and the goal of government serving the people will become more clear. We would see a completely new type of interaction between the people and government. All of this ultimately effects the interests of netizens, because their demands will be more clearly reflected, providing a direct feedback loop.
In 2007, internet speech showed signs of being rational, serious, and focused on practical affairs. It’s also been linked directly to the interests of all citizens: the most awesome nail-house, the South China Tiger, and the Xiamen PX protests are all highlights from last year. But in 2008, because of the uproar in current affairs, internet speech along with a collective surge of emotion amongst average citizens, has sometimes become irrational and difficult to control. The mistaken attacks against Fan Xiaohua fits into this category. People are relaying these mistaken messages, because these rumors are feeding their emotions.
Due to the split personalities of those participating in online discussion, and their unstable behavior, many innocent parties are being hurt. Ultimately, this will lead to tremendous injury to their own bodies. No investigation of evidence; no interest in waiting for the truth to materialize; oppression of rational communication; accustomed to boos, blind action, taking things out of context, personal assaults, and even direct assaults thanks to the “Human Search Engine”…. all of this deserves our most serious attention, and our reconsideration. Because, as the Internet today gathers more and more of this sort of activity and violence, logical voices will choose to leave the field. The true value of active internet discussion will be overwhelmed, and all of society’s expressions of opinion will become mutated. All of the growth China has seen in public discussion thanks to this Internet public platform will be frustrated.
In order to prevent this from happening, please, let everyone treasure the right of speech, and resist internet violence.
One of the suggested solutions for resisting “internet violence” is real-name registration (实名制). This has been widely panned both inside and outside of China as a tool of “government control”, despite the fact democratic South Korea is proceeding with just that kind of a plan. Early attempts to implement real-name registration has largely been resisted in China, and all government campaigns have either been severely diluted or indefinitely postponed. I’m not sure real-name registration is the answer, but I think it’s the time to take another look at this very serious issue.