Quite a few blog posts here fit the following
paradigm: An outrageous event occurs somewhere in China. Someone posts a
description of the event at a Chinese Internet forum. A storm of passion
is generated as the "human search engines" dig up the personal
particulars of the culprits of the event and publish that information. A harassment
campaign (e.g. telephone calls, threats, etc) is conducted to insure
that 'justice' is served. Mind you, the culprits are not necessarily
guilty of breaking any law. Usually, it is some alleged moral turpitude
Here are some examples from the past 3 months:
(July 17, 2006) A New Mother Leaps To Her Death
(June 29, 2006) My Dad Is Worse Than Ximen Qing
(June 4, 2006) The Affair At Beijing Foreign Studies University
(April 26, 2006) Secretary PK Boss
(April 17, 2006) The Most Famous Pervert in China
These case studies of mob violence/justice
suggest that there are "unique Chinese characteristics."
Firstly, these events are mobilized on the large Chinese BBS forums with tens of
thousands of comments per hour. By contrast, Americans tend to visit
personal blogs which are less connected, coordinated and cohesive. Thus
the scale and ferocity of the Chinese manhunts are unmatched anywhere
else. Secondly, there is still some reticence for Americans and Europeans
to dig out and publish personal particulars, especially since there may be legal
For now, it would seem that the target of these Internet manhunts are directed towards individual citizens who are alleged to have done something morally reprehensible, and the damages to society are limited (except for the targeted persons, of course). But there is no reason that these types of activities cannot go further. In the United States, there is a disturbing trend. There are now Internet manhunts whose preys are ... bloggers, reporters, editors and publishers!
Example: (Dennis K of The Flying Monkey-Right Blog in a screen capture at agonist.org) "Let's start with the following New York Times reporters and editors: Arthur 'Pinch' Sulzberger Jr., Bill Keller, Eric Lichtblau, and James Risen. Do you have an idea where they live? Go hunt them down and do America a favor. Get their photo, street address, where their kids go to school, anything you can dig up, and send it to the link above. This is your chance to be famous - grab for the gold ring."
Here is an extract from a comic strip by Tom Tomorrow (via Working For Change) (note: this is a comic strip and not real, but the atmosphere is not too far away from reality -- that is to say, it would not be too shocking to hear someone actually say it and, if so, there would not be too much backlash because there is enough of this going around anyway).
The instructions are even printed on a t-shirt (ThoseShirts.com):
Here are some recent links for the developments in the United States:
"Media Matters" by Jamison Foser, Media Matters
Journalists: It's time for some articles on the pro-Bush blogosphere Glenn Greenwald, Unclaimed Territory
An open letter to David Carr at the New York Times Tom Tomorrow, This Modern World
Here is something to ponder: There are some Chinese people who regard the United States as the model for China. Since the United States is prosperous and powerful, if China adopts the same economic, social and political system, it will be prosperous and powerful too. Within the American system, the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and press are especially regarded as core values. But it also means that most of the nastiness above is constitutionally protected (note: In the Dennis K example above, the use of "Go hunt them down" may be construed as an incitement to violence and may imply legal liability in the event that something happened; but using "Go look them up" is probably protected free speech).
Do you believe that China should go through the paroxysms that are happening in the United States? Anyone who writes something about any government department or official, corporation or citizen may find themselves in the middle of a similar storm. For example, when the Chinese gamers were incensed by the Red Rubber Ball incident, should they go after Netease founder William Ding Lei and his family ("Get their photos, street address, where their kids go to school, anything you can dig up")? The comments in the two screen capture below are examples of abstract threats and insults against Ding's family, but they can easily get very specific.
(Comment in the middle: "I represent the ID thieves. I f*ck Ding Lei's wife until she dies")
(Comment in the middle: "Ding Lei, if you don't have money, you could just let your mother sell her c*nt")