The Patriotic Bar Busters of China

(Southern Metropolis Daily)  Bar Busting!  The daily battle in which 2,000 plus "patriotic" youths post spam.  Feng Hongping (丰鸿平).  August 8, 2007.

[in translation]

There is a war.  What is flying in the air is not gun smoke but words; what is being brandished is not guns but computer mice; who is attacking is not the enemy but the netizens; what is being defended is not national territory but Baidu forums on user-defined special topics (known as post bars 贴吧).

On each day, 8,000 more new post bars are established at this so-called biggest Chinese-language forum in the world.  On each day, a countless number of bar-busting battles is going on.  Baidu and the bar owners are defending while the bar-busting gangs are attacking.  A page is refreshed completely in dozens of seconds.  On a single night, a post bar can accumulate several hundred new pages.  Both the defense and offense will fight all night without sleeping.

This reporter interviewed bar-busting gang leaders and post bar owners, and is revealing the secrets of the post bar wars for the first time.

The night is late and all is quiet.  The moon is dim and the winds are blowing hard.

At 11:30pm on August 5, a bar-busting campaign at the "Rainie Yang post bar" at Baidu has just began.  At that time, none of the bar owners of the Rainie Yang bar was online.  So the gate was wide open and the defenders were away.  When the news of the bar-busting campaign spread, various people gathered at the Rainie Yang post bar.  Very quickly, there was an ocean of spam posts consisting of insults, abuses, sarcasms, screams and cheers.  Within two hours, there were more than 100 pages of posts at the Rainie Yang bar.

According to the bar-busting gang member named "Tank" -- she is a 14-year-old girl from Liuzhou city, Guangxi province in real life -- she had an argument with her family after spending two days and two nights non-stop in bar-busting activities.  During the argument, the notebook computer was damaged when it was dropped on the floor.  The girl believed that her activities were "patriotic actions."  In the end, the father agreed to let her continue to bust bars, but she had to catch at least 8 hours of sleep per night.

Rainie Yang is regarded as insufficiently "patriotic" by many young netizens.  She was even regarded as not having the "sense of national honor" that they expected her to have.  Therefore, the Rainie Yang bar has been continuously intruded upon by those who claim to have "patriotic sentiments."  The goal of their bar-busting activity is to make sure that the bar was rendered incapable of normal communication and hence to force the bar owners to quit and close down the bar.  Although they have not succeeded yet, they continue to do so -- for the bar-busters, the bar-busting is a form of emotional catharsis.  Even more, this is a game in which they show their strength in the virtual world.

Bar-busting appears all the time at this biggest Chinese-language forum in the world.  The bar-busters are treated by bar users and the Baidu company as destroyers, or even public enemies.  But the bar-busters say that they represent the forces of justice at Baidu and they are defending the healthy development of the Internet.

But more often, they are merely treating bar-busting as a game.

Bar-busting means to post large numbers of vacuous posts and spam comments at the target bar in a systematic manner such that all the normal posts are awash in a sea of trash.  As a result, regular users cannot communicate in the normal way.

"Ever since the user 'Masteryuri' invented the bar busting tool, it has been a catastrophe for Baidu."  Fengshui Fuzi is a Baidu bar-buster who thus assessed the appearance of the bar-busting tool.  Masteryuri was an early user of the post bars.  Masteryuri had been ranked as the number one Baidu post bar star by users.

The appearance of the bar-busting machine increased the efficiency of bar-busting.  The bar-busting tool known as the Avenger can override the requirement for proof of identity, and a person can post hundreds of posts at a time.  The Avenger has been upgraded and other bar-busting software tools have emerged as well.  Most users use the Avenger or another tool called Rongrong.

Fengshui Fuzi is a member of the bar-busting gang known as "The Burning Crusaders."  "You go and look at the Rainie Yang bar, and isn't it a mess?"  This third-year high school graduate was very "proud" about their "accomplishment."  "Most of the people belong to our gang, even though they did not publish their team name."  He said that the purpose of bar-busting is for fun.  But there are some people who do not like the actions of certain stars and they want to bust their bars as a sign of protest.

"Do you know about the 6.21 incident?"  Fengshui Fuzi always asks those people who are not familiar with the loves and hates at the Baidu post bars.  The 6.21 incident was the greatest conflict in the history of Baidu post bar.  Some people have compared it to the Second World War in the real world.

Based upon the "official historians" of Baidu post bar, there was a clash over something by two powerful and influential post bars representing Li Yi and Li Yuchun respectively.  The Li Yuchun bar rose up when Super Girl became red hot in 2005 and it became the largest Baidu post bar because Li Yuchun has so many fans.  The Li Yi bar took delight in making fun of the footballer Li Yi and kept repeating his two famous sentences ("protect the ball like Henry" and "it is sunrise").  It attracted lots of netizens because of its entertainment factor.

Then the owners of the Li Yi bar were banned and people thought that it was through the denunciation by the Li Yuchun bar.  So people got together to take revenge.  On June 21, the greatest bar-busting action in the history of Baidu took place.

The invasion into the Li Yuchun bar began at 6:20pm that evening.  By 6:40pm, the number of people began to grow.  "The climax was reached at around 7:10pm when the Burning Crusaders entered the battle.  Then Ah Cool's Army, the Blue Cats and the Little White Rabbit Battle Troops followed.  By this time, the posting rate at the Li Yuchun post bar was reaching one post per second.  The bar owners tried to delete the posts in defense, but the bar-busters were very careful and they were quite obscure about their subject titles, and therefore made it impossible to read and delete so quickly.  On that night, the Li Yuchun bar was flooded with more than 1,900 pages from almost 100,000 posts.

"In the history of Baidu, there has never been anything as stunning as the 6.21 incident."  Thus wrote the "historians."  The Baidu officials were forced to intercede by placing the Li Yuchun post bar under a pre-censorship system (that is, a post has to be reviewed by a human before going public; previously, all posts go public and may be deleted afterwards by the post bar administrators).  This was the first time this year that Baidu deployed this extraordinary procedure.

"At the Baidu forum, there are the so-called bar-busting gangs such as the Little White Rabbit Troops, the Burning Crusaders, Ah Cool's Army and so on.  In normal times, they steal the ID's of post bar owners, they spam post bars and they instigate trouble among post bar owners.  Generally, they try to disrupt public order at Baidu, and they always look for opportunities to attach Baidu netizens."  After the 6.21 incident, Baidu issued a public notice to say that it opposed the attitudes of the bar-busters.

Actually, the bar-buster gangs can usually have brief moments of glory for a few months, and then they will be broken up when Baidu take action against them.  But other new gangs quickly emerge to take their places.

During the attack on the Li Yuchun post bar, the Burning Crusaders, Ah Cool's Army, the Blue Cat Sacred Cult and the Little White Rabbit Troops were the major forces.  These four organizations are the four major bar-busting gangs at the Baidu forum.

General Ah Cool is the leader of Ah Cool's Army.  This 24-year-old self-claimed retired military soldier manages 16 QQ groups.  In 2006, he took over Ah Cool's Army, which had only seven members.

Thereafter, he began posting all over the Baidu forum.  He posted more than 100 times a day: "On each post, I added these words at the end: 'I close my eyes silently and I quietly feel my face.'"  General Ah Cool is very pleased with his own humor and accomplishments.  He became known to people at the Baidu forum.

He established a home base at "Ah Cool's Bar" and many people were visiting there.  After three months, the moment was ripe and he commenced recruitment.  He used a strategy known as "starting a war in order to grow.  "I deliberately provoked people elsewhere so that they would come and bust my bar.  Then I went back to bust their bar."  This strategy was successfully, as many people heard about him and asked to enlist in his army.

Ah Cool's Army now has 400 people.  When the gang reached saturation point, he began to organize his people.  Like other bar-busting gangs, he uses QQ groups to administer his army, which was divided into "rapid action bar-busting group," "Group 1 bar busters," "Spy groups," etc.

When a bar-busting battle begins, the "rapid action bar-busting group" rushes in first.  On a single computer, there can be 50 sock puppets using 50 bar-busting tools and they quickly take over the enemy base like a vanguard of cavalrymen.  After the first round, the second team comes in to flood the bar, like the infantry mopping up the battlefield.  Then the third team comes in and their goal is to "dig graves" where the good posts at the bar are buried among piles of spam posts.  The other side may even wipe out their own good posts during the clean-up, and that is the way to inflict the greatest damage.

At the Baidu forum, there are more than 30 bar-busting gangs of various sizes.  The total number of bar-busting gang members is estimated to be more than 2,000.  The gangs are interlocking and interconnected.  They can form alliances, they sometimes attack each other but they will work together as well.

There are frequent battles between the gangs.  General Ah Cool regards the "Ice and Fire Alliance" as his enemy.  One of his tenets is "Thou shall bust the Ice and Fire Alliance every day."

These gangs actually know each other.  "The hostility occurs because their relationships sometimes reach a deadlock."  Fengshui Fuzi said that his Burning Crusaders gang has 400 people and Ah Cool's Army is their enemy.  But the people within those two gangs often stay in contact with each other and they sometimes act together.

Each gang usually have spies inside the other gangs in order to detect the others' actions.  Last month, Ah Cool's Army decided to bust Jolin Tsai's post bar, but the defense was very strong and the spams were quickly destroyed.

"We had a traitor amongst us and we were screwed."  General Ah Cool said that the other side used spam deletion tools against his unarmed soldiers.

Today, the Yuexiaomi bar was busted.  A bar owner named Wuhuamao felt hapless because she thought that she had never crossed anyone in this world and this action was undeserved.

When your bar got busted and you cannot deal with it, the only recourse is to go to the "post bar complaint center" to ask for the assistance of the Baidu administrators.  Wuhuamao went to the complaint center with evidence of the bar-busting activity.

Yet, there are so much bar-busting activity going on and so many complaints lodged with the complaint center that the top five online Baidu administrators had too much work on their hands.  Everybody is aware that a complaint will not be seriously regarded by the administrators unless it reaches a certain level of severity.

Very often, the post bar complaint center itself is the subject of bar-busting.  The bar-busters treat the post bar complaint center as the place to show their contempt for rules and regulations.  This includes General Ah Cool who often says, "I just played a joke on Baidu."

Presently, according to bar-busting observer Kaitokaito (who has published many comments about bar-busting activities), CCTV is the one post bar subjected to the most bar-busting.  "If you want to make screen captures of bar-busting, you can go to the CCTV post bar anytime.  It is being barraged every day."  Kaitokaito said that this happens because people don't like the many things that CCTV does.

When asked about being subjected to bar-busting, the CCTV bar administrator answered in a very CCTV manner: "Please contact the Baidu company for any interviewing.  Our bar owners do not receive interviews directly."  Another bar owner Dongmi Binbin said that CCTV is being used as target practice by bar-busters because they are fighting for justice or they want to follow the crowd.  "Every day, many people come to this bar.  I wish these bar-busters would spend more time with some meaningful things."  Dongmi Binbin was trying to plead for peace and reconciliation.

The owner of the Rainie Yang bar is Rajraj and he is not as well-tempered.  The repeated bar-busts has caused her to hate those bar-busters: "If you want to interview someone, you should interview those beasts who cause trouble for no good reason or justificaiton.  You should ask them how they ever came up the idea of spamming a post bar in order to release their perverse emotions."

Faced with a sea of spam posts which swamps over the best posts such that the bar owners must read and delete everything manually one at a time, very few people would not go berserk.

How can bar-busting be prevented?  "Actually, there is only one defense, and that is to preview the comments and ban them if necessary.  Ordinarily, you have no idea when a bar-busting gang is going to start a campaign."  Kaitokaito said.  But if comments are screened and even banned beforehand, the post bars could never have become so popular.

You read the news each day and you can pretty much guess which post bars will be busted.  You read about Super Girl Tang Xiao clashing with the policeman guarding Hunan TV, and you can know the result is that Tang Xiao's post bar and the Super Girl post bar will be busted.  Sometimes the news involves government departments (such as the Ministry of Education), but the Baidu administrators are thoroughly unconcerned because there are no post bars that are connected to sensitive terms such as government departments.

Actually, this kind of phenomenon is common at Baidu.  There are post bars about France or the United Kingdom, but there aren't any about Japan or South Korea -- if there were, they would be busted a long time ago.

If there is no post bar about Japan, there are posts bars related to Japan.  For example, there is a Japanese culture post bar formed by people who are interested in Japanese culture.  The overseas bar owner Die_young is the administrator of that bar.

At the end of last month, the bar-busters posted action calls at various post bars to attack the Japanese cultural post bar at 8:00pm on July 31 "in order to commemorate the People's Liberation Army anniversary on August 1st."  At the time, Die_young said that their attitude was: go ahead because this is neither the first nor the last time.  "There has been several hundred big or small events.  It was a mess after the bar-busts, but we cleaned things up gradually.  Afterwards, the good posts rose up to the top again.  This is nothing unusual."  The clean-up takes about one or two hours, and then everything returns to normal.

"Our aim is to oppose Japan, South Korea, India and Vietnam."  General Ah Cool said.  But he does not oppose America, because America has some very good things.  Fengshui Fuzi said that the aim of the Burning Crusaders is to oppose Japan and the demons.  Who are the demons?  Those are the people that they cannot stand, such as the fans of Li Yuchun.

A common characteristic of these bar-busters is that they all claim to be patriotic.  From the history of bar-busting at Baidu, any post bars related to Japan and South Korea, or artistic performers who exhibit lack of patriotism, or controversial news figures have been disaster areas.

"We do this in order to build a healthy and developing Internet."  General Ah Cool said that it is reactionary to post anti-China speech at Baidu.  To be against China is unpatriotic.  The aim of bar-busting is to eliminate those unpatriotic materials and increase the sense of honor of the Chinese people -- "To increase the sense that we share the shame and honor of the Chinese people together."

"But this is actually a game."  General Ah Cool said that he derived pleasure from this game.  When the bar-busters see the post bar of the other side being buried in their spam posts, they feel like a general watching the enemy base being overrun by their own soldiers.

At the Baidu post bar forum, more than 8,000 new post bars are established and more than 2,000,000 new posts are made each day.  It is impossible for anyone to grasp the totality.  This is indeed a place in which diversity exists with corresponding freedom.  The Baidu post bar forum is like a world of its own.