The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'vigilantism'
In China, what could be the world's largest lynch mob is gathering and hunting for one "Chinabounder", a particularly gormless expatriate Briton who kept an anonymous blog recounting his sexual conquests in China. That is how it started, anyway; with him apparently coming to China to teach English, taking advantage of the huge dating pool available to exotic foreigners and then, perhaps seeing himself as a combination Neil Strauss and Belle Du Jour, writing up his conquests, in detail, in a blog, often posting entire chat transcripts. Then, he decided to start posting political screeds ridiculing Chinese culture, politics and masculinity, and soon, the hunt began:
Traffic on the Sex and Shanghai blog has surged from 500 hits to more than 17,000, thanks to a swarm of castration threats, anti-British rants and attacks on women who sleep with foreigners. The author, who calls himself Chinabounder, introduces himself as a wastrel, "lacking in moral fibre, but coping with the situation". According to the posts, he is an English language teacher at a university.
The campaign against the blog was launched on Friday by Zhang Jiehai, professor of psychology in the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences under a post titled The Internet Hunt for an Immoral Foreigner. "I have something to tell Chinese men: please think about how these foreign trash have dallied with your sisters and made fun of your impotence," he wrote. "This piece of garbage must be found and kicked out of China!!!"
"Trial by virtual lynching has become the norm in China's cyberspace," Raymond Zhou wrote in a comment article in China Daily after previous mass campaigns. He added: "Online 'flaming' wars exist everywhere, facilitated by anonymity. But in China they may have a self-propelling force that sweeps thousands, sometimes millions, into a frenzy. It is nearly impossible, even for the most respected scholars, to give voice to dissension."The ever-entertaining Maciej Ceglowski (now also resident in Beijing), has written about the story:
He was not the first Western guy to treat China as his own personal sexual buffet. To put it in the D&D terms that many of the guys who benefit most from the effect will readily understand, living in China gives you +4 attractiveness. The love handles (metaphorically) shrink, the hairline advances, teeth straighten, previously soupy eyes blaze with a new rakish light. You are in a country where people actually *choose* to have brown hair. You find that things that are off-putting back home have magically transformed into positive attributes in your new environment. You're a computer programmer? You're quiet and like to read? You live with your parents? You never drink? You are sexually inexperienced? HEARTTHROB!
A Blogspot site called whoischinabounder was launched, with the goal of unmasking chinabounder's true identity based on details culled from his blog posts. This site was so successful that by the first day they had already found three of him, with signs that more were to come. English teachers in Shanghai had reason to be nervous.
Net culture in China works a bit the way television media works in the States. People fix on one or two big stories of the day, and these get a national audience. There is also a tradition of online vigilantism in cases where someone has done something particularly vile - had an extramarital affair within the World of Warcraft online game, for example - and people will readily mobilize to defend good morals and the national honor. Chinabounder's case, which hits the trifecta of national pride, sex and Japan hatred, will be interesting to follow.
In the U.S., a small minority of pharmacists are refusing to sell birth-control pills to women, sometimes even confiscating their prescriptions, on "moral grounds". State legislatures are divided between outlawing such actions and enshrining them in law:
At a Brooks pharmacy in Laconia, New Hampshire, Suzanne Richards, a 21-year-old single mother with a 3-year-old son, was denied the morning after pill because of the pharmacist's religious convictions.
Richards says she felt "humiliated and traumatised", and was too frightened to approach another pharmacist the next day, allowing the 72-hour limit for taking the pill to pass.
One can understand people getting squeamish about the abortion of developed foetuses with nervous systems and such, but refusing to sell morning-after pills is just stupid. For one, it ignores the fact that between 60% and 80% of fertilised embryos are naturally spontaneously aborted, in much the same way that the morning-after pill would do (an argument which, when combined with pro-lifer ideology and a dose of logic, implies that much of the population of Heaven would be comprised of never-born embryos). This is clearly not about saving lives but rather about assertion of power; the Religious Right flexing its muscle and seeing how much it can get away with in Bush's America.
Convicted child murder accomplice Maxine Carr's new identity stolen one day before she was to be released. The documents are said to give her mobile phone, passport and social security numbers, though the British government denies that they would make it easier for her to be identified. Given the level of organisation required to obtain secret documents such as these (including the possibility of a collaborator within the civil service deliberately leaving them in an unsecured car), it's not unlikely that there is a well-organised vigilante conspiracy to ensure that the "justice" denied by the British legal system will be swift. (Don't bother checking the news for it, though; if it happens, it'll be just another anonymous murder, suicide, or accident; perhaps a drug overdose or a "mugging gone wrong" is in the works?)
(Not that an uncompromised fake identity would protect anyone who maintained contact with their friends and relatives from their former life. The names and identities of Carr's parents are known, and sufficiently driven vigilantes could watch them, in shifts if needed, and follow up on anybody matching Carr's description whom they meet with. Even if she broke off contact with them, there'd be something else to get her by. The Mossad nabbed Adolf Eichmann because he neglected to change his wedding anniversary after fleeing to Argentina, and he was an actual Nazi war criminal, and not a rank amateur.)
Frustrated with CityLink toll evaders speeding through their residential streets every day, some Melbourne suburbanites are fighting back, by staking out the streets with hairdryers, pretending they're radar guns. Wonder how long until the two-wheels-good-four-wheels-bad crowd take this up as a form of direct action.
Happy citizens of McWorld: no need to fear terrorism, when you can learn to kill terrorists with Coca-Cola cans; and more neat tricks, as anti-terrorism instructors will gladly show you (for a fee and proof of US citizenship).
(I sense a new marketing campaign in this: Coke for Freedom. Perhaps with ads in which sassy US-flag-wearing skater kids defeat vaguely terroristic meanies with Coke cans.)
But how can you identify a terrorist?
"They'd have black hair," one student offers. "Brown skin."
"They probably wear those kinds of shirts you button up at the neck," another says.
"Usually they got brown eyes. They might act nervous. Or maybe they'd show no emotion at all. You know, they sometimes have those dead eyes."
Though Middle Easterners, chronically nervous brown-eyed people and others are perhaps understandably concerned at the prospect of red-blooded patriots preemptively dealing out two-fisted "justice".
"I was on a fight where the pilot came on the radio, telling the passengers we have plenty of weapons at our disposal -- blankets, shoes, pencils," recalls Carol North, the psychiatrist. "It's a little unsettling when you are about to take off." She worries about what could happen if people misread something like mental illness as suspicious behaviour, and there is certainly a new risk for anyone who looks or sounds like they are from the Middle East.