Wednesday, 25 March 2009
草泥马:Netizens React to Censors
A subtly subversive online spoof in China prompts an apparent backlash, and netizens are angry.
Chinese netizens are reacting angrily to reported attempts by government censors to stamp out a humorous form of protest against a recent Web clean-up campaign. Apparent government directives widely posted on forums, chatrooms and on instant update services such as Twitter are now ordering Internet service providers to clamp down on spoof items about the “grass-mud horse,” a fictional alpaca-like creature dreamed up by netizens in response to a recent anti-porn campaign.
Campaigns against online pornography are common in China, and frequently target content that the government wants removed for political reasons, as well as that considered inappropriately violent or indecent.
The name of the grass-mud horse, or 草泥马, is a pun on an often-heard and offensive epithet concerning the recipient’s mother.
In the YouTube video and related spoofs that have proliferated in recent weeks, the 草泥马 must battle againt an invasion of river crabs, a punning reference to the government’s buzzword, “a harmonious society.”
“According to a request by the provincial propaganda department, keywords related to ‘草泥马’ ... must be removed from the entire Internet,” a statement dated March 20 and purportedly signed by the Communications Bureau of Deyang city said.
The statement, posted on a number of forums within China, called for special attention to be paid to forums and blogs where such words might be concealed, and for a record to be kept of the cleanup operation.
Online comments appeared to take the directive as genuine. “We’re not even allowed to do that,” said one, while another said wryly, “Here we go again.” Many comments were critical of the government, remarking that “the river crabs are invading again.” “This just goes to show that our dynasty [the Chinese Communist Party] is just like the first Qin Emperor,” one said, referring to the despotic Qin Shihuang who unified China in 256 BC.
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