Shanghai: It began with an impassioned, 5,000-word letter on one of the country's most popular Internet bulletin boards from a husband denouncing a college student he suspected of having an affair with his wife. Immediately, hundreds joined in the attack.
"Let's use our keyboard and mouse in our hands as weapons," one person wrote, "to chop off the heads of these adulterers, to pay for the sacrifice of the husband."
I always thought the Internet would be great at bringing people together.
Within days, the hundreds had grown to thousands, and then tens of thousands, with total strangers forming teams that hunted down the student, hounded him out of his university and caused his family to barricade themselves inside their home.
It was just the latest example of a growing phenomenon the Chinese call Internet hunting, in which morality lessons are administered by online throngs and where anonymous Web users come together to investigate others and mete out punishment for offenses real and imagined. ...
The affair of the cuckolded husband first came to public attention in mid-April, after the man, who goes by the Web name Freezing Blade, discovered online correspondence between his wife, Quiet Moon, and a college student, Bronze Mustache.
Coincidentally, that's my porn name.
After an initial conversation, in which he forgave his wife, the man discovered messages on his wife's computer that confirmed to him that the liaison was continuing. He then posted the letter denouncing Bronze Mustache, and identifying him by his real name.
Which, oddly enough, is Hipster Goatee
The case exploded on April 20, when a bulletin board manifesto against Bronze Mustache was published by someone using the name Spring Azalea.
Can I just say for the record here that the Chinese have the best screen names?
"We call on every company, every establishment, every office, school, hospital, shopping mall and public street to reject him," it said. "Don't accept him, don't admit him, don't identify with him until he makes a satisfying and convincing repentance."
Impassioned people teamed up to uncover the student's address and telephone number, both of which were then posted online. Soon, people eager to denounce him showed up at his university and at his parents' house, forcing him to drop out of school and barricade himself with his family in their home.
Others denounced the university for not expelling him, with one poster saying it should be "bombed by Iranian missiles." Many others said the student should be beaten or beheaded, or that he and the married woman should be put in a "pig cage" and drowned.
I love how it's human nature, the world over, to get really, really worked up over the important stuff.
"Right from the beginning, every day there have been people calling and coming to our house, and we have all been very upset," said the student's father, who was interviewed by telephone but insisted that he not be identified by name, to avoid further harassment. "This is an awful thing, and the Internet companies should stop these attacks, but we haven't spoken with them. I wouldn't know whom to speak to."
In hopes of quieting the criticism, Bronze Mustache issued a six-minute online video denying any affair with Quiet Moon, whom he is said to have met at a gathering of enthusiasts of the online game World of Warcraft. At the same time, Freezing Blade has twice asked people to call off the attacks, even joining in the denials of an affair--all to no avail.
World of Warcraft? They're both video-game nerds???
At its height, the Bronze Mustache case accounted for huge traffic increases on China's Internet bulletin boards, including a nearly 10 percent increase in daily traffic on Tianya, the bulletin board with the most users. ...
Zhan Jiang, a professor of journalism at China Youth University of Political Science, in Beijing, said: "As freedom of expression is not well protected here, we have to choose the lighter of two evils. The minority who are hurting other people in such cases should be prevented, but this behavior should not disturb the majority's freedom of expression."
But there are obvious drawbacks to unfettered discussion, as the Bronze Mustache case illustrates. "What we Internet users are doing is fulfilling our social obligations," said one man who posted a lengthy attack on the college student and his alleged affair. "We cannot let our society fall into such a low state."
Asked how he would react if people began publishing online allegations about his private life, he answered, "I believe strongly in the traditional saying that if you've done nothing wrong, you don't fear the knock on your door at midnight."
In related news, Mr. Anonymous will soon join the U.S. Department of Justice in a high-ranking post.