The Thai fenqing
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The Thai fenqing

With the recent “outrage” online over CNN’s “biased” reporting in favour of the red shirts, we have seen a number of online Facebook groups form to oppose CNN and frequent criticisms online of CNN and to a lesser extent other foreign media outlets. An established China hand points to the existence of ‘fenqing’ in China. Frogville has a widely linked definition. Key excerpts:

忿青 fen qing * – “angry youth” – is the term given to Chinese Netizens of a self-righteous and aggressively nationalist tendency. They are mostly young males with nothing better to do with their time than hang out online. They infest the blogs and bulletin boards of the Chinese Internet. And some of the ones with slightly better foreign language skills stalk the foreign China blogs, looking to pick a fight whenever somebody dares to make an observation that appears to be “critical” of China, or challenges the ‘orthodox view’ on hot topics such as – well, you know, “The Three T’s”. If you visit The Peking Duck, one of the most popular laowai China blogs, you will often find its comment threads overrun with these dingbats.
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I often refer to the fenqing phenomenon as the Chinese Communist Party’s ‘blowback’ from the years of propagandizing it subjects its children to during their schooling. The government occasionally seeks to exploit their hot-headed and xenophobic impulses by whipping up their indignation against a particular country to make a diplomatic point (in an exceedingly undiplomatic way!)…

In that dumb, nasty presentation you find all the classic characteristics of fenqing. The frequent resort to SHOUTY capitals and exclamation marks. The even more frequent resort to foul-mouthed invective. A staggering naivety and an atrophy of the capacity for analytical thought (this guy seems to believe that he can ‘prove’ the political status of Tibet at different points in history by showing us Chinese high school wallmaps!). Dodgy spelling, faulty logic, and even an ineptitude in arithmetic

ThinkWeird (a self-described reformed fenqing) also blogs:

Fenqing is someone who is usually below twenty years of age, though sometimes people who are at their twenties or older can also be identified as Fenqing. Though you can find the majority of Fenqing among high school and college students, age is not the most important feature. What really matters is their outlook of China and the world.
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/> * The Internet should be censured and any bad information, like the flies or mosquitoes outside the room, must be screened and filtered.
/>* CNN is evil because it lied, but it is fine for CCTV to modify the information to maintain the stability of the society.

The New Yorker also had a very long article by its China correspondent on the fenqing. From the opening:

The screen fills with the logos of CNN, the BBC, and other news organizations, which give way to a portrait of Joseph Goebbels. The orchestra and the rhetoric climb toward a final sequence…
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/>The video, which was just over six minutes long and is now on YouTube, captured the mood of nationalism that surged through China after the Tibetan uprising, in March, sparked foreign criticism of China’s hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Citizens were greeting the criticism with rare fury. Thousands demonstrated in front of Chinese outlets of Carrefour, a French supermarket chain, in retaliation for what they considered France’s sympathy for pro-Tibetan activists. Charles Zhang, who holds a Ph.D. from M.I.T. and is the founder and C.E.O. of Sohu, a leading Chinese Web portal along the lines of Yahoo, called online for a boycott of French products “to make the thoroughly biased French media and public feel losses and pain.” When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi denounced China’s handling of Tibet, Xinhua, China’s official news service, called her “disgusting.” State-run media revived language from another age: the magazine Outlook Weekly warned that “domestic and foreign hostile forces have made the Beijing Olympics a focus for infiltration and sabotage.” In the anonymity of the Web, decorum deteriorated. “People who fart through the mouth will get shit stuffed down their throats by me!” one commentator wrote, in a forum hosted by a semi-official newspaper. “Someone give me a gun! Don’t show mercy to the enemy!” wrote another. The comments were an embarrassment to many Chinese, but they were difficult to ignore among foreign journalists who had begun receiving threats. (An anonymous letter to my fax machine in Beijing warned, “Clarify the facts on China . . . or you and your loved ones will wish you were dead.”)

BP: CNN features a couple of times, but so does the foreign media. Clearly, Thailand and China are different countries, but aspects of this vitroil expressed online are not. There are a number of aspects of the fenqing which match what is happening in Thailand. Threats have been made against foreign journalists in Thailand in recent years and will no doubt continue in greater number now.

As said the other day, BP is perfectly willing to accept that CNN’s coverage of the red shirts is wrong, but these critiques of CNN rarely detail exactly what was wrong with CNN’s reporting. All we get is some form of repressed anger directed at CNN. The latest critique by Andrew Biggs in the Bangkok Post just continues this trend. Key excerpt:

But CNN has really upset me over the last two weeks and it’s not only an isolated news report. I have watched helplessly as Dan-somebody and the aptly-named Sara Snide – or is it Snider? – reporting breathlessly from the red shirt camp. Their new friends are freedom fighters battling the evil Thai government in the name of democracy. Bangkok is burning! Will good old-fashioned country folk triumph over the evil military? Will democracy survive? Back to you, Rosemary!
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For those of us who actually live in the country, as opposed to the drop-ins paying their dues before anchor positions in Atlanta, we know how flawed and dangerous that stance is. And how lazy.
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And so these under-educated, over-drunk guys from upcountry clutching grenades and guns are now heroes, thanks to Thaksin’s money and CNN’s worldwide reach. The worst thing is, when Americans (and my mother) start asking these questions, I find myself sounding like a government spokesperson. I don’t want to defend Abhisit; I’m not a government supporter. I’m a supporter of the democratic system, and to label these red guys democracy fighters is like labelling me the most handsome expat living in Thailand today.

BP: Is Andrew even aware that Dan Rivers has been based in Thailand since 2006? Facts are not that difficult to check. Not checking facts, wouldn’t that make one lazy as Andrew writes? Was going to make a point that he can’t get even get Sara Sidner’s name right, but he could be making a joke of her surname.

Then again, this supporter of the democratic system’s response to the coup was to state:

We are entering a new era in Thai politics. I like to think of it as the sun coming up after a very dark and stormy night. If it means the military had to come in to help that sun up, then so be it.

BP: And the military will help the situation?

btw, CNET has a story about “The online social ugliness of Thailand’s conflict”.