There is a mythical, llama-like creature sweeping the internet in China. This creature, which is very brave and strong, is attempting to prevent the decimation of its fertile, grassy mounds from the dangerous river crab.
This creature is the grass-mud horse, which in Chinese apparently sounds like something you would hear a drunk man yell on an especially rowdy night at Hooter’s. (This video explains it pretty well.) “River crab,” when translated into Chinese, apparently sounds like “harmony,” a word utilized by Chinese internet users to mean “censorship.”
I first read about this last night right before going to bed. Distracted by a pretty messed up dream about the end of the world and an Israeli refugee camp based in a trailer park (“Peter, you are my tornado”), I forgot about it until this morning, when I checked Twitter as soon as my eyes were open. The New York Times had posted an article describing the phenomenon in detail.
The fad is not just some passing craze: it’s a statement against censorship, a stand for free speech. I think it’s wonderful and brilliant. The explaining video (see above link) is fantastically funny, if you don’t mind profanity. But hey, that’s the point right? According to the NY Times article, there are grass-mud horse toys for sale in Chinese shops, scholars are writing lengthy essays on the subject and liberal Chinese bloggers are rejoicing.
An article from China Digital Times reported in February on a corrupt government official who was accepting bribes. We hear this in America, so you’re probably thinking, “Oh, SSDD.” The real difference between this corrupt official and ours is:
a) we don’t have internet police and
b) if we did, we would hopefully keep a better eye on the head honcho.
Internet policing is a big-deal form of censorship in China, employing more than 30,000 officers for just this purpose as of 2006 according to an article in USA Today that I found in my research/meanderings. It’s difficult for me to think about the government overtly monitoring all of my actions when on the internet. I’m sure it’s pretty tough for the Chinese people to swallow as well, which is why they have begun a virtual war with this llamathing. It’s rough enough knowing that every time I take out a book at the library, it may come back to haunt me; luckily, I haven’t withdrawn a book since high school, when I took out The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil. Before that it was just assorted ghost stories, Stephen King and R.L. Stine books, tales of alien abductions and the occasional educational fare.
This all is making me feel a bit stupid. I like to consider myself pretty well-read on current events, wanting to be in journalism and all. The fact that I knew so little about China’s censorship policies worries me … so now I’m off to surf for more tidbits I never knew, and probably don’t really need to know.