Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oh So Sensitive

This might be old news. When talking about Shangfang, a Beijing University Professor and scholar claims that 90 percent of those repetitive shangfang people are psychologically paranoid. Shangfang is a Chinese word, meaning skipping local judiciary and seeking justice from a higher authority, usually in Beijing. His claim stirs a big commotion.

If you've used Baidu Tiebar, an easy to access forum that is associated with the Chinese search engine, you have probably encountered its "sensitiveness". "Protest" (抗议)obviously is a sensitive word, along with "government" (政府), while complaint (控诉) is ok. Baidu self-imposed so many sensitive words that it's difficult to carry out a normal conversation without using some acronym. Although using sensitive words doesn't mean you can't post them, it means the post needs "editor review" before it can go through, at some point, you just say: f..k this and give up.

Modern technology actually acerbate the censorship problem. When the human were in control, at least they would decipher the true meaning of your message. "Language crime", although egregious, was actually rare. Machine intelligence on the other hand can't differentiate between you protesting someone doesn't blow you a kiss, or protesting some social cause. It makes online communication so much more difficult. True, Baidu might be the biggest offender when it comes to sensitive words censorship, there are many more influential liberal sites out there. But I see this self imposing trend spread to others, like Douban.

In such an environment, it's pretty much given that you are a bit paranoid or compulsive if you insist getting your message through by jumping through all the hoops.

That brings us back to that claim about repetitive shangfang persons. It may well be true that many of those repetitive shangfang-ers are a bit psychologically compulsive. If that Beijing U scholar has any academic credential, I should give him some benefit of doubt. But the question we really should be asking is: what makes them compulsively wanting to skip the local judiciary. What's the injustice that makes them paranoid?

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