The vile state of Internet discourse knows no borders

The online reaction to a Chinese Olympic torch-bearer who dared criticize a boycott of a French supermarket chain? Burn her, stone her, she's a witch!

By Andrew Leonard

Published April 21, 2008 9:32PM (EDT)

As of February, China boasts more Internet users than the United States. But as anyone familiar with the vile state of online discourse -- in any language -- knows, an increase in the number of contributors to online bulletin boards and discussion forums is not necessarily a boon to society. In this respect, Chinese and Americans are more alike than they are different.

China Digital Times provides the latest evidence for this sorry state of affairs, noting that Jin Jing, the disabled Olympic torch bearer who became an instant hero in China for her efforts to protect the torch during heated protests in Paris, is now suddenly on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse.

Her crime? Suggesting that a Chinese boycott of the French supermarket chain Carrefour was ill-advised, because the victims of such a boycott would include the Chinese employees of Carrefour.

Cue the online hatred:

Netizen from Dalian: "This c*nt's attitude is the same one the Qing rulers had after the Eight Allied Forces came. What was the result then? Are you capable of representing the Great Han Race? Do you what you're supposed to do!"

The Eight Allied Forces comment is a reference to the end of the Boxer Rebellion in 1901, when the expeditionary forces of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States put down the rebels, burned Beijing's Summer Palace to the ground, and forced the Qing government to sign the punitive Protocol of 1901. So: Nationalism, racism, and misogyny, to the tune of historical grievances simmering for more than a century. English-language online haters better get busy -- a new standard is being set.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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