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Human flesh search engines in China.
March 16, 2010 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Human flesh search engines in China. Sometimes it's cute. Mostly it's not.

The NYT Magazine covers China's "Human flesh search engines"--internet vigilantism which targets everything from government corruption, to individuals who offend social norms. There are those who worry the Chinese government may try to turn the tables. Part 1 of a documentary on the phenomena.
posted by availablelight (45 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
So the Chinese finally discovered 4chan!
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:40 PM on March 16, 2010


4chan is a clone of the Japanese site 2ch.
posted by delmoi at 6:46 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually [from the damn article], unlike 4chan, it's a mainstream phenomena, not marginalized to a subset of users heavily dominated by teenaged boys--and remarkable for how unfettered it is by any government oversight, given that it's, well, China:

FOR A WESTERNER, what is most striking is how different Chinese Internet culture is from our own. News sites and individual blogs aren’t nearly as influential in China, and social networking hasn’t really taken off. What remain most vital are the largely anonymous online forums, where human-flesh searches begin. These forums have evolved into public spaces that are much more participatory, dynamic, populist and perhaps even democratic than anything on the English-language Internet.
posted by availablelight at 6:47 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


4chan is a clone of the Japanese site 2ch

Actually 4chan is a clone of Futaba Channel which is a clone of 2channel.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:48 PM on March 16, 2010


Oh those irascible Chinese. So many, so yellow, so strange, so unlike us.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:48 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


> Oh those irascible Chinese.
> So many, so yellow, so strange, so unlike us.

notsureifserious.jpg
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:49 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!

Sorry, don't know what came over me there.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:50 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow, y'all read through articles so much faster than I can, before trolling for favorites. Off for a hamburger.
posted by availablelight at 6:50 PM on March 16, 2010


So how is this different than Dogshit Girl and Angry Beard Man? Or Craigslist pranking? What makes this uniquely Chinese?
posted by KokuRyu at 6:51 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Btw, if you're curious about the Chinese internet scene check out Chinasmack, which takes Chinese net memes and discussion topics and writes English-language articles about them. Apparently they're pissed off that Avatar lost to the The Hurt Locker
posted by delmoi at 6:53 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Cruelty is cruel.

China needs more of their own philosophers and such people that will help them navigate the complexities of life. Ohwaitnevermind.
posted by polymodus at 6:55 PM on March 16, 2010


I love ChinaSmack. One awesome fact I learned there is that the Chinese word for "river crab" sounds almost exactly like the word for "harmonious society", which is a term the government uses in propaganda constantly, so when Chinese users want to talk about the government on the sly, they slip the word "river crab" into the sentence. I don't know how this can be any kind of secret if I know about it, but it's still cool.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:56 PM on March 16, 2010


Angry Populist Mob is populist, angry.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:13 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Google appears to drop censorship in China: Internet giant denies change, but famous ‘Tank Man’ picture now accessible
posted by homunculus at 7:30 PM on March 16, 2010



Yeah, this is old news really for those that follow the Internet scene in China. I came on here because I wanted to give you guys the link to China smack. Apparently you guys are really fast! because two people beat me to it.

If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty either spend a few years learning Chinese or go check out the aforementioned China smack. They really do a good job translating the whole situation and they also include users comments that they have translated. obviously, like most things Internet like to focus on the risqué. See the example below:

http://www.chinasmack.com/stories/guangxi-government-official-sex-diary/
posted by chinabound at 7:32 PM on March 16, 2010


Oh those irascible Chinese. So many, so yellow, so strange, so unlike us.

Men of Asia! Go, conquer and breed! Kill the white man and take his women!
posted by FuManchu at 7:36 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Google appears to drop censorship in China: Internet giant denies change, but famous ‘Tank Man’ picture now accessible

It was always 'accessible' via Google if you search with English search terms, even before the whole controversy
posted by delmoi at 7:39 PM on March 16, 2010


坦克人 produces the results now, too, delmoi. Other '89 Tiananmen searches are still blocked. Digicha caught a few minutes where those were accessible. It's been flighty around these announcements, but nothing seems to stay for long.
posted by FuManchu at 7:49 PM on March 16, 2010


It's nice that Chinese people can find the Tank Man image on Google now, but of course they would have to know it exists before they would think to search for it.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:59 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm just here to get soy sauce.
posted by heyho at 8:02 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's surprising is that no one knows that the video they talk about - stepping on the cat - is a fake video. The cat is dead when she puts it under her foot.
posted by leafxor at 8:05 PM on March 16, 2010


MeFi观光团
posted by msittig at 8:24 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


leafxor, I am certainly NOT going to go searching for the video or any discussion of it, but the automatic "it's fake!" response doesn't seem likely. If you and at least one other person (the cameraman) are sufficiently bent enough to be involved in making a video about crushing a kitten under a woman's high heels, are you more likely to carefully and humanely kill the kitten before faking the crushing footage, or to just crush the kitten?
posted by yhbc at 8:26 PM on March 16, 2010


Human flesh search engines

You know, they used to be called "lynch mobs."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:35 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


If you and at least one other person (the cameraman) are sufficiently bent enough to be involved in making a video about crushing a kitten under a woman's high heels, are you more likely to carefully and humanely kill the kitten before faking the crushing footage, or to just crush the kitten?

They might just do that for convenience's sake, but either way, it's still crush porn in which a cat was killed. "Fake" would be if the cat was just a stuffed toy or some sort of Chris Cunningham-esque simulacrum.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:57 PM on March 16, 2010


> Human flesh search engines

You know, they used to be called "lynch mobs."


Either that, or "dating web sites".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:27 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, fortunately we don't do any of that sort of thing around here.
posted by dhartung at 9:45 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


MeFi观光团
围观msittig。他知道得太多,该受群众监督。
posted by Abiezer at 10:19 PM on March 16, 2010


"The Internet can gather power from the people." <--truth. the internet is a powerful thing. yay metafilter!

btw, haven't read a good article in a while. thanks for this post.
posted by crystalsparks at 10:41 PM on March 16, 2010


There's something about the term "human flesh search engine" that just weirds me the hell out. I love the Cronenbergian connotations (obviously), but there's something about referring to a bunch of living people as "human flesh" that sounds wrong and dehumanizing to me.

I realize that's sort of the point, but still... this -> heebie-jeebies.
posted by brundlefly at 10:42 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


in b4 PLA is not your personal army
posted by infinitewindow at 10:55 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


背着洋娃娃飘过
posted by fatehunter at 11:10 PM on March 16, 2010


It must be pointed out that phenomenON is the singular form, phenomenA is the plural. A phenomenon here, a phenomenon there, and pretty soon you're talking about real phenomena.

I don't know how it works in Chinese, however.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:59 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's something about the term "human flesh search engine" that just weirds me the hell out

Is it, in fact, one of those poor, over-literal translations that sometimes make foreigners seem weirder than they really are?
posted by Phanx at 2:23 AM on March 17, 2010


I was thinking about that Phanx; my sense is it really does seem as stark in Chinese as in translation, although of course a few connotations are lost. It's a four character construct: 人肉搜索; the first two characters are the 'human flesh' part, and the term is used in old horror stories of things like inns that sold steamed dumplings filled with the flesh of murdered travellers that crop up in collections of tales dating back hundreds of years, for example Tao Zongyi's late Yuan/early Ming Nancun Chuogeng Lu (南村輟耕錄 - Nancun's Record Written After Retiring to Farm) or the famous bandit novel The Water Margin/Outlaws of the Marsh. Just been looking it up and in the title of Chapter 27 of the latter you have: 母夜叉孟州道卖人肉 as this is the bit of the story where hero Wu Song stops at a inn where they treat unfortunate guests in the manner outlined above.
posted by Abiezer at 3:55 AM on March 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Just came in to confirm that Google's CN result for 'tank man' in GIS is unfiltered; 1st page for 'tiananmen square' had images of protesters lying dead over bicycles. I don't know if I buy their excuse that something 'just broke' coincidentally yesterday, but then again maybe someone's trying to make them look bad. Either way, good stuff.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:02 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's something about the term "human flesh search engine" that just weirds me the hell out

Is it, in fact, one of those poor, over-literal translations that sometimes make foreigners seem weirder than they really are?


Definitely. The Times article was full of those: “We should take revenge on that couple and drown them in our sputa.”

Really? "Sputa"? In that context, I doubt the speaker was using correct medical terminology. The colloquial "spit" probably would work better, and if it was an idiom, then the translation should find the nearest English idiom instead.

I imagine the English colloquial for the term translated as "human flesh search engine" would be "human-powered search engine", but if we wanted to retain the certain double-entendre, "warm-body search engine" might work. Either way, the implications of the word "flesh" in colloquial English make it a poor choice of word for translation.
posted by explosion at 4:09 AM on March 17, 2010


On the Media interviews Tom Downey re: Internet Search Engines
posted by orville sash at 5:02 AM on March 17, 2010


More than any questionable translations, I am appalled -- appalled -- to find a grocer's apostrophe in the New York Times. BBS's. Ye gods.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:23 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it, in fact, one of those poor, over-literal translations that sometimes make foreigners seem weirder than they really are?

Good point. Actually, when I first heard about this on On The Media it wasn't made clear whether it was a term translated from the Chinese or made up by Western journalists. It would have been pretty screwed up if it had turned out to be the later.

Also, is this a search engine that is powered by human flesh (as explosion suggests) or a search engine that searches FOR human flesh -- in the zombie sense or "The Merchant of Venice" sense?
posted by brundlefly at 8:31 AM on March 17, 2010


Human flesh search engines

I can't be the only one to think this was referring to a Chinese OkCupid before the [more inside].
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:02 AM on March 17, 2010


An obvious idiomatic translation would be 'Meatspace search'
posted by delmoi at 1:43 PM on March 17, 2010


Right or wrong I think the translation sounds awesome in a scary sort of way.

I also enjoyed the threats "If you ever meet these two, tear their skin off." and "We should take revenge on that couple and drown them in our sputa." I think there was another one in there about chopping someone into "10,000 pieces".

Thats the classic, old-world style type of threat you just don't hear anymore.

And despite Human Flesh Searches sounding a bit scary I'm pretty glad that they punished the scum who did that kitten crushing video. I saw it by accident when some asshole in an online game I was playing was using it as their forum avatar and it really upset me.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 10:50 AM on March 18, 2010


Nyarlathotep: While I agree with you, it makes me smile that someone with your nickname would say such a thing. Evil diety, me arse!
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 3:10 PM on March 18, 2010


"I remember when Nyarlathotep came to my city the great, the old, the terrible city of unnumbered -- oh my God. DON'T DO THAT TO THE POOR KITTEH!"
posted by brundlefly at 3:16 PM on March 18, 2010


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