美联社:中国博客写手夸大反美事实吸引粉丝

(作者:Didi Tang,翻译:方舟子)

  亲爱的中国读者,你还认为美国梦盖过了中国梦吗?

  嘿,看看周小平的博客,你将学到在美国你将会不得不一年支付3500美元买汽车强险,买一辆低端国产车要花30000美元,以及在多数公立学校,超过一半的学生不能毕业。

  所有这些数字都是错得离谱。甚至中国宣传官员也承认周小平出错。但是在过去的18个月北京搞运动反对所谓网上错误信息、清除网上批评评论和逮捕数十名博客写手的同时,共产党拥抱了周。

  这个月早先时候,他在一次罕见的文艺会议上与习近平主席握手,当时这名33岁博客写手与中国小说家、诺贝尔文学奖获得者莫言坐在一起。周在其博客说习告诉他继续在网上传播“正能量”。

  中国古板的官方媒体在试图突出西方国家的阴暗面时通常很失败,但是周的做法更为成功:他的微博有50多万粉丝,共产党的网站和报纸发表他的文章。他熟练地使用时髦的网络语言,包括把他的读者叫做“亲”。

  但是他的文章引来了怀疑者的批评,他们说他歪曲事实和误导读者,这让官方推崇他的努力有事与愿违的危险。

  “像周这样的人在帮助政权引导舆论方面发挥了作用,”芝加哥大学政治科学家杨大力说。“但是他很没有说服力,有损政权的形象。”

  美国低端汽车的价格不到周声称的一半。他关于车险的说法更是夸大其词。大约80%的美国公立学校学生从高中毕业――而不是不到50%。

  中国著名的揭假者方是民写了一篇文章逐条反驳周关于美国的说法。但它很快被从中国互联网上清除,方自己的博客和微博帐号也被关闭。

  中国宣传官员辩称,尽管受到批评,但保护周的言论自由很重要。

  “周小平的文章,尽管带着很多瑕疵,但是其能够发声,这本身就是一种言论自由的征兆。”由中宣部及其精神文明建设办公室主办的一个政府网站贴出的文章声称。“文章的观点,其正确与否可以拿出来分析和辩论。”

  在中国,严密的审查一直在清除互联网上对共产党领导的政府的批评,封杀异议的声音。党寻求控制网上信息,在这个国家的13亿人民越来越与世界的其他部分接轨的时候,这个任务非常艰巨。

  由于担心公众会向西方取经寻求可能的社会变化,官方媒体把暴露西方社会的短处作为主要内容,但是由于使用生硬的语言以及媒体在公众中普遍缺乏信誉,他们通常未能获得关注。

  去年,官方报纸《人民日报》推出“不诚实的美国人”系列,其中的故事包括纽约市一个锁匠为了换两把锁索要800美元。许多读者对这个系列嗤之以鼻,认为其不公平和歧视性。

  正面评价美国的帖子在中国互联网及其社交媒体通常传播得更广,有些文章过分地赞扬美国及其社会政治制度。例如,这中国读者众多的几个帖子声称美国的医保是每个人都负担得起的。

  然后就来了周小平,他在他的博客上说他需要唤醒“被社交媒体催眠和被杂志、报纸、畅销书腐化”的中国同胞。

  周没有回应采访的要求。

  周出生于四川省一个贫困家庭,他写道,在参军和做了其他工作之后,他成为一名企业家,从事出版和文化展览方面的工作。他说他的收入增加了10倍,他和“许多许多中国人一样得益于中国快速的经济发展。”

  在反击中国官员腐败的批评时,周写道,“美国绝不是天堂”,并引用一个没有根据的指控,说以前有个美国驻华大使曾经包机去追求女性。

  他暗示美国白宫也存在腐败,说奥巴马一家有一次为了吃一顿饭花了400万美元。这个数据显然来自新闻报道说奥巴马一家到夏威夷度假每次花费大约400万美元,大部分是因为第一家庭旅行时使用了空军一号飞机。

  周高度赞扬中国的成就,说其政治和社会毛病被大大夸大了。周指控美国是幕后黑手在传播谣言让人贬低中国政治制度、破坏公众对政府的信任并让中国人民感到穷困潦倒。

  周“对西方的批评总是吹毛求疵,对中国的赞扬则总是说瑕不掩瑜,”独立作家张文发表在香港东方报业集团主办的一个新闻网站上的一篇文章中说。“他用来当论据的事实和数字常常是夸大或以偏概全的,有些则纯粹就是垃圾。”

  张说北京当局选择忽视周的错误信息,因为他的博客有助于说服更多的人站在政府一边并反对西方。他补充说,它看上有效果。

  “一个原因是许多读者没能力判断,另一个原因是周文章中强烈的民族主义论调对许多普通中国人有号召力,”张说。

Oct. 28, 2014 4:13 AM ET

Blogger’s sketchy anti-US facts draw fans in China

By DIDI TANG, Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) ― So, dear Chinese reader, you still think the American Dream eclipses the Chinese one?

Well, take a look at Zhou Xiaoping’s blogs and learn that in the U.S. you would have to shell out $3,500 in mandatory car insurance a year and spend $30,000 for a low-end domestic car, and that more than half of the kids in most public schools don’t graduate.

All those numbers are way off. Even Chinese propaganda officials agree he makes mistakes. But while Beijing campaigns against what it calls online misinformation, erasing critical online comments and arresting dozens of bloggers over the past 18 months, the Communist Party has embraced Zhou.

He shook hands with President Xi Jinping earlier this month in a rare literature and arts meeting, where the 33-year-old blogger sat along with Chinese novelist and Nobel literature laureate Mo Yan. Zhou said in his blog that Xi told him to keep spreading “positive energy on the Internet.”

China’s stodgy state-run media often fall flat as they try to portray the West in an unflattering light, but Zhou’s approach has been more successful: His microblog has more than 500,000 followers, and party websites and newspapers have carried his articles. He deftly uses trendy online slang, including calling his readers “dear” with an abbreviated version of the Chinese phrase.

But his posts have drawn criticism from skeptics who say he distorts and misleads, raising the risk that official efforts to glorify him may backfire.

“People like Zhou play a role in helping the regime in guiding public opinion,” said Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. “But he is so unconvincing that it has reflected badly on the regime.”

Low-end cars in the U.S. cost less than half what Zhou contends. His claims about car insurance are even more exaggerated. And about 80 percent of American public school students graduate high school ― not less than 50 percent.

Fang Shimin, a well-known Chinese debunker, wrote an article that refutes some of Zhou’s claims about America point by point. But it was quickly scrubbed from the Chinese Internet, and Fang’s own blog and microblog accounts were shut down.

Chinese propaganda officials have argued that it is important to safeguard Zhou’s free speech despite the criticism.

“Even though there are many blemishes in Zhou Xiaoping’s articles, it is a harbinger for free speech when he can speak up,” a statement posted on a government website run by the party’s central propaganda department and its central office for building and guiding spiritual civilization. “We can always analyze and debate whether the viewpoints are correct or not.”

Tight censorship in China constantly scrubs criticism of the Communist Party-run government from the Internet and silences dissenting voices. The party seeks to control the remaining online message, a daunting task when the country’s 1.3 billion people are increasingly connected to the rest of the world.

Wary the public will look to the West for possible social changes, state-run media outlets have made a staple of articles exposing the shortcomings of Western societies, but they often fail to gain traction because of stiff language and the media’s general lack of credibility among the public.

Last year, the party-run People’s Daily introduced the “Dishonest Americans” series, with stories including a New York City locksmith who demanded $800 for changing two locks. Many readers sneered at the series as unfair and discriminatory.

Favorable postings about the United States often get circulated more widely on China’s Internet and in its social media, with some articles going overboard in praising America and its social and political system. For example, several widely viewed posts in China suggest that health care in the U.S. is affordable to everyone.

Then came Zhou, who said in his blogs that he needed to awaken his fellow Chinese “hypnotized by social media and corrupted by magazines, newspapers and best-sellers.”

Zhou did not respond to a request for an interview.

Born into a poor family in Sichuan province, Zhou has written that after time in the military and other jobs, he became an entrepreneur involved in publishing and production of cultural exhibitions. He said his income increased ten-fold and that he joined the “many, many Chinese people like me who have benefited from China’s rapid economic development.”

Fending off criticism that Chinese officials are corrupt, Zhou wrote that “the U.S. is by no means a paradise” and cited an unfounded allegation that a former U.S. ambassador to China chartered planes to engage in womanizing.

He implied there was corruption in the White House by saying that the Obama family once spent $4 million on a single meal. The figure apparently comes from news reports that Obama family vacations in Hawaii cost about $4 million each time, largely because of the use of the Air Force One plane in which the first family travels.

Zhou extols China’s achievements while saying its political and social ills have been blown out of proportion. Zhou calls America a black hand in spreading rumors to disparage China’s political system, dismantle public trust in the government and make the Chinese people feel deprived.

Zhou’s “criticism against the West is always nitpicking, and the praise for China is always that small blemishes do not take away its beauty and virtue,” independent writer Zhang Wen wrote in an article published on a news site by the Hong Kong-based Oriental Press Group Ltd. “The facts and figures used for arguments are often inflated or partial, and some are sheer rubbish.”

Zhang said Beijing chooses to overlook Zhou’s misinformation because his blog can help persuade more people to side with the government and oppose the West. He added that it appears to be working.

“One reason is that many readers are not in a position to judge, and another is that the strong nationalist tone in Zhou’s articles has appealed to many ordinary Chinese,” Zhang said.

(XYS20141109)

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