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Comment Icon0 Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon had elaborated on this point about China’s complicated culture. There appears to be equilibrium, since for every push the government makes, an equal push is made from netizens opposed to the intrusion of censorship. Talented netizens started developing sophisticated satire as a means to counter government encroachment and spread awareness of their influence in the online realm. Some culturally-absurd products have included a harmonious image of a “river crab dressed in three watches” as well as the “Song of the Grass-Mud Horse”.

Comment Icon0 According to the New York Times, “The Grass-Mud Horse” is a mythical creature whose name in Chinese, “Cao Ni Ma”, sounds like “fuck your mother”. As the story goes, these horses face a problem of invading river crabs that are devouring their grassland. In spoken Chinese, “river crab” sounds very much like “harmony”, which in the Chinese cyberspace has become a synonym for “censorship”. Censored bloggers often say their posts have been harmonized, a term directly derived from President Hu Jintao’s regular exhortation for Chinese citizens to create a harmonious society (Wines, 2009). While grass-mud horse sounds like a nasty curse in Chinese, the written Chinese characters are completely different, and its meaning is benign when taken literally. Thus, the ‘beast’ has dodged the Chinese government’s efforts to censor information over the Internet that is seditious or inflammatory. Xiao Qiang, an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, said that the grass-mud horse is an icon of resistance to censorship. As seen in Figure 28, this “Cao Ni Ma” music video is a cleverly-vulgar rhetoric on how Chinese netizens will always find a way around online censorship, particularly when a push turns into a shove.

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Comment Icon0 Figure 28: Netizen produced “Grass-Mud Horses” music video on

Chapter 8.3 – Rhetorical Sophistication of Netizens


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