Category Archives: Media

Kevin Rudd 18th Friendliest Person on Twitter

SPOILER ALERT: This post has nothing to do with China, or anything of any global significance. Unless you think the meaning of the universe is globally significant. OK, there’s no discussion of the meaning of the universe either…

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On a very regular basis, I think of trivial questions that I would love to know the answer to. On a less regular basis, I expend some little time and energy actually looking for an answer to those questions. On the odd occasion, I find an answer that is interesting enough to make a mental note of or actually tell someone about.

Recently I was wondering, who has the most followers on Twitter?

As with many trivial questions, the Internet provides encyclopaedic and hotly contested fora in which one can browse ad nauseam for skerricks of intelligible prose that seem vaguely plausible and maybe, just maybe, weren’t written by a sweat-sticky middle-aged man with corn kernels in his beard hitting ‘Refresh’, with the single-mindedness of a South Korean gamer, on ‘Yahoo! Answers’ at 2:30am.

Indeed, Yahoo! Answers seems at once to be an information-sharing website for the trivially inclined and an e-stage for a richly charactered absurdist black comedy in which each user plays his or her connected but ultimately deeply isolating role. Allow me to illustrate with some questions posted to the website today in the space of sixty seconds:

Teddy: “I need a hardshell case for my Fender Malibu CE. Help?”
TMD: “What do you think about Indian people?”
Kyle: “What is your favourite medium action fishing rod and reel combo?”
Rebecca: “Does Justin Bieber have Facebook?”
Beth: “Why do I keep getting a blister around my conch piercing?”
The Stereotype: “Why are there a lot of short people in mythology?”
Stella: “Is my face oval, long, or oblong?”
Juan: “Is it gay if I check out guys?”
Jill: “Pisces male and Libra female?”
Rihanna: “I need new friends!! Please help?”

My heart is rent into pieces by Rihanna’s desperation. I am shattered by Kyle’s plea for companionship from the lonely depths of technical expertise. I am on my knees with wonderment as Stella self-referentially draws our attention to the ever-evolving connection of signifier and signified, prompting us to ask ourselves, “What is oval?”, “What is long?”, What is oblong?”. I am gobsmacked as The Stereotype forces us to examine our own views of reality, furrow our brows and ask, “Can a construction of allegory, nay, let us be frank, a fictional character, be short or tall? In what units does one measure the stature of the gods?”. I am genuinely unsure of why Beth has pierced her mollusc shell and what metaphorical depths she is plumbing in her lament…

…Where was I? Oh, yes, who has the most followers on Twitter?

Thankfully, I didn’t need to spend any time being addled by the profound ramifications of ‘Yahoo! Answers’ to answer this question. Someone conveniently made a whole website or two to cater to my musings.

To do away with my initial inquiry so as to free the mind for more revelations yet to come, it turns out that the super-mega-star Lady Gaga holds top spot on the followers leaderboard, her every twiccup being immediately transmitted to no less than 9,436,152 Twitter users. In bieberish pursuit comes none other than Justin himself, only 520,000 followers behind and out-tweeting Lady Gaga each and every day. Taking out third and fourth in a near tie is the two-piece cultural tour de force of 21st-century America, Barack and Britney. After which, it’s all American celebs for the rest of the top 10: Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres, Taylor Swift, and Oprah Winfrey. We could say a number of deep and insightful things about this top 10 but you can do that for yourself I’m sure.

What really grabbed me is that Australia’s very own Kevin Rudd has staked his own claim to Twitter fame. It’s not how many followers he has (though on that count the Foreign Minister chalks up a respectable 392nd place), nor the fact that he remains (correct me if I’m wrong) the most followed Australian tweeter (yes, even more listeners than Hugh Jackman), but that he actually follows the 18th most people amongst all of Twitter’s millions of users. Ear ever straining to the voices of the Australian public, @KRuddMP follows a hefty 268,050 other users. Wow. What a dude.

Not really sure of how to conclude yet another piece of public-interest analytical gold here at The China Line, I would simply like to note that the incorrect pronunciation of the term utmost as upmost has really been getting on my nerves of late. I feel a public awareness campaign is long overdue.

***It should be noted that while Kevie has more followers than Hugh Jackman by a good 200,000 or so, Jackman finds it unnecessary to follow any more than 31 people himself. He’s just that badass***

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Misleading Headline of the Day: Ai Weiwei Off to Labour Camp

Every now and then, a truly misrepresentative news headline catches the eye. You scroll down the news website in question, catch something that would seem to be ‘breaking’ or important, gasp audibly, and open the article only to find that the truth of the matter is quite different to what the dramatic header would have you believe.

I experienced just such an emotional rollercoaster ride today thanks to The Australian. It went something like this.

I opened up the homepage of The Australian, as I tend to do once a day or so here in Beijing just to see what particular episode of political mud-slinging I might be missing back home. My eyes ran down the “Breaking News” section of the page and widened when they came across this headline: “Chinese activists including artist Ai Weiwei, sent to labour camps”. Ai Weiwei, king of political detainees, off to a Chinese gulag? Just days after his disappearance? Without so much as the illusion of a trial or a charge? The horror, the impending diplomatic crisis, the protestors on the streets!

Click.

My eyes snuffled down the page like a pair of well-trained truffle pigs. Important details leapt out – “two activists to labour camps”, “charged a veteran dissident”, “Hua Chunhui and Wei Qiang”, “Zhu Yufu, 59, was formally charged”, “at least 18 including artist Ai Weiwei have ‘disappeared’ into police custody”, “foreign ministry has said Ai is under investigation”. I read through once more. 2 activists + 1 veteran dissident = 3 people named in the article. Hang on, where does Ai Weiwei come into this? Well, he’s mentioned of course. What piece of journalism would not mention the man in reporting upon such matters at this time? He’s an icon for events occurring in China as we speak. But is he in a labour camp? Let’s use the mysterious power of logic to find out.

The headline tells me this: More than one Chinese activist has been sent to a labour camp. One of those activists is DEFINITELY Ai Weiwei.

The body of the article tells me this: Hua Chunhui and Wei Qiang, two Chinese activists, have been sentenced without trial to “re-education through labour”. Another dissident, Zhu Yufu, has been charged with inciting subversion. At least 18 activists have been picked up and are in police custody. One of that at least 18 is Ai Weiwei. China’s foreign ministry claims Ai Weiwei is under investigation for “economic crimes”. We have no bloody idea where Ai Weiwei is.

I scrolled back up to the by-line. AFP. An Agence France-Presse wire service piece. I grabbed a few lines of text and chucked them into Google. A few pages of results came back, all of which were exactly the same story, word for word, re-published by various newspapers and online news providers, in Australia and around the Asia-Pacific. This is to be expected of course, it being an AFP product. The Australian was (predictably) joined by its News Limited brethren, including the Courier Mail and Herald Sun, in badging the article with its own brand of misleading headline.

However, no other websites that came up in my search used that title. Other publications almost universally used “‘Jasmine’ activists in China labour camp: group” (see here, here and here). Does this suggest that this may have been the original header provided by AFP? I don’t know. What editorial fancy might have prompted someone at News Limited (probably news.com.au, I’m guessing, considering all stories were published on the News Limited sites at exactly the same time) to select that particular incorrect header for the article’s publication on their websites? A misreading of the content is certainly possible but it’s an appalling oversight nonetheless.

To assure myself that we are absolutely none the wiser as to Ai Weiwei’s whereabouts, I went to the source of the news itself: a statement from the Chinese Human Rights Defenders that is specifically attributed in the article. Unfortunately, I got confounded by the Chinese firewall (despite my best efforts). Maybe you can check it out for yourself and let me know. At the very least, the Chinese authorities still don’t want to me to know what Ai is up to.

In sum, I think we can all sleep easy for a little while yet, despite the bold assurances of The Australian and others at News Limited, safe in the knowledge that we haven’t got the foggiest where Ai Weiwei is and nor, presumably, does anybody else.

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