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Surviving Online Censorship in China: Three Satirical Tactics and their Impact

  • Siu-yau Lee (a1)

What accounts for online satirical campaigns that survive censorship in China where the state has formidable power to censor and manipulate online communication? Through comparative case studies of three attempts to challenge the policies or malpractices of the Chinese state in 2009, this article explains how different satirical tactics can influence the outcomes of online activism. It argues that online satirical campaigns are most likely to survive when activists adopt the tactic of “parodic satire,” whereby activists mimic a specific practice of the state and skilfully transplant it to other contexts. Since the language used by the activists resembles that of the powerful, the tactic allows netizens to exaggerate the internal contradictions of the policies or practices concerned without creating an easily identifiable symbol of resistance in the process. This tactic not only increases the cost to the state of censoring critical messages, but also restrains activists from extending their criticisms of the original subject to other areas. As a result, it increases the chance for the activists to exert insistent pressure on the state.

为何某些讽刺政府官员或政策的网络群众运动能避过中国严密的网络审查? 透过比较三个针对政府的讽刺运动, 本文厘清不同网络讽刺手法的分别, 并指出 “戏仿式讽刺” 最有可能在网络审查下生存。戏仿者往往只是把其讽刺对象 (即政府) 的语言或做法有技巧地复制到其他语境以凸显其矛盾之处, 过程中不会产生一个明显的反抗符号。此策略不但增加政府网络审查的成本, 同时亦防止其他参与戏仿者把运动的批判范围不断扩大, 因而较其他讽刺手法更能提高运动对政府持续施压的机会。

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