Celebrities vs fact-checkers

Michael Anti became famous after his Chinese blog was deleted by Microsoft in 2005. He now contributes regularly to debates revolving around Western multinationals in China and the impact of the internet on the world’s largest country.

He speaks here to Ethan Zuckerman, an employee at Harvard’s Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, on the web revolution in the Communist nation:

“We don’t need new media theory to explain blogs in China: blogs are old media,” Anti argues. “We had no media before 1996 – we had propoganda.” In propoganda, the party speaks to you – it’s exclusively one-way communication. The internet introduces the idea of bi-directoinal media, and creates media as we understand it for the first time in China in 1996.

“Time Magazine says ”˜You are the media’. It’s the opposite in China.” Media has become blogs. Sina.com – a massively important website, because it syndicates content from every newspaper in China – recruited bloggers to create content similar to the Huffington Post. “They’re not really blogs – they’re more like a column.” The rise of bloggy content on Sina brought two new things to the Chinese media world: Hollywood-style celebrity reporting and syndication, the capacity to reach a nationwide audience with a single article.

Anti argues that there are only two places in the world where journalists have become famous bloggers – China and Iran. In most nations, bloggers exist to fact-check and oppose the media. But in China, the most famous bloggers are actually journalists.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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