In her August 31 appearance on the Taiwanese talk show Red Storm, Meng commented:
“Many mainland toilets don’t have doors and even when they do, most people don’t even shut the door!” Meng said.
She regaled the host with a story about a toilet in a Chinese city where she had seen “hundreds of pale bottoms all lined up in a row.”
Clearly, there is nothing like public sanitation to rally the national spirit of indignation. Dubbed “Toilet-Gate,” the incident has generated more than 1 million posts on Sina.com, and elicited searing criticism from viewers. “If you are still Chinese and you have any conscience, you must apologize!” fumed blogger Gu Siqing.
However, the China Daily is running a more critical version of the story, and in addition to humiliating the Chinese in the bathroom, Meng apparently displayed an arrogant attitude, criticized CCTV and Mainlanders’ English usage, “citing an example of the word ‘dried food’ in Chinese being translated to ‘fuck goods’ in English by translating the characters separately, instead of their meaning together.” However, according to the state-owned daily, her most serious transgression was her suggestion that the Nanjing massacre is “a historical affair” and “should not become the basis of opposition between China and Japan.”
The article cites what is obviously an unbiased, scientific, and statistically meaningful internet poll in which “51.61 percent of the surveyed web users ‘previously felt good about her (Meng), but disagree with her about this,’ and another 48.39 percent thought ‘she is stupid, and deserves criticism.’ No one in the web survey supported Meng’s opinions.”
Okay … 51.61 + 48.39 = 100%. Well, that’s everyone!
You can imagine how this question might have appeared in the survey:
After her recent appearance on Red Storm how do you feel about Meng Guangmei?
- I previously felt good about her (Meng), but disagree with her about this.
- She is stupid, and deserves criticism.
Clearly, the interest of this poll is in determining the truth about the viewers’ feelings in light of the complex social, historical, political and economic causes of viewer outrage, and in no way was it being used to as blunt instrument to condemn Meng as a foregone conclusion. The article further comments that some postings indicated that all of Meng’s views on toilets, Mainlanders and CCTV are forgivable, but reliably, they “would never forgive her for frivolously talking about the Nanjing Massacre.”
In response to the angry public reaction:
Meng posted an announcement and a video record on this issue on a website, saying she has been living and working on the mainland for nearly ten years, and never meant to laugh at mainland people. She appeared very excited and emotional in the video, calling for a stop to the attacks on her words, claiming she made grammatical errors, and declaring she is determined to find the troublemakers who started it all.
Meng said she was hurt by the online assault and that her name had been smeared. “I could never have imagined such slander, inflammatory remarks and distortions could be used to attack me,” she said.
Given their mutual fondness for toilet-themed restaurants, one might think that the two sides would find understanding and mutual benefit over a toilet somewhere. But alas, in a region where speech and symbolism matter greatly, almost any conceivable issue can evoke an exaggerated public response — especially when you offend the wrong people.