Despite some pretty damning arguments regarding the plausibility of blending cardboard and caustic soda into baozi, steamed pork buns, the internets are chattering again: Government conspiracy and cover-up! The fake buns being fake is itself fake!
It’s a bit like unpicking the speech of an 8-year-old who has just discovered double-negatives– It’s not not Opposite Day, not!— but we’ll do our best.
Officials searched Beijing high and low for cardboard buns, and concluded that overzealous TV reporter Zi Beijia staged the whole thing. One very brave Japanese guy even made cardboard buns in his kitchen and testified that they taste totally gross (link to ESWN for translation). Zi’s bosses issued an apology, and Zi has been taken into custody pending as-yet-unknown criminal charges (AP coverage here).
But wait– there’s more! Danwei reports the latest in nattering nabobs of netizen dissent:
What is not being reported in the press is that many people in Beijing believe that the news about the cardboard buns story being fake is itself fake (e.g. see these posts by Chinese journalists Ping Ke and Milk Pig). The way the authorities have gone about stopping the story is exactly the same way they clamp down on real news stories that they don’t want circulating.
It makes sense to us that, after decades of clamping down on real stories that they wished were fake, authorities would use similar tactics in the suppression of an actual fake story.
But dissent rages on.
Upon returning to the site of the already-acknowledged-to-be-fake fake bun story, Hong Kong reporter Ming Pao returned to the number 13 courtyard of Shizikou village, location of Zi Beijia’s original story, and had a strange reception (translation via ESWN):
At the scene yesterday, our reporter observed that there was a high level of security outside number 13 in Shizikou village. There were uniformed security guards as well as unidentified men keeping watch.
When the reporter asked a cleaner where number 13 was located, the cleaner was immediately warned by a man not to talk. When the men found out who the reporter was, one of them came up to push the reporter around while threatening: “If you dare to go in, you better be careful that someone will beat you up.” The reporter called the Taiyanggong town government for assistance. The town deputy party secretary named Huang said that he does not know about what is happening. When the reporter asked the town government to send someone as company, the deputy party secretary said that all their party cadres are in meetings and therefore nobody can be dispatched. He asked the reporter to go by himself. He said that they would inform the village and the reporter can call the police if he feels that his personal safety is at risk.
When the reporter returned to Number 13 courtyard in Shizikou village, a woman told him that the town leader had just telephoned to warn them not to let any reporter in.
Standard-issue government secrecy and subsequent citizen defensiveness? Or conspiratorial cover-up in the face of fake-product overexposure in the international media?
Danwei: Is the fake news story fake news?
ESWN: Why do people think that a fake news story is real?
Picture via ESWN