Don't say nobody saw this coming. What else was to be expected from a netizens' movement that has gave so little heed to the quality of the evidence mounted in support of its previous attacks?
Salted with ugly rumors and manipulated photographs, the story of the young woman who was said to have taken sides with Tibet spread through China’s most popular Web sites, at each stop generating hundreds or thousands of raging, derogatory posts, some even suggesting that Ms. Wang — a slight, rosy 20-year-old — be burned in oil. Someone posted a photo of what was purported to be a bucket of feces emptied on the doorstep of her parents, who had gone into hiding.
“If you return to China, your dead corpse will be chopped into 10,000 pieces,” one person wrote in an e-mail message to Ms. Wang. “Call the human flesh search engines!” another threatened, using an Internet phrase that implies physical, as opposed to virtual, action.
The question is critical. It explains why I went to some length to systematically investigate the scanty evidence behind the claims of the "anti-CNN" Chinese netizens' movement. Western news organizations may have seemed deserving objects of scorn to many observers, but not to Jotman. In my opinion, the refusal of the Chinese netizens to scrutinize their own best "evidence" against the Western media demonstrated a worrisome lack of critical rigor. That the first "victims" of the netizens campaign were large impersonal news organizations like CNN was entirely beside the point. The netizens' slipshod matching of dubious evidence with the strongest of claims troubled me greatly; I saw the practice as frightening in its own right; to me it did not matter one iota that the netizens' target appeared "deserving" of scorn for any number of other reasons.
It should come as no surprise that some Chinese netizens have acted upon the entirely unsubstantiated claims made against young Grace Wang and her family. Now anyone can see that the method of early attacks by netizens against the Western media was a harbinger of things more malicious and patently wicked.
One lingering mystery is why China's Internet censors have chosen to tolerate attacks against Grace Wang and others. Another question concerns the identity of some of China's more offensive netizens.
Update: John Kennedy at Global Voices has translated examples of some Chinese netizens' opinions concerning Grace Wang.