In the wake of President Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, and this CNN poll indicating most Americans think Tibet should be independent, the Dalai Lama went on Larry King Live. In keeping with that show’s tradition of internet straw polling, Larry asked viewers the same question CNN asked Americans last week: Should Tibet be an independent country?
The results of this poll were quite different as the graph to the left, a screen-capture from Larry King’s site, shows. The reason for the discrepancy is quite simple: Anti-CNN forum members found the poll and rallied, racking up a fairly impressive vote count for “No”. Apparently the post also found its way onto Tianya, another more massive Chinese BBS, which helped.
As the voting went on, the numbers for “No” continued to climb as forum members commented on their progress in threads like this one. And while there was little doubt about whether Tibet should be an independent country, there was some debate about the usefulness of this tactic. Several commenters called it “boring”, but others expressed enthusiasm for this kind of democracy. One commenter wrote:
Come on, everybody, let’s jiong [囧, shock] them to death. If they dare to change the numbers then we’ll “Anti” them again.
Although no one on Anti-CNN seems particularly serious about ruining CNN online polls, one wonders if whether, especially given the already-sensitive state of relations between the Chinese and American internets after the Google hacks (and the subsequent accusations leveled at two fairly unremarkable Chinese schools, which former NYT writer Michael Anti called “the biggest joke I’ve heard so far this year”), this sort of tactic might only serve as fuel for Western fear-mongers who claim that Chinese people are going to “destroy” the internet. Lest you think such people don’t exist, check this out. Crazies will find their ammunition somewhere, of course, but one has to wonder what the Anti-CNN folks felt they gained from this.
Elsewhere in Tibet-related news, the Dalai Lama has again shown that he can run laps around the CPC elite when it comes to PR stunts. Hu Jintao may have a People’s Daily microblog (that has been closed already), but the Dalai Lama? He’s on Twitter.
That’s a great example of how Chinese internet censorship hurts its own cause in unexpected ways. As Twitter is blocked in China, Hu Jintao can’t very much set up an account to spread the government’s side of the story. So everything stays the same: the West gets to keep hearing from the Dalai Lama, the Chinese get to keep hearing from the government, and never the two shall meet…?