An article in the Singapore Lianhe Zaobao on July 10, with the original title: The Online Chaos Behind Lin Shengbin’s Collapsing Persona
An arson case in Hangzhou five years ago made Lin Shengbin, who lost his wife and son, the most heartbreaking man to many Chinese netizens. But the drama about him was reversed last week when Lin, who announced he had remarried, saw his long-standing persona as a “loving good man” collapse and became the target of everyone’s criticism. A lot of his “black material” was unearthed by netizens, and the public also cast aside the sympathy and pity they once had for him, calling him a “sympathy consuming” and “selling misery to make money” scum. Is he telling the truth? Or has he been deliberately trying to cheat people exploiting their sympathy? Is there anyone to control this kind of chaos on the Chinese internet?
In fact, cases of using one’s misfortune to gain sympathy and profit abound on the Chinese Internet. When you open live broadcasts on various platforms, it is not difficult to see the “adversity affected” who “failed to start a business and got separated from his wife and rose again” peddling financial management lessons. And the “filial son” who “could not afford to take care of his parents’ health” and then the “filial son” selling health care products, etc. It is difficult to distinguish between real and fake in these cases.
It can be said that the rapid development of China’s Internet and the soaring and prosperous Internet celebrity economy have provided platforms and possibilities for these profit-raking activities. Whether true or not, Lin Shengbin and the many netizens who exploit and encash their own or others’ experiences do so because they see the business opportunities behind the huge traffic. The huge, continuously optimized platform and the vast number of netizens who are willing to pay for Internet celebrities provide them with conducive conditions and motivation.
China’s officials have yet to systematically rectify the chaos of “sentimental blogging” on the Internet, and it is difficult to verify the authenticity of these so-called “personas”. However, it is worth mentioning that so far the officials are more concerned about showing-off of wealth, and promotion of conspicuous consumption, because of the possibility of its aggravating social discontent and hatred of the rich. They believe that this type of content causes adverse social impact. They have not yet focused on the “selling misery” aspect. For example, the official media issued an article criticizing a food blogger with tens of millions of fans on Douyin, “using luxury life as a selling point”, “blindly pursuing traffic, and keeping social responsibility aside”. The company’s main goal was to provide a platform for the public to learn more about the company’s business.
Will the Lin Shengbin incident pass like a temporary gust of wind, or will it continue to ferment, causing continuous pressure from the public and result in the government taking action?