All your opinion are belong to Us

The BBC's Virtual Revolution documentary contained a fascinating relation: the Chinese government pays a massive astroturfing army to massage public opinion on Chinese blogs and message boards. They're known pejoratively as "Wu Mao Dang" - 'the 50 Cent Army' - because that's what they're paid for each pro-government posting they make.

That's the carrot. Here's the stick. A blogger called Tan Zuoren started asking questions about why so many schools collapsed during the Sichuan earthquake. A lot of Communist Party buildings survived. Shoddy building standards? Backhanders? He was jailed for 5 years yesterday. Don't ask questions, comrade.

A friend suggested, in the spirit of Swift, that the Chinese should outsource their astroturfing to the American public. The US could then pay back its foreign debt, 50 cents at a time...

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