Flame War: Novelist vs Fraud Buster
Danwei’s Joel Martinson chronicles the war of words between author-blogger-racing driver Han Han and merciless scientific fraud slayer Fang Zhouzi. Battle lines have been drawn, with writers, publishers, cartoonists and allegedly censors arrayed on one side or the other. The fight arose from an earlier skirmish between Han Han and tech entrepreneur Mai Tian, who had questioned the authorship of Han Han’s blog posts:
Han Han’s early replies were entertaining in their earnestness and snarky vulgarity. He provided a straightforward account of his blog-writing habits to explain how he could post in between race events, and then flipped Mai Tian’s reasoning around to cast aspersions on his sexual prowess. He offered a 20 million yuan purse and the copyrights to his entire oeuvre as a reward anyone giving conclusive proof of having ghostwritten for him. And, perhaps unwisely, he took a few potshots at Fang Zhouzi (方舟子), who up until that point had needled Han Han for a few minor writing mistakes but had otherwise shown no great interest in the argument.
Going up against Fang Zhouzi is a risky thing. A science writer better known for his work exposing academic fraud and intellectual dishonesty, Fang Zhouzi is a tenacious opponent who has an arsenal of online debating tactics at his fingertips. He brings up questions one by one, beginning with minor points that might seem trivial to explain or brush aside, and then when his target takes the bait, he charges in with more evidence showing a pattern of deceit. This technique, which he employed successfully in 2010 to reveal Tang Jun’s worthless diploma as well as in a more recent campaign to completely discredit Luo Yonghao (罗永浩), a popular internet personality who had insulted his wife, is how he went to work on Han Han ….
As in the best flame wars, Han Han PK Fang Zhouzi has been a comedy goldmine. Quick wit, outrageous accusations, dodgy amateur textual analysis, passionate debaters falling prey to the simplest of conversational gambits – if I was a conspiracy theorist I’d wonder whether Sina had engineered the whole thing to keep people refreshing their microblog feeds over the long holiday.