Editor’s Note: The CDT Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon is a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and frequently encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness. The Word of the Week features Lexicon entries old, new and timely.
If you are interested in participating in this project by submitting and/or translating terms, please contact the CDT editors at CDT [at] chinadigitaltimes [dot] net.
This stock phrase is often used by the government and official media to describe participants in “mass incidents” (群体事件 qúntǐ shìjiàn), such as riots and protests. It suggests that those who participate in mass incidents do so not because of any real grievances, but because they have been duped by a few schemers with “ulterior motives.”
Even state-run media have questioned this demeaning term. In July 2009, Xinhua ran an editorial suggesting that this phrase should not be the immediate explanation for all mass incidents. The Southern Metropolis Daily commented in August of that year:
Whenever there is a mass incident, some government agencies will always issue statements to the effect that “people who didn’t understand the actual situation” were incited by “those with ulterior motives.” But this pretext is lifeless and unconvincing.
Netizens have since co-opted the phrase.