Cartoonist Badiucao Targeted in Twitter Smear Campaign

Cartoonist Badiucao Targeted in Twitter Smear Campaign

Late last night, CDT resident cartoonist Badiucao (巴丢草) became the latest critic of Beijing to be targeted by a Twitter smear campaign seemingly conducted by members of China’s notorious “Fifty Cent Party”:

@badiucao Badiucao is a sex maniac, he even has a gang of “little brothers” following him around to sing his praises


The hideous face of an ugly soul

The offending comments—tweeted by accounts that appear largely inactive, following few and having next to no followers of their own—included links to smear articles posted to overseas Chinese-language news websites, all published on April 10, 2015. One article, posted to a blog on the website of Mingjing News, opens: “Anyone who’s seen the work of Badiucao (cartoonist for China Digital Times) will find his cartoons to be childish. They contain nothing but Western ideology, they do nothing but use current events in China to flatter the West.” Another, posted by Duowei News, attempted to sully Badiucao with his own medium, making the Australia-based political cartoonist the subject of an unflattering panel attacking his motivations:


Text in thought bubble:
“When democracy comes, I can finally get a house, a car, and a woman …
When democracy comes, American soldiers will finally take me out of this scorching abyss of a country …
When democracy comes, I’ll have an endless supply of money, just like an American …
When democracy comes, I can rely on welfare while never working, just like a European …
When democracy comes, I’ll be all sexed up day in and day out, just like a Japanese …
When democracy comes, I’ll kill all the 50-centers and their entire families ….”

The watermark behind the cartoon reads “jy是SB,” or “democracy worshippers are stupid cunts…,” repeated ad infinitum. When Badiucao joined CDT as a resident cartoonist, he gave a different account of the motivation behind his cartoons:

The starting point for drawing cartoons was my search for a way to vocalize and freely express my views on all sorts of issues. From another perspective, it was a way for me to uncover my own courage. I hope my work will become a record of my personal perspective on social issues and history. In China, history is constantly being unified and tampered with, and even forgotten. On the other hand, individual tragedy is engulfed by the grander narrative. As a rebel, I want to use my pen to record history from my perspective, and use my individual perspective to confront the official record. Of course, as one person I can’t do enough, so I hope more people will contribute to this record, because the more diverse perspectives we have, the more objective the record will be that is left. I also hope to use the comic exaggeration and humor of cartoons to deconstruct the arrogance and authority of China’s dictatorship, because the collapse of authority is the building block of individual awakening and free independence. [Source]

As Badiucao was being attacked on Twitter, some supporters chimed in:


Being attacked by a pack of dogs shows how valuable you really are.


Congratulations! Your strength and influence make them see you as a threat.

From his personal account, Badiucao tweeted:

This is the first time I’ve been called a sex maniac! Look, here I am drawing a guy’s butt

This is not the first time alleged Fifty Cent platoons have been deployed into foreign territory to attack critics of Beijing with demonstrated influence on overseas social media. Last August, Duowei and the Wenxue City news blog (Wenxue City also also posted one of the articles on Badiucao) published a ten-part essay attacking outspoken author Murong Xuecun as an “inhumane, perverse, fake author” who “foments negative energy in society.” Shared from Twitter accounts with little hint of life attached to them, the posts were widely retweeted. Activist Hu Jia pointed out that himself, exiled June 4th activist Wang Dan, and exiled media activist Wen Yunchao were also targets of nearly identical campaigns. Murong Xuecun later wrote an article for the New York Times describing these types of Internet campaigns against dissidents as “not a problem that affects only a small group of individuals. Rather, it is seen as an attempt to manipulate opinion on a global scale.” Excerpted from his op-ed:

This huge corps of Internet commentators — popularly called the 50-Cent Party, because they were reportedly paid 50 fen (about 8 U.S. cents) for each post — praises and defends the government, while launching extreme personal attacks on government critics. Until recently, however, the influence of the 50-centers was limited to commenting on China-based websites. Smear campaigns like this have been common on Chinese sites. Only a year ago, it seemed there were just a few isolated trolls on banned, foreign-based sites like Facebook and Twitter. Now the 50-centers are spreading their vitriol beyond China. Fake accounts on Twitter spewing Beijing’s party line have been proliferating. [Source]

Last December, a leaked archive of email communications from a local Internet Information Office in Jiangxi showed just how widespread Fifty Cent-style propaganda work is. Also see a recent CDT translation of a similar Communist Youth League directive to volunteer Internet commentators.

In recent weeks, Badiucao has offered illustrated comment on some of China’s most sensitive news topics (click on an image to launch in slideshow mode):


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