The Word of the Week comes from the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and 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.
Pejorative for a person quick to fight for justice on the Internet without displaying the same commitment in the real world.
“Keyboard warrior” gained currency after it was used in a commentary by the People’s Daily following the fatal beating of a woman at a McDonald’s franchise in Zhaoyuan, Shandong. On May 28, 2014, six members of the Church of Almighty God (Quánnéng Shén Jiàohuì 全能神教会), an apocalyptic religious group officially described as an “evil cult,” beat a woman to death after she was unresponsive to a recruitment attempt. Video of the attack and images of the woman’s body surfaced online, stirring debate about whether fellow restaurant patrons or staff should have intervened. This sparked comparisons to the 2011 death of “Little Yueyue,” a toddler who was run over and ignored by scores of pedestrians before an elderly woman finally came to her rescue. On June 4, 2014, People’s Daily published an editorial titled “Urging the Courageous Against Being ‘Keyboard Warriors’” (《激励见义勇为不能靠“键盘侠”》):
Society’s biggest flaw is having people with double standards一saying to others “how can you do nothing,” while saying to oneself, “if I do something, what will it cost me?” This is precisely the case with those “keyboard warriors,” who do nothing if physically encountering something, but are filled with righteous indignation online. This does not help in the development of a healthy society, nor does it help to counter the dilemma of “seeing justice but doing nothing,” and it makes it even more difficult to collectively fight crime.” [Chinese]
While netizens often ridicule the People’s Daily, they agree that keyboard war cannot replace real-life action. For instance, on June 30, 2015, Weibo user MeichunlaiLüshi (@梅春来律师) responded toproposed changes to criminal law that could limit lawyers’ ability to defend their clients, “Defense attorneys can’t just be keyboard warriors. What we need right now is to take a legal stand” (辩护界的律师不能光做键盘侠，这个时候需要的是行动上的合法抗争).
Can’t get enough of subversive Chinese netspeak? Check out our latest ebook, “Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang.” Includes dozens of new terms and classic catchphrases, presented in a new, image-rich format. Available for pay-what-you-want (including nothing). All proceeds support CDT.