Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Infodemic Incompetence: Han Elite Propaganda Effort Seriously Backfires

quartz |  A video intended as a tribute to China’s female medical workers backfired as people instead vented their frustration over the way Chinese state-owned media outlets use women as tools for propaganda.

The video, posted by Gansu Daily, a government-owned newspaper in Gansu province, showed over a dozen mask-wearing female nurses, who were weeping as their hair was shaved off. They were about to be sent to Hubei, the Chinese province worst hit by the coronavirus, where they would help treat patients. The video attempted to paint the women as “the most beautiful warriors” who fight the epidemic, praising their bravery as they sacrificed their hair so they could better wear protective gear when treating patients. But instead, the video was met with largely angry comments on China’s Twitter-like social network Weibo.

Many critics said that the way the nurses were treated was humiliating, not complimentary of their bravery. In one scene, a nurse averts her gaze so that she doesn’t have to see her newly cut-off ponytail in her hairdresser’s hands. In another shot, some female nurses had tears rolling down their faces after their haircut.

The video has now been deleted after the online backlash.

“In the video, the people who shaved the women’s heads grabbed their ponytails roughly and just started shaving their hair using electronic clippers. Are you treating them as humans or some animals waiting to be shaved? I am so angry that my mind’s gone blank,” said a user (link in Chinese) on Weibo yesterday (Feb. 17), when the video started trending on the network.

“If you didn’t tell me they were medical workers, I would have thought they were some evil criminals who were going through this serious humiliation… Even their tears are used by the authorities to try to touch the audience, making them the illustration of the spirit of collectivism,” wrote Chen Mashu, an author for “Epoch Story,” an account on messaging app WeChat that publishes analyses and first-person accounts of social affairs.