Tom Scocca at Slate poaches on Taibbi territory with a post smacking Tom Friedman’s latest idiocy: “How Will China Reckon with the Freewheeling Opinions of Its (Government-Employed) Netizens?”:
Like the Great Firewall, this mass sock-puppetry campaign is an open secret with a catchy name: the paid apologists are called the “Wu Mao Dang,” or Fifty-Cent Party, after the purported going rate (in Chinese currency) for each pro-government posting.
Again, this is not an obscure fact, except to Thomas Friedman. The policy of paying for Internet commentary is so well known that it has backfired, so that writers who express too much enthusiasm for the government are dismissed as paid plants. Fifty-cent banknotes have become a metonym for official deception; earlier this year, during an appearance by a provincial propaganda official at Renmin University, a protester threw 50-cent bills at the stage.
Can Friedman be that oblivious? Maybe the best-selling pundit is making a subtle and powerful point here. On first read, there’s no obvious connection between Friedman’s “BEIJING” dateline and the content of the column. More prepacked opinions from the globe-trotter, as usual. But by omitting any mention of the sensitive subject of the Fifty-Cent Party—or of online censorship at all—he’s capturing the authentic tone of the Chinese Internet.
Another area where America is falling behind China in properly utilizing modern technology! Why can’t the failed Obama Administration seize this bold, outside-the-box opportunity to announce a “Full Enough Employment Program” where bold Real American(tm) bloggers will be paid for pro-government posts, comments, and tweets? Just setting the proper market-competitive rates and guidelines for ideological purity would keep many newly-minted MBAs in Starbucks and iPads, not to mention the enormous potential of all those untapped MFA hipsters…