“Shame on those bystanders who watched a woman beaten to death without any intervention.”
Thus is the response by many Chinese netizens to the recent news that a mom of seven was beaten to death in a Mcdonald’s in the city of Shandong by a group of six for refusing to give her phone number. They angrily asked: “Why didn’t anyone at the scene, especially those young men, try to stop the murder?” The more interesting question is: Would these netizens, if put in the same situation, take any action themselves?
If one’s answer is no, then he or she is probably one of China’s “keyboarders,” or, as referred to in Chinese, “keyboard (super)men (键盘侠)”. Keyboarders are quick and enthusiastic to criticize and fight all kinds of social injustice, inequality or wrongdoing…but only when it’s behind the screen.
The tragedy happened in the Shandong McDonald’s isn’t the first case in which China’s netizens were indignant by the indifference of bystanders, and will definitely not be the last one either. One has to wonder: why bystanders in China never stop being indifferent even after so many waves of condemnation online? With 618 million strong Internet users – that’s nearly half of the country’s population, China’s indignant netizens and indifferent bystanders cannot possibly be mutually exclusive.
The answer lies in keyborders, a not-small proportion of China’s online population. As many reflected, keyboarders are “all empty words and lip service.”
“Keyborders are many, but at heart, they are all the same: naive, hypocritical, superficial, and without any independent or critical thinking.” One netizen 初心不改的杰斐 summarized.
The existence of keyboarders doesn’t seem like a big deal if each individual case is reviewed separately. But applying the highest moral standards to their peers online isn’t all of what they do in the virtual world. In a sense, keyborders are angry youth 2.0, with a very idealist and simplistic view of what China should be.
They are the quickest to blame the Chinese government for everything that goes wrong in China, and the ones who believe that democracy is the answer to all of China’s problems. While online, that is. In real life, it’s very questionable how many of them would say no to bribes and shortcuts, or refuse to take advantage of guanxi to get around hurdles in life.
Will and can the Internet bring democracy to China? Maybe. But don’t expect the country’s vast troops of keyboarders to become the next tank men.