2010 / 1月
Lin Hsin-ching /tr. by Phil Newell
The 2006 Hong Kong blockbuster A Battle of Wits tells the story of the attack by an enormous army from the kingdom of Zhao on the small city-state of Liang during the Warring States Period of Chinese history. Unable to resist such numbers, Liang invited strategist Ge Li to help oppose the invaders. As the story unfolds, this "white knight" wins everyone's hearts with his simplicity, perseverance, and cleverness.
In the cyberworld, there are bloggers who play the role of white knight. Whenever they discover that some social activist group needs help, they draw their "swords" and rush to lend a hand. But their weapons are in fact Internet skills above the norm, allowing them to create new possibilities for the social movement in question.
When the subject arises of which blogger has had the greatest impact in terms of social activism in recent years, "wenli," who has been running the "Diary of a Dropout Couple" blog for many years (it was formerly called "Diary of a Dropout Youth"), is generally considered one of those most fitting the description of an "Internet white knight."
wenli, 30 this year, is a "dropout" of the Graduate Institute of Architecture at Tunghai University. Originally his blog was oriented toward introducing and discussing video games and comic books, very much in the "homebody nerd" mode. But because he had a cat, starting from concern about the problems of stray animals, he began to broaden his perspective to touch on all manner of social issues, and the blog moved from simple parody and humor to culture, human rights, environmental protection, the economic problems of ordinary people, and other public issues.Doing well by doing good
wenli really came to fame as an Internet white knight during his service supporting the campaign to preserve the Lo Sheng Sanatorium in 2007.
At that time an organization of young people in support of the sanatorium had existed for several years, but they never succeeded in breaking through the marginalization of the Lo Sheng issue in the mainstream media, and they couldn't get much reaction from society at large. Unexpectedly, when wenli happened to join in, a new variable was brought into their resistance movement.
First he joined forces with likeminded bloggers like Zhu Xiao Cao and Portnoy, and they organized related links under the heading "Lo Sheng information package for the lazy," so that other interested cyberfriends could get up to speed on the issue in a short time. After that he brought into play his expertise in architecture, and in the brief space of an afternoon, using architectural drawings along with an accessible comic book style approach, came up with 3D images of "90% conservation" and "41% conservation" of Lo Sheng. Thus he transformed this complicated and long-simmering issue into something everyone could understand at a glance, successfully enabling it to spread like wildfire on the Internet.
Following up headlong on their initial success, wenli, Zhu Xiao Cao, and other bloggers launched a fundraising activity to save Lo Sheng on the bookmark website HEMiDEMi. Giving visitors the option of donating NT$100 with a simple click, in a brief two days they raised NT$200,000, resulting in a half-page ad in the Apple Daily detailing the actions and demands of the movement to save the sanatorium.
With these bloggers going on the offensive, and with tight links built with the Youth Alliance for Lo Sheng, one month later a demonstration calling for defense of the sanatorium, with more than 100 cooperating non-governmental groups and several thousand citizens, was successfully organized. This put the government under so much pressure that the tearing down of Lo Sheng was postponed. And at the scene of the event you could see banners displaying the words "homebody nerd," symbolizing the important role of this "Internet army."Broadcasting Wild Strawberries
The 2008 Wild Strawberries movement was another occasion for wenli to demonstrate his white-knightly prowess. By then an executive planner for a Public Television chat program, on November 11 he saw some TV sidebar text reporting on students gathering in front of the Executive Yuan. But because the vast majority of reporters were posted outside the Grand Hotel covering a confrontation where blood was shed, there were never any follow-up images of related stories. Driven by curiosity, after work, notebook computer in hand, he headed off to where the students were holding their sit-in.
Once he got to the gates of the Executive Yuan he discovered that the main complaint of the student protestors was about police misconduct in handling the protests that met the visit to Taiwan of Chen Yunlin, the director of mainland China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait. For the benefit of people who were unable to attend the sit-in or who wanted to better understand the situation, wenli used the small camera on his notebook computer, the Y! Live platform, and some limited broadcasting equipment, to put the situation on the Internet.
Unexpectedly, by dawn the next day, he discovered that his rough-around-the-edges broadcast had attracted more than 400 online viewers. But by then wenli had to hurry off to work, so he gave some of the students a few quick lessons and lent out his own Yahoo! account so that the activists could take over this direct broadcast platform that was drawing more and more attention.
Says wenli: "They didn't disappoint me, and later there evolved an 'anchor team,' not only keeping up broadcasts 24 hours a day, but also producing programs related to human rights that were broadcast in different time slots."
wenli's reputation spread quickly in the wake of the Wild Strawberries movement, and many NGOs began coming to him for help. "But I thought that a blogger should not become a partisan commentator, and not every movement is suitable for me to get involved in, not to mention the fact that the technology I use is not difficult, and in fact anybody could do it." wenli feels that if social activists and groups want to use the Internet to spread information, they should ultimately rely on their own efforts, and not depend too much on "outsiders" who just fortuitously get involved.
Despite this, from Lo Sheng to the Wild Strawberries, wenli and other Internet white knights, whether deliberately or serendipitously lending their aid, have opened up new possibilities for linking protest events, organizations, and cybercitizens, and we can expect the future will bring even more.