Posted by Alice Xin Liu on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 5:50 PM
Since the announcement in recent days that any mobile phones sending sexual and pornographic text messages will have their text messaging function turned off, bloggers and microbloggers have been mercilessly mocking and teasing the government plan (see also Han Han and Wang Xiaofeng).
The teasing surrounds dirty jokes (黄段子). Similar to filtering for the Internet, dirty phrases are targeted, but with the make up of Chinese sentences, two completely unrelated characters could be strung together to make something a lot ruder. Blogger Hecaitou (和菜头) uses this and explains the futility of filtering text messages, whilst other bloggers and microbloggers claim that they are sending "pornographic" messages on purpose to see what would happen.
China Mobile are the screening agent, and supposedly they will put on profile the content of the messages. Much of the dissatisfaction comes from the idea that censorship has now extended to mobile phones, and not just the Internet.
Hecaitou's post is translated below.
Jokes about mobile phone jokesby Hecaitou
There used to be a joke taken from real-life events. The event revolves around one state-owned factory and mine situated in a mountain valley, surrounding it are villages. The factories and mines would show films on Sundays, and the members of the society there would come and join in the fun too. But the workers of the factories and mines capitalized on the fact that they were employed by the state and looked down on the bumpkins, and they had a very unfriendly attitude. There was one time when the workers took over the entire central area of the showing ground, not only that, the corners were taken up as well. It wasn’t any use for the factory boss to say something either, they said they wouldn’t so they really didn’t leave. In the end it was the village Party Secretary who had more skill; he stepped onto the stage and with one sentence solved everything. He stepped onto the stage, took the microphone and said: “Elder working brothers, you know that us farmers don’t have that many outlets for entertainment, apart from conjugal activities, we only have the movies…” Before the sounds of his words had stopped reverberating, everyone exploded in laughter and the workers voluntarily cleared off half the space and let the old farmers sit down.
This joke could only be repeated by the village Party Secretary, otherwise there is the suspicion of being politically incorrect, and the suspicion of being prejudiced against the people. Today I willingly bring up this joke at my expense because I want to make one principle clear: sex is a kind of entertainment. Furthermore, it’s quite important as a form entertainment. Otherwise, our respected village Party Secretary would have mentioned movies first, and then conjugal activity. This is recognized and so the working comrades don’t need any validation, and voluntarily left a space, thinking that this line had profound meanings, and the explanation was meticulous. In the end the result was achieved without much explanation. What he said was a “dirty joke,” in that situation, only a dirty joke would help people to immediately relax their concerns, and has the effect of reversing their moods. Why? Because he said something that had truth behind it, and he can get people to produce a kind of sympathy and understanding for his situation. Normally, when Chinese people are coming out with dirty a joke, they are at their most honest, no vain or trying to decorate themselves.
But, this little bit of honesty and little bit of fun now no longer really exists. Entering into the tenth year of the 21st century, using mobile phones to resend dirty jokes will be punished, resulting in the halting of the text messaging function: the only way of opening it up would to submit a written self-criticism. From what I know about mobile phones, apart from showing off status and economic potential in early periods, the main purpose of mobile phones is for entertainment. Sending dirty jokes is a kind of etiquette for mobile socializing in China, and from my observations, if the person is the King of Jokes he will have a good base of friends, and a wide circle of contacts. Even if you haven’t seen them for a long time, when you do meet up it’s with a big smile, because as people get closer and closer there are numerous dirty jokes that will start to overflow in the heart and there is no way to suppress it.
Usually when we are making a joke, such as the one I recited at the beginning, not everyone is able to laugh at it. For example, our small friends born after the ‘80s and ‘90s won’t understand based of the use of “厂矿” (factories and mines) because they haven’t the background knowledge of “Tier Three Construction”* , and don’t know don’t what kind of life the mountain folk over there lead, so it’s hard for them to laugh at it. But dirty joke surpasses culture, time, race and status. You’ll basically understand it if you’re human, and understand where the humor is. But now it’s obvious that some people don’t really inhabit on Earth.
This afternoon, the netizen Bingke’er wrote a microblog item: “Yesterday my mate had dinner at an old school-friend’s house, when he got home he wrote a message that said: ‘Your mom’s stewed post is excellent (你妈的红烧肉棒极了).” As a result, he couldn’t send messages today…”
The joke might not be real, but the problem that it raises isn’t fake. In this text message, the problem is with two sensitive words: “fuck (妈的)” and “meat stick (肉棒).” Getting a live person to read this you can see the difference, but for a machine to filter it perhaps problems will arise. Knowing how to separate the characters and phrases, in search technology is called “separating phrasing technology.” Even today, there isn’t one Internet search engine company that can perfectly solve this problem. This means that one aspect is that netizens who enter “meat stick” in search engines are staring at their bowl in great disappointment, and another aspect is a mobile user will have to write a self-criticism because of stewed pork.
After seeing this joke I thought that the methods that have been alive on the Internet for a long time can now be transplanted to the mobile phone. So, I also wrote a joke:
I don’t know how text messages like these would be checked? In actual fact, through pinyin, through English, through interchanging characters that sound the same, different word styles, splitting characters, using spaces, adding symbols etc and other methods, there are ways of circumventing the filtering of machines. From this respect, people are cleverer than machines. Therefore, speaking from the angle of technology, if you want to send dirty jokes you’ll be able to send dirty jokes.
Also apart from investigating the technology, there is still a serious problem that needs to be investigated: the mobile contents of many people, whether it’s their own wives or husbands they still hope for privacy, punishing dirty jokes means that these contents will be seen by the mobile companies. Therefore, who has given these mobile companies the right to trample on civil rights? At the same time, does this mean that we also can’t send any commercial information on our mobile phones? Because apart from holding talks between two parties, the third party will now know as well, and won’t be responsible that this information won’t leak out, and let competitors know.
Dirty joke is a small bit of entertainment for the people, this kind of entertainment shouldn’t need to be assessed by officials. After a couple of dozen years, they are finally clear that playing mahjong at home is a private business, and shouldn’t break in to arrest in the name of gambling. Why have we gone back in time, and started to control other people’s mobile phones?
My friend Wang Xiaoshan wrote this joke:
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