This particular episode dives into the concept of how through a more socially connected world, people have naturally begun to make their opinions more known. It is split up into several different acts that delve into different aspects of this theorem.
The First act explores the world of online reviews from what you would expect like comments on a new book, to comments on how a church operates which is something that sits on the edge of normal reason. The words that people use online can really dig into someone more than you would expect. A simple broad word can have a much larger effect as Michael Schulman expresses, “If someone just says boring, a book critic isn’t going to say boring. But if an average customer goes on Amazon and says, this book is boring, boring, boring, one star, I think it’s worse than a smart book critic explaining why something did or didn’t work. Boring, bland, hated it, no. There’s one that just said no. And it just makes you feel terrible.”. One opinionated person can change your whole demeanor by just using the word boring.
As the first act moves from its focus on book reviews, it turns to people’s viewpoints of an ordinary baptist church. As B.A. Parker tells us some of the reviews “were not so nice” citing one, “From France, “This is a scam. The children singing are circus animals.” One star.”. People can be crude and brash with their words when they get behind the gate of anonymity on the internet, and it’s easy to see how this can get under the skin of people who appreciate or have worked hard on what is being rated.
The second act of the episode highlights Chen Qiuishi who is a lawyer in China who originally went to Hong Kong to give neutral reports on the chaos going on and engage with average citizens. His choice of wording in his videos was quite clearly trying to cover his bases so that the Chinese Communist Party could not find him in violation of their strict laws. However after this trip he lost his position as a lawyer and faced lengthy interrogation meant to show why his travel to Hong Kong was ill-advised.
Chen didn’t falter however and after a few months went to Wuhan which was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak to do similar work. Here Chen was pushed out of his neutrality however as the Chinese government was pressuring his family as he was simultaneously witnessing a poorly handled health crisis. He swears, “As long as I am still alive, I’m going to keep reporting. I’m going to tell people what I see and what I hear.” going on to speak directly to the Chinese Government “[BLEEP] you. I’m not even afraid of dying.”. Soon after Chen’s youtube videos stopped and a post from his mother stating “Chen has gone missing” which at the time of the release of the episode had been a total of 22 days.
Chen’s broken patience and switch from neutrality lead him to curse a governing body that is known for punishing dissenters. It’s a hard realization to face that in a moment of anger and frustration the words a person chooses can bring them into harm’s way.
Glass, I., Parker, B. A., Fan, J., & Misitzis, L. (2020, March 30). Everyone’s a Critic. Retrieved from https://www.thisamericanlife.org/695/everyones-a-critic
All images used are part of the public domain.