Posted by: Third Tone Devil | 5 June 2008

The Sharon Stone boycott

The latest boycott campaign in China targets Sharon Stone. This is a major campaign, propelled by a real offense: Stone (who has since apologised through her agent) has made an off-the-cuff comment to the effect that the Sichuan earthquake may have been retribution for China’s actions in Tibet. This time, the mainstream media have taken as aggressive a stand against Stone as the Internet. An author in the popular Xinmin Wanbao wrote, for example, described the comment as revealing not only Stone’s “stupidity and ignorance but also her deep-seated prejudice against the Chinese government and people.” He added that he did not believe her apology, as it had clearly been driven only by her agents’ fear of losing lucrative advertising contracts. (Many Hollywood stars have signed on to represent brands — often local ones — in China, in contracts that are not publicised in the West.)

China Youth Daily raised a more interesting issue. Stating that Stone’s comment has “necessarily aroused the strong condemnation of all Chinese citizens and Chinese people  worldwide (Zhongguoren he huaren), the author expressed surprise that there are still those who propose a “rational” attitude and call for “generosity,” noting that freedom of speech means that people should be able to express all opinions, even wrong ones. “If only ‘correct speech’ is allowed, then there cannot be real freedom of speech.” The author counters that while freedom of speech is at issue when states are involved, it is not in confrontations between individuals. Just as Stone has the right to say whatever she wishes, so Chinese people have the right to curse her back. In closing, the author nonetheless acknowledges that “one has to be concerned about the so-called ‘dictatorship of the majority’ violating a minority’s freedom of speech.” 

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