Apr 29, 2008 2
Move over Brad Pitt. Rain, your time has passed. There is a new heartthrob in town: Second Right Brother. That’s right, the dreamiest member of the Olympic torch’s security force has become China’s newest sex symbol.
His name, Second Right Brother (右二哥哥), refers to his location in the security team; he’s the guard second to the right of the torch, and he’s an internet hunk. Who needs state-run propaganda when you have a population of internet-savvy women creating a baby-faced symbol of Chinese pride? Thomas Crampton—hat tip for finding some of these links—compares Second Right Brother to Lei Feng, a soldier who came to embody the Cultural Revolution in Mao’s propaganda. Both are symbols of young, selfless men standing up for China against a world that is seemingly unified against her. Of course, Second Right Brother is a user- not state-generated propaganda symbol—oh, and no one ever proposed to Lei Feng online.
One common Maoist motto stated simply, “Learn from Lei Feng.” Now, many places where the torch goes—Paris, San Francisco, South Korea—people are learning from Second Right Brother. A spokesman for the London Olympics called the guards “thugs,” and in part based on these concerns, Japan refused to use China’s security force. But China hasn’t needed paramilitary guards to rough up anti-China Westerners; torch protesters are regularly being attacked by Chinese nationalists. I don’t mean to defend the tactics the protesters. Chasing after a girl in a wheelchair will not improve civil rights in China, but no one—not even the French—are turning these protesters into models of how one should act.
A few Western activists have dubbed the Beijing Olympics the “Genocide Olympics.” For me though, this is the “Second Right Brother Olympics” (so what if it’s not catchy). There has been a lot of Western media coverage about a rise of Chinese nationalism. There are the boycotts of Carrefour in China, t-shirts that say “Don’t be like CNN,” and even a confused protester in Hong Kong who held a sign that said “CNN=Sarkozy.” But for me, all this new user-generated, nationalist rhetoric can be embodied in Second Right Brother. The Chinese government doesn’t need to create another Lei Feng; Chinese internet users already have, and I have to admit—he’s kinda cute.