The Zero Sum Game that isn’t:
On how antis and haters will make sure everyone loses out.
By: Starfield of TheJYJFiles
These are dark, dark times in the TVXQ/JYJ fandom. The fact that you cannot type the four letter word TVXQ and be certain people know who you are referring to, and that your very definition of these four letters will identify yourself as either a friend or foe to the more zealous fans of either “camps”, should give you an idea just how real the fandom division has become.
There are other obvious signs of a waging civil war within our fandom. Public forums, popular blogs and even the very people who administer or translate for these high-traffic sites are being labeled and attacked for “only supporting one side”. Ironically, the more neutral they try to be, the lesser they are trusted by the extremists (or should I say “purists”) of either camp.
As a response to the rapid deterioration of fandom atmosphere, the popular slogan in this fandom has been changed from the cheerful “Always keep the faith, true cassies support all five!” to the much more practical “Let’s move on, support who you want to support and leave the other side alone!” Maybe, this slogan will soon be further modified to a pleading “Please, just, no bashing, and, no hating on my oppa!”
The current status of the international fandom may already be considered pretty bad by many, but in terms of the sheer number of haters and the level of hate displayed, the i-fandom actually is on a whole a much brighter and happier place than the Japanese, Chinese and Korean fandoms.
(I need to clarify though, that I don’t know the Korean language, therefore my understanding of the going-ons of the Korean fandom depends on translated information from various sources.)
What a severe wrong must a celebrity has personally done to a “fan”, for the fan to call him the foulest names imaginable, to openly wish that the celebrity’s career will crash and burn, to wish he’ll simply “disappear” or literally go to hell? Seriously, why so much hate?
So it all started with “I heard from a little bird”
I have been following both the Japanese and the Chinese fandoms closely since way before the lawsuit, the English fandom more closely since last year, and I puzzled together my limited knowledge of the Korean fandom by reading accounts in the above three languages.
From my observations, the antis almost all originated from Korea, and were spread into the other three regions via bilingual netizens who translated filtered news, articles and rumors on high-traffic message boards known to be hotbeds for celebrity gossips. Due to the lack of centralized source of information in the form of mega-sized fansites such as DNBN in Korea, Baidu TVXQ Bar in China and the various well-known English sites in the i-fandom; (mis)information from self-proclaimed “insider” K-cassies spread like a wildfire in Japan with many fans believing in their every word. This culminated in the rise of a number of BNF antis to something akin to “cult leader status”. The biggest anti sites in Japan boast daily visitor counts in the range of low five digits, and their more “juicy” entries often received thousands or more comments (all in agreement with the OP, for disapproving comments are deleted while the dissident commenters are ganged up on).
In China, as the fansite with the largest following (more than 80,000 registered members) stands firm on its stance to support all five members (although it gets criticism from both sides for leaning toward the other side more), antis are not allowed the “luxury” to spread vicious rumors on the this mega-sized information hub (their ID will be banned, and the site only permits member registration on very few days in a year), which along with its sister “bars”, are the only places many fans visit. However, there is this one notorious forum that has got to be one of the world’s busiest rumor mill catering to minimally censored discussions on anything about any celebrity, where you often find the TVXQ related threads growing to hundreds of pages long in a span of a day or two. Then there’s also Chinese’s version of twitter–weibo–and numerous other chat rooms and/or instant messengers where the true thoughts and sentiments of the BNFs are exchanged- and sometimes screen capped and be used as fodders for the next episode of fandom drama.
The rumors might have crept into the Japanese cyber fandom in as early as mid-2009, but they only really began to gain momentum after it was announced that Tohoshinki’s activities will be put on an indefinite halt. As the days went by and it became more and more obvious that the group would not reunite anytime soon (if ever), the urge to name the “culprit” for THSK’s breakup was becoming stronger. What started off as passive rumor sites (I think they identify themselves as truth-seeking informational sites though…) began to gain attention very rapidly- as they were being promoted through words of mouth and having their links posted everywhere. Eventually, they became the largest bases for antis of certain members who were blamed by the original rumor site as the real culprits for the TVXQ breakup.
With the rise in numbers of active antis, popular blogs that support the “guilty” members or all five members (these blogs are called the “花畑 (hanabata, meaning flower fields)” by haters, as in they turn a blind eye to the “truths” and continue to support those members who betrayed, broke up the group and otherwise “victimized” the other members, as if nothing is wrong) were getting hostile comments in bulk, and on a daily basis. As a result, many of these blogs or sites were shut down, some have disabled the comment function and some have locked up their sites allowing only for member access.
Witnessing all these, I was dumbfounded. Putting aside the matter of whether or not the haters are justified in their anger, isn’t it easy to simply stop buying any product of the members one no longer supports, and move on? Isn’t it better to focus one’s time on supporting the members one does like and believe in? And if anger needs to be vented, shouldn’t venting with like-minded people in private or on one’s personal blog be enough?
The Zero Sum Game- A’s survival and success will only come at the expense of B’s defeat and demise, and vice versa
While I do not consider it very likely that antis can be brought back to the light side with reason (there are ways to counter the antis, most effectively by defusing misinformation with facts, and this is being done by an increasing number of popular bloggers), I wonder if I could offer my humble opinion on how not to start thinking like a hater/anti.
I am seeing this line of thought beginning to surface more frequently in the i-fandom:
“I want to know the TRUTH, about why the lawsuit was really filed, about why not all members filed the lawsuit.”
“If you know enough about the lawsuit (like the OP implies him/herself does), then you will see how it’s impossible to support both sides.”
Because there has to be one true culprit for TVXQ’s breakup.
Because somehow, in order to justify the side a fan supports, the other side needs to be vilified.
If Homin were right to have stayed at SM, then JYJ had to be wrong to have left.
If JYJ are courageous, freedom-loving pioneers who fight against an evil giant for their own rights; then Homin have to be cowardly, dependent followers who stand behind said evil giant.
If Homin are loyal, modest people with integrity, who are grateful to a family-like organization that has made their success possible; then JYJ have to be disloyal, greedy traitors who are morally corrupt, and have betrayed people who were as close as family.
The righteousness of JYJ and that of Homin (and sometimes by extension SM) are therefore mutually exclusive. And the competition for a better public opinion becomes even more brutal, when fans began to believe that only one side was telling the truth, which would leave the other side the least coveted position as a “liar”.
But it’s wrong on so many levels to think that it’s impossible for two good persons to have made opposite choices
Logically, I just can’t see why Jaejoong, Yoochun, Junsu, Yunho, and Changmin can’t ALL be decent human beings, who have made the best possible decisions according to their respective value and belief systems.
Neither the choice to leave nor the choice to stay at SM is going to make them look like angels to all the fans, especially when they didn’t all make the same choice. And they must have foreseen this, having the chaotic drama and fanwar ensuing H.O.T’s breakup as a precedent.
Of course, there are more to just the choice to leave or stay itself- there are the lawsuit, what each member has said about the contract, about SM and its treatment of its artists. While these were said with a purpose to justify their own positions, it’s inevitable that their self-justifications would be viewed as points to invalidate the opposite position. As previously described, if one choice is right, then the opposite choice “has to be wrong”.
The most divisive ‘events’ that took place in the past 17 months or so, are the lawsuit and the Homin’s display of allegiance to SM. I compare Chunjaesu filing the lawsuit to Homin having to publicly side with SM- it’s not exactly an apple-to-apple comparison, but IMHO they have one important common element- they are both the inevitable cost (and very high cost at that) of their respective decision they have made to leave or stay at SM.
For Chunjaesu, who were determined to leave SM, the only viable way to do it was by filing a lawsuit to void their contract, because the cost to break away as stipulated in the contract was estimated by media experts at a whopping $400 million USD (as discussed in Jimmie’s article dated 11/14/11), hardly an amount they could possibly come up with.
Likewise for Homin, who were determined to stay at SM, it is only natural that in order to defend its public image, SM will require Homin to either directly criticize Chunjaesu, or give their silent consent for SM to criticize Chunjaesu using their names.
On Chunjaesu’s part, suing the very management company that trained them, promoted them and helped made them the stars they are today, made them look like ungrateful, greedy traitors especially in a “Confucian society” like Korea. Also, by claiming the contract as very unfair they inevitably made those artists who are alright with a similar contract, look bad (or at least suspicious) in the eyes of their supporters.
On Homin’s part, staying at a management company with such horrible reputations (“slave contracts” and cockblocking the “defectors”), made them look like weak, fearful children especially in the eyes of some of their hometown fans who had never trusted SM. Also, by sticking with a contract Chunjaesu called very unfair, they inevitably made the trio look bad (or at least fishy) in the eyes of their supporters.
I highly doubt either side thought they would have it easy, the decisions, I think, were made despite of the hardships they each anticipated they would have to endure.
Many fans find themselves supporting one choice but not the other- and I think this is only natural. However, in addition to reminding ourselves that they are 100% entitled to decide how they want to live their lives (whether you like/agree with their way or not), I think it might help to gain perspective by considering certain ‘what-if?’ scenarios.
A lot of times, we don’t judge on what have been said and done, but who have said and done it.
I am a Jaejoong fan, and I fully support Chunjaesu’s decision to file a lawsuit against SM. I certainly wish they could have somehow gotten out of SM without subjecting themselves and their fans to so much sadness, drama and worries; but we are not in that perfect world, and I do believe this lawsuit will end up helping to make the K-pop music industry a better place for the artists and future artist-want-to-be’s, whether or not making other artists’ lives better was part of their motivations behind the lawsuit.
BUT, what if, what if Jaejoong had instead made the decision to stay at SM? Would that have changed my view on the lawsuit, or my view on Jaejoong?
I’ve thought about it really hard, and have come to the conclusion that had he made the opposite decision, I would still have believed that his motivations were good, and that his reasons made sense, even though I would still have supported the lawsuit as a choice more.
When you have faith in someone- and I don’t call it a blind faith unless you are always going against your rational thinking while defending this person – it’s natural and easy for you to believe that whatever conscious decision he makes, he has a genuine motive and doesn’t mean to hurt anyone, even when he knows it’s inevitable that people will be hurt by his decision.
There will only be a lose-lose outcome if antis are not stopped
Back to the battlefields… I mean the fandoms.
The greatest casualties for last year’s fanwars, are the casual fans and the new fans for TVXQ as a whole. Following the successful Tokyo Dome live in 09, their appearances on various high profile year-end shows like the Kohaku, and the immensely popular Best Selection album released in early 2010, a new flood of fans poured into the TVXQ fandom. They already knew about the lawsuit, but that was alright- fandom atmosphere was most supportive at that time, and they were so happy to have discovered this wonderful group with their wonderful fans. Their only regret was that they hadn’t discovered TVXQ earlier, but that was okay too- the old fans were most welcoming, telling them we would always keep the faith, always support each and every member.
Less than a few months later, everything changed. With the rise of the rumor sites, more and more fans began to look at the members differently, and eventually became antis, thinking they “have learned the ugly truth about these members”. Some of the popular fan sites have come out to openly denounce the members, some were attacked so much they closed down their sites, and some have disabled comments or locked up their sites allowing only limited access. To the horror of the new fans, they not only had suddenly lost places to interact lightheartedly with each other and the old fans, they were now being told that some of the boys fans described as angels were actually backstabbing demons.
The casual fans were having their massive exodus too. Casual fans were in it for the good music and fun, thank you very much. They didn’t care who the bad guy was, or if there was a bad guy at all, so all the in-fights were just plain inconveniences to them. And since a lot of the casual fans had migrated to the TVXQ fandom from some other fandom, it was relatively easy for them to migrate to another new fandom- especially with the abundance of other boybands to choose from. These other bands might not be Tohoshinki, but many of them are good looking, can sing well, dance well, and most importantly their fandoms are currently fun and harmonious. So with a new wallpaper on their blogs, with new entries that are filled with pictures of other boys, they said their farewell to a once-happy cyber family now being hijacked by its extremist members.
Thanks to the haters, the overall fandom shrank at a speed that would be unfathomable had the fandom atmosphere remained positive.
So have these antis at least achieved what they had set out to do- to take over the fandom (or what is left of it) with their beliefs, to bring down the other camp?
You might have heard about what were the “hell gate” incidents that took place in the Korean fandom awhile ago, I’ve heard that things have largely settled now. As for the Japanese fandom, things have started to backfire on the antis.
The “cult/ringleaders” have lately begun to notice that although they have successfully converted many fans to haters, they are increasingly being shunned by fans outside of their castle, including the more reasonable fans who have the same biases as they do. There are also fans who after months of pent-up anger, have exploded and realized they could not even stand to look at, let along supporting the members of whom these antis are fans.
What is even worse for the antis, is that the Korean fans have taken actions to counter all the rumors, lies, and misinformation they have been spreading in the last year or so. The tide change is rapid and rather amusing to watch. Although the sheer size of their “army” makes it quite unlikely that they will be greatly weakened anytime soon, the fact that they have started to ‘tone down’ their hateful rhetoric, and that the joyful “flower field” fansites are “coming back to business” one after another, I think are already causes for celebrations.
In the end, one can only boost support for her side so much by vilifying the other side. “Righteous anger” might act as a strong catalyst for awhile, but it’s love that will last- but can a hateful heart feel love? Especially when one’s entire case of justice and vindictiveness were built on lies, just remember, what goes around comes around.
~Please do not remove without proper credits~