At another point in the press conference, a reporter asked why the government had attempted to bury parts of the train. Wang’s response was:
Why was the train car buried? Actually, when I got off the plane today, the comrade who picked me up from the airport said that he already saw this kind of news online. I was on the plane so I didn’t have a good handle on things. I wanted to ask him, “Why would there be such a foolish question? Can an event that the whole world knows about really be buried?” He told me, “It’s not being buried. Truthfully, this news cannot be buried.” We have already tried though countless ways to broadcast this information to society.
But about burying [the train car], [the people who picked me up from the airport] gave this explanation. Because the scene of the rescue was very complicated. Below was a quagmire. It was very hard to perform rescue operations. So they buried the head of the car underneath, covered it with dirt, mainly to facilitate rescue efforts. Right now, this is his explanation. Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.
Wang delivers the last line with a satisfied nod of the head and a swing of his right hand (animated GIF here), as if to emphasize the important thing is that he has deluded himself. Whether or not the Chinese people can delude themselves is their problem. An utter lack of curiosity or a desire to know the truth permeates his response. There is no indignation, no second-guessing, no doubt—just gleeful ignorance.
Never mind the lack of logic: It’s hard to perform rescue operations on unstable ground so fuck it, let’s just bury everyone alive. Then, on the backs of the deceased, we can try and rescue some people. Perhaps this is why some netizens have taken to calling Mr. Wang, “Emperor Logic.”
Add to the fact that the Chinese government, like every government, is very successful at burying events that the whole world knows about. One might even say they excel at it. This press conference gives us a rare glimpse into why the Chinese government works so well: they’ve stacked their ranks with people who have cheerfully drunk the Kool-Aid. I had hoped that officials in the government didn’t believe their own bullshit but Wang here wallows in it. You’ve gotta give him points for gullibility.
The Social Consciousness
Jokes incorporating Wang’s responses quickly surfaced. A comment on the latter video reads,“Wang Yongping is impotent. Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.”
A longer joke imagines a retelling of Journey to the West:
Tangzeng and his followers have to go back to West Heaven and Tangzeng wants to take a shortcut so he asks Wukong’s advice. Wukong says, “I hear planes are much faster than your white horse.” Bajie advises, “Master, I hear the Shenzhou 6 is even faster.” Then, Shazeng pulls out four tickets for a high-speed train and says to Tangzeng: “Master, I hear this thing can send you straight to West Heaven. Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.”
Aside from finding humor in an otherwise depressing situation, memes like this are important because they embed the event in the social consciousness, preserving knowledge about the event for a longer period of time. After all, a government’s greatest ally is the forgetfulness of the general public.
These cultural memes show that although the government is monitoring the Internet more and more carefully—blocking websites, deleting posts and reposts—they cannot stop their infamies from seeping into the culture itself. Perhaps the only way citizens can remind themselves of the tragedies that are whitewashed, rewritten, or otherwise brushed aside, is to make them a part of the underground lexicon.
Shortly after the accident, a user on Tencent’s microblogging service started a “High-speed Rail Style Sentence Making Competition,” which challenged users to make sentences using Wang’s, “Regarding ___, whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.” Though I cannot locate the thread (it may have been harmonized), the competition had over 7,000 replies by the evening of the 27th.
Some entries were preserved on other parts of the web:
The Chinese Soccer Association said: “The Chinese soccer team will qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.”
There is no traffic in Beijing today. This is a miracle, but that is how it happened. Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.