The start was in fact very simple. In 2007, Professor Zhong Hua at Sichuan Normal University issued an article entitled Cultural Studies and the Lost of Literary Theory in the 11th issue of “Literature and Art Studies”, one of the core academic journals in China, criticizing an academic work entitled Perspective of Ideological Transformation and Literary Discourse of Modern Concepts Evolution written by a Beijing Normal University professor Ji Guangmao. In this article, Professor Zhong Hua pointed out that the book failed to well analyse and demonstrate the concept of its topic. Zhong Hua said the lack of creativity and preciseness in Ji Guangmao’s book reflects the slovenly academic attitude of the author. However, feeling his authority had been challenged, Ji Guangmao fired back in his blog . Since December 5, 2007, he had written a series of entries and most of them contained personal attacks and dirty language. All these articles soon led to great concern from the academic experts and Netizen. Faced with all divergent argument, each professor got some supporters and opponents in the blogosphere.
Sina blogger Jinchengyou wrote in his blog on Feb 25, arguing that academic discussion should be confined only in the area of academy and advised Prof. Ji to regain his sanity and stop name-calling.
After reading Professor Ji Guangmao’s article “Refuting Zhong Hua: (2) Look how he smears others’ reputation” I even feel much as a reluctant heart. You cannot understand some content written in it without personal experience in the circle of academy. I think the academic criticism is normal and necessary. Being the academic members, critics should pay attention to the good yardstick of language. It seems wrong that some are too harsh, and they should establish the respect of each other on the basis of good manners (not necessarily the views of critics are completely correct). One should know that, due to various reasons, the reflection in a book is in a certain stage of the awareness of some issues and is inevitable to make careless omissions and errors. Critics in the conduct of criticism should only concern about the academic topic, excluding other issues.
As the academician being criticized, one should have sufficient academic self-confidence and it is unnecessary to be so mean to the criticism. I believe it is his more than 20 years of hard work that makes the 45-year-old professor an “elite scholar and doctorate tutor”, and his academic status is beyond doubt. Now that his work “Perspective of Ideological Transformation and Literary Discourse of Modern Concepts Evolution” is under criticism, it is quite unreasonable and unwise for Prof. Ji to lose his sanity and vituperate the critics. I cherish the hope that Prof. Ji can treasure his plume and extricate himself from the bog.
In Baidu Tieba (Baidu Post Bar), the discussion is also going impetuously and an anonymous author recently posted some words describing the loss of social morality reflected by this incident.
To be honest, as a famous scholar, when the academic work of his own is suddenly going under severe criticism it is inevitable for him to feel disaffected and even say some extreme words as responses. But, now that we live in a civilized nation, as a university professor one should obey the public morality and confine the discussion in the academe. From the ‘responses’ made by Ji Guangmao, however, we can see nothing appropriate and academic except for all the insulting vituperation and bawdry on Zhong Hua and his family. The words and manner are so dirty and vulgar that it indicated that he not only lost the morality discipline a scholar should possess but also disobeyed the basic social morality!
Wang Shichuan, a professional observer and freelance, who thought the ‘criticism gate’ incident indicated some moral problems in Chinese universities and academic circles, wrote the following words in his Tencent blog on Feb 24.
This is a typical criticism, but caused atypical anger. Of course, we should sigh for the moral status quo in today's colleges and universities and even feel from the lament that the logion “lofty scholarship as tutor; high morality as quintessence” is in the progress of degradation. However, we can not throw a big moral stick to Mr. Ji, attributing it simply to the whirlpool of moral loss. We should ask: how could the benign interaction of academic criticism become alienated? We should inquire why Prof. Ji was utterly discomfited after the criticism. We need more clarity: How to build a mature academic criticism, and wipe out the academic egoism?
How to deal with the academic criticism? In it, both critics or the criticized must ,in the purpose of guide for academic progress, the promotion of national and ethical progress as well as the development of the academics, tolerate each other's saying, even some sarcastic words. Yang Lixin, Law Professor at People's University, speaks out his opinion and it won my heart. We note that the Zhong Hua’s academic criticism towards Ji Guangmao is not immaculate, and there are some loopholes. Zhong Hua has admitted that – in dealing with individual issues and the limits for speech or action, there is still something inappropriate. In response, when interviewed by a reporter, Ji Guangmao said that except the two spots of academic carelessness and clerical error which was pointed out by Zhong Hua, the rest is indefensible, and some are quoted out of context or even fictitious…… At this point, if Mr. Ji responded tit-for-tat on the basis of academic context, the whole thing should be loved by the people. But the question is that the anger Ji is just like the surging river and all the obscene word and bawdry has never been stopped, which makes the normal academic criticism distorted.
In a nutshell, the normal academic criticism is becoming increasingly scarce. So vulnerable is criticism that any argument can easily stir anger. The current dilemma of the current academic quality, academic ethics and academic research makes it impossible for critics to give and receive criticism with heartsease and therefore it is difficult for them to devote themselves to academic research. Besides academic morality, we should pay our attention to these two points.
Still, there’re some supporters of Prof. Ji Guangmao. Blogger Chenyuansheng, who had some personal contact with Ji Guangmao, posted the supportive words in his weblog showing sympathetic feelings and arguing that the criticism from Zhong Hua is totally unequal.
If I knew nothing about Ji Guangmao, I think I will possibly trust what Zhong Hua said or at least be greatly influenced by his article. But as someone who knows Ji Guangmao a little, I never trust the criticism made by Zhong Hua. Whatever a fool Ji Guagmao is, he can’t be as foolish as that.
In his article, Zhong Hua didn’t say anything positive, not even some striped-pants praise. Had Ji Guangmao been a real idiot and that immoral, then I will say nothing about his bold and resolute words. But, I will never believe Ji Guangmao is such a kind of person. A witty guy will never instantly become a retard; as such, a retard can never turn to be clever all of a sudden.
In his up-to-date blog entry on Feb 25, Prof. Ji Guangmao said he is misunderstood by others.
My friends always ask: why can’t you say it calmly. Yes, I myself also want to express my feelings in good manners. But, it is unavoidable not to stay calm when somebody smears you so dirtily. While getting angry, one will surely say some angry words. At this point, even if I wanted to say it ‘in good manners’, it is not easy to do so. 80 days had passed, but still I can’t feel relieved. You will never understand my feelings without putting your foot in my shoes.
Without writing a weblog, Zhong Hua none the less spoke out his mind to the public when receiving an interview on Feb 24.
Zhong Hua told the journalist that he was very regretful and hopeless to see the academic discussion being eroded to such an extent. He said: “If we give the devil his due, I have to say his academic insight is still valuable in some sense. Though I’m holding some different opinions, now it is still immature for me to have a thorough discussion with him. As to those insulting words of him, I think, that’s another issue.
Here are some titles of entries from the weblog of Prof. Ji Guangmao concerning with this ‘academic’ incident.
Turn back to Beast (To a certain ‘asshole professor’ and ‘helosis professor’)
‘Asshole Professor’ loses face again
One hundred percent ‘Asshole Professor’
‘Hemorrhoids Professor’ or ‘Asshole Professor’?
Professor and Hemorrhoids
Suffering from Brain Constipation: There is Fart everywhere
Oh my God, please save us!