The Shanghai Stampede and the Blame Game

January 6, 2015

The Chinese university department that attracted attention last month for banning Christmas apparently believes its decision was vindicated by the New Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai that left three dozen dead, many of them students.

In statement dated Jan. 2nd and published on the website of Modern College of Northwest University in Xi’an, representatives of the college’s Youth League Committee Office wrote that had the tragedy occurred on Christmas Eve in Xi’an, the college’s Christmas celebrations ban would have been lauded.

“The tragic stampede that happened in Shanghai during the holiday has unfortunately shown the decision made by management of our college to be wise,” the statement’s title said.

via China College Crows Over Christmas Ban After Deadly Stampede – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

Would I be justified in calling out these folks for being insensitive idiots whose logical reasoning skills are on par with a head of lettuce? Sure, but I won’t bother. I’m going to assume that the “Youth League” representatives are students, and there’s no easier target than a dim-witted kid driven by ideology.

That being said, it is rather interesting how quickly blame is assessed when something tragic occurs. In addition to the ridiculous attempt to tie the Christmas ban to the sad New Year events in Shanghai (no, the logic makes no sense), I also read several bizarre rumors and theories. My favorite one was that someone was throwing out fake currency to the crowd, who stampeded in an attempt to collect the bills — greed was the problem, you see.

As usual, the real explanation was slightly more complicated and assuredly more boring, having mostly to do with crowd control measures that were not sufficient for the task at hand.

But everyone would prefer to play the blame game, and if you can blame the West, or a Western holiday in this case, that is always the safest way to go. Sort of like when government regulators go after Wal-mart or GSK — very little domestic blowback.

I’d love to say that this is a very Chinese phenomenon, but of course it isn’t. What happens in your typical U.S. state when there is a budget shortfall? Suddenly it’s the fault of illegal immigrants and the poor. Why? No political blowback to the ones doing the criticizing. See how the game is played? Unfortunately, in most cases, the blame game is played by politicians and other folks in power, with disastrous results.

In this case, I take solace in the fact that the nonsense coming out of Xi’an was temporary (the post has since been taken down) and that no one with any real authority was behind it.

For once, the (rational) grown-ups were in charge.