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Chinese Zombies at Yale (Communists at Harvard)

March 4, 2013

“Chinese Yale Zombies” is an Associated Press story floating around many news sites.

yale zombie

WashingtonPost: “Yale’s digital zombie mystery: Why has the Ivy drawn a battalion of dead accounts in China?
USAToday: “‘Zombies’ infest Yale social network account
MSNnow: “Legions of mysterious Chinese ‘zombies’ are big fans of Yale

This story plays on a number of zombie themes. Chinese zombies, social media zombies and academic zombies. This particular crossover also makes a slightly racist comment about the influx of Chinese students in American schools of higher education, which therefore implicates immigration policy (we educate them and send them home because we can’t employ them) and on the student loan debt bubble (the whole education system as Ponzi scheme of zombies!).

The actual story is about Yale University’s Sina Weibo account – Sina Weibo is the major player in Chinese internet social networking. So this story serves to continue introduction of American audiences to Sina Weibo (as we still tend to think the internet is only in English — and since we only speak English it is scary, like a zombie, to think that half the world tags using characters we can’t read or even type). This also reminds that big academic institutions are marketing-hard to foreign students and we have no idea what they are saying or what kinds of marketing tactics they are using to lure these students here.

Apparently Yale has a lot of “zombie” followers on it’s Sina Weibo account – recall “Seth Stevenson bought 27,000 zombie twitter followers” – but Yale officials claim they didn’t buy these followers. They say it’s just internet spam. Still, somebody promoted the school this way.

Yale is well-known for New Criticism and comparative literature – are those critical skills, the zombie subjects? Aren’t they basically the same Critical Studies that the new junior Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, has been calling the Communists at Harvard? – see New Yorker article by Jane Meyer:

It may be that Cruz was referring to a group of left-leaning law professors who supported what they called Critical Legal Studies, a method of critiquing the political impact of the American legal system. Professor Duncan Kennedy, for instance, a leader of the faction, who declined to comment on Cruz’s accusation, counts himself as influenced by the writings of Karl Marx.

Personally, I am proud to consider Duncan Kennedy’s “Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy” (a polemic about global hegemony created by educational systems) amongst my favorite readings. But of course, I freely admit to being a zombie.

There was also a “Yale Zombie Project” from Jeremi Szaniawski. See his short film: “Love of the Dead – the Yale Zombie Project” and see The Semiotics of Zombies with Francesco Casetti, Yale Film Professor, analyzing zombie as the “spectacle” of “between’:

Also this blog at Digital Histories at Yale by historian Joseph Yannielli, connects zombies to the history of consumerism and trade in human flesh, during African slave trade, and followed up at “The Rail Splittler Awakes” with reference to the Nytimes article by
by Amy Wilentz: “A Zombie Is a Slave Forever”

On the same theme see this past Saturday’s SNL sketch about “Walking Dead” racism – at LATimes: “The plight of the black zombie: ‘SNL’ takes on ‘The Walking Dead’

One of them? Oh my god, this is so racist right now.. when someone comes from a different cultural background them you, they’re automatically a zombie?

Consider also the movie, “Dark Matter” loosely based on a real 1991 shooting, about the physics student overworked into violent mental illness. Consider that Chinese immigrants who come to American schools may sometimes be equivalent of professor’s slave labor – but also that physics students may just be crazy – see the recent “Doctoral student charged with terrorist threats” – and of course, James Holmes was a neurosciences student. Maybe these science people need more comparative literature in their life – more critical theory and help to better express their inner zombie?

In the Financial Times today: “Creativity needed to unwind ‘zombie’ CDOs” by Aaron Johnson is about a totally different kind of “zombie” but the suggested zombie cure, creativity, is phonetically related to criticism and critical thinking theories. And also that “Cr”-sound relates creature and Christ (who was not a zombie because he was a Lich – pre-Easter marketing).

The question remains where is best to become “creative”? An overpriced academic institution built on archaic models of traditional education, like an Ivy-league school or like ya know, a church, or maybe something new, something built for an internet world of Chinese characters. Recall Peter Thiel’s appeal against college in favor of dreams. And consider that some banker “fighting the FED” is somewhere (maybe in China, but through American banks) is selling-short the student loan bubble – and it’s the same company, SecondMarket, that brought early Facebook shares to market! – which brings us full circle to social media zombies.

Here in America, many big schools use Google for their email and the students connect to each other through Facebook. What do we even need these old schools for anymore? They are dying brands (like the old media companies) struggling to keep hold in the new internet world. And they are all using just as many zombie tricks here as they are on Sina Weibo in China. We may never know who bought Yale all its zombie Chinese followers, but more reporting is essential to unmasking the zombie marketing tactics of elite brands.



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