Celebrity gossip is bread and water to internet users everywhere: From dating to births, engagement, weddings, breakups, divorce, and death, every detail of a celebrity’s life can become a trending topic. Compared with state-backed stories full of “positive energy,” scandals—whether drunk driving, drug-taking, an extramarital affair, or love of call girls—are always more appealing.
Once caught, the celebrity will quickly find themselves the subject of an online carnival. As idle netizens feast on the flesh of the fallen, a weak but angry voice, usually from still-loyal fans, can be heard pleading:
It’s just a rumor! There’s no solid hammer at all!
Zhè dōu shì yáoyán, gēnběn méiyǒu shíchuí!
Don’t be confused: You don’t need to carry heavy tools to gossip. “Solid hammer” (实锤 shíchuí) is web slang for “ironclad evidence.” No hammer, no cry, say the diehard fans.
Though its origin seems almost untraceable, this expression is simple to understand, because inarguable proof of a wrongdoing can smash the reputation and even career of a celebrity, just like a strong hammer. In an era dominated by the web, “solid hammer” usually refers to a photograph, voice chat, screenshot, or video that confirms the rumor. If you don’t have any of these, you will be labeled a 黑子 (hēizi, anti-fan, someone who defames others on purpose), who literally 黑 (hēi, “blacken”) or slanders a celebrity. Fans may defend their controversial idol by saying:
Those anti-fans have no solid hammer at all. They are just randomly blackening his name!
Hēizimen gēnběn méiyǒu shíchuí, wánquán shì zài luàn hēi.
Usually, fans and heizi belong to rival camps. However, a fan’s defense of their idol can backfire. In September 2017, a woman named Li Yutong, who claimed to be singer Xue Zhiqian’s ex-girlfriend, accused Xue not only of swindling her out of money but cheating on his wife. Xue’s fans were outraged: They demanded Li post “solid hammers.” Li was happy to comply. In the next week, she drip-fed fans a series of damning evidence, including bank transfer records, voice messages, and even a photocopy of their business contract—hammers so solid that Xue’s reputation was irreversibly destroyed.
This story generated a whole new expression to describe the fate of Xue’s fans: 求锤得锤 (qiú chuí dé chuí, seek hammer and receive it), derived from the Confucian saying 求仁得仁, “seek virtue and receive it.”
In many cases, though, fans believe that anti-fans are not just ordinary netizens, but professionals hired by people to vilify their beloved star. These mercenaries, or “水军” (shuǐjūn), literally “water army,” not only make money from blackening celebrities but also accept payment for hyping them. Paid shills are called
“职粉” (zhífěn), short for 职业粉丝 (zhíyè fěnsī, professional fans). In contrast, impartial netizens who have no particular axe to grind are known as 路人 (lùrén, passersby). Among fans, the saying goes, “Once you join the discussion, you are no longer a passerby.” Underneath an article relating bad news about a star, one can frequently see loyal fans firing back at someone who leaves negative comments:
You are obviously the water army. Why are you pretending to be a passerby?
Nǐ yí kàn jiùshi shuǐjūn, zhuāng shénme lùrén a?
The effect of solid hammers is overwhelming, but they can’t smash everything, at least not the strong faith and love from particularly crazed fans. A minority of worshipful fans—similar to Western-style “Beliebers” or Beyonce’s “Beyhive”—believe their idols can do no wrong and find excuses for any and all misbehavior. Such an unreasonable attitude has won these diehards a derogatory title—脑残粉 (nǎocánfěn, brain-damaged fans), indicating that they lose all critical thinking skills where their idol is concerned. Their defense of a “guilty” celebrity is called 洗白 (xǐbái, whitewash). When this happens, a heizi or righteous passerby might point their finger and say:
These brain-damaged fans have come to whitewash again!
Zhèxiē nǎocánfěn yòu lái xǐbái le!
One thing is clear: When you take part in any discussion of a celebrity scandal, your identity will always be questioned. Blame the star, you are a heizi; defend them, you are a brain-damaged fan or greedy water army. And if you try to be an impartial passerby? No way, you must be a liar!
“Hit’ Em Up” is a story from our issue, “The Noughty Nineties”. To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the iTunes Store.