Shenzhen Tech Girl Naomi Wu, Part 2: Over the Wall and into the Fire

On journalism, Patreon, SubscribeStar, and being collateral damage in the Culture Wars of the West

I am a futuristic Chinese girl, 1/25th Synthetic, the rest Human. I am from Shenzhen — the most cyberpunk city in the world. I hack hardware, write code, and make things you’ve never seen before.

Note: The following article will make very little sense unless you read Part 1: Shenzhen Tech Girl Naomi Wu: My experience with Sarah Jeong, Jason Koebler, and Vice Magazine

Translator and copy-editor’s note: On several occasions, Naomi Wu has been treated with suspicion for accepting assistance with her written English. Naomi is extremely articulate in Chinese, and for someone raised and educated entirely in Mainland China reasonably well-spoken and literate in English. Language is often judged by native speakers for its fluency, rather than its content — although this bias is usually unintentional. Whenever possible we have tried to find suitable idioms and appropriate analogies, but sometimes, imperfect turns of phrase better serve to convey Naomi’s intent.

There are people who insist it’s “unfair” or “suspicious” for Naomi to have fluent English at her disposal when entire online communities simultaneously attack her for daring to exist. Far from it, given the asymmetry of the situation, that Naomi receives assistance being as articulate in English as she is in Chinese is the bare minimum of what is reasonable.

This is fair accommodation for someone who for years has endured the indignity of having to show up and prove her very existence, her eloquence in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese, and her authenticity as a technically proficient woman on countless occasions. These are no longer good-faith questions but attempts to punish and discredit an inconvenient participant simply for being atypical and an outsider. The constant attacks are what is unfair and suspect — not the meager assistance she receives in fending them off.

Naomi

When people hear my story, I am often asked the question, “But why don’t you leave China?” Sometimes this question is part of charming emails with offers of marriage — from both sexes, occasionally accompanied by delightful pictures of clean, well-equipped workshops waiting for me from those insightful enough to know where my heart is. It is harmless, very flattering, and — I like to think — well-intentioned.

Since you last heard from me in Part 1 of this article, I visited New York City — my first trip outside Asia. As interesting as the USA was, for now, I am committed to remaining in China. Shenzhen, my home, is a cyberpunk city from the future — in both good ways and bad. It’s a city of ubiquitous surveillance, but also of spontaneous, breathtaking late-night drone swarms. It’s an amazing place, and where I want my story to unfold.

An adorable little girl who wanted to try on my Face Changing hat, a proof of concept exploit for defeating face recognition based on traditional Chinese opera. She knew me by my Chinese name: 机械妖姬 or “Machinery Enchantress” and like all children I meet is assured that I really can talk to any machine — provided I am given time to learn the special language each different one speaks. And should they wish — they can learn to do so as well.

The Road So Far

In my previous article, I detailed my experience with Sarah Jeong, which occurred long before the controversy involving her being hired by the New York Times’s Opinion Column. I have written of how I was attacked by her online and how she used her ethnicity, her media platform, and her standing as an authority on harassment against me. She declared that China was no different than South Korea (which she left at three and has visited once on vacation) and that Vice Magazine’s breaching a written agreement could not possibly have put me at risk as a PRC citizen.

Thousands of people read my article, hundreds of them replied on Twitter to the New York Times and Sarah Jeong’s high profile supporters. Many of them made it clear that their concerns with Sarah had nothing to do with her comments about other people, just her interactions with me. Many people even supported Sarah — except for what she had done to me.

The only issue addressed by any major media outlet was Sarah’s comments on race. The rest would be ignored, conveniently brushed under the carpet because they didn’t fit with the narrative they had decided on — that only racists had concerns about Sarah Jeong.

The author of one of my favorite short stories “Printcrime” unfortunately thinks I’m a “Garbage Person.”
The thread was locked without response. Cory Doctorow has been tagged several times; he is well aware of what was done to me. This pattern has repeated itself countless times with Sarah’s high profile supporters.

It was frustrating having all these prominent people simply ignore what Sarah had done, despite meticulous documentation and my having invited Sarah, Vice Magazine and the New York Times to dispute the facts as presented if they wished. But why should they bother? Their livelihoods were intact; they had lost nothing, and they felt I was acceptable collateral damage if it meant propping Sarah up as something she clearly was not. They refused to accept Sarah could be arguably innocent of one thing, and guilty of another — with no relation between those two. But despite many thousands of people seeing the proof of exactly what Sarah had done in my previous Medium article, despite hundreds of journalists who follow me on Twitter as one of the very few independent voices coming over the Great Firewall of China — none would write about it, or even retweet it.

Only Sarah was granted context for her actions; and what a charitable, indulgent context it was. My actions, taking place in in the context of far more dangerous circumstances, were judged purely in Western terms by people who had never been in even a remotely similar position. People who hit the send button on every social media post and upload any video without a second thought, without careful consideration each time of the potential consequences. People who didn’t know, and don’t care, because, to them, people like me just don’t matter.

Hundreds of people asked, “What about Naomi Wu?”, but the only people who were addressed were those the New York Times could conveniently dismiss. Since they couldn’t do that with me, they simply ignored me, as if I never existed. Their colleagues at other media outlets dutifully followed their lead.

One by one I and my supporters were blocked from social media timelines, our posts and emails ignored. The narrative had been decided; only racists took issue with Sarah Jeong — and if you spoke up, even on the completely unrelated matter about what Sarah had done to me, then you were a racist.

I have an expression I like to use, “It’s all about merit until merit has tits.” It refers to my experience with gatekeepers, where they set some bar of technical proficiency with the intent that it keep outsiders and atypical participants out. When through diligent study and hard work I clear the bar (and I usually do) — that’s when we get to see what they are made of. Are they honest people who care only about the work or gatekeeping cliques that can’t handle…well, tits? Do they move the goalposts to suit their prejudice?

I am a member of the 3D printing community. We’re small but active and very welcoming to new participants. If ever you are looking for a tech community that is casually and effortlessly inclusive, ours is it. From this community, not just women spoke up — but good men, older engineers with kind faces, often beards and suspenders. Men who quite remind me of my grandfather and who had treated me so fairly, evaluated my work and never anything else, patiently answered questions but never offered unsolicited or patronizing advice. Men who had never written a political word in their social media feeds before calmly spoke up for me. They said they had seen what was done and didn’t think it was right — and they too were shouted down as racists. I’m still a bit… ashamed of this for some reason. Why is it the decent, honorable ones never have the power?

My “It’s all about merit until merit has tits” hair bun cages that I designed. Generated in OpenSCAD, 3D printed and then silver electroplated. Code help from one of those very kind, old, bearded engineers in our 3D printing community.

The New York Times

My public position on Sarah Jeong’s character did not go unnoticed. A video was created by her coworker at the New York Times — Amanda Hess. In it, video stolen from my YouTube channel was spliced in with declarations that I was a “fembot” changing my appearance purely to appeal to the male gaze. The video alleged that I changed my appearance purely to appeal to the male gaze, somehow to the detriment of other women. My stolen video segments were used without attribution while shorter video clips from other creators were fully credited.

Video stolen from my channel without attribution in violation of the CC-BY-SA license.

I have worked for years to build what is arguably the largest English language YouTube channel run by a PRC citizen, produced in Mainland China. I have no official status or permission to do this, so the risk in doing so is enormous. Much of the channel’s success is due to producing content unlike any other. The New York Times casually stealing it, when I risk so much to upload it was beyond disheartening. The very personal attack from a news outlet I respected and had spent countless hours studying as a teenager here in Mainland China, cut deeply.

My appearance is the subject of near-constant abuse, hundreds of messages a day from people angry at me for trespassing into the realm of tech from wherever they feel women “like me” belong, letting me know how repulsive and unwelcome I am. The attempts to discredit me are constant, and no indisputable proof I offer, dozens of meticulously detailed videos showing all aspects of digital fabrication, allowing media into my home to film the whole build process in my workshop — nothing will ever be accepted.

I expect better from the New York Times than simply a more articulate, better-educated version of my daily helping of online abuse.

I am a transhumanist — one who believes we are not only what we are born as, but through technology, be it physical augmentation or other technical interventions like education through AR and VR, we can be far more. Cyborgs are still human; they just have synthetic parts. A fembot has no agency; it is a stereotypical receptacle for male desire, a non-sentient object, an appliance in female form. “Fembot” is a sexist and dehumanizing insult, and given the timing of Amanda’s article — I think a carefully chosen one.

My appearance is and always has been for myself — I have made it absolutely clear, many times that it is my chosen form of gender expression. Some people express their gender by looking more stereotypically masculine, some more feminine — some neither, or extremes of each. This deeply personal expression harms no one.

I looked the way I do long before I was a vlogger, but I have made the decision not to explain why I look the way I do out of solidarity with others. No one should have to provide an acceptable backstory to explain why they are the way they are, why they look like they do, whether they were born that way, or if some trauma shapes them. We all have the right to present ourselves in a way that hurts no one, as our true selves, without being publicly abused if we don’t provide a sufficiently acceptable explanation. So I don’t explain, but it is not for the benefit or attention of the male gaze — and that should be obvious because if it were, I’d doubtless have a far more comfortable life.

As vulgar as it would be for the New York Times to suggest a cishet man must be homosexual to want large muscles — because many gay men find muscles appealing, to say a trans-woman wearing the dresses she is accustomed to must be presenting herself for the male gaze, or to say a woman who gets her hair cut short must be trying to appeal to a lesbian audience — not because she simply fancies herself with short hair. Similarly, it is equally vulgar for the New York Times to use its massive media presence to speculate on my appearance and attach motives to my gender expression that are simply untrue and hurtful. It is not something that has any place in respectable, ethical journalism.

Amanda’s Hess’s smear was deliberate and hateful, an abuse of her platform, and a disservice to her profession. Other women in tech tried to explain to her the harm of what she was doing, but Amanda — protected by the reputation of the New York Times, could be confident a smug dismissal would have no more consequences than the original theft of my content did.

Written by Megan Rose Bryant, one of the fine ladies of the Maker community,

Like nearly all English learners in China, as a student I looked up to the New York Times, it has an unimpeachable reputation with many of us. We obviously all knew that Chinese “journalism” wasn’t comparable and served a completely different function, but we all read the Times whenever we could.

I also have some experience with American feelings about intellectual property from my efforts in China advocating for Open Source compliance and better IP citizenship. If the New York Times had stretched Fair Use well past the point the people I had checked with said it applied, they would at least say so, or explain why other footage in the same video gave full attribution to the American creators, and I, a Chinese taking far more risk, did not warrant the same. Certainly, when others have accused the New York Times of content theft the response has been immediate, personal, and detailed:

They respond to certain kinds of people at least…

I was hurt, angry, and exhausted from struggling to keep my channel alive after Vice magazine had defunded me. I sent the following:

One sentence was redacted here for reasons of personal safety; its intent was to make certain issues clear to the New York Times staff.

The email was read by multiple recipients and then promptly ignored. They would steal from me, use me as click-bait to profit from my stolen content, then virtually erase me, as if I never existed — simply because they could. This colonialist pattern of exploitation — demean, exploit for profit, then discard — mirrored the pattern already established by the far less reputable Vice Magazine.

The New York Times is in a better position than nearly anyone to know the exactly the risk I run to participate on Western social media. Instead of being considerate of this, they counted on it to silence me. Maybe it will.

Foreign nationals without easy access to the US court system have become ideal sources for American media. Unique, click-worthy content, but unable to seek recourse if abused or misrepresented. Of course, Vice Magazine has perfected this business model of Content Colonialism, the New York Times just adopted it when they started hiring former Vice staffers who brought their habits with them.

Shortly thereafter, Casey Neistat — one of the most famous creators on YouTube, took the time to congratulate Amanda on the video she produced with footage stolen from a fellow YouTube creator.

Many people on social media posted comments to Casey pointing out the nature of the theft, but as with Vice Magazine, and the New York Times, he realized some people are safe targets and simply don’t matter. The comments were ignored. I was erased again.

One commenter summarized the situation perfectly.

But surely there are some good journalists at the Times, right? Sometime later I brought the issue to Kara Swisher, another New York Times tech writer, one who like Amanda Hess and Sarah Jeong has a Twitter feed full of progressive opinions and who uses her platform of 1.2 million followers to highlight many injustices — most of them good causes to be sure, but nearly all committed against White, Western-educated women. But still, there’s a chance she might walk the walk. I have had good experience with being mentored by more senior, more educated women in the technical community. Women who supported me to a fault, and I them — but more able to advise in matters of PCB layout than media misconduct. Kara refers to herself as a “lady of tech” in her online profile — although I’m not quite sure exactly what sort of tech she works with. I thought to myself, she might have these values for real.

This, like the other requests, was ignored.

With no less than three journalists and a prominent YouTube creator supporting the theft of my content, I put the issue aside. Fairness and justice are fairy tales for children of the wealthy, and I am fortunate my parents did not indulge me with such nonsense. You are unlikely to find a more asymmetrical conflict and the idea that as a foreigner I could ever see any kind of justice from the New York Times is naive. What “fairness” I could get is what I could afford to pay for, and having been defunded by Vice Magazine’s lawyers contacting Patreon, I could not afford any. There’s no use crying over these things. This is how the powerful treat the powerless everywhere in the world and journalism is no different than any other billion dollar industry. I carefully documented everything, set the issue aside, and focused on my work.

In April of 2018, when Vice Magazine’s lawyers pressured Patreon to drop my account, I had no other options that would enable me to keep my YouTube channel going. Sarah Jeong’s stature and perceived authority deprived me of the larger community support with which I had been making progress on, i.e. having Patreon’s decision to deplatform me reversed. After she attacked — that support evaporated, leaving me with no way to continue my YouTube channel, my DIY projects, my STEM or Open Source advocacy. I stopped updating my channel, put away my camera, and returned to freelance coding online full-time to make ends meet.

If you are Chinese with good English, freelance web development for overseas clients actually pays reasonably well by local standards. It’s a skill that elevated me into China’s middle-class years ago and enabled me to purchase the body modifications I wanted, so I could look how I wanted. But it can be an all or nothing proposition if you want a stable, secure income. Full-time for coding was always at least 60 hours a week, and it would leave no time for projects or the laborious process of shooting YouTube build videos. For me at least, the hours required to earn a living freelancing online simply were not compatible with the enormous expenditure of time required for someone without a formal technical education to complete even simple projects. I code, or I run a YouTube channel, but I’ve never really managed to do both. I’m sure more skilled people can, I just have not been able to.

SubscribeStar

As a Chinese national it was nearly impossible to find a replacement for Patreon. Transfers into China are extremely difficult, and PayPal is effectively nonfunctional for private individuals. People say, “Why not start your own site and host your content yourself?” or “Why not just use a WordPress plugin?” Like most of the “obvious” suggestions, it doesn’t work like that. Very few people make the jump — only the most massive online personalities can get anything this way, and it’s usually just a small supplement to their income. Platform lock-in at Patreon is a nearly insurmountable problem. Otherwise being deplatformed would not be such a huge issue. People donate to creators there, and simply don’t bother to go elsewhere. The larger the sponsorship platform, the more likely people will sign up to sponsor multiple creators — but only those who are already on that platform. In addition, forming a company to receive funds from abroad would require far more registered capital than I had — and my legal name would be a matter of public record. This would present a huge risk given the daily volume of threats I receive.

I kept looking, and after two months offline I finally found a small processor that could remit funds to China. There were only two other people on it — both female cosplayers. It was called SubscribeStar. The owner was friendly, and we spoke at some length about the number of cosplayers who had been defunded by Patreon. He expressed no interest in politics or deliberately seeking out any sort of controversial people to process for.

I also got a sponsorship from a local 3D printer company — Creality3D — to feature their printers on my channel. This gave me a proper employment contract and overseas marketing as a credible reason for my VPN use. My arrangements were tenuous, and I would have to be much more careful with what I posted about. Of my 800 sponsors, before Vice Magazine came to China, only about 100 followed me to SubscribeStar. But at least I could get back to my channel.

YouTube

Like most obstacles I encounter, I threw sheer hours at it. I joke that I must have some dam and railroad builders in my ancestry — I’ve never been the best in any class but English, but no one could outwork or outstudy me. I’m tiny but tireless. Some five months later, my channel — while earning a small fraction of what other YouTube channels its size with a Patreon account were earning — at least had stable growth. With careful budgeting, I could make time for regular updates and new purchases for projects.

Then, on October 8th, 2018, my YouTube channel was abruptly throttled without explanation. Across every metric — down by 80%.

YouTube support would see the stats when I emailed them, then awkwardly reply days later that they had spoken with higher level support staff and been told it was normal, but you could tell that even they didn’t believe it. My videos had been constant, my channel regularly updated — and then in almost a day a complete flatline for weeks. Even when you stop posting entirely it doesn't do that.

I gave access to people with expertise in YouTube Analytics to look at my account, and they all agreed there was no way it could be organic. Other YouTubers have experienced similar although nothing so drastic. Fortunately for them, they had Patreon accounts, so it was less debilitating. More than ⅔ of my income came from my YouTube ads, and I could not get local sponsors to help fund me if YouTube was making sure no one would see my videos.

I argued daily with YouTube support staff, and you could read between the lines their heart wasn’t in it. Something was up. The greatest bit of luck I had was that the throttling had been done in haste. If it had been applied to a lesser degree or applied more slowly, I would have never suspected anything. Finally, weeks later, over the course of three days, the throttling was eased, instead of having just 20% of the consistent views, subscriptions and income that had been rock solid for the previous year, I would have 70% — not back where it was, but I can run a race with weights on, just not with my feet nailed to the floor. I don’t need fair, I just need a fighting chance — and I had that.

I still don’t know what happened, who, or what is responsible for the throttling of my channel, whether it is an algorithmic fluke, or someone calling in a favor.

My worked continued. I had stopped giving interviews to Western media of course. I just wanted to mind my own business and build things. I figured if I did not get involved with Western media or their social issues, personally and financially, I would be much safer.

Then just as things were looking up, in late December, I lost it all, again. I was defunded, again. For the second time in a year.

The PatreonPurge

My payment processor SubscribeStar had lost its credit card processors — PayPal and Stripe. All the sponsors I had worked so hard to bring over from Patreon — just 300 of the original 800 I had when the channel was half as large, were left unable to support me.

As it turns out someone by the name of Carl Benjamin, also known as Sargon of Akkad on YouTube was deplatformed from Patreon. He discusses politics and said something vulgar on someone else’s YouTube channel, and Patreon decided they did not want to process payments for him. The process is subjective — if they simply don’t like you, you go. They have a Trust and Safety department that decides what they like, and there is no recourse, second chance or appeal process. I know this, because I appealed and was denied. I am the only one online doing what I do, one of the only voices coming out of China. My TOS “violation” was absolutely required to protect myself — and I offered to provide evidence to prove my case if they promised that it be kept confidential. They refused. An online content creator being unable to use Patreon is like a brick and mortar hardware store being unable to take cash — no one is physically closing your doors, but good luck keeping them open on 20% of your income.

Carl quickly realized that Patreon had become a near monopoly and whether by coincidence or design, there were nowhere near the number of functioning alternatives people assume. So, Carl joined SubscribeStar. This resulted in a social media campaign against SubscribeStar.

Regardless of how noble their intentions, the campaign against SubscribeStar was by people who have comfortable Western salaries, don’t rely on online platforms for their income so have no reason to worry how common deplatforming becomes or who does it to whom. These people are certain only the “good guys” will ever do it to the “bad guys,” the tables will never be turned, and the same policies used against innocent and marginalized creators — why should they worry? They are not marginalized and don’t earn a living online.

Despite my pleas, they decided to sacrifice my income in China — for their Greater Good in America. They decided that I was acceptable collateral damage in their campaign, that the work I do is not sufficiently important to stand in the way of their righteous mission. They convinced Stripe and PayPal to stop processing for SubscribeStar — terminating the livelihood of dozens of people just to get at the few they objected to. I was deplatformed — again.

The same familiar pattern as with Sarah Jeong repeated itself. Some group in the West has a problem with some other group in the West — but rather than find a way to aim and hit their target, they casually harm innocent bystanders — one of them a marginalized woman, the very embodiment of whom they claim to be trying to protect. She is thrown under the bus without even a passing acknowledgment while their colleagues cheer them on for their progressive sensibilities.

I struggled to pay rent and line up coding work again while smug academics told me that I should not have consorted with the “Alt-right” — as if I had any choice in who later joined the platform I was already on, or had any time to flee when they did, or an alternative to flee to, or any consistent way of knowing whom I’m permitted to be proximal to and who the final authority on that is?

The narrative had once again been decided — and once again I was carefully erased from it. One of the catalysts for the action against SubscribeStar was a man named Tim Squirrel:

You’ll notice number 3. While I understand American concerns about Russian political interference, speakers of English as a second language from certain countries just can’t win. We’re either declared suspicious when our English falls short, or suspicious when we’re articulate.

In number 5, Tim Squirrel had characterized the SubscribeStar creators as “adult content creators, randoms, and alt-right/lite types” But I was the second largest account on the site at the time, present on nearly every page. I’m hard to miss and definitely not insignificant. But I was not the least bit surprised to see Tim, faced with the choice of holding himself accountable for collateral damage to a marginalized woman from the other side of the world or pretending I didn’t exist, chose the latter. Who would be surprised if they knew my story so far? What did surprise me a great deal is what followed.

The Financial Times

On December 15th, 2018, The Financial Times — a very, very reputable UK newspaper covered the story and ran with Tim Squirrel’s “rightwing activists and pornographers” characterization:

Really?
Right there at the top of the creator page, the first one, you can’t miss me. Which part is pornographic? The GNU hoodie or where it says “DIY, Review and Tech Videos”?

Oppai Sophia” had zero subscribers and was buried eight pages deep. I had 300 and was on the first page. Someone went to the SubscribeStar, saw me at the top of the first page of listed creators, saw what I do, would then see a Wikipedia page describing everything about me but already had the story written so had to make the data fit — with an “example” creator that didn’t even have any subscribers.

This was a fully fact-checked story. In the Financial Times.

I sort of get the middle school mean-girl cliquishness of what happened at the New York Times. These are people who haven’t been held accountable for their actions at any point in their entire lives, and they have far too much invested in Sarah Jeong at this point to ever back down, acknowledge my existence or what they did to me. The humiliation would be unbearable for all involved; it will never happen. But I can’t for the life of me guess as to what the Financial Times’s motivation could have been to run a story that had to be so carefully constructed around the actual facts present on the screen in front of them, or how they got multiple people to go along with it.

Very little surprises me anymore. The problem was that as previously, the clumsy narratives created to erase and un-person me could also put me in a difficult position at home here in China. I was one of the first accounts listed on SubscribeStar, and here’s the Financial Times saying it’s a fundraising platform for pornography and political extremism. As a Chinese national, involvement in either — let alone raising funds from overseas for them, this is extraordinarily dangerous. I emailed the Financial Times, I’d like to say I had high hopes, but honestly, at this point, I knew better.

As with the New York Times, the emails were shown by embedded tracking code to have been read, but were never answered. A second copy was sent — in case there was an oversight, but I think we all know the story by now.

As always — regardless of my own efforts at visibility, I would be made invisible when my existence conflicted with the narrative that had been decided on. It may have only rained on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday — but you can safely report in your paper “It rained every day this week” if you simply pretend all the other days don’t exist. A lie by omission may still be a lie, but if 2018 taught us one thing, it’s that there are classes of people who can openly lie, who can be caught repeatedly with the clearest of evidence, and never suffer any consequences.

I’m a citizen of a place with nothing that’s even a fraction as good as either paper on their worst day ever. So, I know how any criticism from where I’m sitting looks. They also knew how it would look if I spoke up, how unlikely it was that anyone would listen to me — that’s why they did it. So yeah, I get it — PRC citizen saying this? Major side-eye. But at least bookmark this and come back when some of your own start to say the same thing.

Sther

SubscribeStar was out, but I had another sponsorship platform I could possibly use — Tipeee, located in France. Unfortunately, it had a very high rejection rate for non-European credit cards so only a few of my sponsors could migrate there. It also quickly became apparent they were as vulnerable to outside pressure as SubscribeStar had been and that the only way my income would be even moderately secure was by creating a platform, preferably with a high-risk processor that was less subject to outside pressure, specifically for people like myself — marginalized creators who were collateral damage in deplatforming campaigns.

My friend Margot Paez and I launched a GoFundMe for Sther, an LGBTQ+ friendly sponsorship platform — with, of course, the very clear message that everyone was welcome if they were an ally.

Inclusive means just that- and we were careful to make sure everyone knew they were welcome.

The only disappointing thing about the Sther fundraiser is that many of the same people who are so vocal about deplatforming as a tool would not help with so much as a retweet for a project intended to mitigate the collateral damage resulting from their own efforts.

Don’t fit the narrative? A block for you…

While Sleeping Giants were eager to retweet Tim Squirrel’s campaign to declare everyone on SubscribeStar guilty by association and defund all of us to get to a few, they were less inclined to retweet a GoFundMe for an LGBTQ+ friendly sponsorship platform to address the collateral damage done from that campaign.

The Road Ahead

I never wanted to be involved in any of this… I just wanted to make things and show my city to the world. If you told me a year ago never to talk to journalists, I would have thought you paranoid and xenophobic. But I did talk to Western journalists, and eventually the ones at Vice Magazine in the hope that a higher, public profile might make my work here in China somewhat safer, and that inviting them into my home workshop to verify on camera the authenticity of my skills in person would do something to address the constant attempts to discredit me that has made getting sponsors so difficult. I’ve been paying the price for that ever since.

My authenticity, when in doubt was an exciting story, casually proven it was boring — but hints about who I sleep with were titillating. China is not Brooklyn, personal life is personal for a reason here. Now I realize “don’t interact with people who can profit from ruining your life and not face any repercussions” is sound logic.

A Chinese girl climbed over the wall to try and show her life — and massive, billion-dollar media companies, immune to consequences, tried to crush her. The facts laid out here are frankly shameful — and that they will be ignored by the media shows the precise nature of the problem.

I present no threat to anyone. I do not push any pro-China agenda or propaganda. I give my honest opinion when asked and if I am able. I’m Mainland Chinese so I am not involved in left/right/center/up/down Western politics in any way because I can’t be. American exceptionalism, the need for them to center Western concerns in every global discussion is exhausting. Read any article on China, you’ll see the constant demand on social media that I set my own needs aside to prioritize Western ones is borderline obscene.

What I should be doing…

I just want to make things without being constantly attacked or being collateral damage in a culture war on the other side of the planet waged by people who won’t make sacrifices of their own, but who are perfectly happy to demand sacrifices from me and then demand my silence on top of it.

This has taken far too much time away from my workbench for my liking, but I wanted to set the record straight and get the whole story down in one place for people who were wondering about my recent difficulties. I have no interest in moving halfway around the world only to be closer to my attackers or be in a position where their harassment can be more direct or more personal. I have not tried to profit off any of this; I have no personal GoFundMe campaign and have refused donations from those who are not in a position to easily do so.

My mother didn’t raise a victim — knock me down and I will stand back up every time until you break your hand on me. I am still no victim — but I was a target. The people who came for me are soft, privileged, lazy, but by accident of birth, they have some power I cannot directly challenge. Not yet. But I will work and study harder than they ever could, work until they cannot hope to harm me ever again.

I am Naomi Wu, a futuristic Chinese girl, 1/25th Synthetic, the rest Human. I am from Shenzhen — the most cyberpunk city in the world. I hack hardware, write code, and make things you’ve never seen before- and they can’t stop me.