Seemingly every time there is an article published online concerning Chinese government policy–whether in the Chinese or foreign press–an army of Netizens comes out to comment on it. By reading the comments, most Westerners would be surprised at just how many people fully support the Chinese government and the Communist Party. Chinese people, like Americans, have a very strong nationalist streak–they’re especially patriotic around National Day, which is their equivalent of the 4th of July. And yet, some Chinese Netizens are openly skeptical of the motives of their patriotic brethren. “Wu Mao,” is the online whisper. Far from grassroots nationalism, it’s said, the comments are actually bought and paid for. “Wu mao” means just that–a rate of .5 RMB per comment (about 8 cents).

Surely there is no astroturf online. You can believe everything you read on the Internet, can’t you?

And then I went to read CNN, the Seattle Times, and some other US news sources. Practically every article I read, no matter what the topic, had multiple comments blaming Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and President Obama for the problems of the day, even those involving misbehaved pets. If you believe Web comments, there’s a groundswell of conservative Tea Party populism just waiting for the election to “take our country back.” Take it where (or from whom) isn’t explicitly stated, of course, so who knows. Maybe to Shaanxi.

“Wu mao,” I thought. It seems plausible. In a society where $300 per month is a good salary, that’d be excellent pay to leave identakit right-wing blog comments, many of which are completely off topic, looking like they were cut and pasted from a collection of boilerplate. Either that, or the right wing of our population is disproportionately online with a disproportionate amount of time to comment in disproportionate unity. Either way, maybe I should start a side business.