Ai Weiwei, CIA? BuzzFeed User’s Outrageous Claim

But seriously: C-Ai-Wei?

Does Ai Weiwei Work for the CIA?

Does Ai Weiwei Work for the CIA?

Is China’s most famous dissident artist on the CIA’s payroll? That’s the preposterous question raised by Guo O Dong who wrote an article, “Ai Weiwei: AMERICAN PROPAGANDA,” on BuzzFeed’s “Community” page, linking to it in an email he sent to several of our staff members with the subject heading “Is Ai Weiwei CIA?”

After supposedly visiting Ai’s Brooklyn Museum show “According to What?,” the writer has concluded that “the show functions as American propaganda.”

“Ai, like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, is a protagonist carefully constructed to appeal to a Western audience,” Dong writes. His work portrays Chinese people as sheep, he asserts, and primarily caters to “wealthy white folks.” The more Americans hate the Chinese government, spurred by Ai’s critical stance, Dong argues, the better they feel about the US. A recent project by Ai took over Alcatraz Island, using the dramatic setting of the former prison to highlight government abuses in various countries, including the U.S. (See Ai Weiwei is Filling Alcatraz with 176 Lego Sculptures.)

It’s not the first time artists have been depicted as tools of American ideology. Abstract Expressionism, it’s long been said, was promoted by the CIA and the U.S. Information Agency as propaganda.

To be fair to BuzzFeed, the article comes with a disclaimer: “This post was created by a user and has not been vetted or endorsed by BuzzFeed’s editorial staff. BuzzFeed Community is a place where anyone can post awesome lists and creations.”

But seriously: C-Ai-Wei?

Dong has three posts on BuzzFeed. One is “10 Places I Visited to Get a Taste of American Freedom.” It’s a slide show of Photoshopped pictures of the writer at various locations: in front of the Hollywood sign, at MoMA, at Starbucks. But there’s a thinly veiled message: one photo shows him at the National Security Agency, which is spying on you and me right now.

In another post, “Hipster on a Leash,” he writes, “I decided to tour Brooklyn the American way. First I rented a Segway. Then I rented individualism.” He found a Brooklyn hipster for rent on Craigslist, he says.

We e-mailed the artist, asking if he works for the Chinese government. No reply so far. We’ll update the story if he gets back to us.

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