Sat, May 03, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Exposing dirty linen in public not helpful

By Miranda Ni 倪淑蘭

The local media's sensational and biased reporting methods reached a climax in their coverage of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the conflicts at Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital. The packaging and presentation of such reports are as good as those of soap operas. From people's aroused emotions and grievances to a series of follow-up reports, such reports are just like a TV series that manipulates the audience's emotions with one climax after another.

Through video editing and questioning of hospital staff and government officials by reporters, viewers are shown how the Taiwanese responded to a crisis with their agitated emotions only. But the epidemic itself was completely ignored, making us feel that the hospital staff could do nothing but shout themselves hoarse as victims while fighting for their own rights. Rational thought seems inapplicable here.

People have always questioned both the truthfulness and objectivity of media reports. But such reports have become even more questionable in recent years. In an effort to attract an audience and to satisfy its tastes, the media often screen their interviewees. Therefore, the reports are distorted by various ideologies and are subjective in nature. As a result, the public who views such reports as reality pays a considerable price. The media have replaced reality with excessively packaged reports, while presenting an image of Taiwan's "low EQ" (emotional quotient) in an extremely sensational way.

However, news reports are not the only cause of the problem, because their exaggerated methods have invaded every aspect of society. Similar emotional reaction and such shallow dichotomies are frequently seen not only in popular TV shows but also in the Legislative Yuan.

Situations that existed solely in fictitious dramas are now taking place in real life. People cannot help but wonder: Do the Taiwanese really have low EQ? Are the media simply presenting facts? Or is people's emotional reaction a result of long-term education or constraint by the media?

According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle's drama theory, the power of drama lies in its function of educating the audience through its presentation or imitation, cultivating them with the various emotions of pity and fear -- so they can gain wisdom from it. Unfortunately, the presentation of news and dramas in Taiwan usually traps the audience in narrow and stereotyped emotions at all times. What more can we learn from the media except anger and complaints?

Do not think that the conflicts at Hoping Hospital are only related to the SARS epidemic. It's just the tip of the iceberg, which reveals that the Taiwanese are taking their EQ education bit by bit in their daily lives. Take for example, the affair between Independent Legislator Cheng Yu-chen (鄭余鎮) and his ex-mistress Sophie Wang (王筱嬋), the uproar over the Government Information Office, the verbal violence of legislators and the recent coverage of the conflicts at Hoping Hospital. The fierce emotions in these cases violently interrupted, or even eroded the public's mental health.

Since abnormal behaviors which are only allowed in the "private realm" repeatedly occurred in the "public realm," how can anyone blame the public for their low EQ and be critical of their inability to learn how to appropriately express their emotions at appropriate places? At a time when the media's self-discipline is weak, should the audience consider whether they are the victims or the creators of the low EQ phenomenon? Or, perhaps, the phenomenon was caused by more complex social structures?

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