Sun, Dec 19, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Don't treat bombers like heroes

On Friday, Kao Pao-chung (高寶中), a man suspected of being the so-called "Station Bomber," was arrested. Only a few weeks earlier, Yang Ju-men (楊儒門), who confessed to being the so-called "Rice Bomber," was also arrested. But this still leaves the Taiwanese police with at least three more bomb cases with no suspects yet arrested.

It is unprecedented to see a series of bomb cases taking place in just one year, suggesting the emergence of a worrisome trend. But it is also important to point out that there are some very twisted social values displayed in both the alleged bombers themselves and the general public.

Planting explosives or bombs to make some sort of public appeal has apparently become contagious in Taiwan. Kao, who ignited a minivan filled with gas cans outside Taipei Railway Station two days before the legislative elections and threatened to bomb the Taipei 101 skyscraper, claimed that he was acting in opposition to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Taiwanese independence. Yang included notes accusing the government of pursuing policies that threatened farmers' survival, along with the home-made bombs he left in parks and other public places on at least 16 occasions.

Kao himself conceded upon his arrest that he had decided to imitate Yang because he felt that the anti-Taiwan independence cause was not receiving enough attention from the Taiwanese government. In fact, immediately after the gas explosion ignited by Kao and before his arrest, many people began to connect the two incidents. On Monday, Yang issued an open letter apologizing for the first time for his own conduct and expressing the hope that others would not imitate him.

This all had much to do with the way the media covers these stories, as well as the open sympathy and support from some segments of society for these bombers's conduct -- a result of identification with their causes. The way the media reports at length and repeatedly the details of how these crimes were committed -- from the way the bombs were made, to where the materials used to make the bombs were purchased, among other details -- not only gives practical know-how to those who want to imitate the bombers, but also encourages those who feel forgotten by mainstream society to use these methods to garner long-overdue attention and force others to hear what they have to say.

Moreover, while the political appeals of these bombers should be respected, the ends never justify the means. Under the circumstances, it is truly unfortunate that a group of farmers and social activists is planning to stage a rally in support of Yang. Yang should not be portrayed or treated as a hero, no matter how much one may identify with his cause. His conduct put innocent people in extreme danger, and created a sense of panic in an already tension-ridden society.

His admirers argue that he knew what he was doing and that he in fact did not injure anyone. One can only say that he was lucky. The next Yang wannabe may have neither Yang's skill nor his luck. Case in point: According to the police, Kao was less skillful and so posed a greater danger to the public.

Some supporters of Yang pleaded with the Democratic Progressive Party to keep in mind the days when it too was resorting to extreme measures, including violent protests and confrontations, in pursuit of its political causes. However, Taiwan is now a fully democratic society. Grievances must be addressed and remedied through legal and peaceful channels within the system. There is simply no justification for Yang and Kao's conduct.

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