Wed, Oct 19, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: It's time to go on the offensive

Since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) became president in 2000, the performance of his administration has led to many of its supporters losing heart and suffering from a sense of impotence. Instead of the determination and confidence Chen often displayed when he was Taipei mayor, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration appears to lack a sense of its own self-worth. It appears easy to push around.

What has gone wrong? One problem has been the government's desperate attempt to try to please all of the people all of the time.

A second problem is the administration's inclination to "govern by media." More often than not, it appears as if newspaper opinion pages are what create the government's priorities and guide its agenda-setting and policy-making decisions. Government officials hammer out decisions according to columnists' opinions, while lawmakers pose questions on the legislative floor based on what they read in the tabloids.

Hiding behind the protection of their legislative immunity, many pro-China lawmakers cite yet-to-be-confirmed media reports, fanning erroneous accusations against government officials. The pro-China media then picks up on the lawmakers' pontificating, repeating the allegations and driving the vicious cycle of smearing the government through yet another round.

It is understandable that bureaucrats and government agencies prepare media clippings in order to brief their superiors on what opinion pages have said about their performance and to stay in touch with the latest trends and opinions.

However, given the make-up of the nation's media -- the majority of which for historical reasons leans toward a certain party and shares a common interest with the pan-blue camp -- the administration's eager-ness to be well thought of simply leaves it battered and bruised.

The pro-China media is good at two-handed maneuvers that distort the facts while faking public-opinion pieces in an attempt to influence the government's policies. They have been far too successful.

It's sad that the government has often given into such pressure. This, coupled with its inability to efficiently convey its own messages, create the impression of continuous policy flip-flops.

The recent furor over China Steel Corp chairman Lin Wen-yuan's (林文淵) whopping NT$44 million (US$1.3 million) bonus is a prime example of this problem. While it is one thing to question state-run enterprises' systems for paying bonuses, the pro-China media has been allowed to paint Lin as a greedy man and make it seem as if Lin's bonus was proof that the DPP was stealing money from the taxpayers.

Of course the media outlets that have made such allegations and inferences will proclaim that they are simply exercising freedom of the press and holding the administration accountable in order to safeguard the people's interests. But to whom are they holding the government accountable? Whose interests are they guarding? The people in Taiwan or those in China?

The pan-green camp, however, shares a portion of the blame for allowing the pan-blue media to manipulate stories without being challenged. The lack of unity within the DPP has exacerbated this problem. Political struggles among DPP factions have led some people to "leak" a story or information to the pro-China media in order to attack another faction.

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