Everybody who lives on this overcrowded piece of real estate is fully aware of the problems that exist with quality in the Taiwanese news media.
For example, the proclivity, on a slow news day, of local 24-hour cable TV channels to just go online and "Google" for the most outrageous thing available on the Internet is well known. One ten-minute report a while back, that sticks in my mind for some reason, detailed the ins and outs of buying used ladies underwear, including an interview of an anonymous "wearer" in the back of a car, who offered the reporter a freshly-worn pair at a bargain price.
The world could be on the brink of nuclear war, but the international news section on most channels would still consist of New York's latest speed-eating competition, in which a waif-like Japanese woman wolfs down 536 hot dogs in 24.3 seconds, or a bunch of crazy Brits chasing a Stilton down a hill.
The other favorite is an update on what our very own supermodel and amateur equestrienne the lovely Lin Chih-ling (
Sometimes the quality of reportage is so bad; it's enough to make you wish for a typhoon.
But it comes to something when supposedly reputable foreign establishments begin replicating the bad habits of our local journos.
I'm referring to a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald on May 13, that analyzed how the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chicoms have been cozying up to each other recently. In general it was a pretty solid piece of writing, but then, just for a nanosecond, the author slipped into Taiwanese reporter mode with "Ma Ying-jeou (
OK, so "Mr No Comment" was jogging around down under last week, but did you really need to add the "attractive and talented?" Would the same hack also write: George Bush, the simian, semi-literate president of the US; or Hu Jintao (
And while certain sections of the local media may consider Ma swoon-worthy, it's not too difficult when the competition consists of the likes of the KMT's Kaohsiung gatecrasher and serial accuser Chiu Yi (
Talking of ugly, I happened across a rather unpleasant piece of work digging the knife into President Chen Shui-bian's (
Poor old George gets off to a bad start in the very first sentence, noting that "Chen failed at his usual `transit diplomacy' when the US refused to let him step on American soil." Wrong! Although Hawaii really has no right to be a US state and "Seward's folly" was only purchased from the Ruskies in 1867, last time I checked, both were still considered "American soil."
Next, we have "Critics in Taiwan thought Chen overplayed his hand and brought the indignities on himself," quickly followed by "in his six years in office, critics say Chen has done nothing to help Taiwan's economy."
Come on George, these are the same people who criticize Chen's every move. If the president's plane had been shot down by a stray Stinger missile, those same people would have blamed the hapless Chen, "for recklessly straying into the path of the explosive projectile." I'm surprised they don't blame him for his own assassination attempt.
Sorry, I forgot.
George goes on; "Most recently, after promising not to do so, he attempted to dissolve the inactive, but politically symbolic National Unification Council ... This did not please Beijing."
Yes, politically symbolic, but only because it was enacted without the consent of the population and advocated a path for Taiwan that even now most people don't fancy one little bit. But that's not important, is it?
And since when did Taiwan ever have to square things with Beijing before making a domestic decision? Did Hu call his old buddy Chen in March last year and ask, "Hey, A-Bian, we're thinking of promulgating a law next month which makes Taiwanese independence illegal and allows us to invade. You don't mind, do you?"
Next comes, "Chen's influence in Washington has vanished." Hmmm, let me see, "Chen's influence in Washington" -- this is a man who cannot string an English sentence together and is less welcome in the US capital than an anthrax-filled envelope. All the right ingredients for building influence.
Then we have; "Beijing has ceased to pay attention to Chen." Correct me if I'm wrong, but to cease to pay attention means that Beijing paid attention to Chen in the first place, another ridiculous statement.
After embarrassing himself with more of this hopelessly biased bile, George then finishes off with "Ma [Ying-jeou] visited the US for 10 days, covering New York, Boston, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles -- every city that would have been on top of Chen's wish list ... including a three-hour conversation with Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick."
Thanks again George, but surely you are aware of the "one China" policy and the fact that visits by top-level Taiwanese officials are a big no-no. And if, as George predicts, Ma does become Chen's successor, watch as he suddenly becomes as welcome around the world as a leper with Ebola carrying a suitcase full of bird flu.
Finally, we turn to Taiwan's best friend, Mr. Zoellick, who told a US congressional hearing last week that Taiwan will "keep hitting into a wall" if it continues to push the US on its "one China" policy.
Thanks for the advice, Bob. But as long the US State Department keeps brown-nosing those bullies in Beijing, then we here in democratic Taiwan have no choice than to keep "hitting that wall."
Anyone remember Berlin?
Heard or read something particularly objectionable about Taiwan? Johnny wants to know: firstname.lastname@example.org is the place to reach me, with "Dear Johnny" in the subject line.
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