Thu, Oct 26, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Will the real Shih please stand up?

By Jerome Keating

Former Democratic Progres-sive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh's (施明德) red guard has been reduced to a small cadre of cult-type fanatics, hangers-on and simple-minded idealists who have no sense of history; they now hang out at Taipei Main Station where they have restrooms and shelter and are guaranteed of a passing crowd to feed their voracious need for attention.

The leaders of Shih's movement, after trying to build the facade of being anti-corruption are finding that the burden of transparency is revealing the cracks in their own mirror image. The sensation-hungry media has turned its attention to the much more promising Taipei mayoral race. However, in the aftermath of all this, there remains the challenging question of Shih's motivation and its residue of uncomplimentary interpretations like grandiose, schizophrenic, hypocritical, maudlin and pawn.

Grandiose, Shih has relied on the pan-blue media to promote his grandiose scheme to attack President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Shih promised much in the pan-blue media, but despite the hype he never delivered. Review the numbers. The grass roots March of a Million? At best it was 360,000 and this in the 2 million strong pan-blue strongholds of Taipei and Taipei County.

The One Million Voices Speaking Out donation campaign (where individuals gave NT$100 apiece to record their distain for Chen)? The books demonstrating input receipts (not expenditures) have yet to be made public. There has never been an accurate verification of where all the money came from. It just appeared, and not long after Shih had a meeting in Thailand with the fugitive tycoon Chen Yu-hao (陳由豪).

After the media touted Shih's March of a Million (make that 360,000) Shih grandiosely predicted he would fill Taipei with 1.5 to 2 million people in protest. This too never materialized. Despite full media coverage, the turnout proved to be even less than the 360,000 (March of a Million). Police estimated this second "siege" of the Presidential Office attracted around 120,000 people; the pan-blue media after wild claims later more realistically placed it at 300,000.

One public benefit that did occur however was the pressure for transparency on Shih's campaign funds. Sixty million of the NT$110 million had been spent. Further, one half of that pool had been spent on advertising. Coincidentally, Jerry Fan (范可欽), the spokesman of Shih's campaign also runs an advertising company. Did Fan submit a competitive tender for his slice of over NT$30 million in advertising business? Not on your life.

Others call Shih schizophrenic. Shih claims he wants to be remembered as the suffering servant but he exhibits dreams of being Il Duce. No one denies the years he spent in prison; but even then was his motivation for Taiwan alone or for the limelight of leadership? For those that know him, he can only live with the image of being the leader and hence the beginning of his conflicts with Chen in the DPP. Did he not in the past try to develop a controlling leadership in the legislature including an alliance with the New Party? Is this part of what led him to take his football and go to play in the blue camp where the pay was better?

In recent months, a split personality continues to emerge. Shih enjoys the rhetoric of war. He repeatedly speaks of his armies laying siege to the Presidential Office. Photos display him atop a truck speaking through loud speakers. It is the image of a revolutionary in a banana republic setting out to topple the government. Fantasy or dream, Shih nevertheless insults Taiwan by suggesting that its government can be toppled like that of a tinpot dictatorship.

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