I can't start this week's column without touching on the Stephen Young controversy. True to form, the pro-blue-camp press have been manufacturing a personal attack (or at least a good old psychological profiling) on the good director of the American Institute in Taiwan -- all for saying it might be a good idea to buy weapons if someone says he will attack you.
If you think the Americans are despairing at the stupidity coming out of Taiwan, you have good reason. But the idiots aren't just on Taiwanese soil. Read this transcript of an exchange between a reporter and the spokesman for the US State Department at a press briefing in Washington on Oct. 27:
Question: Based on the strong reaction from Taiwan's opposition, under such circumstances, Mr. Stephen Young is -- seems to be a liability rather than an asset. So do you have any -- under such [sic] current situation, do you have any plan to recall him or anything else?
Mr. McCormack: No.
Question: Does he [sic] still have confidence in him?
Mr. McCormack: He's doing a good job.
You've heard of push polling, right? This is typical Taiwanese "push reporting" -- or asking leading questions -- in which a reporter turns a personal opinion ("seems to be") into a statement of fact ("under such current situation"). Most responses can then be twisted to make the reporter's opinion look like fact in the write-up, though Sean McCormack in this case very professionally chose not to play the game.
If you watch the video on the State Department Web site, you can sense the contempt McCormack feels toward his interrogator. And my spy in Washington tells me there was some embarrassment among the other reporters.
And who is the sterling journalist? Liu Ping (
Of course, we could mock Liu for tying the definition of "liability" to "the pan-blue camp doesn't like you," or for going over the top on Young's would-be removal for doing his job (following Washington's instructions), but that would be too easy.
It's just his nakedly hack approach that grates. Don't let facts get in the way of a good beat-up, eh, Mr. Liu? Yours is a form of propagandizing that would make the Falun Gong blush.
So I say Liu should stop humiliating himself in front of the world's media and return to Taipei and try out what he must be itching to do: run for public office.
We are now in the "empty circle" phase of campaigning for the Taipei and Kaohsiung city council elections. This is led by more aggressive candidates who get their literature, banners, bus advertisements and sound trucks out before they are allocated a number on the ballot. Hence, the empty circle on their advertising where a number should be.
The councils are becoming much more important for the aspiring thug politician as legislative seats dry up. And one of the reasons we will continue to see flotsam candidates in these contests is because the old multiple member system is still in effect. All you need is (1) a small but dedicated band of knuckle-dragging supporters, (2) some media exposure and (3) a prominent legislative patron. Then you can prop up your political career for another four years before casting a wider net.
So, let me take you on a little guided tour of some of the fine people you can vote for in Taipei (party and electoral district are in brackets).