Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's Mailbag

Johnny takes a hit to the head and the heart from readers who lash out at his propriety and his identity. Despair not, because he fights back with reasoning that would make Voltaire weep. Well, a CNN pundit, maybe.

Johnny winds up ...

Dear Johnny,

After reading your column entitled "Forget 228? You mythed something" (March 3, page 8), I admit it, Johnny -- you are right. I really do think I "missed something." Namely, who are the "Researcher," the "Mayor" and the "Journeyman" in this story? What or where is this "community under scrutiny"? Is this supposed to be a true story? Is it a "myth" you've created to illustrate some elusive point?

I realize this is just your "opinion." But something seems off to me here. With the complete lack of names or any other details whatsoever, it seems like total unabashed fabrication. You criticize these mythical people for plagiarism, demonization and what you insinuate to be propaganda, while the very story you've concocted is a kind of propaganda tool for you. At least the plagiarism you describe was based on research. Your opinion piece seems to be based on nothing but myths.

Maybe the title for this story should have been: "Forget Lu Xun! Johnny Neihu mythed something." Or maybe I've missed something?

Justin Robinette

Johnny replies: Propaganda distorts the historical record; at the very least it uses exaggerated language to unbalance that record. But if you look at the history of the 228 Incident, you will see nothing extraordinary in what I described. If I were a propagandist, why would I not take one of the grisly stories on the record and milk it dry instead of one where names of people and places are struck out? Think, man.

There are reasons why I did not name the parties involved. Here's two: A source asked me not to until legal action ends, and I'm more interested in processes of autocracy rather than outing a bit player in a complex history of injustice. But I'll say this: Any competent person with a bit of history under his belt and access to the Internet has a good chance of piecing it all together given the information in the article. Perhaps you're not that person.

But, of course, this is not the real reason you wrote to me. Oh, and I'm thrilled that you think plagiarism has some value as long as it's based on research. Silly me: I always thought it was theft, pure and simple.

... and lets one go

Dear Johnny,

You write: "The political culture of shamelessness and misanthropy that the KMT brought did not die, dear reader. It exerts itself in subtle ways, even now."

Well, yes. You have a point there. I would argue that your insistence on hiding behind a pseudonym like "Johnny Neihu" is part of that continuing unfortunate political culture of shamelessness and misanthropy. I don't have a problem with the fact that you have some opinions and want to express them. To express them under a pseudonym though is actually a defeat for democracy. I would urge you to write under your real name, or not write at all.

NAME WITHHELD BY REQUEST

Johnny replies: "A defeat for democracy"? I never realized I was so powerful! And of course there isn't a more fundamental democratic safeguard than writers like you telling others to stop writing, right?

Editorials are written in the newspaper's name. Every paper does it, and some papers publish authors with known pen names, sometimes others who are anonymous or who use a mysterious nom de plume. Weird, isn't it, how all of these people escape your censure?

Breathe easy, because whether or not Johnny Neihu is a pseudonym, I'm responsible for what I write -- to my readers, to my publisher and to the law of the land. This isn't the damn Internet.

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