Woe betide the military foreign exchange student who sleeps with the female buddy of a Taiwanese reporter and doesn't call her back.
A source at the United Daily News (UDN) told NewsWatch that the UDN reporter who broke the story about Ms. D -- a woman in Tainan who showed an American cadet from West Point what US-Taiwan "direct links" are really all about -- just happens to be an old acquaintance of Ms. D.
Funny that the UDN chose to leave that detail out, don't you think? But who has time for such trivia when foreigners are invading our island nation and shredding the chastity of virtuous maidens?
The local media's laziness in tracking down substantial news has been well documented in this column. Searching Google, finding strange videos on YouTube, regurgitating government press releases and taking photos of bloody auto accidents are usually what passes for journalism. Yet even with such an illustrious work record, dedicating two days' worth of front-page stories to the lurid particulars of a friend's sex life is an impressive new achievement.
Have I really wasted so much time reporting on "substantial news" when I could have just been staking out Carnegie's every Saturday night for the next leading businessman/arms dealer/US government official to compromise himself?
Should I have known that it was such big news for a foreigner to get liquored-up with a Taiwanese babe at a bar, have hasty, sloppy sex in a love hotel and not call her the next day?
Now, my friends, before you start typing up angry letters accusing me of making light of sexual assault, I should clarify that the China Post's characterization of the incident as an "assault case" (in the headline) and an "alleged sexual assault" (in the lead) is incorrect. I know it will come as a tremendous shock for some of you to learn that the China Post makes things up, but it's true.
Ms. D's complaint is that Mr Chuang, a Taiwanese military friend, made her feel cheap in the way he handled her introduction to the American cadet. She is also peeved that the military won't punish him for it. But she did not say that she had been abused, raped or coerced in any way.
The UDN did a bang-up job of obscuring that fact as well as it could. It accompanied the story with reports about how many sexual assault cases there are in the US military; the danger of Taiwanese women going to bars full of "predatory" foreigners; and how West Point students always cause trouble when they come to Taiwan.
And then I wonder ... did Ms. D have any contact with the reporter, Lee Kuang-yi (李光儀), before the incident occurred? And is it just me, or did Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Lin Nan-sheng (林南生) and Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) seem extraordinarily well prepared to grill defense officials in the legislature's National Defense Committee even though the report had just come out that morning?
And let's not forget the damage the allegations will wreak on the cadet. One whole minute of lust and a spluttered apology? He'll never live that down back at the academy.
At least the story highlighted one virtue of the Apple Daily. This is a newspaper that makes no bones about the fact that the sole purpose of its reports is to turn its readers' brains to mush. True to form, its front page story on Thursday was about a 17-year-old student in Taipei County who became pregnant after having relations with a series of frumpy bus drivers with whom she had become infatuated. At least when you pick up the Apple Daily, you know what you're getting. And you get it good. (And it gets better: Also included were reaction quotes of predictable disgust from three pictured schoolgirls of the same age; what was left out were quotes from the other schoolgirls who said: "Hey, if the drivers were hot...")
But as I perused the UDN report on Wednesday, I couldn't help feeling that the story was lacking something. Then the penny dropped: Where were the photos? Where were the graphics? If I didn't know any better, I would have said that the UDN was treating the Tainan fling as a legitimate news story.
Speaking of Apple Daily graphics, the editorial staff must have had a heart attack when they saw that the UDN had beaten them to such a juicy scoop. If there were ever a time for those computer-animated graphics, that was it. The thing I find most entertaining about the Apple Daily is that the company has never bothered to invest in software with human characters who appear to be Asian. If you flip through the pictures and ignore the text, it looks like Taiwan has been overrun by a ferocious horde of blonde-haired, blue-eyed Swedes who bludgeon infants to death, do drugs and run over pedestrians in their cars.
But this time, the story actually involved a white person. And the UDN was very clear in pointing out that, although three of the five students visiting from West Point are Asian-Americans, the one who came so close to polluting that lady's pure bloodline was definitely white. One can only imagine the doom-laden coverage if he had been black!
At least it hasn't turned into the international incident that the UDN hoped it would. I'm guessing that the only coverage it will receive in the US is in Howitzer, the West Point yearbook (Stop Press: Whoops, too late -- the incident has been described as an alleged sexual assault by the Times Herald-Record in New York state. And their source was ...?).
Instead, it's just a slice of farcical pan-blue-camp opportunism mixed with good old-fashioned "somebody stop the foreigners from stealing our women" paranoia.
On Thursday, the UDN ran a follow-up story with an MSN conversation provided by Ms. D that she was alleged to have had with Mr Chuang, the Taiwanese soldier who set her up with the cadet. This material deserves to be translated in its entirety, but a few short selections will have to suffice.
Ms. D scolds Chuang: "Don't you think it's really terrible to sell off your female fellow countrywomen to foreigners? Tell me what you think about that."
Chuang replies: "So, should I take you out to dinner?"
Astonishingly, even a smooth line like this is not enough to appease Ms. D. She continues berating Chuang for making her lose face, and he apologizes by saying that he doesn't have much "social experience" and didn't know any better.
Finally, Ms. D admonishes Chuang by cryptically asking: "Your actions on that day didn't just lose face for you. Fine, I can do without dignity. But don't you know you completely lost our national dignity?"
Even if that were true, one has to wonder what the UDN can possibly do to salvage its professional dignity.
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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