Sat, Dec 22, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's NewsWatch: Dirty tricks are the stuff of legend

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

SO YOU'VE just arrived at Taipei Railway Station. You walk out the south entrance and are about to cross Zhongxiao W Road, when you look up and see it -- the giant poster for the Monument Formerly Known as CKS. In utter ruin.

You rub your eyes and look again.

No, you're not hallucinating.

Like me, you probably wondered for a split second if it was a political campaign poster. Could it be the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sticking it to the late, "grate" dictator with some "social rectal-fication"?

Or, you mused, is it a new campaign technique from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)? A warning of imminent disaster if we don't marshal Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) into the Presidential Office ASAP and beg him to save us all?

No, wrong again. It's a plug for I Am Legend, a Warner Bros film starring Will Smith.

The timing is impeccable. The fracas outside the memorial this month has had all the twists and turns of a feature film -- albeit low-budget and with homophobes in the leading roles.

So is Warner Bros taking kickbacks from some unidentified political force? Of course not. But this seems to be the season for conspiracy theories bordering on the imbecilic, so I decided to investigate.

First stop: the Internet Movie Database (IMDB).

Of course, I could have gone straight to the movie's official Web site, but let's not forget the first rule of high-quality Taiwanese journalism: never go to the source.

According to the IMDB, I Am Legend is a film about a man, desperately alone, surrounded by the ruins of what he and his kind built.

Wait a sec -- is this a Hollywood flick or a documentary about James Soong (宋楚瑜) and his People First Party?

But I have to admit, that picture of CKS Mem -- ... I mean, National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall filled me with hope. No, not because the hall is depicted in the throes of death, but rather because the biohazard symbol shown on it is at least apolitical.

Yes, I realized with a sigh of relief, salvation will come. A virus, a nuclear meltdown, World War III -- one way or another, we'll finally be rid of the partisan plague. Just one nagging detail: None of us will be around to enjoy it.

But to get back to conspiracy theories, media methodology in Taiwan leaves a lot to be desired (Investigative reporting? Jot down a few notes from the evening news and then make a quick stop at while downing whiskey in the comfort of your own armchair).

News this week from the KMT's "Election Tactics Research Center," however, took brainstorming under the influence to a whole new level.

The nation's rumor mill was already grinding at full speed -- churning out allegations of bugged party offices; encounters with top US sources a la Deep Throat; staged threats on the president's life; government plans to attack Chinese fishing boats; and cross-camp conniving against Soong way back in 1999.

Then there were the mystery "minutes" from a not-so-secret secret meeting between American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt and KMT vice presidential candidate Vincent Siew (蕭萬長).

And all of it, as usual, was 100 percent unsubstantiated.

That shouldn't come as a surprise in a country where Chen Hsing-yu (陳幸妤), the president's daughter, lost a libel lawsuit against TV commentator Hu Chung-hsin (胡忠信) because, as the High Court said, Hu at least tried to find out if she laundered money for Daddy before declaring it on national television.

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