An associate of mine was attending a shindig for overseas media types recently when he was introduced to an American chap who works for a think tank of some form or another.
“The Taipei Times editorials,” Think Tank Man said with a sneer, “are like the People’s Daily.”
What Think Tank Man was trying to say was the editorial line of the newspaper you are clutching is a “green” version of the famed Chicom journal that praises all things “red” and unintelligently invents or ignores everything else that relates to sensitive matters.
I suspect my associate was too polite — or not nearly drunk enough — to respond with a withering attack on think tanks that peddle wisdom after the fact. But this exchange, and next week’s demise of the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration, got me thinking anew about why I hadn’t taken up a career as a spin doctor.
Whatever you think of this newspaper’s editorial line, my friends, one thing is for sure: If the Chen team were half as radical as international and pro-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) media outlets make it out to be, then the unfortunate writers of the editorials would already be chained together at the bottom of Taiwan’s deepest river, courtesy of Green Terror operatives.
Which is to say, they would be immersed up to about their waists and shouting for help to the oubasang tending to her cabbages next to the riverbank.
Now why would these editorialists suffer such undignified treatment after all their labors?
Because they mocked the DPP government’s ineptitude and rotten elements just as faithfully as vilifying the KMT for its sins.
Me, I’m not so interested in balance. And I have to confess that I am far more mercenary than some of my admirers might think acceptable. Even as this newspaper attempted to find a middle path between unreformed KMT thuggery and relentless DPP onanism, here was I, sitting beside my mobile phone, ready and waiting to balance the ledger in favor of the government.
I said many columns ago that I have been eagerly waiting for bribes from the authorities to say nice things about them, but not NT$1 has come my way.
As the Chen administration wore on, there were less and less reasons to say nice things. Yet even at these critical times, when potential media lackeys such as myself were at our most indispensable, Chen and Co continued to be distracted by flighty ideological games, party infighting (picture two teary children in a pillow fight), corrupt aides and dopey foreign relations strategies.
The rest is history.
The Chen government has been so inept in dealing with the domestic media that it failed to ram home the message that the country did not collapse into a vicious ethnic war zone, or get nuked by the Chicoms, or enter eight vicious years of economic recession.
It made the mistake of being accommodating toward its most obnoxious foes in the media while being dismissive and contemptuous toward more agreeable people.
And as for the international media ... well, don’t get me started. The DPP may have diligent link men in Washington, but when it came to wining and dining foreign correspondents, you couldn’t have made a worse impression if you were a child trafficker hosting a World Vision promotion.
So after a while I thought I might offer my “scribe of the night” services (the world’s third-oldest profession) to the private sector. This decision was sealed a few months ago when I rang up an old friend at the Government Information Office (GIO) and offered to propagandize for them to the effect that GIO publications were not propaganda.