What is it about Taiwanese politics that politicians of all ilk can’t seem to help but use the “H bomb” when trying to denigrate an opponent? Using it is so out of proportion to the complaint that it renders such slander ludicrous, and makes the user more worthy of scorn than his or her target.
This week, former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) became the latest to drop the “H bomb.” On Tuesday, she compared what she called the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leadership’s “empty calls” for party unity to Adolf Hitler and Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) appeals for “unity.” She implied that members who respond to such an appeal would be no better than the slavish devotees of these two dictators.
It was a completely insulting comparison, no matter how strongly Lu feels about the changes to the party’s electoral nomination process.
Of course, Lu is not the first DPP member to dig up old Adolf. The party made headlines in July 2001 when its advertising team decided that Hitler was just who was needed to complete a TV commercial, alongside former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), former US president John F. Kennedy and then-Cuban president Fidel Castro.
The DPP’s Information and Culture Department and Youth Department said the quartet were chosen because they had dared “to speak up without fear of confrontation,” which the party wanted to encourage in young people. After people did speak up to protest, a party official said the ad was really meant to tell young people they shouldn’t let outdated political figures speak for them. Another said the ad was supposed to show two extremes, the “false political stance of Hitler and Castro” as opposed to the positive images of Lee and Kennedy.
Not too many people bought either explanation, or the alternative “it’s only foreigners complaining and it is because they don’t understand our culture and language” rationale, and the ad was quickly pulled.
Meanwhile, it’s not just the pan-green camp that is so historically challenged. In early March 2004, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) paid for a full-page ad in five newspapers comparing then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to Hitler and urging voters to end Chen’s “dictatorship.” Obviously the party hacks had been sleeping through what limited time is given to 20th-century European history in high school and didn’t realize that Chen had been lawfully elected in 2000, unlike Hitler (or some in their own party).
Then-KMT spokesman Justin Chou (周守訓) apologized to “anyone in the Jewish community who felt offended by the ad,” but refused to apologize to Chen. That Gentiles might be equally offended by the ad apparently escaped him.
It’s not just the use of Hitler that is problematic. Also in March 2004, a KMT campaign poster in Taichung featured a Sept. 11 photograph of a burning World Trade Center tower, Osama bin Laden and former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. The al-Qaeda leader was “quoted” proclaiming his admiration for Chen, while the text claimed Chen started fires and incited chaos wherever he went.
Pressed for an explanation, a top official from Taichung Mayor Jason Hu’s (胡志強) KMT campaign headquarters said: “We chose to use the picture of Hussein because he unfairly controlled elections as the president of Iraq — just like Chen ... Chen also likes to play games, pulling off tricks just like the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.”