Sat, May 07, 2011 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: When the humor isn’t apparent

No one has ever accused the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) of having a sense of humor. Looks like no one will for a while longer, either.

Several party lawmakers were stewing this week about a tongue-in-cheek article on the Web site headlined “Asia’s most sinful cities” — a takeoff from the Catholic Church’s list of seven deadly sins as declared by Pope Gregory the Great: pride, envy, anger, sadness (which the church renamed “sloth” in the 17th century), avarice, gluttony and lust.

The top spot on the article’s list went to Taipei — for gluttony — which had KMT members of the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee rushing to defend Taipei and the nation’s honor. It’s just too bad that neither they nor new Government Information Office Minister Philip Yang (楊永明) had apparently spent the two weeks since the offending article was first posted either really reading the story or getting a good translation.

KMT Legislator Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) said she couldn’t “stand the idea that we are described as gluttonous. Saying that Taipei is a city of gluttony is definitely not praise for its delicacies.”

Once again, Kuo was too quick to criticize — remember that she lambasted St John’s University students last month for not standing up when asking President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) questions, even though they were seated in a lecture hall where the microphones were all fixed to the desks.

The CNNGo story did not say that Taipei is a city of gluttony or that its residents (and by extension all Taiwanese) were gluttons.

It said Taipei was a good place to go if one wanted to “be” gluttonous because of the wide variety of food and plentiful offerings available day and night, especially at the “18 streets dedicated to nothing but food.”

Yang said he had asked his office’s Department of International Information to communicate the government’s concerns to CNN, noting that despite the article’s “bantering style,” it had affected the nation’s image “to some extent.”

He also said that Taipei was a place where visitors could enjoy gourmet food.

Complaining to CNN won’t achieve much when the fault lies closer to home. It’s not just CNN that is promoting Taipei as a place to come eat cheaply and often; it’s also the Tourism Bureau and the Taipei City Government’s own Web sites.

The bureau’s site brags that “snacking is deeply woven into the fabric of daily life in Taiwan ... in fact, one of the quickest ways to experience the local flavor of Taiwan is visit one of the many night markets,” while the city’s sites highlight fine dining, night market meals and the annual Beef Noodle Festival.

Is this more a case of a job being done too well? If the KMT lawmakers and the government don’t want Taipei to be known as a place for great (and cheap) food, then they shouldn’t authorize spending time and money advertising the fact.

However, perhaps the lawmakers might have been mollified if they had searched “Taipei” on the Web site, since the first story that pops up is by a Singaporean columnist titled “7 ways Taipei beats Singapore” — a paean to Taiwanese street food, Taipei’s MRT system, the politeness of residents and the cleanliness of the city, as well as the High Speed Rail system and Taiwan’s freedom of speech.

Or perhaps not. The article ends (humorously) with the note that there is one thing better about Singapore than Taipei/Taiwan — its lawmakers aren’t famed for fighting in parliament and throwing chairs.

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