Pot calling the kettle black
There are times when one reads a piece by J. Michael Cole, such as his recent column about democracy in Taiwan (“Democracy is no mere commodity,” June 8, page 8) that one feels one is watching a Hong Kong movie where one of the characters goes overboard in trying to explain away, apologize and make excuses for himself or others.
Once again, it seems here that Cole has decided it is time to pull out his soapbox, pick a straw man that can be interpreted in numerous ways and because of that preach a feel-good tolerance message. The straw man this time is “commentators from the pan-green camp” who apparently were angered at President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) calling Taiwan a Chinese democracy.
While Cole grants that a “case can be made” for Ma’s detractors, Cole then takes readers down a labyrinthine path of various conundrums in which the vagary of Ma’s language allows multiple interpretations, and qualifications — ie, Ma’s words are not “disingenuous provided that we extend the definition of Chinese to the ‘supranational.’” As usual, Cole relies on numerous provisos to qualify things and justify his soapbox.
Has anyone actually said that democracy is a commodity? Cole wants to feel that they may have and that this justifies his writing. Is this not Cole’s typical reading into what other people have said and (seeing a chance for a possible straw man) implying that perhaps they may be thinking such? In all of this, Cole grants himself the freedom to suggest this possibility and therefore this justifies his pulling out of his soapbox.
If Cole really wants to play with word games — ie, questioning the technicality of saying that democracy in Taiwan should not be called “Taiwan’s democracy” because of potential “existential dangers” — why does he not go back to question what Ma really means? Of if he wants to justify Ma’s emphasis on Taiwan’s Chineseness, why does he not examine Singapore?
Singapore’s ethnic composition is approximately 75 percent Chinese, so where does this leave Ma’s argument?
That Cole questions how others justifiably interpret Ma and yet freely takes the same liberty (and it is not the first time he has done so) raises again questions of journalistic credibility and perhaps an abuse of his position as deputy news editor at Taipei Times that the paper should consider addressing.
As deputy news editor, does Cole contribute to the editorial on page 8? If so, are readers to take opinion pieces by Cole as his speaking for himself or for the paper? If speaking solely for himself, does Cole abuse his position to gain leverage to get his private articles into the paper? Too often Cole leaves his readers with these repeated questions.
Nationality and ‘soft power’
I am a bit disappointed to learn that the public is paying such attention to the nationality of a successful athlete like Jeremy Lin (林書豪) and that even an official answer was required (“Jeremy Lin is legally an ROC national: official,” June 7, page 1).
There are innumerable cases of celebrities with nationality controversies, so is the Ministry of the Interior going to make a statement about each one? Surely this would be a hot issue because it concerns how an individual’s exposure in the media may affect Taiwan’s international reputation.
Yet, can we be sure that this athlete identifies with our own arbitrary interpretation, while he himself might have a nuanced interpretation of nationality? It would be unjust to criticize an individual in defense of public expectation.