“If you are not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing,” Malcolm X once said.
It is amazing how quickly focus can be shifted by just one media report, as in the case of the frenzy surrounding National Tsing Hua University student Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) over the past few days.
Chen, a participant in the recent student protests against the takeover of Next Media Group’s four Taiwanese outlets involving the pro-China, Taiwan-based Want Want China Times Group, was invited by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers to attend the legislative Education and Culture Committee meeting on Monday for a special session.
Rather than focusing on the real issue — concern about freedom of speech on campus after an e-mail from the Ministry of Education asked universities to “show concern” for and investigate students who took part in the protests — one media outlet on Tuesday dedicated its front page and another full page to slamming Chen for accusing Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) of incompetence, hypocrisy and lying about his support for the student movement. A number of pan-blue politicians jumped on the bandwagon and said Chen had no manners.
The blatant double standards of the pan-blue camp are dumbfounding. After all, in September 2006, amid a campaign by red-clad protesters to oust then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the DPP, sixth-grader Chen Tso-fei (陳昨非) was hailed by certain media outlets and pan-blue politicians for criticizing Chen Shui-bian in a poem he recited at the protest. No one from the pan-blue camp chided Chen Tso-fei for not showing respect to the president. However, let a minister in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government be criticized by a student and see how fast the pan-blue attack dogs come out.
Several pan-blue lawmakers also criticized Chen Wei-ting for intervening in legislative operations. They apparently forgot that Article 67 of the Constitution clearly states: “the legislature may set up various committees and such committees may invite government officials and concerned private persons to be present at their meetings to answer questions.”
Those who have been quick to condemn Chen Wei-ting for his accusations against Chiang have forgotten the big picture. Those who have not been following the protests against the Next Media buyout closely and have only seen a few seconds of a video clip in a news broadcast might form the opinion that Chen Wei-ting was acting rudely and being hard on Chiang. However, if they took a few more minutes to examine the whole issue from the beginning, putting themselves in protesters’ shoes and looking at what they encountered — Chiang’s failure to answer the students’ call to show up at the protest, the heavy deployment of riot police at the protests and the ministry’s e-mail, to name but a few — then they might be more understanding of the exasperation Chen Wei-ting felt.
It is hard to remain silent in the face of arrogance, but manners are not really the point here — it is the public’s concern over the creation of media monopolies.
Perhaps some media outlets are trying to demonize Chen Wei-ting and his fellow protesters in a bid to draw attention away from the real issues at hand. If that is the case, their efforts have backfired, at least among the nation’s young people, who are continuing to come forward to support efforts to block media monopolies.