Sat, Nov 24, 2001 - Page 8

Fish kill no surprise

It was no surprise on my recent visit to Taiwan to read about masses of dead mullet found in the Tamsui River. What was surprising was that there were any fish left to kill.

I also read about environmentalists protesting a nuclear power issue and wondered, having seen putrid rivers and streams throughout much of the country, overcrowded streets and polluted air, whether their efforts would be more beneficial if they focused on the mundane realities of street run-off and industrial waste.

How long will it be before Taiwan is caught in a biological crisis because it has poisoned the very sources of its food? It is an industrious nation. Its leaders should step forward and address the issue of pollution, since its citizens appear too concerned with making a living to take action. Wake up, Taiwan, you can't avoid this filth forever.

Jeff Kallet

Ashland, Ohio

Myths part of media's job

The number of articles on media literacy in Taiwan has achieved a critical mass. There are complaints and accolades across the spectrum, from issues concerning the lack of thoughtful TV content to Rupert Murdoch's aggression over Taiwan's apparent hijacking of revenue-generating advertising time. Then there was the suggestion that media channels in Taiwan have no desire to leave the shadow of US media giants ("The media needs more worldly perspective," Nov. 21, page 8), a suggestion which needs amendment

There is an important reason why Taiwan should retain the US as a security partner and as a model of social systems of less-developed countries. The US role is of paramount importance to how issues spin out in Asia. Security was, is and will be necessary for Taiwan's young democracy. It would be rather difficult to have conceived of a total change of political power, or even the ascension to the WTO, without primary backing by the US. This security, to be certain, fully and completely includes the US media.

Taiwan's changing allegiance and (in) gratitude to the US is not the real message. The urge to find alternative sources of support, either in media content or on the political stage, is dangerous and premature. Taiwan's media are in danger of "creating myths in their coverage of China, through their lack of an international angle." There is truth in this statement, but it does not seem to carry its intended force. Unless you propose that the end of history has fallen upon us, it's the business of communications and media to disseminate, compound, and archive myths.

There is a tendency to equate myths with fiction. Such is not the case, for myths are legitimate bearers of information, true or false, historical or ahistorical, and the distinction between fact and fiction is not, at least in this era of gloablization, clearly defined.

The quest for a brand of absolute media objectivity that attempts to avoid myth-building -- either in print or digital media -- is a red herring. The messages that we interpret, we perceive and we translate across the multiple layers of language, culture, economics, and politics, are essentially myth-building. The real message, then, is that a grand mythology woven from cable lines, wire services, programming codes and publishing syndicates, is part and parcel of the information age. Media have an important function in generating new, better and challenging myths: to extended narratives and to view the ordinary.

It's simply false, then, that media in Taiwan have ignored global "angles" that might lead to a well-rounded perspective of our place in the world. Localized myths are not flaccid, and they hold their own against globalized myths.

The underlying suggestion by media theorists, at least ones that like to blow the whistle on an overly Americanized pattern of information and reception, is that better myths are waiting to be explored, unearthed, and cashed-in.

But the fact of the matter is that if myths are globalized, if reporting is entirely borderless and pseudo-objective, shrinkage may occur in all the wrong places, leaving the remaining media conglomerates towering over the remaining myths. Alarmist and myth-building? First-rate.

Sydney C.K. Wong