Fri, Sep 12, 2008 - Page 8

Ma’s obscured unification

In the last 100 days, many Taiwanese have become aware of the gap between President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) pre-election rhetoric and his post election performance. The role of the media in facilitating this gap was critical.

It was Taiwan’s politically affiliated media that helped propagate election slogans, argued for and against particular candidates and decided what extent of print, Web and TV coverage would be devoted to what the candidates said and the possible impact of their manifestos.

In spending five times more than the DPP on their election campaign, the KMT achieved a saturation of media that greatly boosted Ma’s chances of victory.

Such was the penetration of their election propaganda that many of the KMT talking points became decontested in voters minds; that is, they entered the realm of “common sense.”

Many light green supporters and young voters took this “common sense” without questioning it.

They thought Ma to be pragmatic, not radical, more of a consensus builder than a conflict instigator. They believed him when he expressed his determination to protect the sovereignty of Taiwan and promised that with Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) as vice president, the economy would improve dramatically.

One of the most notable slogans to aid the insemination of these misconceptions about Ma was a pun meaning “Ma becoming president is a good thing” and “Things will be better immediately.”

Later this was amended to “When Ma is elected, things will start to get better immediately.”

On the day Ma was inaugurated, however, the stock market dropped and has yet to recover. During the election, Ma and the KMT glibly promised a benchmark of more than 15,000, but today the TAIEX stands at 6,300, well below the critical 7,000 line.

It is possible that Ma and Siew may well have even believed their own lie about Chen’s poor economic management and thus overlooked the clear signs of global economic slowdown ahead, but their own act of misleading the Taiwanese public paradoxically left them unready to respond when the stock market crashed.

Their first limp response was “When Ma is elected, things will gradually get better.”

Things haven’t and tens of thousands of politically mobilized Taiwanese recently took to the streets to raise the question that if the party of the economy can’t make the economy better, can they be trusted to defend the country?

After Ma’s recent comments that Taiwan was not a country, perhaps a new slogan is appropriate for these times: “Ma won and Taiwan will soon be finished.”

The real tragedy is that many Taiwanese voted for unification without knowing it because they believed the sophisticated advertising designed to obscure the KMT’s not so hidden agenda.

Those interested in using democracy to rebalance this abuse should prepare themselves to vote DPP for all township, county and mayoral elections next year.

Only this way will the KMT get the message that Taiwan as a country and its democracy are here to stay, and they will not be allowed to trade it for their own pernicious financial gain.

Ben Goren


Kaohsiung County