Mon, Dec 13, 2004 - Page 1 News List

US scholars cite need to fight foreign media's `spin'

OUTSIDE VIEW Noting the foreign media's coverage of the weekend's legislative poll, visiting academics said it is in Taiwan's interests to challenge their interpretations

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Stating that many foreign media reports had incorrectly interpreted Saturday's election as a referendum on independence, US academics yesterday said the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government must fight the foreign media's spin on events.

The US scholars made the remark yesterday while visiting with Wu A-ming (吳阿明), Board Chairman of the Liberty Times, a sister newspaper of the Taipei Times.

"One thing which I found the western media got wrong, particularly CNN, was that they viewed this election as referendum on independence," said June Dreyer, chair of the Department of Political Science of the University of Miami. "But to us, it does not seem that way."

The pan-blue camp, consisting of the pro-unification Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP), retained its legislative majority in Saturday's election, winning a total of 114 seats. The DPP and its small political ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), fell short of their goal to gain a majority in the new legislature.

Several foreign media outlets, such as CNN, reported Saturday's electoral result as the people of Taiwan saying no to a new mandate to accelerate President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) pro-independence policies.

"It is very much not in Taiwan's interest to allow the foreign spin to prevail. And the foreign spin is -- Chen loses, China won," said Edward Friedman, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin.

Battling `spin'

"I think the most important thing, in terms of Taiwan's standing in the world and its relationship to the world, is to fight this battle of `spin.'"

Friedman said the most frightening thing he found about this the international media's spin on the events was that "it is not just CNN, the Asian Wall Street Journal but everyone."

"Even an Arab newspaper wrote it the same way," Friedman said, adding that although many foreign press outlets had sent reporters to Taiwan to cover the weekend's election, "their heads never, somehow, get involved with Taiwan's reality."

Friedman attributed it to "China's power and China's ability to define reality."

Another observation the US scholars noted was incorrectly reported in the foreign media's coverage of the election was the mood of the population in the lead-up to the election.

"I listen to CNN and I read the western newspapers and I was amazed at how wrong they were, because they were saying in the days before the election, Taiwan was very tense. And we didn't find it tense at all," she said.

Commenting on the electoral result, Dreyer noted some positive elements of the result.

"If [US President] George Bush and the American State Department think this is a referendum on independence and it failed ... they will be less nervous and they will not give warnings to Taiwan, will not have [Secretary of State] Colin Powell saying that we are for unification and things like that," Dreyer said.

Breathing space

"So this will give Taiwan some breathing space and meanwhile, of course, we all understand that pro-localization continues to take place and the longer it can take place without George Bush or the State Department noticing, the better," she said.

Regarding to issues Chen promoted during the campaign such as rectifying the names of government agencies and state-own enterprises to "Taiwan," Dreyer said the administration should "do it and do it slowly." "It would probably be less upsetting to the American government," she said.

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