Wed, Jan 25, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Ma muzzles `Tiger Woods of love' column

MISGUIDED Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou said that a column aimed at aspiring Romeos would be removed from the city's Web site after it became a focus of media attention

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER


A column designed to be a guide for "macking" -- US slang for picking up women -- on the Taipei City Government's English-language Web site touched off a media frenzy yesterday after a local tabloid ran a front page feature story about the column.

The column, "Macking in Taipei," was proposed by the city government's English consultants to attract more readers while teaching casual English in what they considered a creative way. The column's introduction and first article on the Web site's "English Corner" on Jan. 15, however, sparked complaints from residents who said the contents were too provocative to be put on a local government Web site.

The issue exploded after the Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily ran a full front page detailing the Web site, under the headline "City government teaches foreigners to womanize," and included articles on the "favorite places for foreigners to hang out" in Taipei. Other media outlets, including a number of TV stations, quickly jumped on the issue after the newspaper hit the stands.

The column was proposed by the Web site's chief editor, John Bucher, and written by a military attache to the city's department of information, John Lee, a Taiwanese citizen who lived in Los Angeles for 16 years.

Contrary to the Apple Daily's report, the column did not specifically state that it was designed to help foreigners pick up girls in Taipei. It was presented as a broader "guide to attract women" for guys who want to "meet [their] Cinderella."

"Who am I? Good question. I'm the new military attache to the Department of Information. My name is John Lee. I'm Taiwanese, but I lived in Los Angeles for the past sixteen years," the column said. "I've just come back to serve my country. Am I a patriot? Time will tell."

"You are pathetic and you can't get a girl. Don't worry. I'm here to help. Want to be the Tiger Woods of love? Follow my directions, son, and you will be a statue -- a chiseled and polished love god," Lee wrote in the column introduction.

"You may think I sound pompous, but I'm just honest," the column said.

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said the city government had been careless in the matter and asked the Web site's administration information department to pull the column.

"Those articles are indeed improper [for a city government Web site]. I already made the information department remove the column," Ma said yesterday morning after presiding over a municipal meeting.

"Our English Web site was relatively popular compared to those of the government divisions, and the English consultants put some creativity in the articles, using slang or fresh topics to generate residents' interest in learning English," Lo Chih-cheng (羅智成), commissioner of the information department, said yesterday at city hall. "We apologize to those who are offended by this column."

Both the editor and Lee declined to comment on the matter yesterday. But the department defended the staff.

"We thought the column was improper after seeing it on the Web site, and went talk to the editor. He was a little surprised at the response because he was just trying to be creative and attract younger people," the department's editorial officer Angel Chen (陳譽馨) said. "They will be more careful from now on in dealing with this kind of topic."

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