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Thu, Mar 09, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Apology may not help: analysts

DIRTY CAMPAIGNING Language experts believe that social values in Taiwan are being eroded as candidates' camps hurl insults and obscenities at one another


A key staff member in KMT presidential candidate Lien Chan's (連戰) camp apologized to the public yesterday for what were considered to be "improper" words delivered on Tuesday by a minister in a bid to promote Lien.

However, speech communication experts said the case was symptomatic of the last stage of a campaign filled with cursing and obscene language.

Lin Hsiang-nung (林享能), chairman of the Council of Agriculture (COA), apologized for his rudeness, having uttered an obscenity in Taiwanese -- similar to the most famous four-letter word in English -- during a speech to a farmers' association in Nantou County just two days ago.

"My language might be regarded as offensive to some, but this is not the case," Lin said at a press conference yesterday.

"In a cordial atmosphere, I blurted out an improper word inadvertently," said Lin, suggesting the "slang" he used was commonplace among the discussions he had with friends during post-quake reconstruction work.

Instead of calming many of those who had taken offense at the remark, Lin's apology was used by opposing candidates' camps to fuel even more controversy.

DPP women legislators Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), Chou Ya-shu (周雅淑), and Chou Huey-ying (周慧瑛) attacked Lien's camp yesterday over the remarks, adding that Lin's case had exposed the Lien camp's chauvinism.

As voting day approaches, sharp skirmishes between the candidates' camps have been intensified by the increasingly common use of obscene remarks.

Independent candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) once said Lien was good at deliberately "striking an attitude" (假仙).

Lien once teased DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) over the last word of his name, "bian" (), which is a homophone for "impotence" in Mandarin.

In addition, certain anti-James Soong (宋楚瑜) elements have referred to the candidate by only his family name instead of his full name. "Soong" is a homophone for a Taiwanese word for orgasm.

Speech communication experts said that using such obscenities to attack opponents during campaign rallies might benefit those hurling the insults, but it is far from beneficial to the public reading about such activities later in newspapers.

"Political figures who use such language at rallies would probably prefer to take back those insults should they ever try some strategic thinking," said Yu Tzu-shiang (游梓翔), an associate professor at Shih Hsin University's department of speech communication.

"The insulting actions relayed by television can create a lasting negative impression on the viewing public," Yu said, adding that the audience might not "empathize" with those at the scene of such events, because second-hand reports often simplify the real situation.

Yu said that some candidates had proved themselves poor role models by acting improperly and bandying about obscenities at rallies.

"Bad language, like calling someone `wolf-hearted and dog-lunged' (狼心狗肺), is rarely heard at campaign rallies in most democratic countries because participants would simply be outraged," Yu said, referring to a phrase used by Lien yesterday.

Even making jokes about other candidates' personalities can be damaging, he said.

"Children will be confused by such practices. Parents and schoolteachers would never tolerate such behavior," Yu said, referring to the fact that would-be leaders of Taiwan should at least try to be thinking about being role models for society.

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