SO YOU'VE just arrived at Taipei Railway Station. You walk out the south entrance and are about to cross Zhongxiao W Road, when you look up and see it -- the giant poster for the Monument Formerly Known as CKS. In utter ruin.
You rub your eyes and look again.
No, you're not hallucinating.
Like me, you probably wondered for a split second if it was a political campaign poster. Could it be the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sticking it to the late, "grate" dictator with some "social rectal-fication"?
Or, you mused, is it a new campaign technique from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)? A warning of imminent disaster if we don't marshal Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) into the Presidential Office ASAP and beg him to save us all?
No, wrong again. It's a plug for I Am Legend, a Warner Bros film starring Will Smith.
The timing is impeccable. The fracas outside the memorial this month has had all the twists and turns of a feature film -- albeit low-budget and with homophobes in the leading roles.
So is Warner Bros taking kickbacks from some unidentified political force? Of course not. But this seems to be the season for conspiracy theories bordering on the imbecilic, so I decided to investigate.
First stop: the Internet Movie Database (IMDB).
Of course, I could have gone straight to the movie's official Web site, but let's not forget the first rule of high-quality Taiwanese journalism: never go to the source.
According to the IMDB, I Am Legend is a film about a man, desperately alone, surrounded by the ruins of what he and his kind built.
Wait a sec -- is this a Hollywood flick or a documentary about James Soong (
But I have to admit, that picture of CKS Mem -- ... I mean, National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall filled me with hope. No, not because the hall is depicted in the throes of death, but rather because the biohazard symbol shown on it is at least apolitical.
Yes, I realized with a sigh of relief, salvation will come. A virus, a nuclear meltdown, World War III -- one way or another, we'll finally be rid of the partisan plague. Just one nagging detail: None of us will be around to enjoy it.
But to get back to conspiracy theories, media methodology in Taiwan leaves a lot to be desired (Investigative reporting? Jot down a few notes from the evening news and then make a quick stop at naughtylegislator.blogspot.com while downing whiskey in the comfort of your own armchair).
News this week from the KMT's "Election Tactics Research Center," however, took brainstorming under the influence to a whole new level.
The nation's rumor mill was already grinding at full speed -- churning out allegations of bugged party offices; encounters with top US sources a la Deep Throat; staged threats on the president's life; government plans to attack Chinese fishing boats; and cross-camp conniving against Soong way back in 1999.
Then there were the mystery "minutes" from a not-so-secret secret meeting between American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt and KMT vice presidential candidate Vincent Siew (蕭萬長).
And all of it, as usual, was 100 percent unsubstantiated.
That shouldn't come as a surprise in a country where Chen Hsing-yu (陳幸妤), the president's daughter, lost a libel lawsuit against TV commentator Hu Chung-hsin (胡忠信) because, as the High Court said, Hu at least tried to find out if she laundered money for Daddy before declaring it on national television.
But surely even Taiwan has its limits. Just when I thought reality would quietly seep back into the pages of the local papers, the KMT released its list of 15 "dirty tricks" that the DPP was prepared to resort to rather than die an electoral death.
Just a few highlights from the list: The DPP will poison candidates and frame the KMT; sway illegal gamblers to bet on DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and thus have to vote for him; assassinate Ma or Hsieh and postpone the election (I wonder if the DPP has run that one past Hsieh); spark a cross-strait conflict; block Taiwanese from re-entering the country to vote with a bird-flu scare; or -- by far the most terrifying -- tie up KMT campaign office telephone lines with incessant phone calls.
Like any good Taiwanese, these allegations had me worried (I'd already placed a bet on Ma with the local bookie).
Little did I know, the KMT list barely scratched the surface of DPP villainy. My "sources" -- including a bug up the ass of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) -- passed on some stuff that didn't make it into print.
The KMT research team has uncovered evidence that the pan-greens have other plans to roll out in a worst-case scenario. Tactics so heinous, so appalling, that even honorary KMT source-of-all-things-vile Lien Chan (
Horrified by the discovery, Wang decided to withhold them from the final list for the sake of public order.
But even as I write this, DPP henchmen are hard at work doing the following:
1. The Cabinet is amassing made-to-order exploding ballots. Vote pan-blue and the ballot self-destructs once placed in the box -- but not before nanotechnology sensors release a mutated, non-contagious form of the Ebola virus (courtesy of pan-blue sympathizers at the Centers for Disease Control) into the voter's bloodstream.
2. The DPP will smuggle in mercenaries from Turkey (or possibly Somalian pirates -- the informants are not certain) to slay staffers at voting stations in pan-blue governed cities and counties. The Cabinet will then claim the staffers committed mass suicide because pan-blue local governments did not love their nation enough to heed the Central Election Commission.
3. President Chen Shui-bian (
4. The DPP will use the military to parachute small teams of agitators into China. Once inside, they will start an uprising, overthrow the Chinese Communist Party and establish a new, equally authoritarian government. Once a puppet leader of the "DPPeople's Republic of China" has been installed, Taipei can safely declare independence, bundle up all the KMT and their belongings -- minus a few stolen assets -- and send them packing.
Foolproof! And it has the added benefit of being partly based on old KMT military plans.
Heard or read something particularly objectionable about Taiwan? Johnny wants to know: firstname.lastname@example.org is the place to reach me, with "Dear Johnny" in the subject line.
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