The Internet is ubiquitous. Inundated with information, people seldom think or use their judgement to discern whether any given piece of information is true or false. In this superficial culture, a dumbed-down, sensationalist headline or an empty slogan is more appealing to the eyes and ears than a conventional statement or a rational video.
As a result, sensationalist accusations and campaigns have become the weapon of choice for unscrupulous political figures and parties in cognitive warfare.
In the local election last year, former minister of health and welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), the then-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate for Taipei mayor, fell victim to the slogan “Murdering for Money.”
Who is the one murdering others for money? How much did he get? From the very beginning till the very end, those who accused Chen of making money from importing COVID-19 vaccines never produced any concrete evidence. All their political games which involved casting aspersions on Chen’s character resulted in him having to shoulder all the blame.
Spending large amounts of money, the Israeli government bought COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible. How strange it is that no one heard about Israelis complaining about that. Did they have no sense of the value of responsible budgeting, or did they simply understand that this was the reality of the market for COVID-19 vaccines?
Taiwan did not purchase large amounts of vaccines, so it was surely normal that the Taiwanese government had to buy them at a regular price. If Chen did not meet the opposing parties’ strict standards of acquiring vaccines at the earliest time and at the lowest cost, he would undoubtedly be labeled as someone who “murders for money.” That, ladies and gentlemen, is what is called a cheap accusation.
What about the scientific figures for all of this illicit taking of human life? According to The Economist’s statistics, Taiwan’s excess deaths — the number of people who died from any cause from 2020 to last year, minus the historical baseline from recent years — were the ninth-lowest in the world.
Until Nov. 13 last year, the death toll and the fatality rate in Taiwan could both rank third-lowest among all the 38 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Given these figures, it is unclear exactly why such an impressive performance during the pandemic could be called murder.
As for the presidential election next year, those unscrupulous political parties and figures are adopting the same logic by disseminating exaggerated campaigns such as “Dethrone the DPP,” “Vote for the DPP, Go for Warfare,” and the “Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program is nothing more than a money pit.”
If the DPP is “dethroned,” who should be in charge next? Should it be the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), a political party filled with gangsters and mafia? Or should it be Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who was a terrible Taipei mayor for eight years? Or should we rely on Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘), whose property is locked up in China?
Did the younger generations actually enter a war after voting for former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the DPP? Even if China invaded Taiwan, if the DPP was in government, at least young people would still have a chance to fight for their own country.
If Taiwan was governed by political parties favored by China, young people would not necessarily go to the battlefield, as the government might surrender without a fight.
However, would it be any better if Taiwan ends up becoming another Hong Kong or Tibet?
The Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program aims to overturn the longstanding north-south divide by providing more infrastructure and job opportunities to the southern part of Taiwan. Is that so bad?
Ko used to cry for young people who find their lives difficult in southern Taiwan, but he still said that the program was a money pit. Will he harm their opportunity to turn the tables around?
When will those politicians and political parties learn lessons from losing votes for rolling out sensationalist campaigns?
Chang Kuo-tsai is a retired National Hsinchu University of Education associate professor.
Translated by Lee Chieh-yu
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