Monday, February 20, 2006

ESWN, Apple Daily, and Taiwan

One of the fascinating subtexts in the China blog dialogue is the widespread contempt among other Chinese for Taiwan’s democracy, and their often open hope that it fails. Taiwan’s success, it seems, has engendered quite a bit of jealousy. Another note in this malodorous perfume of impolite contempt is a class one -- it seems Taiwan's democracy is just a mite too plebian for some.

Yesterday ESWN mounted a defense of his reliance for Taiwan news on Apple Daily, a foreign tabloid in Taiwan, owned by a Hong Kong Chinese, that has achieved notable success in Taiwan recently, becoming the number 1 selling newspaper. ESWN defended this subtle choice of a paper that sells by showing Taiwan in a negative light with….

“It is common to just sit down and dismiss Apple Daily in Hong Kong and Taiwan as a 'rag' filled with 'lies.' That is missing the point. The point is that this 'lying rag' happens to the among the market leaders in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Either Apple Daily is doing something right, or else its readers are doing something wrong. The quote from the first story is: "To study the democratic development in Hong Kong and Taiwan, one must study Apple Daily."

At first glance this makes a kind of sense – we can study the democratic development of Taiwan by studying its best selling newspaper, which happens to be a sensationalist rag filled with lies (speaking of lies, Roland, did you correct that lying story about macking in Taiwan that you got from Apple Daily yet, that you thought was true? Didn’t think so). It is only when you start thinking about Taiwan's democratic development, which I have spent most of my adult life observing, that you realize how stupid this idea is. ESWN is just engaging in another subtle slam of Taiwan. Some people just can't abide our democracy here, it seems.

Just stop and think about what democratic development means for Taiwan. The changes here that I have seen in the last 15 years have been profound. On a hike on the East Coast last year I saw locals picking up their trash after they had eaten. The trail itself was cared for by a volunteer historical organization. Both of those are results of the rising civic culture and democracy in Taiwan -- in fact, a little noticed but tremendous advance due to the arrival of democracy was the shortening of the work week from six days to five, which means that people now have a day off to engage in activities like hiking, blogging, and political rallies. One could go on all day listing representative changes that range from better government service, better care for the environment, clean elections, privatization of bloated government firms, unrestricted travel abroad, and above all, the free speech that Apple Daily exploits. Any of these things could be chosen to represent Taiwan's democratization, although no one thing could (a point neglected by ESWN). It is also worth mentioning that this sensationalization of the news is not a Taiwan development -- it was introduced from elsewhere. So when you choose a foreign tabloid that sensationalizes the news to "represent" Taiwan's democratic development, what are you really trying to do? I submit the question answers itself

ESWN cites an article that he translated from Yazhou Zhoukan as some kind of support for his "considered" position (translated from ESWN):

“Even as democracy developed under the market economy, Hong Kong and Taiwan societies are facing a decline in cultural spirit. Behind each successful media organization there must be a certain value or ideology. Apple Daily is a newspaper with a strong individual style, and its boss Jimmy Lai is the soul behind this style. Apple Daily uses a crisp and clean layout design, inflammatory headlines and paparazzi-style news gathering methods to attract readers.It is a media product that is a tabloid in the core dressed up in a middle-class candy coat.Is the success of Apple Daily in Hong Kong and Taiwan the progress of democracy? Or the decline of humanistic spirit?Or the manifestation of cultural diversity?”

It is a commonplace among certain commentators that Taiwan's "cultural spirit" and similar is in decline. No definition of "cultural spirit" is ever made, because of course, there is no such thing, and no decline, either. The myth of the Decline Away from the Pure Past is an archetype found in every society among conservative commentators, and in the Eden Myth of Christianity it even achieves religious status. In Chinese culture it is the stereotyped Myth the organizes the way people think about the present day, and can be pithily summarized as "No Matter What, Things Were Better in the Past." The author of this piece simply betrays his own political and social prejudices, not his actual knowledge of anything (I should hasten to add that one sad fallout from this is that Chinese tend to be excessively critical of their own societies, often not recognizing their own successes). I do like his pithy description of Apple as a "tabloid core dressed up in a middle-class candy coat." It's quite apt.

Reality: there is no "cultural decline" here on The Beautiful Isle, but instead, a post-martial law flowering that shows up at all levels of society, sometimes kitsch, sometimes vulgar, sometimes profound, sometimes obscene. In short, Taiwan is becoming a nation with a complex, multicultural society. As we would expect in a democracy, the tastes of the less educated and the lower incomes predominate.

Of course, there will always be those appalled or delighted by the fact that in democracies the hoi polloi have bad taste (they have awful taste in authoritarian states as well; they just don't get to exercise it) and would rather watch Korean soap operas than read Tang poetry or, as they were forced to do in the martial law period, study Confucius and memorize the Three Principles of the People. Anyone who took a look at the vast number of stores selling pornographic videos, the betel nut girls lining the streets, and the brothels found in every neighborhood, could maybe sorta guess that a newspaper that souped up the news with plenty of sex was going to sell. This does not represent Taiwan democracy, any more than the half-naked betel nut girls represent Taiwan democracy. It represents the well-known fact that sex sells. Apparently ESWN thinks this is a major insight into Taiwan's democratic culture.

The article translated by ESWN goes on to say:

The New York Times represents liberalism in the United States.The Washington Post represents conservatives in the United States.What does Apple Daily represent? In Hong Kong, Apple Daily became the representative of the democratic movement. In Taiwan, Apple Daily is the hero in exposing scandals among Taiwan political power holders. What is the difference in editorial direction and content between Apple Daily versus the New York Times and the Washington Post? Why do those traditional newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan (such as Ming Pao, Hong Kong Economic Journal, China Times, United Daily) that are closer in editorial style to the New York Times and the Washington Post seem to be ageing in a more democratic and freer social environment?

Skipping over the fact that the author confusedly locates at opposite ends of the political spectrum two Establishment newspapers, the Washington Post and the NYTimes, that are neither liberal nor conservative and extremely close in their political views, he does ask a semi-pertinent question: Why do those traditional newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan (such as Ming Pao, Hong Kong Economic Journal, China Times, United Daily) that are closer in editorial style to the New York Times and the Washington Post seem to be ageing in a more democratic and freer social environment?

The author answers himself:

In recent years, the Apple Daily-style media culture has turned news into a creative art. There is not much difference between entertainment news and so-called mainstream news. The Apple Daily-style news is a type of news that sets up hatred and opposition, and this style has slowly become the mainstream in Hong Kong and Taiwan media. How can a society under this kind of media culture develop normally in a diversified way? When the future democratic development in Hong Kong and Taiwan has lost the humanistic spirit, what kind of democratic politics will result? Should we blame Jimmy Lai? This is a chicken-and-egg question about whether the times created the hero or the hero created the times.
This is, of course, an apologetic for the fact that Apple Daily engages in activities that used to be known as lying before people made up euphemisms like "creative art." The author's defense of Apple Daily is to blame society -- you know, that horrible democracy in Taiwan has forced Jimmy Lai's paper to slant and sensationalize stories, and focus on sex. Help! cries Apple Daily. Stop me before I show tits and ass again! Apparently this effect only occurs with papers from Hong Kong; the local Taiwan papers seemed quite immune prior to the advent of Apple Daily. The author fails to engage that point precisely because, well, it totally destroys his thesis.

Note too that the author again confusedly thinks there is something abnormal about sensationalist news selling well or that there is something "normal" about "diversified development." Hint to the author: normal diversity is an oxymoron.

The author's complaint reveals another Myth that traditionally organizes analysis of society in Chinese thinking: the opposite of control is anarchy. In our own culture the opposite of control is freedom, while anarchy is the absence of government. The Confucian mind places great emphasis on social order, and equates freedom with anarchy (one of the owners of Yazhou Zhoukan, the magazine that hosted this article, is the newspaper group Ming Pao, long a champion of Confucian ideals). Thus diversity, in his view, must be "normalized", otherwise, well, we'd have no control, and thus, we would be in a state of anarchy, which -- it is redundant to even say it -- is bad. Regrettably, the conceptual categories available to this writer do not include freedom. He does not even understand what it is.

The author at last reveals his hand in this paragraph:

In recent years, it is fashionable to talk about basing everything upon the people. But can a society without a humanistic spirit be based upon the people? Jimmy Lai and Stephen Chow are immensely popular. Is that the expectant response by the Chinese people to the transformation of democracy, or have we lost the ability to respect tradition and propagate tradition? Jimmy Lai has often said that he likes to read Economist, but would he publish a magazine like Economist?

What points does he make here? First, he thinks that society should be about:

"the ability to respect tradition and propagate tradition?"

Here's the thinking of the social authoritarian, hard at work. What are the two dichotomous opposites he chooses? Democracy on one side, the ability to respect and propagate tradition on the other. Are these really opposites? Of course not! What he is complaining about here is that people are no longer forced to kowtow to some idealized political construction called Tradition by the ruling authorities and are free to go about building the kind of tradition that they want to build. Our trusty writer is bemoaning an idealized past that never existed, and imagining that its disappearance is a negative thing. He is confused about what words like respect and democracy and tradition mean, subconsciousing thinking that they still mean Fear, Authority and Control, respectively. You can take the man out of the authoritarianism, but you can't......never mind.

What does our trusty writer think about tabloids? He argues:

The nature of a tabloid is to hype things up, to hate people who are rich and to despise people who are poor, to manufacture opposition and hatred, to play word games and to magnify human frailty, cynicism and conspiracy theories. Can a society whose opinions are led by a tabloid reflect the triumph of freedom of expression? Or the birth of fascistic democracy? On February 2, 2006, Hong Kong's Apple Daily reported on the front page about a Hong Kong tour group encountering a traffic accident in Egypt with many casualties. The headline was: "Three Hong Kong groups in Egypt went past without offering assistance; the wounded tourist complained in tears that Hong Kong people are cold-blooded." The words for "Hong Kong people are cold-blooded" were extra-large. But the content of the report does not support the conclusion in the headline that "Hong Kong people are cold-blooded." All it did was to quote the words of a principal, and there was no in-depth attempt to verify the reliability of the statement. This is the typical method by which tabloids hype up news through presenting the conclusion first and then end up with nothing definitive.

The author's analysis of Apple Daily's ability to report news is dead on. But note his strange rhetorical question:

Can a society whose opinions are led by a tabloid reflect the triumph of freedom of expression? Or the birth of fascistic democracy?

Here the question more or less rhetorically assumes what it is trying to argue, not the first time he's committed that basic logical fallacy (hilariously, the author goes on to complain further down that people do not know how to argue anymore, a problem he suffers seriously from with emotional appeals, errors of fact, omssions of pertinent counterarguments, and fallacious logic). This is mere engagement in emotional appeals. Nowhere has the author demonstrated that Apple Daily "leads" Taiwan's opinions -- no survey data, no quotes or citations, no support or argument whatsoever. ESWN has noted that Apple Daily is probably most popular among the young, who do not lead anything, except dissolute lives, that they promptly clean up when they get serious jobs and spouses. Like the young everywhere, come to think of it.

The second half of that comment is another one of our author's oxymorons, "fascistic democracy" and it contains a telltale -- the equation of Taiwan's current political situation with "fascism" is a common criticism of the pan-Blues here in Taiwan. The author's political slant is obvious and it is anti-Green. This is not a trenchant analysis of Apple Daily and Taiwan's media culture. This is merely highly disguised bog-standard emotional appeals and attacks on Taiwanese culture from the conservative Chinese Right, the kind of wearisome unimaginative tuneless logorrhea that the pan-Blue papers here commonly and proudly publish as "analysis" (perhaps the author might consider taking his vulgar, shallow work as indicating something about the state of thinking among commentators of his class -- in the same manner that he takes the vulgar, shallow Apple Daily as indicative of something about Taiwan). The insensate repetitiveness of conservative Chinese criticisms of Taiwan democracy is the product of a particular culture of mind in which tradition has long since vanquished creativity -- leaving only the sterile ability to replicate, instead of the living ability to reproduce. Conservative Chinese thinkers looking at Taiwan are just so many mules, braying in fear.

Observe further that the author once again uses a rhetorical question -- Or the birth of fascistic democracy? -- to make the totally illogical hyperbolic leap from one newspaper's popularity to fascism in society, pure comedy from a writer who says others can't argue -- though he admits later that Apple Daily does not dominate. In fact, he observes that things in Taiwan are still pretty good:

Taiwan is luckier than Hong Kong. Apple Daily is influential there, but it is not dominating. Taiwan newspapers have not all become like Apple Daily, as there are newspapers and magazines that still have the humanistic spirit. Taiwan has its own cultural anti-body, but the situation in Hong Kong is one-sided. In Hong Kong, they are all like Apple Daily. They don't pay any attention to grooming and educating reporters. More reporters quit and fewer veteran reporters remain. The art of in-depth investigative reporting in Hong Kong has vanished.

I can't speak for Hong Kong, but without any data to back it up, the author is simply invoking the Decline Myth. Once upon a time there was a great Hong Kong newspaper era, but now look at things! This might be true, but the author does not provide either evidence or argument for his position. Sadly, fallacious logic, unsupported arguments, and emotional appeals are the pattern in articles about Taiwan that ESWN chooses to translate.

One final thought: Yazhou Zhoukan is owned by Ming Pao and Tom.com, both Hong Kong-based firms. Ming Pao is a well known conservative publication. Gosh -- criticism of Taiwan's democracy from a conservative Hong Kong-based media publication. Who wudda thunk it?

UPDATE: Edited first paragraph after comments below

21 comments:

David said...

Too late at night for me to comment on your whole post, but what's this "widespread contempt among other Asians for Taiwan's democracy"? Are we talking about Japanese, Koreans, Filipinoes, etc. here?

There's plenty of misunderstanding about Taiwan's young democracy around the world, but I'm only really aware of one (large) asian country that has contempt for it ...

Daniel said...

Great writing, Michael.

Sun Bin said...

the fact that media such as apple daily is tolerated and flurished in taiwan and hk reflects the freedom of speech enjoyed in these 2 localities.

it has nothing to do with democracy, only with freedom of speech.
so your linkage with picking up trash is totally irrelevant.

in fact, democracy means one person one vote. the circulation of a paper itself is a casting of vote, with money in people's pocket. in that sense, if a paper represents a political party/view in a democratic society, apple daily represents the largest party in taiwan.

you might consdier yourself to be more educated and despise the tabloid readers, but your vote is the same as that of the housewife next door.

James said...

I know the love of all things Koreans by Taiwanese is not reciprocated by Koreans, but I've never heard of contempt expressed of Taiwanese democracy by Koreans.

There are certainly paternalistic, "we did a good job as your colonial daddies, hey, what do you know, we don't like China either" Japanese views of Taiwan... I'm not sure if they really cheer for Taiwan's democratic development, though they sure don't mind Taiwan's anti-China stance.

I would say though, that I've heard many examples of contempt expressed not only by those in China, but also by those in Hong Kong and Singapore. I don't know what the roots of it are, but Hong Kongers, despite the desire on the part of some of themselves for democracy and their Chinese but not Chinese, we're richer and we speak English attitude, do look down on Taiwanese. Come to think of it, I've never heard a positive comment about Taiwan by a Hong Konger, culturally or politically. I've heard less anecdotally directly from Singaporeans, but their political philosophy, as espoused by Lee Kuan Yew, is that Western-style democracy is incompatible with "Asian values", meaning "Confucian values", hence their authoritarian state (obviously very appealing to their CCP cousins). Former President Lee Teng-Hui as well as some East Asian scholars have worked hard to point out that there are aspects of humanitarianism and popular rights within the Confucian tradition, though obviously no democracy. In any case, the political success of South Korea and Taiwan is enough evidence that democracy and "Asian values" are quite compatible.

Roland's smart, but I agree, he's completely off on Taiwan.

Someone want to cover the 2/28 report released? Am I going to have to start blogging myself?

Michael Turton said...

Come to think of it, I've never heard a positive comment about Taiwan by a Hong Konger, culturally or politically.

Me neither. That's specifically what I was thinking off. I am going to change that opening paragraph.

Sun Bin said...

These are vulnerable statements easily refuted.

Here is from one HK'er, who has spent a couple years in Taiwan.
I admire what has been achieved by Taiwanese people, both economically and democratically. I think in many areas they did a much better job than HK or mainlander, or even the Singaporean (eg IT industry, democractic progress). Meanwhile, there are also a lot of areas Taiwan falls behind. This is natural as no one can excel in every single area.

Having said that, I support most of what Roland said.

Now, please retract your statement, because here is one counter example and it is enough to make your statement logically incorrect.

Sun Bin said...

To add to it, mant HK people, not just myself, think that Chinese culture (and Confucism) has been best preserved in Taiwan through 1950-1980, and perhaps beyond.

You might not have heard that, but you would if you have talked to enough HK'er. I can even assume that Roland agree with me on this point.

Karl said...

The National Enquirer has a weekly circulation of 2,760,000. Either The National Enquirer is doing something right, or else its readers are doing something wrong.

That's why I always refer first to the National Enquirer to study the democratic development in the Untied States.

shavenpope said...

Taiwan is a country, not a museum. This whole notion of the world's most authentic Chinese culture is simply KMT propaganda and lies, designed with the sole purpose of legitimizing their occupation.
While I often dislike some manifestations of what Taiwan is becoming, it's the right of the people to develop in the direction they want, just as it is the right of certain people in HK to sniff at their rights and the direction they've chosen. Just don't expect the Taiwanese to pay any attention. A lot of people I know rightly or wrongly assume it's sour grapes.

IMO, Roland is a misogynist and an intellectual pygmy, but I respect his right to publish his thoughts, however ridiculous. It would be nice if he'd reciprocate with some respect for what the Taiwanese have chosen for themselves.

Apple Daily should have a disclaimer printed on the front page that it's for entertainment purposes only, but I have the sneaking suspicion that it would be superfluous and only a small percentage of readers think it's actually a newspaper.

David said...

To back up Karl:
In the UK, the biggest selling newspaper by a mile is 'The Sun' which is famous for its girlie pics on page 3, an intellectual level well below Apple Daily (although with less gore) and almost no serious (political) reporting.

So to make any connection between the state of a democracy and its biggest selling newspaper is just silly.

Actually, I think Apple Daily is superior to The Sun - if you look behind the gore and sensationalism there is actually some reasonable political commentary, decent reporting and even the hint of (gasp) investigative journalism (albeit we're back to the sex'n'gore for that). I don't have any problem with Apple Daily in Taiwan.

That said, I do agree with Michael that ESWN does seem to have an issue with Taiwan. Apart from the odd translated article by Lung Ying-tai his notes on Taiwan are very onesided and hardly insightful.

jim said...

What Karl said. IMHO, Roland has gotten a free ride for far too long, mainly because he provides an invaluable "service" by translating. This has made the China-blogosphere reluctant to criticize his obvious biases (which he likes to claim do not exist).

Sun Bin said...

the national enquire has a readership share of 2.7M/290M, about 1%.
we can assume each copy is read by 2-3 people. That makes up 2-3% of US population.

apple daily has at least 10-20% readership in taiwan? (what is the number), so it represents that amount of people, who either do not care, or are really pissed by the one-sided views of taipei times, china post, freedom times, or united daily.

Sun Bin said...

i don't think apple daily has anything direct connection to the 'state of democracy'.

but it does represent freedom of speech and choice, and a significant portion of opinion in taiwan (who are neither extreme KMT, nor are they extreme DPP like the owner and some commentators in this blog.)

Sun Bin said...

michael,

is your post directed at roland, yazhou zhoukan, or apple daily?

most of your quotes are from YZZK. roland has only written the first paragraph (first quote).
regarding appledaily, see this older report in asiatimes, it quoted "Upon his arrival in [taiwan], Lai reaffirmed with his relocation and media investment that the small island of Taiwan is the first and the only democracy in China."

just because it expose some of the dirty secret of Lee TH (or DPP) does not mean it is anti-democracy. DPP does not equal democracy, it is a party in a democracy. apple daily has attacked KMT perhaps more seriously than DPP>

Michael Turton said...

Sun Bin

apple daily has at least 10-20% readership in taiwan? (what is the number), so it represents that amount of people, who either do not care, or are really pissed by the one-sided views of taipei times, china post, freedom times, or united daily.

Or -- it sells to people who are titillated by its pornographic attitudes toward sex and death -- one front page the other day featured a gigantic photo of the burned, bloated body of a fireman who died in a gas station fire. The paper does do some low-level investigative work, but on the whole it is responsible for a further lowering of our already bad media climate.

Arguing that people read Apple Daily because they don't like biased news is like arguing that people buy betel nut from scantily clad betel nut girls because they've rejected ordinary clothing.

but it does represent freedom of speech and choice, and a significant portion of opinion in taiwan (who are neither extreme KMT, nor are they extreme DPP like the owner and some commentators in this blog.)

No one around here is "extreme DPP" Sun Bin. All of us are "extreme democracy" supporters, for which we proudly do not apologize. At the moment the KMT does not support democracy in Taiwan, the PFP is an ugly joke, and the TSU, which most of us also highly approve of, is too small to carry on the work of transforming the island. Only the DPP has an ideology that is democratic, and the means to carry out that vision. If another strong democratic party emerged we'd all support that too (we already all support the TSU, we just don't think it is very important. Many us -- like this writer -- like the Taiwan Green Party as well, but again it is too small and rarely does anything worth commenting on here).

is your post directed at roland, yazhou zhoukan, or apple daily?

It's directed at Roland, of course, who attempts to justify his contempt for Taiwan by backing them by poorly-written articles from snotty, uninformed, democracy-despising unreconstructed conservative Chinese assholes -- the same crowd that murdered freedom-loving mainlanders and Taiwanese during the Chiang era here. These people are merely apologists for State power, paternalistic worshipers of Authority, shriveled, dickless holdovers from a bygone fuedal age, stil dreaming dreams of power fueled by the rage that comes from knowing that they are impotent to realize them.

I hack on Apple Daily because Roland thinks it is somehow representative of Taiwan. Roland cites a great deal of different Chinese websites and media portals, but when it comes to Taiwan, it's nothing but a foreign-owned paper with low journalistic standards. That reveals an agenda.

Now, if Roland simply disliked Taiwan, said so, and behaved as if he did with no apologies, none of the posters to this thread would give a shit. After all, Hong Kongers rarely have anything good to say about Taiwan's democracy, and we are used to other Chinese being simultaneously baffled by it and contemptuous of it. So that would be normal and not worth commenting on. But Roland does all that whilst attempting to maintain the pretense that he has no agenda, when his every move shouts that he does.

Understand -- it's Roland's claim that he has no agenda that creates so many of the guffaws that greet his posts from Taiwan.

Most of us respect Roland for the work he does. We just haven't bought into the ESWN myth. We're all skeptics, and we don't accept a thing's representation of itself. Hence Roland doesn't get a free pass here on the Beautiful Isle. And unlike commentators outside Taiwan, we're in a position to see through his negative attitude toward the island.

regarding appledaily, see this older report in asiatimes, it quoted "Upon his arrival in [taiwan], Lai reaffirmed with his relocation and media investment that the small island of Taiwan is the first and the only democracy in China."

Taiwan is not in China. And Jimmy Lai doesn't give a shit whether Taiwan is a democracy or a feudal empire; he just wants to exploit the freedoms here to make even more money. How can you churn out such great analysis of oil doings in the Sea of Japan, yet take the words of someone like Jimmy Lai at face value?

just because it expose some of the dirty secret of Lee TH (or DPP) does not mean it is anti-democracy. DPP does not equal democracy, it is a party in a democracy. apple daily has attacked KMT perhaps more seriously than DPP

I'm sure it has, I don't really care. I don't attack the Apple Daily because it has a political position. I don't mind papers with political positions -- I don't hack on the China Post for having a political position, or the China Times for having a political position -- I abuse their political positions, but it doesn't bother me that they have one. I hack on Apple Daily because it has perilously low standards and is having a seriously negative effect on the media here. Which is the last thing our media needs.

Michael

Taiwanonymous said...

ESWN is a powerhouse blog, but it looks like author can't take any criticism. That's probably why comments are not enabled. Today's long response to Michael's post: My blog--love it or leave it. There's more, but it doesn't rise above that kind of argument. And although he obviously read the post, he still hasn't bothered to update the "macking in Taipei" story.

Tom - Daai Tou Laam said...

it has nothing to do with democracy, only with freedom of speech.
so your linkage with picking up trash is totally irrelevant.
Sun Bin


Actually it does have something to do with democracy, Sun Bin. Only one newspaper in Hong Kong is pro-democracy and specifically has their reporters banned from travelling to the mainaland.

There have also been campaigns by pro-CCP figures here to lean on Apple Daily's advertisers to force them to move their ad dollars to Oriental Daily and other papers to affect their editorial line.

What ESWN is trying to do is state that the pan-democratic camp in Hong Kong and elsewhere are trashy liars.

Go back to Roland's posts in the run up to Hong Kong's LegCo elections to fully understand his pro-DAB game and slant.

jim said...

>>ESWN is a powerhouse blog, but it looks like author can't take any criticism.

Exactly. He wants an unquestioned monologue, which really damages his credibility. As do his constant claims to "objectivity."

Anonymous said...

I have to say Roland's "response" to this criticism is beyond childish. To summarize:

Axiom 1: "love my blog or leave it."

Axiom 2: "if you didn't leave it and still dare to question or criticize what I write, then you are illogical."

Axiom 3: "My blog is popular, so you are obviously wrong and I am therfore right."

Axiom 4: "I provide a service. And you dare to criticize the service I provide. You do it or shut up."

This is really representative of his arguments in general, I hate to say.

nostalgiphile said...

Excellent post, Michael, but let me weigh in on this from a somewhat different angle. Unlike most of my friends--who happen to be sinologists or China watchers--I've always been interested in Taiwanese culture, history, and literature. Let me assure you that for these sinophiles there is always going to be a built in tendency to look down on Taiwan and Taiwan's democracy.

There are several reasons for this. One is that they spend a good part of their careers studying China's, let's face it, formidable cultural heritage, history, and traditions. Another reason is that they see Taiwan as "marginal" to the flow of China's development/history. What's more, Taiwan presents a bit of a "glitch" in their thinking about what China is--one they would just like to see go away. Yet another reason they can't deal with Taiwan is ideology--they often swallow the pan-Chinese worldview whole, or see their beloved "Chineseness" as something of a holy cow. Finally, all this has something to do with being so narrowly focused on one country that you become obsessed, as it were, with defending it.

All that being said, however, I would not like to see a comparable thing happen to people studying or blogging on Taiwan. My point is, both because Taiwan is a democracy and because we, ehem, "Taiwanologists" are not so dogmatic about Taiwan, we are better able to deal with criticisms of/about Taiwan. Which is another way of saying that, since Taiwan's democracy is so strong, we don't need to be as "invested" in defending it from criticism...

And this is where I think you might have gone astray in attacking ESWN and Apple Daily. A real democracy is capable of dealing with fallacious or deceptive discourse, no matter how it's packaged. Actually, there's nothing to be worried about from either the market share of a tabloid like Apple or the ravings and nits of an uptight China blogger. (The Chinese language blogosphere is still alive and kicking in Taiwan, and opposition to China goes ahead full force). Still, it'd be a great shame for your blog if you were to apply the same dogmatic standards as ESWN--in reverse--to your observations about Taiwan. Taiwan doesn't really need defenders, I think, so much as it needs people who understand it.

Michael Turton said...

That's a great response, nostalgiaphile. Let me just respond to the last paragraph.

And this is where I think you might have gone astray in attacking ESWN and Apple Daily.

OK....

A real democracy is capable of dealing with fallacious or deceptive discourse, no matter how it's packaged. Actually, there's nothing to be worried about from either the market share of a tabloid like Apple or the ravings and nits of an uptight China blogger.

I guess I disagree with both those statements. I'm from the States, and have spent the last decade watching Fox, WorldNetDaily, and other right-wing media do grave damage to political and media discourse in the United States, and to our democracy, by the simple act of sensationalizing and lying, and serving the authoritarian forces in my home country. I'm much less sanguine about the ability of democracy to withstand attacks than I used to be. More than any other political system it depends on the constant flow of the truth into the public sphere. Interrupt or twist that..... and in Taiwan in the great tradition of Chinese culture there is an inherently heirarchical and authoritarian way of thinking about how society should be organized that continues to shape Taiwan's emerging democratic traditions. We do not have a strong democracy with deep roots and broad support across the political spectrum. Yet. I think we will one day. I guess I am always conscious of how new all this is, how fragile it might well prove to be if put to the test.

ESWN is a major blogger and the things he picks may be seen by others as representative and influential. It's not ESWN I'm attacking but his thoroughly unbalanced position on Taiwan.

I hope you'll write out these comments into a whole post on your blog; it would help people gain more insights into the dynamics of the discourses about Taiwan.

(The Chinese language blogosphere is still alive and kicking in Taiwan, and opposition to China goes ahead full force). Still, it'd be a great shame for your blog if you were to apply the same dogmatic standards as ESWN--in reverse--to your observations about Taiwan. Taiwan doesn't really need defenders, I think, so much as it needs people who understand it.

I think it needs both. As my favorite Vulcan once put it, understanding is not approval, and the growing child of Taiwan's democracy needs both. I did not mean to be or appear dogmatic -- thanks for the timely warning! -- but then it is the Year of the Dog... :)

Looking over your comments again, I think I can clarify the issue: it isn't criticisms of Taiwan that bother me -- one sees those on all the Taiwan blogs and local newspapers -- it is criticisms of Taiwan that imply that Taiwan's democracy is a failure and the solution is a return to an authoritarian social order under the benevolent protection of the Government and Tradtion.

Michael