Thursday, October 26, 2006

STOP_MA: Bloomberg Blue Bias Barefaced

My right arm still thinks it's a log, so my man STOP_MA volunteered to bring home the bacon with a guest blog on more bias and error in the international media. Enjoy!

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Bloomberg Blue Bias Barefaced
STOP_MA

Much has been written in this blog about the blatant pro-blue bias that is sadly so prevalent in the western corporate media these days. One can speculate as to why these so-called objective journalists continue to tell half-truths or to simply get it wrong on basic issues affecting Taiwan in the international community.

Sheer laziness in today’s big media can partially explain why details are not investigated or why one side of the story is reported but not the other. However, when an established international media outlet breaks with news about a major policy revelation concerning a political party that, in two years, may drastically change the dynamics of a global flash-point, you would think they would make more than a half-hearted effort to provide a story that is as objective and as accurate as possible.

The breaking news to which I refer is KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou’s proposed “peace” pact with China. The well-known international media company: Bloomberg.com. The Article: "Taiwan Presidential Hopeful to Seek China Peace Pact”.

Of course, the implications of Ma’s plan if he should become President will be dramatic. So, it is of no surprise that this story has generated political reverberations throughout Taiwan. Informed readers of this blog will be well aware of both the pan-green and pan-blue points of view in this debate. However, less-informed international readers may, again, form a decidedly less balanced opinion after reading this narrative (borderline opinion piece) by James Peng.

Here is an excerpt. (emphasis denoting strong bias and/or factual errors are mine):

The Nationalists, also known as the Kuomintang, lost the presidency to the Democratic Progressive Party's Chen in 2000, ending their postwar hold on power. In his six years as president, Chen has provoked Beijing by calling Taiwan a sovereign state, proposing an overhaul of the island's 59-year-old constitution, and trying to get Taiwan a United Nations seat.

Almost 60 years after the civil war's end, those policies are prompting warmer relations between the heirs of Mao and Chiang. Ma's predecessor Lien Chan met President Hu Jintao in the mainland last year, the highest-level talks between the two sides since 1949. China has offered trade concessions to woo Taiwan voters.

A peace agreement would help reduce security tensions in East Asia, where the U.S. is preoccupied with the North Korea nuclear crisis. It might also benefit Taiwan's $346 billion economy by allowing businesses to forge closer ties with the mainland. Taiwan companies have invested as much as $150 billion in mainland China, the island's largest trading partner.

Ma's offer of peace talks didn't include a commitment to move toward reunification, the goal of the government in Beijing. The Nationalists adhere to a ``one China'' principle agreed with the Communist government in 1992, which declares the mainland and Taiwan are part of the same country, though the two sides may have different interpretations of the term.

I will not bore you with analyses of why the words in bold are so egregiously biased. It should be obvious to anyone who follows the cross-strait situation that annexation of Taiwan by China is an official goal. It should also be obvious that China has done far more to provoke Taiwan (I wonder if Mr. Peng remembers that little piece of paper called “anti-secession law”). Moreover, it is conveniently forgotten that President Chen Shui-bian has tried on numerous occasions to encourage a productive dialogue between the two nations. Chen even gave his blessings (wrongly, in my opinion) to the first exchange between Lien and Hu – and even invited Hu to Taiwan, afterwards!! However, James Peng erroneously insinuates that this very exchange was merely a causation of a very difficult President in Taipei. As for the 1992 “consensus” – James Peng is simply rewriting history by telling us that such an agreement was made at the time, despite the fact that two official delegates who were at the meeting later confirmed that such an agreement is part of Nationalist party mythology. There is no “consensus.” He shows himself to be a complete journalistic fool, however, by asserting that China and Taiwan agreed to the premise that they are the same country! LOL! More laughable fawning over Ma Ying-jeou can be found by reading the rest of the piece yourself.

Alas, the last laugh will be with Mr. Peng, as he will continue to distort history, report on only one-side of the issue, and print blatant factual errors. Why am I confident of this prediction? Because I wrote James Peng about an article he wrote on October 13th. It was a piece about the failed recall efforts on President Chen a couple of weeks ago.

Amongst the bias in that article entitled, “Taiwan's Chen Survives Lawmakers' Second Attempt to Oust Him”, was a unique version of factual information – factual information that has been contradicted by every international news organization that has reported on this story.

Here’s the short excerpt containing the lie (emphasis mine):

A rally in Taipei on Oct. 10 drew several hundred thousand people, according to police, while a spokesman for Shih said 1.5 million participated.

Several hundred thousand – that would be recognized by anyone to be, at the very minimum, 300,000. However, I think most people would consider “several” to mean at least 400 to 500 thousand. Of course, the other part of this factual error is that he is confirming this number based on a Taipei police estimate.

When I politely wrote James Peng about this distortion, he replied and reaffirmed that, “several hundred thousand is what Taipei police told us that day.”

I wrote him back and provided him with four different international news agencies – including CNN, Reuters and even The China Post that stated explicitly that the Taipei police had estimated the attendance to be 125,000.

And here is the China Daily’s version (which Mr. Peng might have read, being based in Hong Kong):

Organizers had pledged to bring 2 million people to the streets around the "presidential" office, but police estimated 125,000 protesters took part in the march.

One would think that an objective journalist would question why his report was the only one (including China state-run media) that reported this number to the international community. I received no further replies from James Peng. And he did not send me any links to any other news organization that reported this number, as I had politely asked.

However, he did manage to get an interview from none other than Ma Ying-jeou.

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Thank you, STOP_MA!

Speaking of bias in the international media, I've had an exchange of emails with Caroline Gluck of the BBC asking her, among other things, why she remains the only major foreign reporter here who hasn't mentioned that the mob behind Shih are composed predominantly of Blues. I won't post her reply here (80% of which was completely off topic, in any case) unless she miraculously gives me permission, but she did say she had talked to the people in the mob personally, so she knew that a large number were disillusioned Greens.....I guess, because, well, it's a fact that people never lie to foreign reporters. I also raised a number of other issues, none of which got answers. I don't think the fact that BBC has business connections with the Blues through its exclusive arrangement with the pro-Blue cable company CTI really has anything to do with the pro-Blue bias in its reporting. I think the simple explanation that Gluck didn't dig, and got snowed, is probably the correct one.

4 comments:

Patrick Cowsill said...

I have been to the protests regularly to take pics and mill about. Every single person I talked to was a Blue - clearly every single one. The things they told me they were as follows: they were protesting for a clear Chinese identity ("everyone in Taiwan is Chinese even if the morons down south don't get it") and about President Chen's manners ("he's low class"). I was also told that "Ma needed [their] support." I am positive that I did not talk to a single pan-Green voter.
Saying that the media has a bias or that they are just ignorant or lazy is an understatement. Their reports are a shameful farce.

Scott said...

As far as Ms. Gluck's reporting, she is making the same mistake that most people do -especially newcomers to Taiwan, foreign journalists, and Taiwan's pro-China media. She is taking everything on face value. But of course NOTHING involving the current "anti-corruption" can be taken at face value. It seems to be ALL about what's under the surface.

I agree. It's so frustrating to see yet another shallow and uninformative report from Taipei in the international media. It is a complete waste of time and resources for foreign journalists (including those who apparently have resided here for years and should know better how to interpret local political movements by now) to write yet another article about the anti-corruption movement and cross-strait tensions if they are not going to write something that will actually help people not already familiar with local movements to better understand what's really going on.

Perceptions in Taiwan politics are SO twisted it is almost unbelieveable. After reading an interview in the Taipei Times, I am finally convinced that pro-Blue people are getting fed their ideas directly from the PRC party news bureau via Taiwanese pro-China media.

Apparently, the hard-core pro-Blues are the group most suspicious and resentful of the USA. They believe that the USA is intentionally stoking Taiwan-China tensions (by supporting Chen and the DPP) in order to be able to make more money selling weapons to Taiwan and to enhance the USA's hegemonic ambitions in east Asia. That is one of their primary arguments against any proposed arms purcahse or up-grade.

It's frightening to think that there are people who actually internalize reasoning so out of touch with reality.

I usually steer clear of discussing Taiwan politics with Taiwanese people I know here, because I know how sensitive a topic it can be. But I find that the majority of them believe what the local (predominantly pro-China) media tells them, and they are well-educated people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Of course, I'm sure the USA would like to hang onto whatever influence they still have in Taiwan-China relationship for as long as possible, but Washington has clearly shown that they aren't prepared to go out on any limbs to actively preserve such influence if it risks annoying China in any way. Even they know that it's only a matter of time before it becomes obvious that that influence is not backed by any willingness to actually intervene in any substantial way.

How can people see that as US support for pro-independence leaders in Taiwan??

Anonymous said...

As far as Ms. Gluck's reporting, she is making the same mistake that most people do -especially newcomers to Taiwan, foreign journalists, and Taiwan's pro-China media. She is taking everything on face value. But of course NOTHING involving the current "anti-corruption" can be taken at face value. It seems to be ALL about what's under the surface.

I agree. It's so frustrating to see yet another shallow and uninformative report from Taipei in the international media. It is a complete waste of time and resources for foreign journalists (including those who apparently have resided here for years and should know better how to interpret local political movements by now) to write yet another article about the anti-corruption movement and cross-strait tensions if they are not going to write something that will actually help people not already familiar with local movements to better understand what's really going on.

Perceptions in Taiwan politics are SO twisted it is almost unbelieveable. After reading an interview in the Taipei Times, I am finally convinced that pro-Blue people are getting fed their ideas directly from the PRC party news bureau via Taiwanese pro-China media.

Apparently, the hard-core pro-Blues are the group most suspicious and resentful of the USA. They believe that the USA is intentionally stoking Taiwan-China tensions (by supporting Chen and the DPP) in order to be able to make more money selling weapons to Taiwan and to enhance the USA's hegemonic ambitions in east Asia. That is one of their primary arguments against any proposed arms purcahse or up-grade.

It's frightening to think that there are people who actually internalize reasoning so out of touch with reality.

I usually steer clear of discussing Taiwan politics with Taiwanese people I know here, because I know how sensitive a topic it can be. But I find that the majority of them believe what the local (predominantly pro-China) media tells them, and they are well-educated people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Of course, I'm sure the USA would like to hang onto whatever influence they still have in Taiwan-China relationship for as long as possible, but Washington has clearly shown that they aren't prepared to go out on any limbs to actively preserve such influence if it risks annoying China in any way. Even they know that it's only a matter of time before it becomes obvious that that influence is not backed by any willingness to actually intervene in any substantial way.

How can people see that as US support for pro-independence leaders in Taiwan??

STOP Ma said...

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Thanks for that first-hand report, Patrick!

I was curious to find out how James Peng reported on the March 26th rally in 2005 (against the anti-secession law). Interestingly, his report was again filled with unique eye-opening language such as:

"He [President Chen] refuses to recognize the sovereignty of the Chinese Communist Party."

That is NOT a quote from an official in China. That is a quote from James Peng, himself.

Peng also gives the "police" estimate at 300,000 for the event.

Here is the "police" estimate in the other international media:

Police estimated the crowd at about a million, The Associated Press reported. - CNN

Police estimated the crowd at about a million. Taiwan's population is 23 million. - The Sydney Herald

Organizers said they had met their goal of attracting a million protesters, though the police put the crowd at more than 500,000. - The New York Times

Is it a coincidence that James Peng would underestimate a pan-green rally and overestimate a pan-blue rally? You decide.
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