Monday, May 18, 2009

But There Is No Such Thing as the Western Media....

More pics from the protest! I snapped this fellow as he surged into the crowd.

You know, I have had educated people claim to me that there is no such thing as the "western media." Maybe "western" is a fraught construction, but it sure is a handy identifier for a common slant that cuts across many media presentations from the...er...west

Let's start with the BBC report:
Thousands of opposition supporters have taken to the streets in Taiwan to protest against President Ma Ying-jeou's policy of engagement with China.

Nationalist critics argue the policies threaten to undermine the island's self-rule.
The slant is obvious: "Ma" has a policy of "engagement." This phrase accepts the KMT presentation of its policies at face value. Here on earth, Ma is not in charge of China policy, and it is not a policy of "engagement" but a sell-out. Readers will note that not a single western news report has contained a detailed discussion of just what is being conceded to China. If they did, everyone would be able to see through the claims of "engagement" at once (see this post for such details).

Marchers brace for the long walk.

The second sentence is just weird: what are "Nationalist critics." Nationalists who are critics, or critics who are Nationalists? And which Nationalists, Taiwanese or Chinese? Is that the only possible phrase to describe Taiwan democracy and independence supporters? You can see that if the BBC called the marchers by a correct descriptive like "Taiwan democracy and independence supporters" the pro-Ma slant would instantly fail: Ma would be in opposition to democracy supporters! Can't have that! Hence the political beliefs of the protesters must be concealed. Further down is more slant:
He has also said he will abandon his predecessor's anti-Chinese policies, a position which the opposition says weakens Taiwan's sovereignty.
Note that the BBC could have said "pro-Taiwan" or "anti-China" policies. "Anti-Chinese" smacks of an accusation of ethnocentricism: Ma engages China, but Chen is anti-Chinese. The slant doesn't get any clearer than the description of their activities.

It goes without saying that Chen was pro-engagement with China. The DPP was not prepared to engage China at the cost of Taiwan -- Ma is. Simple as that. As a Green friend of mine put it: "We're not there because "talking with China is bad", no one here thinks that. We are there because Ma is a pretty terrible president. Even some light blues showed up yesterday, mad at Ma."

Onward....
After Sunday's march, participants were expected to hold a sit-in protest for another 24 hours to mark their opposition to government policies.
Again the BBC suppresses knowledge of what policies the protesters oppose: the sit in was aimed at the odious new Assembly and Parade Law that is clearly undemocratic. But if the BBC were to provide details of what is being opposed, it would undermine the positive presentation of the Ma government. And of course the piece terminates with the historically incorrect "split from the mainland in 1949." Taiwan did not split from the entire mainland of Asia, the KMT and the CCP split, and in 1949 Taiwan belonged to Japan.

Police filmed the protesters along the entire route.

J. Michael at Far Eastern Sweet Potato ripped a particularly bad AP presentation on the march that came out on Sunday. I commend the reader to the entire thing, but a single remark really stood out for me:
“… Harvard-educated Ma.” No mention is even made of the DPP leader, Tsai Ying-wen (蔡英文), who consistently is never referred to as “the London School of Economics-educated Tsai.”
There's no such thing as the western media -- it's just an amazing coincidence that all the world's international media based in "western" countries consistently never refer to Tsai as “the London School of Economics-educated Tsai.” That piece was rife with problems that J Michael refrained from discussing. Consider this paragraph:
It was the first large protest against Ma's policies since the Harvard-educated leader took office last May promising to boost Taiwan's sluggish economy and ditch his predecessor's pro-independence, anti-Beijing line.
Awright! An error (this was THIRD major protest, hello Aug 30, 2008! Can anyone say "Chen Yunlin?"), the beloved formula of "Harvard-educated Ma" with its subtle elevation of Ma's class status, and regurgitating the KMT propaganda line that the economy was "sluggish." Folks, when Ma took office in May of 2008, the economy was sizzling at 6% growth following on the heels of 5.7% growth in '07. They also end with the "split in 1949" formula, of course. ERRATA: J Michael points out in the comments that I can't get the protest count right either; yesterday's was the FOURTH major rally. ADDITIONAL POINT: Chen's speaking is a line, not a position. How many times have you heard Ma's rhetoric referred to as a line?

AP repeats the "police estimate" of 100,000 which is far too low. It's as low as the Liberty Times' claim that 800,000 people showed up is high. I noted in August 2008 with the last AP lowball that it was policy not to give out estimates. See that whole post for some of the problems in figuring the numbers, but note that the old police formula had 40,000 per km of a wide street. If that is the case, there were easily more than 100K in my section of the march alone. It's not difficult to make a stab at how many were there, especially when you have the resources of the entire internet plus a major news organization to do it. Why not just (truthfully) say: "a few hundred thousand"? As maddog is fond of saying, "who ya gonna believe, the [police], or your lying eyes?"


But you don't have to take my word for it -- just watch this video. I am atop the truck of photographers coming from the Wanhua route and you can get a sense of how the crowd filled the streets. A commenter on the pic thread below this one also observed that many people came directly to Nameinflux Memorial on the MRT, and were present but didn't "march." Send links to more videos, please!

People on the march were totally friendly and happy to see us. Here my son chats with a marcher.

ABC Radio of Australia:
Relations between Taiwan and China, which split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, had hit rock bottom due to the provocative pro-independence rhetoric of Ma's DPP predecessor Chen Shui-bian.

Nevertheless, they have improved dramatically since Ma's inauguration nearly a year ago.
ROFL. "Split in 1949" again, and regurgitation of the propaganda line that problems between China and Chen were Chen's fault. It is resistance to China's drive to annex the island that causes trouble, not rhetoric. Poor China! Abused by the rhetoric of the dastardly Chen! During those rock bottom relations, Taiwan sent $150 billion in investment to China, and the busiest air route on earth was between a city in Taiwan and a city in China. The ABC Radio piece is an article from the Sydney Morning Herald and actually does a decent job of presenting the DPP side, but has the same failures as the ABC Radio piece, which alike said:
The DPP said 600,000 people attended the Taipei rally, but city mayor Hau Lung-bin put the turnout at less than 80,000.
Note that critical omission: the article does not give the fact that Hau is a KMT politician, something overseas readers are unlikely to know. Believe it or not, there are other information sources on the web, like thousands of photos and videos, that could be checked to ascertain the size of the crowd. Why are they not consulted?

Marchers on the move.

Best headline: DPA says Taiwan opposition demands probe into police CLASH with protestors but the article is about opposition demands to look into the police car CRASH that injured two marchers. Aside from angry demonstrators yelling at the police for removing the guilty cops without breathalyzing them, there was no "police clash with protesters." Yelling is hardly clashing.

Taipei Times has a solid article on it with lots of detail. Great work, guys. Taiwan News also has a good piece, but headlines it with the absurd 600,000 figure. Both have coverage of the Kaohsiung event, neglected in some of the pieces in the foreign media.

How many were there? I'm thinking somewhere between 300 and 500,000 at present, trending toward the upper bound there. As I collect more information and estimates, I'll let you know.

UPDATE: Josambro has video of the sit in the morning after. maddog has video of the NTU hospital route. Eric Chang, who waved a sign at NCKU last year when the PRC envoy visited, made a speech at the protest. Hansouix has video here. Excellent 4 minute video.

UPDATE II: The "Harvard-educated" Ma. There are some excellent comments on this in the Comments below. Let's revisit for a second.
It was the first large protest against Ma's policies since the Harvard-educated leader took office last May promising to boost Taiwan's sluggish economy and ditch his predecessor's pro-independence, anti-Beijing line.
Note that here "Harvard-educated Ma" is opposed to the "first large protest." The effect of that, intentional or not, is to elevate Ma's class status vis-a-vis the protesters. What if instead of "Harvard educated", AP had used another formulation:
It was the first large protest against Ma's policies since the long-time opponent of democratization took office last May promising to boost Taiwan's sluggish economy and ditch his predecessor's pro-independence, anti-Beijing line.
That will never happen, since the US establishment loves Ma, but as an academic exercise it is interesting to contemplate how much more an amoral technocrat Ma appears in version 2 than in version 1.

Similarly, the western media will never report it, but imagine for a moment if "Harvard-educated Ma" appeared in the following context with something he has actually done:
The Harvard-educated Ma today threatened the island's bureaucracy, saying that the DPP would not always be in power and the bureacracy should remember that and act accordingly.
I'm going to run some searches on the "Harvard-educated Ma" and see how many appear in contexts that show him negatively (not that there are so many examples of that....) and see if we can get a sense of when Ma is "Harvard-educated".

_______________________
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36 comments:

MikeinTaipei said...

Michael:

Thanks for pointing out that I failed to take AP to account for another glaring mistake in its report: that Sunday’s protests was “the first large protest against Ma’s policies” since Ma come to power on May 20 last year. Large demonstrations were held on Aug. 30, Oct. 25, and throughout ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin’s visit in early November, culminating with the “siege of Boai” on Nov. 6, all of which attracted hundreds of thousands of protesters.

In other words, 517 was the FOURTH large demonstration against Ma in the past 12 months, not the first, as AP claims.

Steve said...

Your takedowns are always so spot-on, but frustrating to read at the same time. Ideally, this sort of point by point fact-checking and rebuttal wouldn't be necessary... keep it up!

claudiajean said...

Excellent work! A friend of mine has written to BBC about some of the errors in their reporting last night but your critique is much more in-depth.

Anonymous said...

As long as the KMT issues the press releases, and as long as the Euro-American media prints the press releases and doesn't do the job of invesitgative journalism, the memes will remain the same.

It is the will of the 'powers that be' that we will see China as good, and see Taiwan as an ungrateful troublemaker and rabblerouser.

Anonymous said...

I am all for demonstrations, and its great that so many people came. The problem is, the KMT und Panblue Press and most of the Foreign Press just doesnt give a damn. In their version the demonstration had maybe ... 80.000 Protesters and after maximum 2 weeks it will be like there was never a demonstration in the first place.

What Taiwan needs is a strong opposition inside the Parliament. Ironically, because of Taiwans democratization the demonstrations on the streets became comparatively worthless.

dennis said...

thank you so so so much for reporting on this protest. u r a true Taiwanese!

Anonymous said...

The most interesting dynamic of prefacing Ma Ying-jiu with the unnecessary note that he is "Harvard educated", is that it is an attempt to locate Ma in the minds of the "western" reader as one of "us".

It takes on a further twist of irony when we consider the colonial/civilizing nature of his policies toward Taiwan and the fact that the repetition of his status as being "Harvard educated" places him firmly in the "western" mind as being "tamed" and "transformed" into something better.

FOARP said...

I guess you should start up an Anti-CNN-a-like to highlight the wanton slander of the western media and display the hurt feelings of the Taiwanese people!

As for Ma 'not being in charge of China policy' - do you have a source on that? As far as I am aware the President is still calling the shots. Trying to pin the whole thing on a shady cabal of old KMT members itching to get back in the dictatorial saddle is somewhat far-fetched.

Meantime, these stories are all going to be buried somewhere deep in whatever papers they do appear in, along with their undoubtedly erroneous (but not critically so) content. The public in the west know next to nothing about Taiwan as it is not an important issue. This rally will have done nothing to change that, especially since the protested 'concessions' do not appear to be either substantial or permanent.

Readin said...

The second sentence is just weird: what are "Nationalist critics." Nationalists who are critics, or critics who are Nationalists? And which Nationalists, Taiwanese or Chinese? Is that the only possible phrase to describe Taiwan democracy and independence supporters?On the bright side, the use of the term "nationalists" to describe the pro-Taiwan people carries the implicit recognition that Taiwan is a nation and not just an island.

Readin said...

Anonymous said... and the fact that the repetition of his status as being "Harvard educated" places him firmly in the "western" mind as being "tamed" and "transformed" into something better.You may believe he was transformed into something better unless you're a conservative who keeps up with the conservative press, then you know that "Harvard educated" means he may have listened to the professors there and become an American liberal. But other than Ma's racists policies (expecting Taiwanese should behave a certain way because of their race), his preference for using the court system to achieve things he may not be able to get through democratic means, and his lack of concern about the political nature of countries he wants to be friendly with, I'm not sure I see much of an American liberal in him. He's not pushing socialized health care, tax-and-spend, loose sexual morals, or a nannie-state.

chingsm said...

Thanks for your critique of "western" media's bias against Taiwanese these days.

"Harvard-educated" supposedly has made Ma Ying-jeou a "high-class" president of "Chinese Taipei". These "western" media reporters are either sadly unthinking or have kowtowed to the "high-class" Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of creating noise out from the protest when at the end of the day, DPP will still lose badly in the general election.

Empty vessel make the most noise.

Marc said...

I think we're all protesting too much about the "Harvard-educated" label. I did a google with that phrase in the News section and got 625 hits (I got only one hit with this phrase and Ma).

Just today, Rajiv Gandhi, who's rising up again in India's leadership was referred to the same way.

Do a general web google and you'll get "Harvard-educated Ban Ki Moon" and "Harvard-educated Annette Lu", "Harvard-educated Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf" "Harvard-educated Donald Tsang", "Harvard-educated Benazir Bhutto" and "Harvard-educated Barrack and Michelle Obama".

Harvard is considered the university of many of the most important democratic world leaders. Obviously, the press wants to include Ma in that august company.

Since there are arguably few bad presidents and heads of government from Harvard (all right, Bush is one), Mr. Ma I'm sure is aware that he has a lot of pressure to maintain his standing with the others.

It should be noted that only a very small number of celebrated Harvrd alumni originate from China (HK yes, not the 'mainland').

Anonymous said...

Someone, maybe the DPP, should really start to make document these demonstrations by making aerial pictures.

Anonymous said...

I do give UDN credit for doing the very least you could ask for from teh pan-Blue media--headlining today's news with the protests and a secondary headline of the police car hitting two protestors.

Ma's fearful. He tried to set up big events to compete with the protests. But the protests were so huge that you couldn't not cover it.

The DPP engaged China, but China didn't want to give anything to the DPP. China is rewarding the KMT for being pro-China; it can turn it off at any time.

Dixteel said...

That is a very good point, anon.

Although I think he didn't learn crap from Harvard. Harvard should be ashamed that they have such student.

Does Harvard now train old ugly gigolo who don't like to wear underwear and pretend they are sexy? Harvard should think long and deep on this one.

One thing for sure...if I am a employer, I will double check on students graduating from Harvard, they might turn out to be someone like Ma who has fallen to the Dark side.

Harvard sucks.

Michael Turton said...

FOARP:

"as far as I'm aware, the president is still calling the shots."

Maybe you should, you know, learn something about Taiwan before you post here.

Michael

FOARP said...

@Michael - Then educate me! I did not say you were wrong, now did I? I simply asked you whether you had a source, if you do, if you can genuinely show that a cabal of old party men are running things, then i would love to see it.

Of course, it may be that you have no such source, in which case I would be right to be sceptical - wouldn't I?

竹板凳 said...

http://hansioux.pixnet.net/album/photo/118767232

link to my video on may 17th.

Today is the 20 years memorial since Zhang Yi-Hua threw himself onto the roadblock, next to the sign hanging from the sharp knifes on the road block that reads "Born a Taiwanese soul, Die a Taiwanese ghost", and then set himself on fire in protest of KMT's oppressive dictatorship.

Readin said...

FOARP said...The public in the west know next to nothing about Taiwan as it is not an important issue. This rally will have done nothing to change that...
That is precisely the problem. The public in the west know next to nothing about Taiwan because events like this massive protest are largely ignored by the media, and the extent to which they do get covered, they are covered with such bias that the western public learns little anyway, and some of what they do learn is incorrect.

FOARP said......especially since the protested 'concessions' do not appear to be either substantial or permanent.
Unfortunately, given the western bias of both media and government, it is likely that future governments will have the freedom to take back the concessions. Remember, while Taiwan is completely independent of China politically, it is not completely independent of the United States. It depends on the U.S. for the means to defend itself and is thereby constrained in what it can do that displeases the U.S..

The U.S. doesn't seem to consider the concessions to be "changing the status quo", but what do you think the U.S. will call it if Taiwan attempts to undo those concessions?

vin said...

Looks like you still haven't done your reading on liberalism, Readin; still the same old, soon-to-be obsolete GOP formulations. I mean, not only are the formulations erroneous; they no longer work, either. Otherwise, why would Michael Steele be taking the (to me) ridiculous tack of trying to develop a "hip-hop" political message?

Anonymous said...

and in 1949 Taiwan belonged to Japan.Didn't Taiwan get retroceded to China after the Japanese signed the surrender document in 1945?

Michael Turton said...

No, Taiwan wasn't "retroceded." That's an ROC propaganda claim. Taiwan remained Japanese until April 28, 1952, when the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty went into effect. That treaty does not specify a recipient for Taiwan's sovereignty, a deliberate act by the Powers. No "retrocession" ever took place.

Michael

Michael Turton said...

Then educate me! I did not say you were wrong, now did I? I simply asked you whether you had a source, if you do, if you can genuinely show that a cabal of old party men are running things, then i would love to see it.ROFLMAO!

FOARP, I've been an administrator and moderator on all sorts of web sites, and I can spot a goal-posting shifting troll like you at 1000 yards. I know the outcome of supplying you with copious documentation, and don't feel like wasting time.

You're welcome to post here, for the amusement of all, but I don't have time to waste on your games. What next? Asking me for proof that air contains oxygen?

Michael

Grant said...

Great pictures Michael! Keep it up.

FOARP said...

@Michael - Suit yourself. If you feel that you don't actually have to substantiate your beliefs with facts then it is somewhat difficult to have a meaningful dialogue. I'm just not going to believe in a conspiracy for which you can provide no evidence - I guess I'm crazy like that. And really, let's face it, you don't have "copious documentation" to prove this, only your own assumptions.

Michael Turton said...

LOL, thanks troll.

Johan said...

Well-put Michael!
But don't blame the "Western" media without pointing out the ambiguity of too many Taiwanese (also here in the south): they vote with their wallets, stay mute on sovereignty issues in daily life ("my KMT boss might be listening"), and only come out in hordes (like myself) for mass demonstrations.

I can hardly blame the Belgian, French and Dutch newspapers I read - the ones I know are critical of the EU's largely unconditional pro-China policies - not to understand Taiwan. Journalists and readers of those papers are unfamiliar with a people that seems confused about its own identity.

But your efforts are highly appreciated, Michael.

Anonymous said...

FOARP,

direct evidence would be wonderful to have as some secrets are exactly that...

What we do have is a vast amount of secondary evidence that, although isn't a smoking gun, is highly suggestive of back room deals and party to party agreements.

If you remember much of the early framework for Ma's policies were conducted as party to party talks, when Lien Chan, representing the KMT, took his sleepy son to China, in the middle of Chen Shui bian's second term. The precedent which has already been set by the KMT would lead us to believe that Michael may be correct. I would love some evidence to come out to clarify this, but I assume the agreements and notes from negotiation sessions will remain off limits to the press, people and concerned bloggers. The lack of transparency and the silence on what is happening with these negotiations is deafening. You should ask why the public is not allowed to be more involved in this process.

MiguelNunes said...

I was in the same protest with Sean from taiwanmatters. He called me when he arrived and started marching, but by then I had already passed the NTU. Talk about the size of that one....

Anyway, I was reading throughout the portuguese media, and found out that all the info comes from Lusa (sort of an AP for news in Portuguese), from someone based in Macau. Their website is full of publicity by the macanese authorities, so we can easily connect the points and know why their news are full of bias...

FOARP said...

@Anonymous - I was actually in Nanjing when old man Lian Zhan did his bumble through town. Back-room deals may have been completed, or they may not - but I'm not going to believe that they were done simply on the grounds of PRC 'face giving' (if it is that) since Ma took office. If we're all sat around 20 years from now watching "Formosa Betrayed Part II" then I'll have been proved wrong, but I don't expect to be.

Meantime it seems highly likely that the current government will go down the well-worn path of the last government, just as the moderately pro-independence policies of Chen foundered on public apathy and KMT intransigence, so any major pro-reunification KMT policies will similarly be blocked by lack of public support. The main difference being that the pan-blues now have (but only just) the 3/4th majority necessary for constitutional change in the legislative yuan, but the government can still only advance on the broadest base of opinion due to the requirement of a referendum with at least 50% quoracy.

@Michaelturton - Dude, this is your blog, your free to have my comments or not have them, but if you're going to call me a 'troll' just for asking whether you actually have any evidence to support your somewhat contentious assertions, then you're not doing much to dispel my scepticism. If you don't have any hard evidence that the KMT is planning some kind of reunification through undemocratic means, then at least you can say as much and be done with it. Suspicions are all well and good, indeed, given that I spent half of the Bush government's term giving it the benefit of the doubt, maybe I should be more suspicious, but suspicions are not a replacement for evidence, and cannot be treated as such.

Michael Turton said...

but if you're going to call me a 'troll' just for asking whether you actually have any evidence to support your somewhat contentious assertions,I didn't call you a troll for that, idiot.

As soon as you move into the realm of facts -- and learn to use Google -- you will treated as something other than the troll you are.

Whining doesn't help either.

Michael

Anonymous said...

"so any major pro-reunification KMT policies will similarly be blocked by lack of public support."

I don't think the public feels a part of the equation.
The KMT will make the deals it wants to make through extra-political channels and its supporters in big business, organized crime and politics will benefit. Those who will benefit will use the mechanisms designed by the KMT to retain their positions in seats of power and popular opinion will continue to be an invention of the news media and the GIO.
The structures that are in place to mute true public opinion will also remain in place.

Readin said...

I guess I missed it. What exactly is FOARP being called a troll for?

Anonymous said...

No, Taiwan wasn't "retroceded." That's an ROC propaganda claim. Taiwan remained Japanese until April 28, 1952, when the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty went into effect.I thought Gen Ando, Japanese Governor-General of TW handed things over to Gen Chen, CKS's appointed Governor-General of TW in Taipei on 10/25/1945.

I don't claim that I am correct in this, but most history I've seen about this states this to be the case. Whether it was ROC or Jap at the time (1949), it certainly wasn't PRC.

Readin said...

.I thought Gen Ando, Japanese Governor-General of TW handed things over to Gen Chen, CKS's appointed Governor-General of TW in Taipei on 10/25/1945.Japanese troops in Taiwan were ordered to surrender themselves to the ROC. However, a military surrender of troops and control over an area is different from a formal transfer of sovereignty over territory.

There are various legal arguments about what happened. Some argue that the surrender did transfer sovereignty due to other documents that were signed. Some argue that the surrender was just to put the ROC in control until formal arrangements could be made, and that those arrangements were under international law supposed to be made following the principles of self-determination.