Saturday, June 26, 2010

Why the Media Sucks

From today's Reuters report as it appeared in the Taipei Times:
The package caused a major rift among pro-democracy lawmakers, some of whom say it does not go far enough toward universal suffrage and deflates their demand for full-scale reform.

“This is the darkest day in Hong Kong’s democratic development,” yelled radical pro-democracy lawmaker Albert Chan (陳偉業), before storming out of the legislature.

Chan was one of 12 pro-­democracy lawmakers voting against the package.

Since 1997, the struggle for full democracy has been a central and divisive theme in local politics, pitting liberal advocates and democrats against Beijing’s Communist leaders, but the new deal — that sharply divided various pro-­democracy factions — could usher in a new era of warmer ties between moderate democrats and Beijing, analysts said.
Newspapers, you know, just report the news. No ideology here, no sireee. In Reuters' framing, people who want full democracy are "radicals" whereas people who work with Beijing are "moderates". Not to pick on Reuters, of course, the media all report this slovenly, ideologically-charged way. Actually, all the democracy advocates are moderates. Each advocates different tactics in dealing with Beijing.

But Hu Jin-tao, whose government tortures and kills enemies of his party, who controls a massive security state aimed at suppression of all opposition and control of all channels of communication, who pursues harmless Falungong practitioners to the end of the earth, who follows aggressive, expansionist military and diplomatic policies that involve claims to lands and peoples no Chinese emperor ever ruled, bringing it into conflict with all the states around it, who threatens to plunge all of Asia into war in order to annex neighboring states --- Hu will never be described as a "radical".

Hu is a statesman.

Mr. Chan, by contrast, is just a radical who advocates full democracy. Unserious. Weird. Maybe next time Mr. Chan should torture and kill the people who disagree with him, and point missiles at neighboring states and threaten to annex their territory. Then he would stop being a radical, and become a statesman.

And Reuters and other media will helpfully report that his opponents are radicals.

UPDATE: J Michael on AFP doing the same thing.
UPDATE II: Taipei Times review of the Laogai labor camp system, which is not run by radicals or hardliners. At least according to the international media.
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12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does "radical" necessarily have a negative meaning? I think it probably has more negative connotations in the United States than Europe.

The first meaning given in the Oxford English dictionary is:

Advocating thorough or far-reaching political or social reform

Which is certainly what democracy activists in HK are doing.

Another definition is:

Characterized by independence of or departure from what is usual or traditional; progressive, unorthodox, or innovative in outlook, conception, design, etc.

This might also apply to many HK democracy activists.

MikeinTaipei said...

Interestingly, Michael, I commented on the same matter a couple of days ago. The only difference is that I was criticizing AFP for doing the exact same thing.

http://fareasternpotato.blogspot.com/2010/06/cross-strait-radicals-and-hardliners.html

Michael Turton said...

What is a "radical" in politics? Who is that word used to describe?

Michael Turton said...

Thanks MikeinTaipei.

mx said...

MT, sorry, this is off-topic, but it's positive news for Taiwan that is worth mentioning. Here is the story: A-Whale

Basically, it is a Taiwan shipping firm, The TMT Group, that refitted a new supertanker to skim off the oil in the gulf.

Anonymous said...

What is a "radical" in politics? Who is that word used to describe?

Someone who wants comprehensive or thoroughgoing change. That is why HK democracy activists can be described as "radicals". They want radical change in the political system in Hong Kong. Hu is not a radical because he essentially supports the status-quo. He is a conservative. Mao, on the other hand, was definitely a radical.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you could describe Hu as a hardliner instead.

Just like it would be ridiculous to describe CKS as a "radical". But "hardliner" would definitely fit.

Michael Turton said...

Hu et al don't support the status quo, they want authoritarian change. It seems you're radical if you want change in a pro-democracy system.

The point you're avoiding here is that the term "radical" is always pejorative and implies a certain willful irrationality and a willingness to engage in violence. That is not the case with anyone in HKK except the defenders of Beijing, who would love to stamp out all vestiges of democracy from the former colony.

Anonymous said...

The point you're avoiding here is that the term "radical" is always pejorative and implies a certain willful irrationality and a willingness to engage in violence. That is not the case with anyone in HKK except the defenders of Beijing, who would love to stamp out all vestiges of democracy from the former colony.

I don't think it has a pejorative meaning. It is not equivalent to "extremist" or "fundamentalist" which definitely have pejorative meanings. Rousseau was noted radical. The suffragettes were also radicals. They are called radicals because they called for fundamental change in society. A moderate on the other hand is more willing to compromise with the existing order.

I think your views are influenced by American conservative political discourse which attaches a pejorative label to the term "radical".

Michael Turton said...

We'll just have to disagree, then.

Anonymous said...

Radical comes from the term "Radical Republican in the reconstruction era".

According to history book, "Radical Republicans pushed for the abolition of slavery, and after the war supported equal rights for freedmen (the newly freed slaves), such as measures ensuring the right to vote."

So where is negative connotation in that?

Michael Turton said...

The political use of the term predates that by about a century.