Friday, September 16, 2011

=UPDATED= KMT seizes on Disgusting FT Propaganda Hack Job on Tsai's Washington Trip

Several years ago Glenn Greenwald pretty much nailed the slimy interaction of official anonymity and media culpability, writing:
"In very limited circumstances, anonymity is valuable and justified (e.g., when someone is risking something substantial to expose concealed wrongdoing of serious public interest).  But promiscuous, unjustified anonymity -- which pervades the establishment press -- is the linchpin of most bad, credibility-destroying reporting.  It enables government officials and others to lie to the public with impunity or manipulate them with propaganda, using eager reporters as both their megaphone and shield.  It is the weapon of choice for reporters eager to serve as loyal message-carriers and royal court gossip columnists.  It preserves and bolsters the culture of secrecy that dominates Washington -- exactly the opposite of what a real journalist, by definition, would seek to accomplish (though most modern journalists seem to prefer anonymity, as it makes them appear and feel special and part of the secret halls of power, and allows them to curry favor with powerful officials as their favored loyal message-carrier).  In sum, petty or otherwise unjustified uses of anonymity are the hallmark of the power-worshiping, dishonest, unreliable reporter (which is why its most indiscriminate practitioner is Politico).   As Izzy Stone put it about the Vietnam War:  "The process of brain-washing the public starts with off-the-record briefings for newspapermen. . . .

....In other words, the "official" is dutifully delivering an authorized government message (i.e., propaganda) but has been instructed to demand anonymity when announcing it (he's "authorized to speak," but not publicly), and reporters virtually always comply."
I prefaced this post with those remarks because today the Financial Times turned in a total hack job, quoting an anonymous source within the government to claim that Tsai Ing-wen, in her recent visit, hadn't been successful in convincing Washington that she wasn't going to be trouble.

I've decided that I am not linking to the piece because it is a slimy bit of anti-DPP propaganda masquerading as a news report; if you really want to find it, you're on your own. The KMT, always quick to pounce on such propaganda, reproduced the key elements of the story in its news report US Concerned Tsai Would Raise Tensions with Mainland if Elected:
The DPP Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen concluded her visit to Washington, D.C. on September 15. London's "Financial Times" on the same day quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official as saying that the Obama administration was worried that if Tsai Ing-wen was elected, she would raise tensions with Mainland China.

A senior US official told a Financial Times reporter that Tsai's visit to Washington "had sparked concerns about the stability in the Taiwan Strait, which is critically important to the US." Moreover, "She left us with distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-Strait relations the region has enjoyed in recent years"

The U.S. Department of State earlier stated that that the U.S. government would not take a stand on Taiwan's upcoming Presidential election. When asked about the reports in the "Financial Times," the Department of State reiterated this position.

According to the Financial Times, Tsai Ing-wen wanted Taiwan to strengthen its strategic partnership with the US, and she had previously promised to “refrain from extreme or radical approaches" to differentiate herself from Chen Shui-bian, the former DPP President. However, Tsai's visit to Washington, D.C. obviously did not persuade the White House that she could maintain the improved cross-Strait relations.

A US official said that while Tsai Ing-wen understood the need "to avoid gratuitous provocations" of China, it was "far from clear… that she and her advisers fully appreciate the depth of [Chinese] mistrust of her motives and DPP aspirations."
Note how the propaganda works. The unnamed official takes a clear and obvious position with respect to the upcoming election campaign. We don't know anything about him or her, whether he is speaking on his own behalf or the Administration's, or represents some other interest, such as the big financial houses FT serves, which love Ma Ying-jeou, or even whether he knows anything about East Asia or is responsible for such policies (the last paragraph leaves grave doubt on that score). Perhaps like so many officials he comes out of some private consulting firm that does business with China. Through abuse of anonymity, FT simply eliminates all possibility of understanding; instead it just catapults the propaganda, promoting its journalists to stenographers.

Thus, the article invites us to treat the anonymous official's words as the Administration's real thoughts, while State issues the usual and expected denials which we duly dismiss. What a fun game!

Of course, keep in mind that until we have a name, we don't even know that the anonymous US official who said these things actually exists and actually said them. Which is why AP's report on the KMT's inevitable use of the comments refers to an American official "allegedly" making the comments.

It's just sick. I'd write more on the topic, but Greenwald said it better than I ever could, and besides, I'd have to stop and take a shower.

Meanwhile, more fun in the presidential race as James Soong campaign asked for papers to file for the presidential race. The nationwide signature drive kicks off this monday, the 19th.

UPDATE: The Nelson Report, the Washington insider report, wrote of the FT propaganda hack:
Discussion of the FT story and its implications, including the policy community informal discussions generated, come below. But we can report that the nature of the quote volunteered to the FT, and the pointed denunciation of the source by State Department officials, have been "read" by the policy community as leaving little doubt that the call to the FT was authorized by senior White House officials, whether working through NSC staff, or whether made directly, being immaterial.

Further, informed observers long aware of the highly personal, often bitter animosity existing between senior White House officials and senior Asia players at State feel that situation can be seen in both the statement to the FT, and State's rebuttal.

And it may be that State's denial also reflects that by the end of last year the problems, which began in 2009, had deteriorated to the point that White House-enforced "gag orders" had not only been put into effect, but that fact was "leaked" to concerned observers.

Some readers not aware of all this may seek to contact sources in the White House and/or State, and it may be that if they are honest with you, they will confirm the situation. If they don't, they are not telling you the truth, and you might want to indicate your displeasure, if that matters to you.

Whether admitted or not, it is legitimate to ask if the situation has had and/or will have a deleterious effect on foreign policy formulation and execution writ large, and not only for Asia. We will simply note that the "senior Administration official's" decision to call the FT raises these questions to that level, sources today agree.
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STOP Ma said...

I just hope Tsai completely ignores this type of ridiculous propaganda. The "Obama" approach of being nice with everyone in the hopes that the "real" extremists will like you (ie. KMT & CCP) does not work. Please don't go down that path.

Anonymous said...

The difference between The White House and the State Department is that after the White House the President's advisors usually leverage their experience go on to private enterprise and make millions.

The regular State Dept. analysts and staff work the long haul beyond a single administration and thus have the outlook of long term strategy and government pensions.

It could be that whoever may have let something slip out of the White House will be rewarded in a few years by a fat Chinese contract.

Message not Messenger said...

You cannot be serious. About the only hack job going on here is your analysis of the FT article. Look at the key points the article makes and you'll actually see them all to be true.

Of course the US is worried about what would happen re cross-strait situation under a Tsai administration. Stating that is stating the bleeding obvious. This is a legitimate concern not a "slimy bit of anti-DPP propaganda".

Have Tsai's announced policies been a cause for relief and eased any fears of increased tensions between Taiwan and China? No, of course not. She has plans for a "Taiwan consensus" and so far, no one has any clue what that will involve. The final policy is a very big unknown and the US are right to be worried and right to state that Tsai hasn't eased concerns. The DPP should be looking at it more as a friendly and helpful suggestion rather than as a propaganda piece.

Like it or not, cross-strait relations are at an historic high point right now. The only thing that is likely to change that is a government that tries to pull back from the relatiuonship as Tsai has hinted at. That could draw the US into a potential conflict situation in East Asia which they can ill-afford nor desire. From being a region of relative peace and stability (with the exception of N. Korea), the East Asia region may once again become a flash point and potential location for war. You bet your ass the US are worried.

Okami said...

Isn't Tsai getting labeled as a troublemaker already a known thing amongst voters after 2 terms of Chen and a failed Xie bid?

I did like the African perspective. It also reinforced my belief that if you are a black politician you can do anything and keep your reputation and most likely your position.

Michael Turton said...

Like it or not, cross-strait relations are at an historic high point right now. The only thing that is likely to change that is a government that tries to pull back from the relatiuonship as Tsai has hinted at. That could draw the US into a potential conflict situation in East Asia which they can ill-afford nor desire. From being a region of relative peace and stability (with the exception of N. Korea), the East Asia region may once again become a flash point and potential location for war. You bet your ass the US are worried.

It is sad that you have missed the obvious propagandistic nature of the FT piece.

I am sure there are some in the Administration who, like you, buy into Beijing's propaganda program.

It isn't Tsai who will cause problems, but Beijing. Understanding that is the first step in understanding the Taiwan issue. Until you take that step, you will remain in the ignorance that your comment suggests envelops your thinking.

And yes, the FT piece was a disgusting hack job utterly bereft of journalistic integrity.

Anonymous said...

Beijing deploys an effective strategy of selective "anger".

My three-year-old is very good at that too. It is just with a three-year-old, it would be considered bad parenting to capitulate to a calculated tantrum as it only reinforces unacceptable behavior. In international diplomacy it is called real politic.

Anonymous said...

i think tsai ying-wen needs a makeover just like hillary clinton got when bill clinton started running for president. image is very important. although im sure she's very smart, she just appears to be very mousy looking and meek which doesnt bode well if you're running for president that will have to stand up to china. right now she just appears to be nice and passive and a total pushover. you want a president who conveys power, strength and toughness especially if you're a woman. like hillary clinton!! so i say she get rid of the glass, wear some power suits, and hire some american professional speech therapist who can teach her to talk with a powerful and loud booming voice. like hillary clinton!!! hillary should give ying-wen some advice!!

Anonymous said...

Also, the Taiwan diplomatic corps are also heavily blue. They undoubtedly have an interest in crafting the American view of what the DPP is about.

Remember, during the Chen administration when Chen was pushing for more international space for Taiwan, many in the diplomatic corps made it as difficult as possible. The KMT even sent their own representatives to tell US officials information that was contradictory to Taiwanese national policy and contradictory to anything but KMT party ideology.

This created a lot of confusion in Washington over what Taiwanese really wanted.

Anonymous said...


I am still trying to digesting the "SOB" comment...

KMT fights dirty...

Message not Messenger said...

It isn't Tsai who will cause problems, but Beijing. \

Really? Then I must have missed Tsai's committing herself and the DPP to continuing the negotiations and talks between Taiwan and China that the current administration started. If and only if she commits to continuing talks under the same conditions and Beijing backs out will it be Beijing causing the problem. If Tsai unilaterally changes things and tries to move away from the position that talks take place under, then the fault lies with her.

I look forward to you supplying a link to her statement that guarantees she will be continuing talks under the same conditions in the event she takes power.

Anonymous said...

Michael, I'm glad I wasn't the only one who read that piece and saw the bullshit anonymity and alarm bells went off. What a lack of journalistic integrity by the Financial Times...

Michael Turton said...

I look forward to you supplying a link to her statement that guarantees she will be continuing talks under the same conditions in the event she takes power.

Thanks for stopping by, but if you refuse to think, there isn't anything I can do about it.