Thursday, May 22, 2014

Subway knife rampage? World media is all over that one.

Policeman on the subway this morning.

Unless you live in a vast, deep cave whose depths light reaches once every ten thousand years, you've probably heard that yesterday a deeply disturbed individual went on a knife wielding rampage in a Taipei Metro station (Taipei Times):
The suspect, who has been identified as Cheng Chieh (鄭捷) from Greater Taichung’s Tunghai University, allegedly started attacking passengers around him with a 30cm-long fruit knife while the train was traveling between the Longshan Temple Station and the Jiangzicui Station at approximately 4:26pm.

He was apprehended by security guards, police officers and other passengers shortly after the train stopped at the Jiangzicui Station, from where he was taken to the Jiangzicui police station for questioning.


“The suspect told us that he had since elementary school wanted to ‘do something big’ and that he had shared the idea with some of his high-school and college classmates,” Chen said.

Chen said Cheng originally planned to execute the idea after he graduated from university, but decided to move it forward to yesterday after giving it some thought last week.

“He bought two fruit knives of different sizes from a supermarket before he boarded the trains… His blood-alcohol content registered 0.04mg/L and he has no medical records of mental illness,” Chen said.

“He showed no signs of remorse during questioning,” Chen added.
The world media jumped all over that one (BBC, Reuters, etc). Those students who occupied the legislature for three weeks and struggled to get global media attention should have simply gone out and knifed a few people on the subway. The global media would have come running....

@TaiwanExplorer trenchantly observed that Ma Ying-jeou's sixth anniversary on the Dragon Throne in office was marked by a large quake in the morning, torrential rains that killed a couple of people, and a knife attack in the afternoon. Appropriate for the colossal failure that is the Ma Administration.

The attack, the work of a mentally ill person that in no way reflects the safety and security of Taipei (it has had no effect on my movements or use of the metro), triggered three predictable flows of sewage, the usual "if only I had a gun there/if everyone had guns", "it's those violent video games" and "those young people have bad values". Over at Thinking Taiwan J Michael Cole lambasted government shills for blaming, of all things, student activism and the Sunflower movement:
....Meanwhile the China Times, a pro-China publication that relentlessly attacked the movement throughout the standoff at the legislature, published an unsigned article berating a group of activists who have mobilized for the preservation of the Losheng Sanatorium. Their crime was to hold signs of their cause in a subway car as the murders were taking place. Only the article, which called the activists “selfish” and “cold-hearted,” didn’t mention that the group were on a different MRT line (Xinzhuang) and could not have been aware of what was occurring simultaneously at Jiangzicui Station, on the Bannan line.
This will no doubt be followed by lectures on parenting for the hapless parents. In local thinking, the first people to be blamed when a kid goes bad are the parents...

The real problem is that local society, like so many societies, strongly stigmatizes the sufferings of the mentally ill and those around them, and expects that people will lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. If only he had been reached by social workers before this. His parents explained that the kid was otaku, a social phenomenon in Japan and in Taiwan in which young males hide in their rooms and play video games all day, without friends or a realworld social life. This gave them a ready-made framework for interpreting his behavior which may also have blunted their ability to get him the help he needed....

UPDATE: David Reid points to a paper on the culture of orderliness on the Taipei Subway that will help understand the reactions to the attack

UPDATE: On Facebook longtime expat Sean McCormack explains:
After the terrible knife attack in a Taipei metro train that has left four dead and more than twenty injured, I'm seeing lots of comments from expats professing how, where they're from, the knife-welding lunatic would have been tackled before he could have done so much damage.

That may or may not be true, and respect to anybody who would have stood up to the guy.

But isn't that kind of combat-ready cultural mentality what many of us are here to escape? Battle-hardened people may indeed be more likely to attack a dangerous assailant, but a peaceful people like the Taiwanese are far less likely to produce this kind of assailant in the first place.

Don't criticize those who didn't attack the madman; they're part of the reason why this kind of horrific event is so rare here.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


TaiwanJunkie said...

In the US it would have been 20 dead as the weapon of choice would have been a semi.

Anonymous said...

"Those students who occupied the legislature for three weeks and struggled to get global media attention should have simply gone out and knifed a few people on the subway." Too soon and very much a tasteless comment.

Anonymous said...

This event demonstrates a few things that may be unpopular among many.

1. More guns don't help. For a disturbed individual who wanted to "do something big", the access to a more powerful and and effective arsenal for killing would have likely ended in a far higher body count. The murder of four innocent people is terrible. Unfortunately for countries like the United States that have a near religious fanaticism for firearms, a body count of four hardly makes the news. Taiwan is fortunate for having limited the use of firearms to military, law enforcement and organized crime.

2. Capital Punishment Doesn't Deter Murder: Taiwan just murdered several citizens convicted of capital crimes a couple weeks ago. If the purpose of the death penalty is to deter criminals, then it obviously missed its mark. If the purpose of capital punishment is for vengeance and retribution, then society needs to take a closer look at itself.

3. Although the evidence of this individual's motivation is still being collected, it raises several questions-- foremost being, did anyone see this coming? If so, why didn't anyone do anything?

From the standpoint of an educator, I can be fairly certain that somebody saw something. Teachers often spend more time with children than their own parents. We see things and notice patterns of behavior (including antisocial behavior) that is evident even in early education.

Taiwan lacks the framework for dealing with these issues early. Schools do not have the type of statutory procedures for monitoring antisocial or harmful patterns of behavior early on. Most of the time incidents are treated as isolated incidents and are never collected, monitored or assigned to counselors and social service workers. Often, teachers are blamed and vilified for notifying the parents who can not be bothered or feel that a proper diagnosis will lead to feelings of shame. There are thousands of students who suffer from mental illness, abuse, neglect and other psychological issues, that make it through the system without receiving mandated assistance and oversight. This is Taiwan's collective failure.

In many countries any violent incident will be recorded and monitored with mandatory counseling and follow-ups.

If these children can be helped early, they do not necessarily become monsters. Society needs to assert itself on this issue and parents need to be forced to deal accountability or face consequences. They can not be allowed to simply shop children around to schools that will not bother them wit their children's issues.

Michael Turton said...

." Too soon and very much a tasteless comment.

It's never "too soon" to point out how fucked up the international media is, especially since its an observation that many of us made immediately.

Anonymous said...

Agree that reaching out to the mentally ill is the best course of action. My take:

Anonymous said...

Does everything that happens anywhere in the world have to be fodder for disgruntled babbling about the USA and American policies? You brought it up, you can choose what you react to on your own blog. So four innocent people were stabbed on a subway in Taipei? GUNS IN AMERICA GUNS IN AMERICA GUNS IN AMERICA

maybe so many dopes are so prone to jump on that topic because there is so much easy-to-regurgitate material on it that it reduces the thinking they have to do to literally nothing.

Anonymous said...

Three words: Seung-Hui Cho

Marc said...

The consensus is that this guy was crazy. That's what they say in China. With every stabbing in China there can only be crazy person behind it.

Never an angry person;
or a sociopath;
or a bullied person;
or a terribly wronged person;
or a gangster;
or a person who has been told he failed at something important;
or a cheated person;
or a sexually abused person;
or a physically-ill person.

No, only a crazy person would do this; and we feel much better to think this because none of us crazy.

Aaron said...

I saw this news on your FB feed, and then I went about my normal media consumption here in the USA.

There was no coverage. I was a little surprised, but not really as there was a bombing in China.

I'm not sure its a conspiracy to not cover the legislature, but that there are too many shiny objects and they have to choose a few to really push.

And I have to figure some editor used total body count and crazy vs. political to decide to cover the China body count.

During the legislature sit-in, Ukraine was going on and so was Venezuela. Venezuela also got bumped into very little coverage, but was maybe ahead of Taiwan.

Thailand just had martial law declared, and they had protests all during Taiwan's - no coverage in the USA.

Seriously, its been a very busy couple of months looking back.

I define coverage as front page news choice or USA Today mobile ap.

Readin said...

Regarding the comment about Taiwanese not stopping the guy: they did stop him. According to the Taipei Times a group of Taiwanese corralled him and then an old guy who knows some martial art subdued him.

If the attacker had any skill in handling the knives or fighting, killing four people by surprise wouldn't be that difficult. And a large number of injuries would be the result of people trying to subdue him.

Or maybe he was a wimp and got away with a lot of mayhem because people waited too long.

I think we don't have enough information yet to say.

Readin said...

Regarding news coverage, you have to understand that the American news media have been very busy for the last couple months. Where I work we have CNN in the elevator lobby and it is quite clear they've been swamped with newsworthy stories that squeeze out stuff like the freedom of 23 million people.

There was that airplane that disappeared. They had to report that it disappeared. And of course they had to report on the reactions of the relatives, and on the reactions of the leaders of various countries. They had to report speculation about what happened, and they themselves had to speculate about what happened. They had to cover the efforts being made to find the plane. They had to speculate about the possible success or failure of these efforts. This had to report what radars were used, what countries were involved, the remote submersibles being used, and every stray ping and beep in the Indian Ocean. They had to speculate about every ping and beep and what it meant to the families and how it might or might not lead to recovery of the plane. They owed it to their audience to describe the topography of the sea floor in that area of ocean, and the technologies and capabilities of the black box.

You can see how with reporting of such importance there was hardly anytime to cover Taiwan.

Eventually the plane thing was covered adequately and they had time to move on to less important matters like Taiwan, Benghazi, the agreement with Ukraine guaranteeing its territorial integrity, etc., but then the Donald Sterling made a RACIALLY INSENSITIVE REMARK IN THE PRIVACY OF HIS HOME!!!

Well you can understand how priorities have to be set. Until this gets cleared up Taiwan, Benghazi, China-Russia pacts, etc. will have to take a back-seat to matters of true importance.

But once this gets cleared up I'm sure CNN will have time to cover the Miley Cyrus or whoever it is misbehaving in public at the time.

Anonymous said...

The events with the Sunflower movement were reported in most of the mainstream media outlets in America. I know because I searched and read them. Did they deserve more coverage? Of course. It is significant to those of us living here in Taiwan. Unfortunately the mainstream media in America and elsewhere around the world focus on what the average person is fixated with sensationalism such as death, destruction, local celebrities, or domestic issues that directly effect them. The sunflower movement was none of that to the citizens of countries abroad. However, the subway killings will get more attention since it fits into the sensationalism that drives ratings. Of course it will be certainly over shadowed in America now that the shootings in California happened yesterday.

Anonymous said...

The media needs to stop reporting on these events, or atleast giving so much detail. Do not report on who the killer was, only on the lives lost or mamed. By showing the killers picture and telling his story, it gives him fame. And to mentally disturbed nobodies, they see committing an act like this gets them a away to be remembered. Where there is one there are many, and they will continue to do this as long as they know there are others who hate just like themselves.