Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Gnashing My Teeth

Augh! Gack! Snarl! Over the last several months this blog has reported extensively on the Shih Ming-teh Red Ant anti-Chen campaign. Anyone who has read it is comprehensively familiar with the facts of the case, as well as a broad set of interpretations, both pro- and anti-Shih (see my archives page, where it has its own section).

The information that I have presented is all available from public sources. Anyone can get hold of it. It is not difficult to find either. There is thus no excuse......

Macca alerted me to the fact that the European Association of Taiwan studies conference concluded recently and many of the papers are online. I glanced through several of the papers and they are all interesting and well constructed. I especially liked the useful presentation on partisan voting patterns in Taiwan. Also good was an analysis of Taiwan's economic situation by a Russian academic, an interesting paper attempting to show that the custom of "doing the month" has a sound material basis, and many other good things.

There is, however, one gigantic exception: the paper by Shih Fang-long on the Red Ant demonstrations, which totally buys into the media myths about it, and even uses Caroline Gluck's awful BBC articles as a source. It makes all the classic errors, such as citing Emile Sheng without mentioning that he was the international spokesman for the movement, not mentioning Shih's connections to corrupt embezzlers, his crazed remarks, his switching sides in 2001, that his followers were all Blues, and so on. At this late date, with all that information out there in public, there is no excuse for not incorporating this information into the paper. It's not the errors that peeve, but the knowledge that we're going to be looking at this nonsense of "Landmark Non-Partisan Demonstrations!" for years to come. I can't wait until it finds it way into the literature.

Does anyone know a Taiwan-oriented media conference or upcoming Taiwan studies conference I can submit a paper on Shih and the media to?


Anonymous said...

Ah, well, if you want to come to London and lock horns with Fang-long herself, you could attend the annual conference she is organizing:


For the record, I think you have interpreted Dr Shih's paper in a very particular way. She is a very serious anthropologist and is not using the media reporting as any basis of truth about the SMD movement, merely to "report on the reports" and to make some very specific arguments on the basis of an anthropological methodology.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, me again, I think the word "incompetence" directed at Dr Shih's work is unjustifiable and a bit of an outrage.

Michael Turton said...

Sorry Mark, but the only other choice was "venality" which I had no evidence for. Incompetence was the charitable take on that paper.

One thing I have found over the years, is that academics are awfully good at analysis when the world presents itself to them at face value. It is fraud like Shih's faux demonstration that confounds them. It will take years and years before people generally recognize this as fake. For those of us who spotted it early -- as I know from interactions with other heavily defended, academically supported fakes, it will be a long, uphill struggle.


Michael Turton said...

Mark, did you read the paper? Her arguments follow the Red Brigade's arguments perfectly. It was their argument that the protests "opened up new democratic spaces" (reality was that they were fundamentally anti-democracy and led and funded by the anti-democracy side).
She says Perhaps one way to think of this demonstration is as the expression of the unconscious recognition of the need for a ‘third space’ in Taiwan’s contemporary politics.

Certainly that's one way to think about it. It is also the way that Shih et al want you to think about it. Her entire point is that the demonstration represents some urge for a third party, without recognizing that it hijacked that urge in service of the familiar blue-green dichotomy. She obviously knew that it was a Blue parade, but carefully stated only that the Blues saw it that way.

What is the problem she identifies?

With the passing of the so-called Red Phenomenon, we are left with the question of how to interpret this unusual demonstration.

Exactly. And on that score she failed miserably. Read how she describes Shih Ming-te, without mentioning the key point of whose side he is on. That point was eliminated in service of her main rhetorical goal of presenting this as a non-partisan demonstration. But facts will not support that interpretation.


Michael Turton said...

I'll edit the original post to reflect your concerns.