Friday, March 14, 2008

The Flow of Crap: Day 3: BBC's Alternate Universe (UPDATE 1)

I've decided to have one post like this each day, where we put the latest media fun, updated as the day goes on.

Today maddog alerted me to this report from BBC's alternate universe. That's the universe where, two years later, you can still read on their Taiwan timeline that Chen Shui-bian devolved his powers onto the premier, even though that isn't constitutionally possible -- it was just political theatre, forgotten the next day (and the premier has been changed, to boot!). I'll be updating my old deconstruction of that wildly pro-PRC and completely out of touch timeline later.

But back to today's fun! BBC piously avers:

Taiwan's finance minister has resigned after a mass brawl between rival MPs, nine days before the island's hotly disputed presidential election.

Ho Chih-chin had accompanied members of the opposition KMT party to the campaign headquarters of the ruling DPP to investigate corruption claims.

The KMT alleged the DPP paid no rent on the Taipei building - which they deny.

A fight broke out between the rival groups as they tried to leave, and MPs from both sides were arrested.

The DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) is trailing behind the KMT (Kuomintang) in opinion polls ahead of the 22 March elections.

Note the description: "a mass brawl between rival MPs" in which legislators from both sides were arrested. There was no mass brawl between rival MPs. Four KMT legislators entered the Hsieh campaign HQ making the usual unsubstantiated accusations, and a scuffle between them and DPP supporters erupted, later expanded to include the police. The Finance Minister did resign, but the Taipei Times story on the resignation contains no mention of any arrests. Nor does the article on the apology from the KMT for the behavior of the four legislators. Nor does the report of the incident from the previous day. One could reasonably expect the China Post would be all over reports of DPP legislators being arrested, but their accounts here and here also contain no mention of mass brawls between legislators or arrests of anyone, much less legislators from both sides.

Bottom line: this is one completely erroneous article. Once again: no mass brawl between rival MPs, no arrests of MPs. What really pisses me off is that this horseshit is going to appear all over the world as another example of those immature Taiwanese MPs -- a little people, a silly people, greedy, barbarous, and cruel. Shit.

BBC owes the people of Taiwan an apology. Please contact BBC and let them know (contact form).

UPDATE: The Foreigner has a kickass review of the actual invasion of DPP HQ.


Eric passed me this slanted piece from Mark O Neill in Asia Sentinel. You can sense how bad it is going to be from the opening paragraph:

Although Kuomintang candidate Ma Ying-jeou is cruising toward a comfortable victory in the March 22 Taiwan presidential election that would give his party control of both the executive and Parliament, his supporters fear that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party will stage a last-minute stunt to swing public opinion and steal a victory, as it did in 2004 after an assassination attempt that many believe was staged.
So far the only manufactured incident we've had was the invasion of Hsieh HQ by 4 KMT legislators. The belief that Chen arranged the March 19 incident is laughable, and a good journalist would at least have indicated that no evidence supports this belief, and that it is an article of faith only among KMT followers. The reality is, as comments below the piece point out, that Chen had already pulled even with Lien, and ahead in some credible polls, ten days prior to the election.

The piece also regurgitates KMT claims on the economy, mentions the Chen Corruption bogey without giving any clue that Ma is encumbered by similar baggage, quotes words from a KMT politician and Hu Jin-tao without any balancing information from the DPP, and generally tracks the KMT talking point tape loop. No need to check it out; it is merely ordinarily bad, not a milestone like the Wong piece in the NY Times the other day. I'm only loading it up here for completeness.


D. Corey Sanderson said...


Earlier in the day, I noticed and complained about the same article, but I used this form:

It says that one is for complaints, with the subject most complained about being published. So, thought you may want to know this one too.

I agree with is sad that this is, once again, what people will see of Taiwan. It is bad enough that when I watch "World's Craziest/Most Outrageous Videos", there is always a segment on when one KMT support tries to hang her flag next to a DPP supporter's and, well, stuff ensues. We need some positive news in the international media, and there is so much of it, I have trouble understanding why it can never see the light of day!

Thomas said...

I rarely reply to articles, although I should more. This one I definitely did reply to though. It is just unforgivable.

The thing is, regardless of where the bias of the writer is, he or she should at least get his or her facts straight. Saying that MPs on both sides were arrested in an MP brawl is simply wrong. Bias doesn't explain it. As I told them, "Taiwan's legislature gets enough negative press as it is. It doesn't need the BBC to be fabricating more negative press about it."

Michael Turton said...

Thanks Thomas. It's been a day and i know several of us have complained. And yet it is still there. I provided them with the links to both the China Post and the Taipei Times on both sides of the political aisle to show that there was no brawl.


Michael Turton said...

brawl between MPs, that is.


Thomas said...

"there was no brawl."

Oh, but there was, in a manner of speaking. There was an unfriendly scuffle or two, which most media will interpret as a "brawl" because brawls sell papers. This is spin. I don't like it, but it is not going away.

The thing that really agitates me is the comment about the arrests and the MPs. There is no way to say that this is correct. No way to even spin it as such. The BBC goofed big time, as I assume many news agencies do with a lot of issues. The writers ARE human and they are rarely really experts.

On a separate note, have you recently seen ANY news agency (AFP, AP, BBC, Reuters, Xinhua or any other) publish a correction? I sometimes wonder what their policy is. I also wonder if the old tradition of offering corrections when you royally goof is only maintained to this day when the corrections are demanded by wealthy or powerful sponsors.

I have lost a lot of respect for news agencies since I have come to Asia because of things like this. It has really opened my eyes to the fact that journalists everywhere are sometimes or usually in the dark and also that they are proud. Too proud. Yeah, I trust the BBC more than Xinhua because I know the BBC writers are not being muzzled, but I only trust them slightly more.

The "free media" can do no wrong I guess (Xinhua exempted of course. They are just always right ;), right?).