Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The arguably ethnocentric presentation of Taiwanese legislative brawling in the US media

It was hard biking in the midday heat, but even so, we just couldn't figure out why our pace was so slow.

Huffington Post offered this report on the legislative brawling last week:
Brawl Breaks Out In Taiwanese Parliament As Lawmakers Throw Water Balloons And Chairs

Who among us hasn’t gotten in a fistfight over infrastructure development?
The ethnocentricism of the article -- or its fundamental laziness, take your pick -- lies in its total lack of recognition that brawling in the legislature needs an explanation. Why do they do that? It's just what they do. How do we know that? Look at the other examples! At the bottom, the article goes on to list other examples of "brawling".

Recall that the fight involved water balloons, meaning that it was planned (no one carries balloons around on the off chance they may be involved in a water balloon fight). So why no inquiry into that? It's not like there aren't 00s of informed individuals on Taiwan  that Huffpost could have emailed for an explanation. But apparently zero effort went into finding out why people might brawl over an infrastructure bill. That was a thing that didn't need explained, because, you know, it's what they do.

The CNN video similarly lacks any recognition that there are reasons that ordinarily peaceful humans might stage a brawl in the legislature. AP at least gives a few lines of description, which hardly amount to an explanation.

The AFP article, one long attack on the DPP as is normal for AFP, at least gives some explanation via repeating KMT talking points (Channel News Asia's AFP version is slightly different and leads with the DPP view). The Straits Times also took some time to report on it. BBC turned in a long report with background information and even a kind of in-depth explanation. But none of these are American.

This news-as-infotainment-spectacle is why we get lots of videos in the US of legislators brawling but zero explanation as to why. It is very bad for American democracy that our news media is so relentlessly committed to producing an endless flow of spectacle instead of news.

Fortunate indeed is the US, whose legislature remains decorous as it attempts to organize a vote to strip millions of Americans of their healthcare, which will lower their living standards and reduce their lifespans. But those legislators in Taiwan! So uncivilized!
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Tommy said...

Silly news like this bothers me because the reporters always seem to write with a tone of knowing superiority, as if nothing could ever happen where they come from. Yet it is easy to find examples of strategic legislative violence in US history:


Marc said...

UK's Telegraph with a compilation of parliament brawl worldwide (does not include the recent one in Poland)