"Pay close attention to that man behind the curtain!"

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The news can never get Taiwan right

Saturday afternoon, somewhere between 45,000 and 180,000 people took to the streets of Taiwan's capital, Taipei, to protest the threat posed by China. I wasn't able to attend, so I had to turn to the television and the Internet to try to get an idea of what went on.

Unfortunately, the reporting was all over the map when it came to describing the rally itself, the reasons it was being held, the number of participants, and even Taiwan itself.

The following examples come from the web sites of the Washington Times, BBC, WTOP (via AP), New Kerala, and AsiaNews.it.

Real reporters don't ask for directions
Here's what the BBC had to say:
Police said about 45,000 people took part in the rally in front of the presidential office building.
Perhaps I'm being picky, but while the rally ended in front of the Presidential Office, it began as a parade at the Sungshan Tobacco Factory. (See this same quote below under "Don't count on us...")

Why rally?
Two of the articles put the word "threat" in scare quotes in their headlines:
* Taiwan rally protests China 'threat' (Washington Times)

* Taiwan protest at China 'threat' (BBC)
The other articles all have the word "threat" or "threats" in their headlines but without the quotes.

The threats being protested are quite real. Over the past 10 years, the number of missiles China has targeted at Taiwan have increased from 40 to at least 784 (perhaps exceeding 800). In March 2005, China passed what it calls an "anti-secession" law which "legislates" the arbitrary use of "non-peaceful means" against Taiwan. Despite occasionally pretending to be otherwise, China constantly reveals their bellicose nature via headlines which aren't merely "words" -- they're overt threats of violence.

Don't count on us for accuracy
Here are the supposed numbers of participants in the rally as reported each of the sources listed above:
* Thousands of protesters rallied in Taipei Saturday to focus attention on what many fear to be threats from mainland China. (Washington Times)

* Tens of thousands of protesters have taken part in a march and rally in Taipei highlighting the threats that Taiwan faces from mainland China. (BBC)

* Tens of thousands of government supporters marched Saturday to protest China's threats against Taiwan and defend President Chen Shui-bian's tough policy on the communist country.[...] Police estimated the crowd at 45,000, while Taiwanese television stations said it was closer to 100,000. (WTOP [via AP])

* Some 100,000 Taiwanese marched through Taipei Saturday to protest against China's threat to retake Taiwan by force if Taipei seeks independence. (New Kerala)

* Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Taipei for a protest march against threats from China. (AsiaNews.it) [Note: That report was published before the rally had reached its peak.]
Even the relatively reliable FTV reported wildly exaggerated figures. Around 5 PM Saturday, they were reporting "between 170 - 180,000" participants, but after 11 PM, the number reverted to the 100,000 which they had been reporting during the march. I can't tell you if any of those numbers is accurate, but even judging by the images shown by TVBS Saturday afternoon, the numbers surely exceeded 45,000.

Taiwan, which we can only describe by the copy-and-paste method...
Taiwan, which is constantly threatened by China and distorted by the media, is a country. A nation. A sovereignty.

Words like those would be both easier and more accurate than descriptions like these:
* ...the island... [twice in a 4-paragraph article] (Washington Times)

* Chen last month decided to abolish a committee responsible for unifying the island and the mainland, which split amid civil war in 1949. [Chen didn't "abolish" the NUC, and it was the KMT that split from "the mainland" in 1949 -- not Taiwan.] (WTOP [via AP])

* China sees self-governing Taiwan, seat of the exiled Republic of China government since 1949, as a breakaway province, but Taiwan claims it is a sovereign nation, currently recognised by 25 countries. [I'm pretty sure the CCP didn't just "exile" the KMT.] (New Kerala)
Easier still, without all the worry about making China cry, would be to simply say "Taiwan."

But fuck that! Making China cry isn't just fun -- it's important. Call Taiwan a democratic country as well, and point out that China is an authoritarian one as often as necessary.

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