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

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Johnny Neihu commits journalistic suicide


The "NewsWatch" column in Saturday's edition of the Taipei Times began with its usual biting commentary, doing a good job at criticizing politicians in all ranges of Taiwan's spectrum. And then it turned and drove off of a cliff.

Here's where columnist Johnny Neihu goes horribly wrong:
[Premier Su Tseng Chang (蘇真昌)] told us on Wednesday that "If you turn off your TV and stop reading the newspapers, you will discover that Taiwan is still a liveable place and full of hope," before launching into what could only be described as a soliloquy in which he pined for the good ole days of government-controlled press.

Premier Su, what the hell were you thinking?


Taiwan's democracy is young, and so are the institutions that make up that democracy. Free media are part of those institutions, and like all of the rest, they are relative novices. The traditional role of the media in this society has been to distribute press releases. An important person says something, and the media reports it: That was how the game was played.

Now, things are different. Important people disagree with each other! Openly! It's social chaos! How are reporters supposed to know which important people to listen to? Which side of a story to report? Both sides can't be right, so most reporters solve that problem by reporting only one side. Problem solved.

I share Su's frustration with this state of affairs. But bad reporting does not justify government control of the media. Just let it go.

Which, apparently, is something the halfwits over at the Presidential Office are unable to do. Also on Wednesday, office Deputy Secretary-General Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) was full of piss and vinegar as he thundered against an item that showed up in the China Times, threatening legal action if the paper didn't apologize.

By making a public spectacle of a relatively minor and unimportant article, Cho ensured that everyone in the country now knows the allegations contained in the story, namely that the president tried to "blackmail" Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

Now, since this is supposed to have happened two years ago, and Wang has apparently moved on with life, why is it so important to the Presidential Office to challenge this story?

Who even cares whether or not it happened?

I mean, it isn't like the president has a sterling reputation at the moment. And really, the China Times story bit both ways, since what supposedly allowed the president to try and "blackmail" Wang was evidence of a scandal involving the speaker. So Chen's a thug and Wang's a crook.

So what? Most of our leaders were either or both, from dictator Chiang Kai-shek (將介石) to former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). We're used to it.

Look, the media will say things that the people in power don't like and that are sometimes inaccurate -- or even just plain wrong.

The only way to stop them is by having a police state. China gives a pretty good example of how to do that.
Johnny Neihu is both inaccurate and just plain fucked-up
This is so wrong. Johnny Neihu, what the fuck are you smoking? Or did someone abduct the real Johnny and give him a lobotomy?

First, reporting only one side isn't necessarily a problem, but making shit up certainly is. As far as I can tell, Su Tseng-chang didn't say anything about returning to a "government-controlled press." If he had, I'm pretty sure the pan-blue media would be all over his ass 24-7. Instead, Johnny Neihu is doing their jobs for them.

A Friday article in the Chinese-language Liberty Times said that Premier Su referred to the China Times as being almost just like a "KMT party newspaper" and "not having a bit of common sense," but that doesn't sound anything like what Johnny Neihu claims he said. [If he did say it, please provide a quote, or point me in the direction of one. Until then, I can only assume that it defies common sense.]

If malice can be proven in a case like this, making shit up about people is also illegal. What happened here was that the China Times made libelous claims. Johnny Neihu's own paper, the Taipei Times told us on Friday that there was "nearly full-page coverage" in the China Times, not "a relatively minor and unimportant article." The Taipei Times also told us that even Wang Jin-pyng himself acknowledged that the story was untrue.

Even after President Chen asked for a retraction and an apology, the China Times repeated the lies, claiming that Wang had vindicated them.

That sounds pretty nonsensical to me.

A "police state" would have shut the China Times down, but that's not what happened. If the China Times were merely "inaccurate" or "wrong," they would have apologized. That didn't happen either.

Apathetics for... aw, forget it!
"Why bother?" Well, Johnny, not bothering gives them license to do it again. And again. And again. It's amazing that the DPP has only this week finally gotten around to forming a legal team to address this sort of problem. All I can say to that is "It's about fucking time!"

So "having a police state" is not the only way to stop them from making libelous accusations. Simple rule of law is.

Points of order: , , , , , , ,
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