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

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Has the Taipei Times been infected by TVBS and the China Post?

After spending two full weeks trying to contact both birders and people associated with the HSR project to get details that were missing from the article -- specifically images of bird strikes by the train -- I finally found one image on my own.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Although it comes with its own exaggerated headline about "12 ghosts of [beings] who were wrongly put to death or murdered," this photo indeed appears to show several marks which could certainly be bird strikes. (Note that the marks are unhelpfully obscured by thick red outlines [to help readers see the obvious?] which only serve to sensationalize a story which is bad enough on its own.) Having said that, it still doesn't qualify for the term "massacre." I wish that the person whose words Shelley Shan repeated and amplified hadn't used that description. At the same time, I hope that the operators of the HSR will do everything possible -- if they're not already -- to prevent this kind of thing from happening all along the trains' path, most especially in areas where birds like the Jacana and raptor are endangered.

Having said that, reporters who blowdry their HSR tickets, purposely insert expired tickets into the entry gates, or set off fire alarms to create false news stories are still psycho, and I'm sticking to that.

Everything below (except the strikethru) remains as it was originally written so you can see my mistakes. If anyone wants me to remove something, just ask, and I'll see if it warrants removal. [/END UPDATE]

Bloviating birdwatchers bleed blue blood

Cue up some Bernard Herrmann and check out this exaggerated headline to an article in Monday's Taipei Times:
High speed trains said to be causing bird massacre
That's right -- "massacre." For your info, here is Reference.com's definition of that word:
1. the unnecessary, indiscriminate killing of a large number of human beings or animals, as in barbarous warfare or persecution or for revenge or plunder.
2. a general slaughter, as of persons or animals: the massacre of millions during the war.
3. Informal. a crushing defeat, esp. in sports.
verb (used with object)
4. to kill unnecessarily and indiscriminately, esp. a large number of persons.
5. Informal. to defeat decisively, esp. in sports.
Here is the most ridiculous part of the Taipei Times article:
Birdwatchers in southern Taiwan said last week that bullet trains are killing "many" wild birds along the high speed rail routes. Although they could not provide numbers to support their claims, they pointed to bloodstains "commonly seen" on the bullet trains as evidence of an avian massacre.
It's a damn shame to see sensationalist writing like this in the Taipei Times, but this isn't the first time I've complained about their writing in recent days. On the first day of this new year, I had this to say about their lack of self-awareness:
Hey, Taipei Times editors -- wake up and smell what you've published!
Looks like they need another reminder.

It's certainly unfortunate when animals die because of human carelessness, but cars, trains, and airplanes kill birds every day, despite efforts to avoid such things. Being a vegetarian and an animal lover myself, I would agree totally that if such a problem exists, something should be done about it. However, such exaggerated reporting does little to help the situation. The frenzied media reports I've seen about the HSR have shown viewers everything but "bloodstains" on the train, and the content has given me little reason to believe them this time around.

This and this and this and this are what actual massacres look like, by the way.

Psycho newsfakers
I describe these reporters as "psycho" because they spend valuable time pretending that it's in the viewers' interest to tell them about incredibly foolish things that I can't really think they expect me to believe are important. For example, one report demonstrated that if you hold a blowdryer a couple of inches from your HSR ticket and direct the hot air onto it, it will turn black. (Gasp!)

Without too much effort, I think you can figure out the problem with their "logic." One might also conclude that if people have a habit of blowdrying their HSR tickets, their brains have already turned to mush.

Who dunnit?
The byline of the Taipei Times article tells us it was written by Shelley Shan (冼立華). The name stood out because I recalled that Shan co-wrote two articles just after the recent earthquakes in southern Taiwan in which she quoted TVBS twice when she could have quoted just about any TV station that reported the same basic information about the quakes and failed to clarify basic details of the story.

Shan's name doesn't begin appearing on articles in the Taipei Times until 2006, so I wondered if she was part of the reason for or merely a symptom of the decline in quality in that paper lately. Then I discovered that she used to work for the China Post. That kind of tears the curtain open a bit, eh?

"Consumer advocates" bleed blue blood, too
Another group being used in an attempt to add credibility to the crazy complaints about the HSR is the "non-governmental" Consumers' Foundation. A quick web search revealed to me that their full English name is "CONSUMERS' FOUNDATION, CHINESE TAIPEI." Next time you see this group complaining about something while accompanied by pan-blue legislators, that might make you think twice about the validity of the complaints. In fact, since you should normally think twice anyway, think 39 times in these cases!

And remember, question everything -- especially vertigo-inducing things like this!

Liberty Times image
Translation: The man at left is saying, "The HSR is green, better paint it black!" (i.e., "vilify it via groundless allegations"). On the front of the train is the short form of "High Speed Rail," or "高鐵." To the right, a man with sunglasses is holding a sign which reads, "Refuse to ride!! Consumers' Foundation," using the short form of their name, "消基會."

Alfred Hitchcock's unfinished movies: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cross-posted at Taiwan Matters!
eXTReMe Tracker
This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?