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

Sunday, February 28, 2016

228 Massacre redux

Words do mean things

The language that people use to write about Taiwan is a touchy subject, and many people can't get it right. Or they can, but they won't. There are many examples, but I just want to talk about one today: The 228 Massacre.

I used to say "228 Incident" myself, but when someone corrected me in 2007 and pointed out that I should instead refer to the tragedy as a "massacre," I immediately changed, and I'll never use that term again. I can't count the times since then that I've come across writings about the massacre which refer to it as an "incident," and some recent encounters with the latter term made me want to write about it.

It's particularly disturbing that the Taipei Times has recently been avoiding use of the word "massacre." The paper previously seemed to prefer the term to describe the historical event, but recently, there have been too many instances where the word "massacre" has been left out entirely. So I have to wonder why. Are the editors asleep, or do they just not care anymore?

When soldiers shoot down civilians in the streets with machine guns or collect large groups of people and bury them alive — when it happens to between 18,000 and 30,000 people (10,000 in just the first month) — it's not a mere "incident," and describing it that way is unbelievably coldhearted.

I hope that you, the reader, will not fall prey to the bad habit of describing the horror of the 228 Massacre as a mere "incident" or just by the number "228," and I hope you can help to rectify the situation by teaching others to follow your example.

Here are a couple of my older posts about the 228 Massacre.
• February 28, 2011: My thoughts on February 28, 2011
• February 28, 2007: Remembering two 228 [Massacres]

Cross-posted at Taiwan Matters!

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