Will defama­tion cam­paigns be­come a thing of the past?

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Amid Kuom­intang (KMT) Deputy Leg­isla­tive Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu’s ( ) win of the rul­ing party’s pri­mary pres­i­den­tial ap­proval polls with 46 per­cent, Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP) Chair­woman Tsai Ing-wen ( ) pro­nounced a “defama­tion-free cam­paign” on Sun­day. She hopes the two po­ten­tial lead­ers can pave the way to­ward a new elec­tion cul­ture.

Tsai’s cur­rent ap­proach in her pres­i­den­tial cam­paign has been some­what rocky as she has had to deal with tough ques­tions from all sides on her cross-strait stance. De­spite the ide­al­is­tic na­ture of the ex­pec­ta­tions Tsai pro­posed on the side­lines of a lo­cal cam­paign for a DPP Leg­is­la­ture can­di­date on Sun­day, Hung seem­ingly ac­cepted the propo­si­tion, say­ing that she will strive to see the “good in Tsai,” and com­mented on how Tsai had man­aged to lead the DPP out of bad times. Hung has prob­a­bly seen how a clean cam­paign could work for both of them.

Up un­til now, Tsai has talked about “change” in em­brac­ing a New Asian Value, in so­ci­ety, the econ­omy and so on. Hung’s own per­for­mance up to this date is also sym­bolic; a change within the dis­em­pow­ered KMT, and uni­fy­ing its mem­bers un­der the party again. For both of Tai­wan’s pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to em­bark on a “clean” cam­paign would show the public and me­dia that their hopes of change are not just a po­lit­i­cal slo­gan, nor are they for show; they are a re­in­force­ment of their res­o­lute­ness for revo­lu­tion.

By ex­tend­ing such an olive branch to Hung, the DPP pres­i­den­tial hope­ful is also per­haps, in her round­about way, ex­pect­ing the public and me­dia to be­have them­selves as well.

It is com­mon knowl­edge that in any sort of elec­tion on Tai­wan soil, both the me­dia and the public ex­pect can­di­dates to hurl in­sults at one an­other, un­veil juicy gos­sip or mag­nify is­sues in an at­tempt to trip up the op­po­si­tion. Whether the ac­cu­sa­tions or gos­sip are well-founded or not, it does leave a smear on both the public’s per­cep­tion and the can­di­date’s po­lit­i­cal re­sume. On the other hand, it pro­vides the public with much en­ter­tain­ment and pro­vides some­thing for pun­dits to dis­sect on po­lit­i­cal talk shows.

As the me­dia de­pends on con­sumers, and has been ac­cused of cater­ing to and pam­per­ing th­ese con­sumers with sen­sa­tion­al­ist news in the past decade, how it will wel­come Tsai’s pro­posal is a mat­ter for de­bate. It is highly prob­a­ble that the me­dia will turn a blind eye or never pick up on Tsai’s sug­ges­tions, while the public will con­tinue hap­pily lap­ping up the gos­sip.

Tsai’s propo­si­tion stems mostly from how the me­dia and po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents have not been tak­ing her po­lit­i­cal cam­paign very se­ri­ously since the an­nounce­ment of the pres­i­den­tial bid. She has been nick­named “Wa­ter Spinach” be­cause of her am­bigu­ous po­lit­i­cal pro­pos­als that lack mean­ing, which are in stark con­trast with Hung’s clear and inspiring rally speech last week.

Per­haps Tsai felt the need to pro­tect her po­lit­i­cal cam­paign by propos­ing such a “cease-fire.” If Tsai wishes the me­dia and her po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents to avoid “defama­tion,” it is also ad­vis­able that Tsai come clear on what she re­ally wants for the coun­try, de­spite her and her spokes­peo­ple’s in­sis­tence that she has been very “clear” on her much-de­bated crossstrait re­la­tions stance.

With such an olive branch, Tsai could de­fang the rul­ing party and other po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents’ ten­den­cies to rely on sub­tle and some­times not so sub­tle at­tacks on the chair­woman and the DPP. As Hung ex­pressed her own will­ing­ness for a grace­ful battle, it would be ad­vis­able for not only the KMT to tone down in­flam­ma­tory re­marks in the fu­ture, but also for Tsai and her own party to take heart of their chair­woman’s words.

Tsai’s call for a clean cam­paign is a shadow of elec­tion slo­gans in the past, with on­look­ers hold­ing just a smidgen of trust in pre­vi­ous cam­paign­ers’ words. But it also mir­rors Tai­wan pop-star Jolin Tsai’s ( ) own dec­la­ra­tion that she wanted to change Tai­wan’s con­cert-go­ers’ habits by re­leas­ing limited pre-con­cert pro­mo­tions and re­fus­ing to do an en­core song at the end of her con­cert in May, which is a must-do for most per­form­ers in or­der to ap­pease their fans.

Pop-star Tsai most cer­tainly kept her prom­ise by end­ing her con­cert on time and leav­ing crowds of fans con­fused with­out the cus­tom­ary en­core song. The DPP’s can­di­date and Hung can sing the praises of “change,” but only by set­ting an ex­am­ple them­selves will Tai­wan’s po­lit­i­cal tastes for slan­der­ous news grad­u­ally lessen, per­haps, oth­ers will then fol­low as well.

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