Hung, Tsai gather their ‘idiot armies’
When television was popularized in Japan in the late 1950s, the print media felt so threatened that they called the TV set an “idiot box” and warned the new electronic media would turn all 100 million Japanese into idiots. Japan’s population was around 100 million then, and a famous social critic, Soichi Oyake, coined the catch phrase “one hundred million all idiotized” (
) in 1957. Of course, his prediction wasn’t borne out, but the quality of news reporting in Japan as well as across the world has gone down.
Television came to Taiwan much later. On Oct. 10, 1962, TTV (Taiwan Television Enterprise) started airing its program to mark Double Tenth Day with the assistance of Fuji Television of Tokyo. Double Tenth is Taiwan’s national day and Fuji TV was run by the Sankei Shimbun. The idiot boxes didn’t begin to idiotize almost all the people of Taiwan until 1998 when cable TV stations began operation. They broadcast talk shows, where the hosts or hostesses talk with what are known as “famous mouths” ( ) or pundits. Most of them are political critics, but a few are social critics like Oyake. Quite a number of them have turned political gossip journalists so powerful as to “enforce a reign by pundits” ( ).
Actually, however, they aren’t that powerful. As a matter of fact, they have been on the ascent after Ma Ying-jeou, the Hong Kongborn son of a mainland Chinese Kuomintang apparatchik, succeeded native- born President Chen Shui-bian in 2008. Ma has an original sin of being born a “hated” mainlander, and has shrunk from doing practically anything he wants, whenever criticized for “selling out Taiwan.”
One such TV gossip journalist is Clara Chou. She accused President Ma of accepting donations from Ting Hsin International Group last year. At the time, the company was being investigated as part of the Taiwan food scandal of 2014. She criticized Ma for having a hand in covering up Ting Hsin’s role in the scandal. Last December, Ma filed a lawsuit against Chou for the comments she made. She countered with a lawsuit against the Kuomintang, targeting acting party Chairperson Wu Den-yih. Chou was stripped of her Kuomintang membership a few days after she had presented evidence of the party’s alleged misdeeds. Ma was investigated by prosecutors of the Special Investigation Division, who had to drop the case on June 18 simply be- cause there wasn’t any evidence of his taking a bribe of NT$200 million, or US$6 million, from Ting Hsin.
Chou made further accusations against the Kuomintang last week. This time, she denounced Hung Hsiu-chu, vice president of the Legislative Yuan who is expected to be nominated for president by the ruling Kuomintang at its coming party national congress on July 19, for claiming a master’s degree with a falsified Northeast Missouri State University diploma. The Ministry of Education and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City certified the diploma as genuine. Moreover, only a government employee who uses a falsified diploma to get his job may be charged with forgery of documents, and a candidate running for public office is not required to produce any diploma for an advanced degree. Hung sued Chou and the tabloid Next Magazine employees who first published the accusations. The tabloid has a close connection with TVBS, where the famous mouth is often invited to place blame on celebrities for “wrongdoing.”
The celebrity Chou picked was Terry Gou, chairman of the Hon Hai Precision Group. While appearing on a talk show last Jan. 13, Chou accused him of giving NT$300 million (US$9.5 million) to Sean Lien, the Kuomintang candidate for mayor of Taipei in the nationwide combined local elections last Nov. 29. Professor Ko Wen-je, an independent running for mayor of Taipei, asked Ker Chien- ming, Democratic Progressive Party legislative caucus whip, to arrange a campaign fund-raising meeting with Guo. Chou said at the talk show Ker told her Gou had already given NT$300 million to Lien and wouldn’t give any more to anybody. Ker denied that he said so. He said the money was given to the Taipei City Government for erecting a Taipei Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Chou, then, accused Ker of lying. Gou filed a defamation suit against Chou on Jan. 16, demanding NT$10 million or US$330,000 that he would give to a charity. The Taipei District Court is trying the case.
It is pundits like Chou who have quickly idiotized young college students who use social networking services, of which the most popular in Taiwan is Facebook, to bully or aggrandize whomever they choose. These idiotized youths succeeded in forcing a young TV entertainer and model, Peng Hsin-yi, or Cindy, to commit suicide last April 21 through online bullying. Politicians as well as would-be politicians are harnessing the power of idiotized users to suit their purposes. When running for public office, candidates create wan-jun ( / ) or cybarwarfare units to harass, torment and bully in order just to defeat their rivals, one recent case being Professor Ko’s routing of Sean Lien in the Taipei mayoralty election.
Tsai Ing- wen, the standard bearer of the Democratic Progressive Party in next year’s presidential election, has already formed her cyberwarfare unit. Her opponent, Hung Hsiu-chu, is creating hers to fight it out. Maybe unwittingly, Chou fired the first shot in the cyberwar between Tsai and Hung for the “battle of two women” next Jan. 16.