Hung, Tsai gather their ‘idiot armies’

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

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.

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