Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Slanted Time reporting on Taiwan's UN bid

Kathleen Kingsbury’s piece “Taiwan’s War of Words with the U.S.” published in the Sept. 17 issue of Time magazine was replete with the one-sidedness and bias of the kind that Robert Fisk (Pity the Nation, The Great War for Civilization), Edward Said (Covering Islam), Richard Falk and Howard Friel (Israel-Palestine on the Record) have deplored in reporting on the Middle East. Not only does it completely fail to provide counterarguments to the overtly pro-Beijing position, but its portrayal is entirely predicated on the views of an old Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) hand past his prime as well as on recent comments by a handful of US administration officials who, despite their rhetoric, can hardly be said to be democracy’s best.

The allusion of Taiwan as a child used in the article plays right into Beijing’s hands, which has always portrayed Taiwan as a youngling that needs to be smacked (as are the Palestinians in the equally biased reporting on their struggle). It is disheartening to see that an otherwise reputable magazine like Time would choose to treat a democracy as an unreasonable child while painting a repressive authoritarian regime as a responsible father figure.

The voices of millions of Taiwanese and their supporters all over the world were completely silenced by the report, an omission — intended or otherwise — that can only but harm a worthy and by no means lost cause.

The article also contains a few inconsistencies regarding Taiwan and the UN. First, while a vote did take place at the UN to give the People’s Republic of China (PRC) a seat in 1971, the Republic of China (ROC) was not expelled; Chiang Kai-shek pulled the ROC out of the UN because he could not stand dual PRC-ROC representation in the world body.

Secondly, Kingsbury writes that “Taiwan has tried — and failed — to regain membership,” (my italics) in the UN, which would mean that (a) at one point in the past Taiwan (not the ROC) was a member of the UN; and (b) that given (a), Taiwan must be a country, as membership (which it is trying to regain) is contingent on that precondition being met.

Time would do itself and its readers a great service by publishing a corrective on the matter, one that tells the other side of the story.

3 comments:

Nikol said...

What do you think of Obadiah Shoher's extensive reply to Ed Said at http://samsonblinded.org/titles/edward_said_end_peace_process.htm ?

MikeinTaipei said...

Nikol,

I must admit I haven't read the whole Samson Blinded book, but what I know about Shoher is that he is from the school of Zionist Revisionism (and echoes of Irgun). While I have never set foot in Israel or the Occupied Territories, reporting on the ground by people like Robert Fisk and Israeli journalism Amira Hass, among others, contradict Shoher, who seems to be very much the product of Israeli state institutions that, for a few years, I had professional dealings with.

His analogy of Jews as the African Americans who made their way into neighborhoods in the US is a faulty one at best, as the former's "settling" didn't result in the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Americans who were later forced, for many generations, into refugee camps in the direst of conditions. And those African Americans did not then continue to expropriate land or bulldoze homes, calling it terrorism when people defended their homes and retaliating with F-16s and Apache gunship fire with the backing, at the order of US$5 billion annually, of the world's superpower (but that's the so-called "ivory tower" part, as if it didn't matter. Let's stick to Hass and Fisk and ICRC and HRW and Amnesty and the others on the ground, who all have been invariably wrong about Israel's actions).

Shoher also is a proponent of determined violence - i.e. no vacillation, which he claims only invites more, hum, "terrorism." That, too, can only end in failure as it adopts a view that Palestinians and Arabs only understand the language of violence, as if they were unlike other human beings (this is very much part of the dehumanization of Palestinians that has been going on for years).

All in all, and without going into a long diatribe on a text I haven't read in its entirety, I respect Shoher's right to state his opinions, though if, say, a Hamas scholar were to publish a similar tract, he would most likely be accused of promoting, if not sponsoring terrorism. Still, I see value in the debate that such a work will engender, regardless of whether one agrees with his conclusions or not.

Anonymous said...

"Secondly, Kingsbury writes that “Taiwan has tried — and failed — to regain membership,” (my italics) in the UN, which would mean that (a) at one point in the past Taiwan (not the ROC) was a member of the UN; and (b) that given (a), Taiwan must be a country, as membership (which it is trying to regain) is contingent on that precondition being met.

How dare they think that the ROC is Taiwan? Those guys should be fired for spreading such filthy lies!