Monday, June 07, 2010

Radically one-sided

Describing protests in Taipei on June 3, in which some demonstrators threw chairs at a building where discussions on a proposal for a referendum on an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) trade pact with China — which was turned down later that day — were under way, Agence France-Presse (AFP) once again showed its great ability for one-sidedness. Coming back to the office after two days off, the first thing I saw on my desk was a printout of an AFP filing, put there by editors who knew its contents would spark yet another of my tirades (it did).

After introducing the context (demonstrations, talks on ECFA referendum), the article wrote the following:

The dozens of demonstrators attempted to push their way into the building where the proposal by a radical pro-independence party called Taiwan Solidarity Union [TSU] was being reviewed by a commission authorized by the government [italics added].

While this paragraph is factually true, the characterization of the TSU as “radical” borders on the insane. The problems with this adjective are self-evident. First off, most TSU members are of advanced age (in their 50s and 60s) and probably couldn’t engage in “radical” action even if they wanted to (I have long lamented the absence of young Taiwanese at demonstrations organized by the TSU and the Democratic Progressive Party). Secondly, what does “radical” mean? Without a proper context and further explanation, it could mean anything from very pro independence to employing violent means to achieve political objectives. Regardless, the word has a negative connotation that, for those who don’t know any better, gives the impression that TSU members are “irrational” (they haven’t been called terrorists yet, but the way things are going, this could come).

What’s equally irritating about the unnecessary — and ultimately misleading — insertion of that word is that AFP does not make similar characterizations of deep-blue Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members, pro-independence groups, or retired People’s Liberation Army officials who, on visits to Taipei, call the Taiwanese independence movement “doomed” and openly threaten use of force should Taiwan declare independence. Isn’t threatening war “radical,” or at minimum deep-red?

Why is this tag only attributed to the TSU, if not but to discredit it as an organization that can be reasoned with?


Anonymous said...

I am glad you did this piece, very disheartened to see how that activity was covered by the western media.


Anonymous said...

OP again ignore the history the word "Radical".

The word "Radical" came from "Radical Republican in reconstruction era".

According to history book, "Radical Republicans pushed for the abolition of slavery, and after the war supported equal rights for freedmen (the newly freed slaves), such as measures ensuring the right to vote."

Where is the negative connotation in that?