Thursday, August 13, 2015

Real People vs. Phantom Sources in Taiwan’s Battle of Ideas

A struggling KMT will use anything at this point to discredit civil society and its main opponent in the 2016 elections 

It only took a few days before an op-ed in The Diplomat by U.S. academic Dennis V. Hickey turned into a coordinated assault by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators, pan-blue media and the Chinese propaganda apparatus against Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Days after Hickey’s alarmist editorial was published, the embattled blue camp was accusing Ms. Tsai, the DPP’s presidential candidate for 2016, of sponsoring “extremists” and acting like the Islamic State terrorist organization in Taiwan. 

No strangers to hyperbole and false analogies, the KMT legislators seized upon Mr. Hickey’s remark that the DPP was “reportedly embracing a Middle Eastern practice known as ‘rent a mob’ and subsidizing extremists who attack Taiwan’s government ministries” and ran with it. The operative word in this otherwise preposterous sentence (preposterous to anyone who has been on the ground monitoring the activists since 2012) is reportedly. By not providing a single clue — no source, no link, no witnesses — as to who might be behind that damaging information, Hickey breaks the rules on academic and journalistic accountability. It would be one thing if Mr. Hickey had accused Ms. Tsai of, say, failing to wash her hands after picking up her cat’s droppings; it’s quite another to allege that she is sponsoring “extremists” who are attacking government buildings and undermining confidence in Taiwan’s democracy. 

My article, published today on Thinking Taiwan, continues here.

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