Sunday, June 12, 2016

Of false flags and outdated self-congratulations

Okay. So. That crazypants video of a woman (Hung Su-Chu, not to be confused for my non-Taiwan readers with Hung Hsiu-chu, the KMT Chairperson mentioned below) who seems to be allied with fringe groups in the pan-green camp berating an elderly KMT veteran. Ugh. I don't think I need to say that such behavior is disgusting and unbecoming, and that people with these beliefs represent an infinitesimally small minority of Taiwanese, the vast majority of whom are, like most people, better than this.

There has been a lot of discussion on a.) what this says about the fringe elements of the generally green side and the bigotry many of them display (which is a provably true phenomenon - they aren't off the hook because they're on generally the same side I am, and it's one major reason why I've started having a lot more faith in youth activists and the New Power Party of late) and b.) whether this is a 'false flag' fake scandal manufactured by pro-unification fringe elements on the other (blue) side, as evidenced by an old online post by Hung talking about how pro-independence people are seeking to divide and lie to the Taiwanese  (at least that's the best I could get from that incoherent mess of a post - she does not seem to support at all the petition linked to) and talk that the woman's parents were also a part of the KMT diaspora. The idea would be to make the pan-greens, currently in power, look bad both to the Taiwanese and as fodder for Chinese media - though as I mention below, I'm less concerned about that latter point.

On the other hand a friend of mine pointed out that this woman has been involved in deep green fringe groups for awhile - although the group she is said to belong to, the Taiwan Civil Government, claims she is not a member (also check this link for good discussions of positive identity). I would also note that gossip is gossip, and images of status updates can be photoshopped (though I am not sure this one is - she sounds genuinely nuts, to the point that all I can tell is  So, what of it?

I don't know - but I do think the truth is important. I've heard a few calls for taking this at face value first because the evidence isn't quite enough to say it's definitely an opposition attempt to discredit the entire green camp by manufacturing a scandal involving one of its crazier outlier groups, and second because redirecting conversation to whether it's a 'false flag' operation or not takes away from the conversation about bigotry on the pan-green side, as fringe as it may (or may not) be.

I'd say that the evidence isn't enough for me to believe it's a fake-out, but there is just enough for me to not wholeheartedly believe it is genuine. Assuming that this was a genuine ideology-motivated attack and refusing to consider that it might not be is just as jejune as a knee-jerk reaction among those of us who ally with the 'greener' end of the political spectrum that it MUST be a manufactured scandal just because the bad guys are green and so are you. It's deciding what you believe based on what you want to say, and how you want to appear, rather than actually considering what may have happened.

This is especially true if one is intent on avoiding looking like a pan-green apologist or knee-jerk defender who will cry foul at any criticism of that side, and so decides it must be genuine. Pointing out that it might be a fake-out might make you seem like just that sort of apologist!

Which, of course, is not true at all. Pointing out that one incident of green bigotry may be a false flag operation is not the same at all as saying that pan-greens are never bigoted (just as pointing out that Republican attacks on Hillary are unfair does not make one a Hillary apologist, or equate to thinking Hillary is 100% great. The two are not the same, not even remotely, and it's facile and stupid - perhaps even weirdly dogmatic but to a wholly different ideology - to conflate them when they are so clearly not identical worldviews).

Of course, we can all agree on one thing: that Taiwanese on both sides, or shall I say all sides, of the political playing field, by a vast majority, find this sort of behavior disgusting, and whether or not the woman in question is the real deal doesn't change that either way, she is a terrible person who did a terrible, shitty thing. That's true even if she's a faker.
So why does it matter? Because:

1.) This particular incident does not need to be genuinely motivated by political ideology for people to have that conversation about pan-green bigotry against the KMT diaspora and its descendants, because this one incident possibly being fake doesn't mean there is no bigotry in the pan-green camp

2.) Assuming the actions and sentiments behind them are genuine just because you'd rather have the above conversation about pan-green bigotry, as I've said, is facile and self-serving.

3.) Opposition attempts to discredit the other side, no matter where they are coming from, are a real problem and they do happen. Deciding to pretend they don't exist for your own rhetorical purposes just makes it easier for them to continue. There is a precedent for this sort of thing - I was present when gangsters tried to stir up arguments, setting off firecrackers and bothering Sunflower supporters outside of the Legislative Yuan in 2014. I'm not a reporter and I'm not a part of the movement - more of an observer, supporter and interested party - so I got the hell out of there and joined supporters on another section of road because I know I have a bit of a temper and there was no reason to stick around only to fly off the handle and possibly get deported. But, I was there, I saw it happen, I heard the information coming from the crowd on who these people were and what they were trying to do, so I know this is a thing that fringe groups on the other side *do* engage in.

That is also a conversation worth having, and an important one, as many in Asia (and not just Taiwanese - foreigners too) don't recognize these deliberate actions when they take place. They too take the news at face value and then wrinkle their faces in disgust at those 'racist DPP' (nevermind that the DPP had nothing to do with this attack, Hung is said to be involved with the Taiwan Civil Government, who are true nutters). Hell this sort of thing happens in the US (can we say "Benghazi"? I suppose it's a blessing that that has died down and the scandal that has taken its place at least has a real issue at its center). People - all people - need to learn to recognize it and consider the news accordingly.

Frankly, I find the former more interesting than the 'bigotry within the green camp' discussion, simply because I feel like it's already been had, and it's starting to sound repetitive and self-congratulatory.

Are there racists and bigots and awful people who align with the pan-green camp? Of course.

Is this a problem? Yup, but increasingly less so as these folks become more and more fringe. The mainstream has changed course for the better.

Should we do something about it? Yup.

Like what? Well, push for more progressive values and inclusivity on both sides.

Arguably that is something happening more quickly on the green side, as evidenced by rhetoric from the DPP on transitional justice and better inclusion of minority groups, the undeniably socially progressive views of the New Power Party (come on guys, drop the resistance to changing laws regarding working in Taiwan for foreign professionals already and you'd have my unqualified support!), the generally (though not entirely) green support of marriage equality, which was dead in the water under a KMT-controlled legislature, and the unified-yet-pluralistic and inclusive student movement which has true progressivism at its center. The folks running the show now are not the same Hoklo nationalist "KMT go home" bigots who had perhaps more power than they should have during the Chen years. I see it, that conversation has basically moved on. The things we need to do to improve our own side are already clear, and are already being acted upon. If anything they've been known by the student activists for quite some time and we older, often foreign commentators are behind the times.

Unless anyone has anything else to add.

What are we not doing that we should be to eradicate bigotry among those on our side of the political spectrum?

How can we better educate people to recognize manufactured scandals and false flag operations so we don't sit, politically neutered, as otherwise bad people pretend to be saviors and angels (I'm not that worried about Chinese news - if they didn't have a manufactured scandal they'd fabricate one that was never actually implemented. They're going to suck no matter what)?

Why can't we have BOTH conversations? Are we really so dumb and single-minded that we have to pick one?

And isn't this why the truth matters?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'll share this with my journalism students, because you make sense of a devilish tangle of possibilities most of us can't resolve without an ideological act of faith or ignorant choosing of sides. The vigorous writing and directness also remind me how timid and tepid my political science colleagues' work generally is. Thanks for looking under the hood for us!