Thursday, June 10, 2021

What is going on with the KMT's foreign language social media people?

Earlier today, activist and journalist Roy Ngerng wrote a fairly anodyne tweet about how the Tsai government had "built Taiwan's relationship with other democracies" so that Japan and the US were aiding Taiwan quickly, without Taiwan having to surrender its sovereignty or dignity to China. 

The Kuomintang, on their official account, responded the way a CCP sock puppet might -- as you can see from the cover photo.

It's already in the local news, where you can also see some of the more polite replies. 

At first, I believed it was most likely a trigger-happy intern who had forgotten to log in to their personal account and accidentally went after Ngerng on the KMT's official account. That in itself should be enough to get them fired. At best, it meant that this was the kind of person the KMT employed: willing to spew hateful word salad co-opting the social justice language of the left to make nonsense arguments, and not able to make a particularly coherent case.

What's more, the language read exactly like the CCP's United Front and fifty-cent bots, as many pointed out:

The entire comment is incoherent -- calling Ngerng, who is not white, a white supremacist for talking about help that Japan (a non-white country) and the US gave to Taiwan. It's not worth analyzing very deeply, but the part about anime in particular is as questionable as it is incoherent. There are entire subreddits full of people who believe all anime is pornography (so, My Neighbor Totoro is...huh?), but even if that were true, it's irrelevant here. 

There's another less popular line of thinking that anime is some sort of artistic way for Japanese, who want to fantasize about being "more Western" without having to say so, to enjoy and imagine themselves as having "Westernized" bodies and forms through anime. This could what be what our questionable tweeter meant: that one might answer "you're accusing me of white supremacy, but Japan's not white", with a prepackaged "they wish they were white and that's white supremacy, because anime!" retort.

The whole argument is of course pure bullshit, but it could be what he meant (I am almost certain the rogue tweeter is a 'he', because the entire International Department is male, as we'll discuss below). It sounds like the sort of pseudo-intellectual trash one might pick up in the same discussion spaces where one picks up phrasing like "muh Japan".

In any case, that's the best possible scenario. 

At worst, it implied that the KMT hired one or several people to manage its social media whose other job was to operate horrible troll accounts that spew this kind of rhetoric in an attempt to ruin any attempt at meaningful discourse while being completely impossible to argue with. This is an intentional tactic that political interests pay for -- especially the CCP -- and it is so toxic and oxygen-sucking, it's like trying to duel with quicksand.

I'm not sure it matters if there is one person or many working for the KMT to engage in this sort of discourse online. I'm not sure it matters if this was meant to be a personal tweet posted from the wrong account. Whoever wrote that tweet has exposed themselves as having a vicious, angry and problematic personality who is willing to deal with people in the exact same way as a pro-CCP troll might. The KMT hired them anyway.

What's more, the KMT has previously made statements in support of US-Taiwan ties and thanked Japan for their donation of over a million vaccines. So, such a jaw-dropping, unprofessional response by an official organization to a fairly benign tweet is...eyebrow-raising. It just doesn't make sense. 

Within 45 minutes the tweet was gone, and a poorly-worded "sorry if you were offended" apology posted by the official account. That reply was also deleted and re-posted:

To be fair, the original "apology" had a typo in it, and the new post fixed that. The goal might not have been to delete all the angry replies. That was the effect, however.

This got me wondering: what is going on in the International Affairs department of the KMT? Because either they're running a whole online troll operation, there's a massive internal tug-of-war, or they have at least one reckless person who can't do their job properly, and who holds some pretty horrifying views. 

Of course, it's not hard to find out who works in this department of the KMT. Lee Ta-jung is the director, and is associated with Tamkang University. There's nothing odd there. Shen Cheng-hao doesn't have much going on either. He appears here with his colleague (whom I'll talk about in a minute) on a show about how the youth feel about the US election, but frankly, I haven't watched the whole thing. Ho Chih-yung has ties to the National Policy Research Foundation and National Tsinghua University. Although I doubt I'd agree with any of these guys -- and yes, they are all men -- on political issues, they don't seem like people who would log into the KMT's official Twitter account to incoherently harass a journalist over an anodyne tweet.

Then there's Tang Cheng-wei. Here he is -- again in the local media ETToday -- making sexist remarks about President Tsai on a Taiwan News article about her winning the John McCain prize. He insulted her by calling her a virgin, and a loyal dog of the US. Seeing as until very recently the US seemed to prefer the KMT, that's an odd comment. He also insulted others who disagreed with him:

It's interesting to me that he wonders why people would bring up the KMT, when he works (or worked) for the KMT. 

Anyway, he continues with his anti-West, anti-foreigner talk:

He also implied that respected writer and analyst J. Michael Cole is a "Canadian spy" hired by President Tsai for that reason (Cole stopped running Thinking Taiwan when Tsai was elected, and there is no indication that he used his previous intelligence training in that role. He is open about his previous intelligence career).

This is strange disinformation to spread by someone working for the KMT, as the KMT insists that the DPP is the one spreading fake news.

Update 6/12/2021: Interestingly, this is all breaking now, even though his comments were made a month ago. The local reports don't connect him to Thursday's tweet, however, and say he stopped working for the KMT in March to do military service. That's odd. These are all from the past few days -- you can find them yourself if you'd like. I've included a screenshot to show you how recent all of this news is:

The only report of his comments about Tsai that dates from the actual event just calls him a "former" consultant and offers no other details. While I am fairly sure when I read that article two days ago it didn't say he was a "former" anything, I could be mistaken. It's also possible my memory is correct but the writer was wrong. The article about the "International War Room" is from February. 

I cannot offer any interpretation of this; I'll just leave it here for you.

Furthermore, Tang's anti-foreigner behavior is interesting, for someone who wrote at great length about how great America is on his own Facebook page in 2018

...I'm not going to bother with screenshots of the whole thing.

America is a diverse and multicultural country, while also being majority-white. How does this square with his anti-foreigner comments a month ago?

Remember, this person is (or was) partly responsible for KMT outreach to foreigners. Why would the KMT hire someone who hates white people to help them try to appeal to the rest of the world? I mean, I get that white supremacy is a massive problem, but if your goal is international outreach, this isn't how you do it.

He mentioned in the video above that he's a Trump supporter. This should not matter in relation to the issue at hand, but Trump himself is associated with white supremacy and "America First!" rhetoric, so it's a mismatch with his anti-foreigner, "loyal dog to the US" stance on President Tsai if he supports a strong US otherwise. 

This is a person the KMT chose to take on in their International Affairs department. This is a person they entrusted with part of their goal of international and foreign-language outreach. 

A known (former?) employee of the KMT making online comments about the president of the nation -- childish, trollish, sexist and highly inappropriate given his job -- should be enough to raise questions. 

Of course, Tang has the same right to freedom of expression as anyone else. Nobody is going to arrest him over his horrible comments about Tsai. But freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences, and others have just as much right to point out that his personal comments don't look good when you consider his job. If I go online as Jenna and say "X", and someone writes about how the woman behind Lao Ren Cha said "X", that's all within the bounds of freedom of expression. The same applies here.

To be clear, we don't know who was behind the offensive and frankly uncalled-for and line-crossing tweet to Ngerng; perhaps it truly was an intern, and if so, I can only hope that that intern has been fired already. That tweet happened on Thursday, so whoever wrote it still had access to the KMT's official account just a few days ago. That is not acceptable.

However, regardless of who wrote that tweet today, one thing is clear: the KMT has in its employ at least one (and possibly several) highly problematic people who are causing multiple embarrassments, and who perhaps are not the best choices for communicating with the English-speaking public or representing the party. If they want to be taken seriously as the opposition, and maintain a dignified online presence, they really must do better than this. 

Today's tweet -- whomever wrote it -- crossed a line. Tang's comments about Tsai last month crossed a line. How many lines must be crossed before they address what is obviously a recurring problem?

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