Guest Blogging: Jerome Keating on Shih Ming-deh
Shih Ming-deh, Hypocrite, Maudlin, Schizophrenic, or a Pawn in Search of Redemption
Sunday October 22, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.
Shih Ming-deh's Red Guard has been reduced to a small cadre of cult-type fanatics, hangers-on, and simple-minded idealists with no sense of history; they now hang out at Taipei Main Station where they have restrooms and shelter and are guaranteed at least of a passing crowd to feed their need for attention. The leaders of Shih's movement, after trying to build a facade of being anti-corruption are finding that the burden of transparency is revealing the cracks in their own mirror image. The sensation hungry media has turned its attention to the much more promising and quickly heating up Taipei Mayor's race. However, in the aftermath of all this, there remains a residue of uncomplimentary opinions on Shih's motivation and image. Among this are words like grandiose, schizophrenic, hypocritical, maudlin, and pawn.
Grandiose, Shih has relied on the pan-blue media to promote his grandiose scheme to attack Chen Shui-bian. Shih promised big in the pan-blue media and was recorded big but despite the hype he never delivered. Review the numbers. The grass roots March of a Million? At best it was 360,000 and this from the two million pan-blue voting base in their stronghold of Taipei and Taipei County. The One Million Voices Speaking Out by sending NT$100? The books demonstrating input receipts (not expenditures) have yet to be made transparent. There has never been an accurate verification of where all the money came from. It just appeared, and not long after Shih had a meeting in Thailand with the corrupt embezzler Chen Yu-hao, an anti-Chen fugitive on the run.
After the media touted Shih's March of a Million (aka 360,000) Shih grandiosely predicted he would fill Taipei with 1.5 to 2 million people in protest. This too never materialized. Despite full media coverage, the turnout proved to be even less than the 360,000 (March of a Million). Police estimated this second march at around 120,000; the pan-blue media after wild claims later realistically placed it at 300,000.
One public benefit that did occur however was the pressure for transparency on Shih's campaign funds. Sixty million of the one hundred and ten million had been spent. Further, one half of that sixty million dollars had been spent on advertising. Coincidentally, Jerry Fan, the spokesman of Shih's campaign also runs an advertising company. Did Jerry Fan have competitive bidding as to who received the over thirty million dollars in advertising business? Not on your life.
Others call Shih schizophrenic. Shih claims he wants to be one who will be remembered as the suffering servant but he exhibits dreams of being Il Duce. No one denies the years he spent in prison; but even then was his motivation for Taiwan alone or for the limelight of leadership? For those that know him, he can only live with the image of being the leader and hence the beginning of his conflicts with Chen Shui-bian in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Did he not in the past try to develop a controlling leadership in the Legislature including an alliance with the New Party? Is this part of what led him to take his football and go to play in the blue camp where the pay was better?
In the recent months, a split personality continues to emerge; Shih enjoys the rhetoric of war. He repeatedly speaks of his armies laying siege to the Presidential Palace. Photos display him amid atop a truck speaking through loud speakers. It is the image of a revolutionary in a banana republic setting out to topple the government.
Fantasy or personal dream, Shih nevertheless insults Taiwan by suggesting that its government can be toppled like that of a banana republic.
Shih then does a mood swing and speaks of peace and harmony. After talk of storming the gates and after using radios to communicate directions to his troops copying the method used by Rwanda leaders to tell their death squads where to attack, Shih goes into reverse and says that harmony is his goal. His enemies are the ones who are persecuting him; they are destabilizing the republic.
The line between the schizophrenic and the hypocritical is thin. Those that see Shih as a hypocrite point out how he ignores the corruption of those who are in league with him; he tries to avoid responsibility for his own corrupt and irresponsible past; he remains silent on the corruption of those who have paid his bills. In the past when it was time to stand up for Taiwan against the People's Republic of China's anti-secession law, Shih was nowhere to be seen.
The hypocritical image blends with the maudlin. While his followers baked in the hot sun, or chilled in the late evening watches, Shih often retired to his trailer like an aging soap opera star. Supposedly his health was not up to the strain, though he pledged he would die for Taiwan. This was unusual and contrasting behavior for one who had built a reputation for being able to party-hardy and would spend the wee hours of the morning carousing with friends. Even now, some even reported him spending vigil time in a piano bar.
Was Shih a pawn of the pan-blue party to whom he had become financially indebted? Some think so. There were classic photos of him between Ma Ying-jeou and James Soong. Soong clearly tried to work Shih's notoriety serve his own desperate ends.
Grandiose, schizophrenic, hypocritical, maudlin, or pawn, yet others see Shih as a tragic figure seeking redemption for the past wasted eight years of his life. Certainly he arouses the pity and fear which was the purpose of Greek tragedy. Pity because perhaps the fault may not be entirely of his making, fear because if it could happen to one who first went to prison for democracy, his betrayal of democracy could happen to others.
The drama plays on, but the red shirts have now been relegated to a supporting role. And as for the one hundred and ten million dollars, the scramble for the remaining fifty million dollars is already taking place behind the scenes. The media is turning its attention to the Taipei Mayor's race, so a million here and a million there will start to slip between the cracks. Shih's campaign spokesman Jerry Fan will continue to make claims that there will be strict accountability; a token amount will probably be given to charity for appearances sake. Then the remainder will be spent on advertising declaring what a success the movement had been.
[Taiwan] [DPP] [Ma Ying-jeou] [PFP] [Shih Ming-deh] [KMT]