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Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Has the Taipei Times been infected by TVBS and the China Post?

After spending two full weeks trying to contact both birders and people associated with the HSR project to get details that were missing from the article -- specifically images of bird strikes by the train -- I finally found one image on my own.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Although it comes with its own exaggerated headline about "12 ghosts of [beings] who were wrongly put to death or murdered," this photo indeed appears to show several marks which could certainly be bird strikes. (Note that the marks are unhelpfully obscured by thick red outlines [to help readers see the obvious?] which only serve to sensationalize a story which is bad enough on its own.) Having said that, it still doesn't qualify for the term "massacre." I wish that the person whose words Shelley Shan repeated and amplified hadn't used that description. At the same time, I hope that the operators of the HSR will do everything possible -- if they're not already -- to prevent this kind of thing from happening all along the trains' path, most especially in areas where birds like the Jacana and raptor are endangered.

Having said that, reporters who blowdry their HSR tickets, purposely insert expired tickets into the entry gates, or set off fire alarms to create false news stories are still psycho, and I'm sticking to that.

Everything below (except the strikethru) remains as it was originally written so you can see my mistakes. If anyone wants me to remove something, just ask, and I'll see if it warrants removal. [/END UPDATE]

Bloviating birdwatchers bleed blue blood

Cue up some Bernard Herrmann and check out this exaggerated headline to an article in Monday's Taipei Times:
High speed trains said to be causing bird massacre
That's right -- "massacre." For your info, here is Reference.com's definition of that word:
1. the unnecessary, indiscriminate killing of a large number of human beings or animals, as in barbarous warfare or persecution or for revenge or plunder.
2. a general slaughter, as of persons or animals: the massacre of millions during the war.
3. Informal. a crushing defeat, esp. in sports.
verb (used with object)
4. to kill unnecessarily and indiscriminately, esp. a large number of persons.
5. Informal. to defeat decisively, esp. in sports.
Here is the most ridiculous part of the Taipei Times article:
Birdwatchers in southern Taiwan said last week that bullet trains are killing "many" wild birds along the high speed rail routes. Although they could not provide numbers to support their claims, they pointed to bloodstains "commonly seen" on the bullet trains as evidence of an avian massacre.
It's a damn shame to see sensationalist writing like this in the Taipei Times, but this isn't the first time I've complained about their writing in recent days. On the first day of this new year, I had this to say about their lack of self-awareness:
Hey, Taipei Times editors -- wake up and smell what you've published!
Looks like they need another reminder.

It's certainly unfortunate when animals die because of human carelessness, but cars, trains, and airplanes kill birds every day, despite efforts to avoid such things. Being a vegetarian and an animal lover myself, I would agree totally that if such a problem exists, something should be done about it. However, such exaggerated reporting does little to help the situation. The frenzied media reports I've seen about the HSR have shown viewers everything but "bloodstains" on the train, and the content has given me little reason to believe them this time around.

This and this and this and this are what actual massacres look like, by the way.

Psycho newsfakers
I describe these reporters as "psycho" because they spend valuable time pretending that it's in the viewers' interest to tell them about incredibly foolish things that I can't really think they expect me to believe are important. For example, one report demonstrated that if you hold a blowdryer a couple of inches from your HSR ticket and direct the hot air onto it, it will turn black. (Gasp!)

Without too much effort, I think you can figure out the problem with their "logic." One might also conclude that if people have a habit of blowdrying their HSR tickets, their brains have already turned to mush.

Who dunnit?
The byline of the Taipei Times article tells us it was written by Shelley Shan (冼立華). The name stood out because I recalled that Shan co-wrote two articles just after the recent earthquakes in southern Taiwan in which she quoted TVBS twice when she could have quoted just about any TV station that reported the same basic information about the quakes and failed to clarify basic details of the story.

Shan's name doesn't begin appearing on articles in the Taipei Times until 2006, so I wondered if she was part of the reason for or merely a symptom of the decline in quality in that paper lately. Then I discovered that she used to work for the China Post. That kind of tears the curtain open a bit, eh?

"Consumer advocates" bleed blue blood, too
Another group being used in an attempt to add credibility to the crazy complaints about the HSR is the "non-governmental" Consumers' Foundation. A quick web search revealed to me that their full English name is "CONSUMERS' FOUNDATION, CHINESE TAIPEI." Next time you see this group complaining about something while accompanied by pan-blue legislators, that might make you think twice about the validity of the complaints. In fact, since you should normally think twice anyway, think 39 times in these cases!

And remember, question everything -- especially vertigo-inducing things like this!

Liberty Times image
Translation: The man at left is saying, "The HSR is green, better paint it black!" (i.e., "vilify it via groundless allegations"). On the front of the train is the short form of "High Speed Rail," or "高鐵." To the right, a man with sunglasses is holding a sign which reads, "Refuse to ride!! Consumers' Foundation," using the short form of their name, "消基會."

Alfred Hitchcock's unfinished movies: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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At 5:53 PM, Anonymous The Foreigner said...

I thought about blogging about that headline too, though my take would have been that it sounded like environmentalist exaggeration.

I think your analysis is probably closer to the mark.

At 11:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look, the consumer foundation is going to grouse about silly stuff, OK? That's what they do on a pretty much non-partisan basis. There are lots of Taiwanese organizations who still have the "Chinese, Taipei" in their name as a vestige. It really doesn't mean much. Frankly, most of this post borders on the paranoid, even though I agree with you that "massacre" is a little over the top as a descriptor. Sheesh. Not everything is a partisan conspiracy, okay?

At 2:27 AM, Blogger Tim Maddog said...

Battlepanda, thanks for taking the time to visit and comment. I didn't write this post without first putting a lot of thought into what I wrote. Nevertheless, your words encouraged me to try to present a little more evidence for the benefit of those who haven't seen seen these things with their own eyes.

Can you guess what I was able to find in just a few moments of searching? Just last year, the header on the Consumers' Foundation web site said "Taiwan Taipei" [sic]. Here are links to an archived version and the current version of the same page. Therefore, their label of "CHINESE TAIPEI" isn't a "vestige" at all -- it's a recent change. See for yourself.

Still think I'm just paranoid?

Tim Maddog

At 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right or wrong, what does this have to do with politics?

At 1:24 PM, Blogger Hazel N said...

I know Shelley Shan and just because she used to work for the China Post doesn't mean she is a rabid disciple of Shih Ming-teh or KMT infiltrator. She is a pleasant girl just trying to make a living.
Give her a break and as battlepanda says, stop being so paranoid.

At 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

China Post's English edition suffers deeply from deep-Blue bias as well as poorly edited English. Some of their writers are basically waisheng that live in the U.S. for awhile because it's a lot harder to find foreigners to push their agenda (though I suppose never impossible).

That said, I have always thought the Taipei Times had weird headlines. It's like it tries too hard to come up with conventional American headlines and they end up getting it wrong. Their reporting is much better quality than China Post, but still, not as good as it should be. Their website is also low quality.

I don't know if Shelley is showing Blue bias or not. I would say it's fairly plausible she is trying to capitalize on sensationalism, which is no better, but at least without a political tinge.

Good thing for this blog and a few others eh?

At 7:34 PM, Anonymous James said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's been noticed before

At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Webmaster for the Consumers' Foundation Website

At 3:44 AM, Blogger Tim Maddog said...

I deleted James' 7:34 PM comment because a very long URL within messed up the page formatting a bit, but I've reposted it here -- the only changes being that I've replaced the long URL with a shorter hotlink (on "Consumers International") and turned the other visible URLs into clickable links:
- - -
At 7:34 PM, James said...

Maddog, have you seen the following links?

Chinese Blog: 1/6

Chinese article: 1/9

The Consumer Foundation is part of Consumers International

Search for the foundation under Taiwan and you get no matches. Search under China and you get matches for two Taiwanese organizations.

There is a complaint form you can fill out here

The question is whether the consumer foundation is willingly being listed as Chinese Taipei or not. Even if they are not, they have control of their own website and are free to do whatever they want and really need to list Taiwan where possible, just for the search engine results.
- - -

Thanks for the info, James. There's some good stuff in there. However, I need to make some slight corrections. The search of Consumers Int'l for "China" gives 3 results: one in Beijing, one in Macau, and one in Hong Kong. You are correct that the search for "Taiwan" gives no results, but there's a separate item in that menu for "Chinese Taipei." I'm guessing that's what you meant (where you said "China"), since it returns 2 results, both of which are organizations located in Taipei. Interestingly, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are all given separate listings in the "Search for a member by country" menu on that site, but searches for Hong Kong and Macau give no results either.

As for your question about whether the Consumers' Foundation (the one based in Taiwan) is "willingly" appending "Chinese Taipei" onto their name, their behavior should answer that question. The "TV-BullShit" link tells about how the Consumers' Foundation is still using the "Taiwan Taipei" extension on their name when doing their push poll about the HSR (question #3 actually asks if respondents "want to be a 'lab rat'") but not at other times. If you've heard the nonsense they've been spreading about the HSR, there'll be a huge difference if you go see for yourself, which I highly recommend doing. When I visited the Taichung HSR Station last Saturday, nobody was making a fuss, and tickets were sold out for the following 3 to 4 hours. It doesn't sound like Consumers' Foundation is listening to the public, does it? Instead, it sounds like they're telling the public what to think.

Regarding Hazel N's comment, who's paranoid? I didn't mention anything about Shelley Shan being a "rabid disciple of Shih Ming-teh." Was that a Freudian slip? (If so, thanks for the tip.) I was only commenting based on things I actually observed.

Regarding the 11:35 PM anonymous comment immediately below Hazel's, I was referring to a recent decline in the the quality of the Taipei Times' reporting. Nothing is "as good as it should be" -- even this blog -- but we do our best with what we have, and I hope the Taipei Times will do something about its problems. While I still have hope for them, I consider both the China Post and the China Times to be beyond salvation. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement.

If the other anonymous comments (both at 7:52 PM) were submitted by someone else, thanks for those, too. Anyone else reading, please follow the links and see for yourselves who else has noticed.

Tim Maddog

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous James said...

Tim, the Consumers International webmaster was quick. So quick that between the time my friend filled a complaint and I posted and you responded, you already couldn't see the two organizations listed under China.

Unfortunately, instead of properly listing the websites under Taiwan, he/she simply moved the listings to Chinese Taipei. I don't have a link to the women's association website, but since the foundation lists itself as Chinese Taipei, the webmaster is understandably confused. If he looked on Wikipedia, he/she would only be additionally confused:
Republic of China

At 12:28 AM, Blogger Tim Maddog said...

Thanks for correcting my correction of you, James. I stand corrected.

That's quite interesting, the way Consumers International "corrected" things. I just sent them a long comment to see if I can get a better outcome. If I'm successful, I'll report the results back here. If you catch any changes before I do, submit another comment here, or send us an e-mail.

Thanks again for the info and the effort!

Tim Maddog

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous riko said...

China post and TVBS (plus many other china-hugging newspapers and media) like to write fiction as their reports...

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Tom W. said...

Having talked to an engineer who got to go on several of the HST test runs, I think I can understand use of hyperhole; in absolute terms a 'massacre' might seem ridiculous, but when observing the front of the train rip through the countryside my friend remarked on how birds were continually rolling off the hood of the train ... he was quite shocked.

Of course, in context with all birds killed by vehicle traffic, it's still probably quite small ... but still able to leave a meaningful impression. Definitely a 'slaughter'. BOT cost cutting messed up getting a good bird noise making set up along the way ? [i]That's[/i] the political story here.


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