Newspaper article China Post

One Funeral and a Media Frenzy

Newspaper article China Post

One Funeral and a Media Frenzy

Article excerpt

Snapping turtle is a delicacy in China and Japan. It's considered an aphrodisiac, and its blood was believed to cure tuberculosis in those days when consumption was regarded as incurable. To get hot blood of the turtle, which had to be mixed with wine and drunk, a quack had to cut off its head. All he had to do was to poke the turtle's head with a chopstick, which it would snap, gently withdraw the snapped chopstick until its neck was out of the shell, and cut the head off. Easy? Clever humans know the snapping turtle, once it bites anything, won't let it go till death.

Chinese media in Taipei have turned themselves into snapping turtles. They bit the death of Corporal Hung Chung-chiu of the headquarters company of the 269th Brigade on July 3 and wouldn't let it go, casting the military as a colossal Marquis de Sade preying on the college graduate draftee scheduled for separation in a week's time.

Let's first review what happened to Corporal Hung before his tragic death. He had a pass to go home and returned to the barracks, carrying with him a forbidden camera phone. He was ordered to be confined to the guard house. During the confinement, he was ordered to do push-ups in the drill ground under the scorching sun. He got thirsty and asked for a drink of cold water, but was denied. He returned to his cell in the guard house where he had an attack of heatstroke. Then, he was taken to hospital where he died.

So far as the military is concerned, it's just a mere unfortunate accident that may occur more often than not while troops are being trained - not so vigorously, nowadays, however - to be worthy combatants. Today's young men are known as "strawberries." Tall, handsome, though a little fat, they look nice like over-ripe strawberries, which may be crushed by the laying-on of a finger. Draftees of a generation or two ago were given more vigorous training but practically all of them survived.

Corporal Hung's bereaved family complained, and rightfully, of course. Reporters seized the accident like piranha attracted by blood and blew it out of all proportion, while editors, faithfully following Taiwan's sanctified tradition of yellow journalism, have ordered wider and more sensational coverage to transform the military into Taiwan's Public Enemy No. 1. Pages have been dedicated to expose, charges and condemnation of military brutality every day.

Electronic media hate to be outdone. Their daily talk shows never let go of the invented controversy by ginning up the Corporal Hung Incident. As a result, the controversy has become self-perpetuating. More coverage leads people to be more radically emotional in word and deed, which are reported to make the controversy long lasting, so much so that more than 30,000 protesters called up online took to the street in Taipei last week and President Ma Ying-jeou had to apologize twice, promising to personally see to it that justice is done. …

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