Thursday, 11 September 2014

On The Question Of Why I Was "Banned" By The Taipei Times

I will concede when I am guilty of a mistake or of the indiscipline of getting carried away. It seems to me that admitting your guilt, when guilty you are, is a personality attribute necessary for other attributes to play their part too. On Tuesday night I was guilty of breaking commenting rules I had agreed not to break. Not only was my comment deleted (which is fair enough - I subsequently revised it), but it was brought to my attention Wednesday morning, by way of implication, that a few years ago my "fate was sealed" at the Taipei Times (i.e. my letters would no longer be published) because I had also been guilty of rudeness then. This was news to me, since I had never asked for, and had never been given any explanation for why my letters were no longer published. However I must admit that I am prone to just say what I want when sometimes I should be more careful, so perhaps I am guilty of the charge. Let's consider the evidence: my letters to the Taipei Times in the time leading up to the "ban", which occured sometime between the end of April 2011 and the end of May 2011*...

My last published letter in the Taipei Times was this one published on the 23rd of April 2011. The tone is quite reasonable and it references one of the Taipei Times' own stories for the numbers cited therein. There is a note at the bottom of my blog-post entry expressing my annoyance that somebody at the Taipei Times altered my figures, but that was justified since 5 x 4 does not make 15.

The next letter I sent to the Taipei Times was on the 9th of May 2011. It was a response to an editorial piece advocating (poorly) the inclusion of "gender diversity" issues as part of school curricula. The first two paragraphs are a bit sharp, but there is nothing in there which could be construed as "rude" or "abusive" language.

A few days later on the 11th May 2011 I sent a letter to the Taipei Times rebutting Gavin Lee's insistence that Taiwan's nuclear power stations could immediately be replaced by solar energy. The letter contained a rather sharp criticism of surplus purchasing schemes in its' third paragraph, but it did not contain any rude or abusive language.

Two weeks later I wrote another letter to the Taipei Times on the 22nd May 2011. In it, I said that other people's views and opinions should not be dismissed on account of perceived "hatred" as one Michael Scanlon had insisted. Scanlon had claimed that the use of the phrase "homosexual agenda" in another letter by somebody called Carol Nichols was "hateful" and "hate-filled" and "repugnant" (and several other barbs), with the obvious implication that therefore her views should be dismissed. However, as I pointed out in my letter, Scanlon himself (and no shortage of others) had written things about the KMT and President Ma that could just as easily be construed as "hateful". I still think this was an excellent point well worth making.

At the end of May 2011 (the 27th), I sent another letter to them concerning what was then the breaking DEHP-tainted drinks scandal. Again, the tone is reasonable and there is no use of rude or abusive language whatsoever. Since that letter went unpublished, I sent a second letter on the same topic the following Tuesday (31st May 2011) in which I asked questions of how the original DEHP revelations had come to light and pressed further my point that there ought to be a critical look at how the FDA regulations are designed. Again this letter contained no rude or abusive language but again, it went unpublished. I sent a third, and final letter on the subject of the DEHP scandal and the rapidly proposed "solutions" for the drinks industry on Friday the 3rd of June 2011. Once again the letter contained no rude or abusive language, yet even as I sent it I had the distinct feeling that I might have saved myself the effort and not bothered, which proved to be correct as it also went unpublished.

It was at this point - after three consecutive unpublished letters on the same topic, that it dawned on me I had been "banned". That realization was aided by reading the letters from other people that did get published, for instance this one, which offered no fresh analysis of the problem but instead merely repeated the sense of outrage and a simplistic call for the government to enact unspecified regulation to "solve the issue once and for all".

The available evidence from the letters I sent to the Taipei Times during that period between the end of April to the end of May 2011 shows no rude or abusive language.

But what about the other intervening blog posts I made during that period? A scroll through my archives reveals just over 60 blog posts made between the date of my last published letter and my 3rd letter on the DEHP scandal. Of those 60 posts, only 16 had anything to do with the Taipei Times. Two of these were posts about Mark Rawson, who in the previous September had insinuated that the Taipei Times could be taken to court for printing a letter from me. I was scathing of Rawson, but I'm not sure what, if any, connection he has to the Taipei Times. The other 14 posts were various responses to articles in the Taipei Times which could easily be listed and made available here.

As far as I can tell, my "fate was sealed" at the Taipei Times not because my language was rude or abusive but because of the substance of my letters and the irritation and perhaps embarassment these letters gave to the people who worked there at the time. Of course, not having been privy to the decision I really don't know for certain why they "banned" me.

*Also, at one point toward the end of that period, my blogger account was temporarily suspended.

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