Now that Hung Hsiu-chu has passed the polling primary, it is highly likely that she will become the KMT’s presidential nominee. If that happens, it seems inevitable that this post will get some attention. (Actually, it already has.) While I would prefer for that post to stay relatively obscure, I think I should add some comments just in case it goes viral.
I returned to Taiwan in late 2009 to take a position at Academia Sinica, and I started this blog in early 2010. It was a fairly anonymous enterprise for most of the first year. I was still trying to figure out what kind of blog this would be. For example, I experimented with rendering all Chinese names and places in hanyu pinyin, though that turned out to be a disaster. I wanted the blog to be mostly neutral. Of course I have strong personal opinions about Taiwanese politics, but I did not want the blog to shove those views down readers’ throats. I hoped it would be a source that people from all camps would find useful and informative. During those early months when I was still trying to establish a reputation for the blog, I worried a lot about avoiding anything that might be interpreted as openly partisan. At the same time, I was well aware that very few people knew of the blog, and very few people were reading anything I wrote.
When I wrote the story about Hau’s campaign rally, I thought it would disappear into the ether just like everything else I had written up to that point. I was genuinely taken aback by the harshness of Hung Hsiu-chu’s speech at that rally. I was not in Taiwan during the Red Shirt movement, and I may have missed a sharp increase in the stridence of the average speech. From rereading the post, it seems the people in the audience had heard it all before and Hung’s tone was nothing unusual. For me, however, it was a jolt. I had never heard that degree of open incivility. The post is an honest representation of my shock at her speech.
If I had the opportunity to rewrite the post, I would only change one thing. I would delete the last sentence of the seventh paragraph, which says, “You got the idea that if it were up to her, she might settle on some medieval torture (flaying the skin, burning flesh, breaking bones, all while the victim is still alive) as an appropriate sentence.” That sentence went far beyond what she said. I was trying to be dramatic and evocative, and I went way overboard. The previous sentence, “She wanted pain, not simple punishment.” would have been sufficient.
By the way, her comment about “some relief yesterday” refers to a Supreme Court ruling on one of the Chen Shui-bian corruption cases. I’m also amused by my judgment that Hau Lung-pin was in trouble. He eventually won re-election by a comfortable margin. Please remember this swing and miss the next time I’m brave enough to make a prediction. My musing about Ma Ying-jeou hitting his stride was more accurate. Looking back, the year and a half or so between the ECFA debate and his re-election was the high point of his presidency.
I had no idea this post would be an internet hit. However, the blogger Echo Taiwan translated my post into Chinese and added an incendiary title, “Garden of Hatred.” His blog, which seems to be inactive now, had a much larger readership than mine. I imagine only a small minority of his readers clicked on the link to read my original English-language version. Even so, it was a veritable deluge for me. That single post got about four times as many page views as I had been averaging for an entire month. Even now when I have a far larger base of readers, that article is still the most viewed post I have published on this blog. You can imagine my horror. I had finally written something that seemed to make an impact, and it was being used as a partisan attack piece!
In retrospect, I don’t blame Echo at all. I wrote the piece and published it. Once it was released into the wild, it became fair game for him and everyone else. I should have been more cautious and less sensational. Moreover, I didn’t set out to defame Hung Hsiu-chu. She is the one who gave the strident and incendiary speech. I merely reacted to it, and Echo picked up on my reaction. Hung is ultimately responsible for her speech, and I’m sure she is willing to stand behind those words. She’s not called the “little chili pepper” for nothing. She speaks her mind, and she doesn’t back away from controversy. I’m sure I’m not the first person she has ever shocked, and I doubt my reaction would have bothered her very much.