Battlepanda: When it rains, it pours


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

When it rains, it pours

It's been one of those ridiculously, ungodly rainy Taiwanese days. It's pouring so hard that my schnauzer has steadfastedly refused to set a paw outside the house. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 protesters wearing red (presumably for anger) has gathered at Ketagelan Avenue to call for the resignation of President Chen Shui-Bian.

I feel like the protest movement in the United States could do with a talent like Fan Ke-shin (范可欽). A advertizing professional, he has generated a series of stunts for this campaign to dispose of Chen, some of which have worked out (the red shirts), some of which have not (the plan to seat the protesters in the shape of a giant compass). All of them gathered tremendous amount of publicity. If protester in the U.S. wishes to find their lost relevance, they can do worse than to take a few pages from Fan's book. First of all, get centralized. One humungous demonstration announced well in advance is a lot harder to ignore than lots of smaller, impromptu ones that does little more than let the participants vent. Secondly, get unified -- by rallying behind one message, one sign (the 'thumbs down') and one strongly identifiable item of clothing (the red shirts), the protesters made their point clearer and their presence stronger. I wasn't at Ketagalan avenue. But I've seen protestors on the MRT in their red shirts. Finally, and most importantly, control your publicity because ultimately the perception of your protest is alot more important than how the protest itself. I think that Fan has been mostly successful on all counts, despite having caught much flak himself as being too gimmicky.

So, what has Chen, or A-Bian as he is popularly known, done to deserve this popular wrath? Plenty. To be fair, a lot of the most serious charges are aimed not at him but at his family. His son in law has been indicted on insider trading charges. His wife most probably took inappropriately lavish gifts of jewels and gift certificates. As if influence-peddling relatives aren't enough, A-Bian himself have failed to account properly for funds in his National Affairs budget. To me the last is the most serious charge, although the amounts involved are smaller and did not necessarily go into his own coffers. Added to this melange of unseemly behavior is the fact that he came into power on a pro-democracy anti-corruption ticket. Oi.

However, despite my disgust at Chen, I'm not rushing out to sit on Ketagalan avenue, nor have I donated my $100nt. Frankly, I don't think that this movement is productive. Chen has already made it clear that he intends to serve out the rest of his term come hell or high water. Having survived the initial pressure of the breaking scandal and the recall effort by the opposition, I think the smart money is on Chen hanging tough. And if the anti-Chen forces did force him to resign, a bad precedent would have been set of defeating an opponent not at the polls, but at Ketagalan avenue; of disposing of a badly-behaved president not through the courts, but through a mob.

On the plus side, maybe ruling politicians of the future would think harder before slipping that hand into the cookie jar.