Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And the name games continue...

Yesterday, a different version of Friday's post, It's all in a name appeared as a letter in the Taipei Times. A copy of the Taipei Times letter appears below. In Friday's post we pointed out how the media can subtly influence the perception of something by their choice of name. The old story of story of what some call hero others call villain.

On Friday we pointed out how the Taipei Times seems to box anyone who speaks out over, or protests over an issue linked to the environment as an "environmentalist" or "activist" or "conservationist" or some other "ism." Create the impression that just greeny-hippie-bunny-hugger-types are up in arms. The lunatic fringe again! When in fact it is Joe Citizen and it's civic groups, concerned residents, teachers, academics, parents, farmers and so the list could go on. They are people we relate to. They are everyday regular folk. They are us. And they've had enough of polluted skies, fields and waterways. They've had enough of greed and corruption and they want it to stop.

Yet again today we see another Taipei Times article (Petrochemical project slammed by protest group) about a protest over the fourth expansion project at Formosa Plastics Corp’s sixth naphtha cracker complex in Mailiao Township, Yunlin County. And once again we learn that was those pesky "local environmental activists" again. There's that subtle boxing to create the impression it's the lunatic fringe again. Yes, they do name some of the groups represented at the protest. And right at the end, almost as a footnote, we learn that there actually were more than 30 civic groups from across the country. But in those all important opening paragraphs we read "protest" "small" "local environmental activists."

We learn nothing really about what they are protesting about beyond the most obvious. Some of the seemingly dirty underhanded ways the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was passed are touched on but no mention of Formosa Plastics horrendous environmental track record even gets a mention. No mention of all the recent fires. No mention of how they have attacked freedom of speech with their recent SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) where two Formosa Plastics affiliates filed a lawsuit against Professor Tsuang Ben-jei (莊秉潔) of National Chung Hsing University’s (NCHU) department of environmental engineering because they claim that he said emissions from FPG's sixth naphtha cracker plant in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township (麥寮) resulted in a higher cancer occurrence rate amongst nearby residents which has injured FPG's reputation. Yeah, the criminal suit brought by two Formosa Plastics affiliates that are also investors in the Mailiao off shore facility has been dismissed – i.e., non indictment. FPG can “appeal.” However, a civil suit is still pending.

None of this makes it into the article. No mention of the threats that the likes of the Mailiao plant pose to local residents both human and non human like the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins.

Why? Why is the article so selective in what it reports? It's obvious that the protesters aren't getting a boost from the media for their cause. So who is?

Taipei Times letter- July 30, 2012.
It’s all in the name

What one calls a terrorist another calls a liberator. It is all in the name; how those who hold power or desire power wish the masses to perceive something. The media obviously plays its part in all this.

Take the Taipei Times article “Environmentalists protest over EIA” (July 26, page 3). Environmentalists? Images of long-haired hippie types stuck in a 1960s mindset rambling on about free love and Mother Earth come to mind. And I am pretty sure that is just what some politicians, developers and corporations want you to think. “Yeah, the lunatic fringe up in arms again causing disruptions!”

The first paragraph of the article read as follows:

“Environmentalists yesterday protested against an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for an expansion project at a naphtha cracker complex that failed to include fine particles.”

You would be forgiven for thinking it was just those pesky environmentalists that have a problem with an environmental impact assessment for the fourth phase expansion project at Formosa Plastics Corp’s sixth naphtha cracker complex in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township (麥寮). Some group of crazy green bunny-huggers whining about fine particles not being listed.

Now, let us delete “environmentalists” and give a more accurate description of those that typically are present at these protests against the expansion projects down in Mailao:

“Concerned local residents, civic groups, fishers, farmers, workers, teachers, academics, parents, lawyers, doctors, conservation and environmental groups yesterday protested against an EIA for an expansion project at a naphtha cracker complex that failed to include fine particles.”

OK, it is a bit long, but you get the point. It sounds different, doesn’t it? It changes things. We relate to these people. They are us. They do not sound so loony.

However, the Taipei Times so often boxes these regular folks and organizations as “environmentalists” or “activists” or some other “ism.” I am sure the so-called developers must smile at this subtle eroding of Joe Citizen’s image and credibility.

You see. It is not just environmentalists that are pissed off with Formosa Plastics and its toxic hell down in Mailiao. After all the pollution, fires, greed and lack of ethics, after soaring cancer rates, dirty air and smokey gray skies, people have had enough. They want to know why the Environmental Protection Agency allows this toxic nightmare to continue.

However, others would have you believe it is just some nutty environmentalists who have a problem with it.

T.W. Sousa, Yunlin County

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