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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Lack of accountability powers Ko

Lack of accountability powers Ko

Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Tuesday last week made a controversial remark, saying that he does not waste food at meals. His remark caused a stir on social media.

This is classic Ko, making a gaffe and not owning up to the mistake.

Pundits have commented on the definition of food waste, given deep analyses of people with a propensity for misspeaking and delved into food waste policy.

However, what is remarkable and disturbing is that Ko seems to be able to keep on making off-the-cuff remarks while not losing any support.

At a rally on July 16, a woman held a sign with a list of Ko’s sexist and misogynistic comments in silent protest, but was trolled and abused online, while Ko denied the accusations with the nonchalant comment: “What has that got to do with me?”

At the end of the month, the TPP’s English-language slogan “vote white, vote right” was attacked for having racist connotations.

The TPP hit back, saying that candidates surnamed White in the US would also use “vote White” as a slogan.

In August, to establish a female supporters’ group in Taipei, dancers in flight attendant outfits — dubbed “the stewardess support team” by organizers — performed at a campaign event. After the Taoyuan Flight Attendants’ Union accused the TPP of “sexualizing and objectifying female flight attendants” with the dance routine, Ko’s supporters hit back, saying that porn also objectifies women, but no one is making a fuss.

In September, Ko wrote in the preface of his comic book autobiography Keep Promise (漫畫柯文哲), that in Taiwan, comics are for children, and that they are rarely used as a means to discuss serious issues. Ko’s office has said that the book triggered debate because it was “misunderstood.”

Last month was uneventful, with Ko not making a single verbal blunder, but this month the same Ko that people know well returned to form.

Still, his supporters continued speaking up for him, saying that inedible things cannot be called “food waste.”

Ko’s slip-ups are almost a daily occurence, but it is disturbing that the gaffes, which at times touch upon gender and race, have not made a difference to his campaign.

Opinion polls in July did not give the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) any incentive to propose an alliance with the TPP, but it was begging at the door last month.

Despite his blunders, Ko is still considered a worthy opponent, enough to sit at the table with the more-than-century-old party.

Nonetheless, there is a pattern: Ko makes a gaffe; an uproar ensues; Ko denies the gaffe; his supporters speak up for him; and the controversy fizzles out without so much as a single apology.

Aside from the “vote white, vote right” slogan that the party pulled from its Web site for fear of offending the US, the TPP has never done any soul-searching, as it never suffers from Ko’s gaffes.

The more blunders Ko makes, the more popular he becomes.

The KMT is responsible to a degree for creating this situation. Even though the KMT has an open-minded faction that supports gender equality, it has never openly condemned Ko’s sexism and misogyny.

Indulgence has given birth to the haughty, egotistical opponent that the KMT has no choice but to bend its knee to today.

Nonetheless, a fair share of the responsibility falls on people who give him mindless support. Whenever politicians make a sexist remark, they should be condemned and compelled to apologize regardless of their political affiliation. If a person who makes a gaffe is not held to account by others on their team, it gives birth to a self-centered egotistical maniac like Ko.

Chang Yueh-han is an adjunct assistant professor at Shih Hsin University’s Department of Journalism.

Translated by Rita Wang

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2023/11/09

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