13 April 2013

Taiwan’s Thatcher mix-up

Well, as a Sinophile and an Anglophile, and as a blogger who has recently been requested to do more coverage of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the OCCs, here was a story I couldn’t really pass up. The normally execrable Wall Street Journal has a reasonably penetrating and thoughtful article on the topic (here linked), which delves into the rather sorry state of Taiwan’s current news media. Of course, Chung T’ien TV’s (中天電視) reporting on Baroness Thatcher’s death with footage of the Queen heading the story is an inexcusable error, and replacing that footage with a clip of Meryl Streep (in her role as the former PM in the recent biopic) just made the whole thing laughably ridiculous. This series of mistakes may be lamentable and inexcusable, and they may indeed say a great deal about the inadequacies of Taiwan’s news media, but mustn’t one consider that the way the British press and society approached the death of Thatcher makes the mistake somewhat comprehensible?

Here we have, as Peter Oborne points out in the Telegraph (in the voice, as David Lindsay claims, of ‘the traditional Toryism that respects Constitution and convention, and which believes in national unity’), a funeral which was undertaken with all the pomp and honours of a state occasion without actually being called such. (Tellingly, it has been called a ‘ceremonial funeral’, a concept invented for the occasion of the death of Princess Diana and used since only for the Queen Mother.) And the fact that the Queen lent these honours to a ‘transformational’ Prime Minister such as Thatcher whilst refusing to give the same honours to another such one as Clement Attlee makes her appear partisan in such a way as materially damages the state of the monarchy. If Taiwanese media mistook Thatcher first for the Queen and then for a movie star, it could well be argued that they could do so only because the modern British Conservatives did so first. Speaking from a purely Confucian point of view, these are not proper rites and music for the death of a civilian Prime Minister, let alone for one who had done as much to polarise British society and demolish British working-class communities as Thatcher.

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