Wednesday, June 17, 2015

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Embarrassing: Taiwanese vote for themselves to top CNN's poll

6/17/2015 Taiwan Explorer

These days Taiwanese media started to share an article by CNN named Which destination has the world's best food? To my surprise, Taiwan topped that list, which was made based on a public poll CNN launched a while ago on their Facebook page. When I saw that Taiwan is on top of that list, and so far ahead of countries like Italy, Japan, Thailand, France, Mexico and China, which are all world famous for their cuisine, my BS alarm went on. Let me first say that I like Taiwanese food very much, but to be honest, Taiwanese cuisine is in no way famous around the world, that's just a fact. Sure, guabao and bubble tea are gaining some popularity around the globe, but they are basically marketed as snacks, not as serious cuisine. And they're often very modified to cater to local tastes, which means they mostly retain the original name, but have very little in common with the real Taiwanese guabao and bubble tea. But I guess that's true for a lot of dishes (compare pizza in Taiwan with pizza in Italy...). I digress. The problem I have here has nothing to do with Taiwanese cuisine by itself which can be fantastic, I just find it sad that Taiwanese netizens so often storm international sites to either a) defend Taiwan, if someone is criticizing it, or b) vote for Taiwan, if it's put on some bogus list. Obviously the latter happened here, and it also lead us to another issue I have with Taiwanese media: It always loves to report these lists, sometimes even from irrelevant unknown blogs, whenever Taiwan is portrayed in a good light. Check out this post from last year on an unknown blog (that mainly writes click bait articles) with the title Top 10 Safest Countries in the World. Taiwan was ranked 2nd safest country in the world here, and most Taiwanese media reported on it. And check out the comments on that post, like 90% of them are made by Taiwanese. Another article on an unknown yet similar blog also put Taiwan at number 2 among Top 10 Safest Countries In The World To Settle In 2014, and media reported on it. Not only that, the government did it, too. Filed under 'Policies & Programs', this piece had to be highlighted on the Executive Yuan's website:

Not long ago Taiwanese netizens upvoted a photoshopped moon bridge photo on Bored Panda, a tabloid style blog, after the media started to report that the image is on a list of top mystical bridges. You probably won't be surprised, if I tell you that the image became 'no 1 mystical bridge in the world' on that blog (and it turned out that in reality the bridge wasn't mystical at all). I sure understand where this behavior is coming from. A major part is the lack of recognition as a country due to China's aggressive opposition on the global stage, and another reason is low self confidence and a complex identity, a consequence of a decade long authoritarian regime. But let's get back to the most recent case. Taiwan tops a food list on CNN, the media reports on it, everybody is excited and baffled of sorts: "Oh wow, CNN readers - foreigners? - they must love Taiwanese food so much, it's amazing." Ok, I'm exaggerating a bit on purpose here. 

From Apple Daily to Yahoo to Buzz Orange and, Taiwan's yellow press is proud to share yet another self-made recognition of Taiwan in the world!

Since I had great doubts about this incredible result, the first thing I wanted to do is to find that poll, and check whether it's legit or not. If yes, I'd love to share it on my Facebook page. It took me some time before I found it, because it was actually posted on April 1st, but the results were published two days ago. No doubt, Taiwan won - and by a big margin. Impressive one might think in that moment when he or she sees these numbers.

The good thing about Facebook polls is that you can click on the individual result (in this case on the value next to the country's name), and you will get a list of people who voted for that particular item. When I clicked on the +8.2k square, this popped up:

An overwhelming number of Taiwanese netizens! I haven't counted all the 8,293 people of course, but based on my extensive scrolling, I assume that well over 90% of the voters must come from Taiwan. You can check by yourself. If you mouseover the names of the voters, you'll often see "come from Taiwan" in their profile.

I know a lot of people will say "ah, you think too much" or "why do you write about these silly things", but for me this is part of the same problem that we observed merely a few days before, when an online mob raged against an American girl who criticized a racist video, because she said "she doesn't want to have anything to do with a country that makes garbage like this". For some people, that was more important to discuss than the racism on display in the video. And that made me very uncomfortable until today.

PS: The Filipinos have done the same thing on this poll as Taiwanese.