What began as a smear campaign to discredit a Richardson Reports article on Tsai Ing-wen’s 1984 London School of Economics thesis turned into an unexpected bounty of new readers eager for accurate and independent reporting. The Taiwanese news media is awash in politics and money and does not get bogged down with details. given the long history of ambiguity that has fogged the island. Taiwanese readers seeking truth in the propaganda blizzard that the partisan media houses dish out flocked to Richardson Reports for information about Tsai’s thesis that was apparently first submitted to the LSE Library in 2019.
Spin artists in the Republic of China in-exile have sought to downplay ROC President Tsai’s dilemma over her diploma. The tardy submission of the LSE thesis has created quite a stir in the academic world and bitter exchanges between professors used to calling each other colleagues have caused the matter to become a political issue, while talks of litigation abound.
The tempest in a teapot threatens to engulf Tsai’s reelection campaign to head the ROC for a second term. Tsai’s tenure has been marred by criticism that she has not done enough to support Taiwan independence and her adherence to a sinking status quo that has seen the name Chinese Taipei increasingly forced on Taiwan by the People’s Republic of China which claims the island as unfinished business of the Chinese civil war. While Tsai has headed the government, seven nations have dropped diplomatic relations leaving only fifteen small countries that recognize the ROC.
In a bid to blame somebody for the mess Tsai finds herself mired in over the tardy thesis, Richardson Reports has been targeted as the source of the controversy. Although it is not true and ignores the work of Cao Chang-qing, Dennis Peng, Ho De-fen, Hwan Lin, Hsu Yungtai, and others, the first comprehensive account in English came from the blog that offers news not found anywhere else.
The four month old story went viral on social media thanks to all the televised attention and now 680,000+ new readers, most of them in Taiwan, are better informed. The latest news coverage is not what journalists call a “friendly piece” but instead is a smear campaign of insults and error.
The first big deal is that Richardson Reports is a blog. So what? Blogs are here to stay and make up a worldwide citizen journalist network. If Taiwanese reporters don’t like being scooped by an American blog all they have to do is cover the story.
Defense of Tsai Ing-wen comes from a variety of sources including her political supporters and people worried about changing horses in midstream. Making the thesis dispute go away seems to be a priority for her supporters with critics being cajoled into dropping the matter. The London School of Economics has entered the fray issuing a news release validating Tsai’s thesis and degree. However, LSE has not yet answered questions about the identity of the thesis examiners and the approval process. Unanswered questions don’t bother the Taiwanese media spinners when it is so easy to charge fake news and shift attention with insults.
Exclusive reports on the prosecution of leaders of Taiwan Civil Government for fraud have also drawn spin fire. A year-old story of international intrigue and allegations of deceit by TCG leaders has been ignored or censored by the news media. May 2018 arrests arrived with a shout by a manipulated media, tipped by police or prosecutors. After a big splash to demonize the defendants the news media dropped the story like a hot potato. Now Richardson Reports is slammed for doggedly pursing the story ignored by others. Ironically, the smear campaign has backfired bringing in many new readers and establishing the blog as a source of news not found anywhere else.