Taking people for fools

By Eric Loo
Jul 4, 11 | MalaysiaKini

Each time I log in to non-mainstream media to catch up on news in Malaysia, I see the same old stories about how bad things have become since the 1980s – from financial scandals and systemic corruption to institutional discrimination and dill heads running the country. My reactions have become passé.

Each time I come home, friends and kin tell more stories about how bleak they see their future as being. Once, these were mere stories and theories we shared over mugs of teh tarik during the pre-Internet days when the government-controlled media was our main source of political news.

Today, the mainstream media still dance to the same beat. But the personal stories I hear are angrier and more despondent. I hear stories of how their business and their children’s future are being whittled away and denied by institutions set adrift by poor governance and abuse of power by under-qualified bureaucrats.

Some hope that in their lifetime there will be an Aquino-like ‘Yellow Revolution’ as in Manila in 1986 to clean up our act and institute a regime change.

Multi-sector corruption. Cronyism. Government bailouts of failed mega-projects. Abuse of affirmative action. Sleaze politics. These are painfully killing the people’s faith in the government as evident from my conversations with taxi drivers and hawkers to the AB demographics. I’m amazed at how these plights are not often thoroughly investigated nor critically reported. What we read are pages and pages of infantile trivia and redundant juvenile ruminations about life by equally juvenile tabloid writers.

Journalists working under the current regime often rationalise their inadequate and woefully written stories in this way: “We know these are important issues. But our hands are tied. There are too many restrictive media laws. Putrajaya occasionally interferes. And, editors often censor.”

I often mull over how Malaysian journalists could be better trained and educated to write intelligently about what we’re doing wrong, how and why with each passing year the political elites and their cronies are getting wealthier, while the poor – which cuts across racial lines – are only getting the crumbs.

Unequal access to economic opportunities has led to gaping income disparities within racial groups, which in turn compels some to sell their integrity for favours. To those with political connections, more are given. We’re caught in a chronically corrupt politico-economic system that feeds upon itself.

Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index shows Malaysia is as bad as Namibia, Latvia, Samoa and Slovakia. Our media are among the least free in the world. We’re in the same kettle with Brunei, Singapore, Ethiopia, Russia, Honduras and Bahrain. Out of 178 countries, we were ranked 141 by Reporters San Frontieres last year.

On the illegal movements of money across borders, Global Financial Integrity reported in January that “financial flows from Malaysia more than tripled from US$22.2 billion in 2000 to US$68.2 billion in 2008. This growth rate, seen in few Asian countries, may be a result of significant governance issues affecting both public and private sectors”.

Malaysia follows closely behind China, Russia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. With such a stained record, perhaps the government thinks the country’s international image can’t take another beating if the Bersih 2.0 rally goes ahead on Saturday.

Unexpected outcome

For the past two weeks, the mainstream media have framed the rally organisers as troublemakers playing with fire, and the event as an inconvenience to local business and a threat to community peace. Advertisements, nay propaganda, on government-affiliated television stations have even demonised the Bersih 2.0 rally.

I recall my conversation with veteran journalist Jakob Oetama, publisher of Kompas Daily in Jakarta in November 2006 when I was researching for my book ‘Best Practices of Journalism in Asia’.

He said a responsible media should monitor political trends, protect the poor and advocate for socio-political change. But as long as the feudalistic culture among politicians remain, he said, we would be poorly served. Such is the state of politics and the media in Malaysia.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak proclaimed in Sipitang last week that we live in a democracy. Really? The government and its media handmaidens are taking the rakyat for fools. I’ve been reading report after report on how the July 9 rally will scare away tourists, destroy the economy, cause race riots on the streets, which would then open a window for “foreign powers … all too eager to send their troops on the pretext of helping to solve the crisis”.

That’s from the Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin telling the kampung folk in Taman Kaya, Taiping, on Saturday. Apparently, he believes the Bersih 2.0 rally will lead to mass riots as in the Middle East, thus giving foreign powers a reason to interfere, nay invade, our shores. And this makes headline news?

I’m amazed at our journalists’ lack of will or capacity to think and question the DPM’s inductive reasoning. Are mainstream journalists so ignorant that ridiculous rhetoric and moronic statements are unthinkingly reported as page lead stories?

Ironically, the uncritical reporting of the government’s alarmist fear-stoking politics has elevated Bersih 2.0 to a new level of political significance. And, that’s the consolation we can take to the march on July 9 after a fortnight of dreadful sycophantic mainstream journalism.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 12:48 pm

    UmnoB/BNputras still believe dat they can continue 2 fool/brain wash/scare rakyat through propaganda n lies in UmnoB/BN-controlled msm, various gomen agencies
    They forgot abt d existence of the Internet n various social media platforms

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 12:50 pm

    Leaving aside bloggers/commenters – lets look at the claims of various groups of their marching strength. Are they also taking peoples for fools? PAS says it will call 1 million supporters. I am sure other PR component parties will call their members too. Add to that other non political NGO supporters who march for Bersih. Whats the figure then? What about the other groups marching? Neither Perkasa nor UMNO Youth has cited specific anticipated numbers. According to Utuisan Report more than 50,000 Silat exponents are prepared to “wage war” with Bersih activists this Saturday per reported quote of the Mahaguru (grandmaster) of the Pertubuhan Seni Silat Lincah Malaysia (PSSLM). There is another fantastic one – an opposing group that purportedly represent 4 million Silat exponents! Gee thats more than the army (about 1/2 million) or PDRM (120,000+) combined! Whatever is KL even if you discount by 50% these extraordinary claims?

    The last deal on the table by the Govt is for Bersih to hold it in the stadium – or else! Is the stadium big enough?

  3. #3 by baochingtian on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 2:30 pm

    Yes, BN will be able to continue fooling the rakyat with all the sweet talks .. emphasis of tamil languages, etc and with all the heavy duty machineries on their side. Postal vote is intact by the Yellow statement as i see it and with the ever superb gerrymandering tactics.

  4. #4 by dagen on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 3:52 pm

    Rally in the stadium now? Jib, you mean bersih rally can actually go on this saturday? But what about all the horror stories you and your umno people have been spreading the last 2-3 weeks? The hidden agenda of ambiga. The communist. The overthrowing of agung. And many many more similarly horror stories. Arent you scared? Are you now admitting that those horror stories are just mere stories. So shouldnt you now release all those bersih people detained by your cousin.

    And yes. The army. The army owes the people an apology for threatening, needlessly and without basis, to use force to keep the peace. Its one thing for ah chong to threaten ah meng. It is another thing for a general to issue warning that the army would act against the people.

  5. #5 by dagen on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 3:53 pm

    Sorry not general, the Min Def.

  6. #6 by monsterball on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 6:28 pm

    That has always been and will always be by UMNO B rouges and thieves to Malaysians.
    But this time…it is the mountain UMNO B have to climb …not keDAILan …not DAP nor PAS.
    BN is actually dead.
    It is a battle between the Devil party and the good …bad and ugly.
    But we prefer the Good..Bad and Ugly.
    That makes Najib’s hair turned completely white in 2 years.

  7. #7 by rockdaboat on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 7:05 pm

    “That’s from the Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin telling the kampung folk in Taman Kaya, Taiping, on Saturday. Apparently, he believes the Bersih 2.0 rally will lead to mass riots as in the Middle East, thus giving foreign powers a reason to interfere, nay invade, our shores.”

    ??????????? LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL

    Someone must be suffering from schizophrenia.

  8. #8 by Joshua on Tuesday, 5 July 2011 - 9:51 pm

    At least a few trillions Ringgit had been lost since 2004.

    Who going to pay back that?

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