By Rom Nain | Malaysiakini
Our political leaders evidently have a not-so-smart-ass response for everything under the hazy Malaysian sun.
Some – the few who can read – probably would have read that story about the French queen, Marie Antoinette, apparently saying `Let them eat cake’ upon learning that the French peasants had no bread.
Yes, perhaps that is why our home minister, upon hearing that the ISA detainees were on a hunger strike, twittered that it was the choice of the ISA detainees to hold the hunger strike, just as it was his choice to have lamb chops.
Not very sensitive of him, it could be argued. But then, neither was the French queen who, history tells us, was later executed by guillotine. Yes, she had her head chopped off.
Many of our politicians, I think, share this misconception that they are so darn smart and can deliver flippant comments, inane lines and get away with it.
In the pre-Internet days, this probably would have been true. Then newspapers, radio and television were virtually the only sources of news.
Hence, they could lie through their teeth, say nasty things about every being under, yes, the hazy Malaysian sun, and get away with it all.
Media self-censorship now an art form
Why? Because the print and broadcast media then – as now – were owned and controlled by them or their parties and would not dream of publishing or broadcasting their stupid, insensitive comments. It would have been bad PR – and certainly bad karma for any suicidal editor who dared publish the comments.
Then – but more so now – media self-censorship has been raised to an art form.
However, the introduction of the Internet into this country, and its rapid expansion over the past five years or so, have changed that a teeny-weeny bit.
So, much as the mainstream media may ignore important issues such as the NFC scandal, the PFKZ disaster, the orchestrated violence on Bersih 3.0 and, of course, the financially-huge Scorpene debacle, these events and issues will no longer just go away.
Instead, they continue to be investigated, headlined and exposed by the Internet media that, over the relatively short period of 10 to 15 years, have consolidated – nay, firmly entrenched – themselves as serious players in this game of providing images, meanings and explanations.
So, although quite a number of these jaguh kampung politicians – and their bit part supporting actors in the civil (dis)service – still are clueless about how the Internet at times can strip them naked, there are a few who, I believe, feel they need to spend tonnes (perhaps of our money) on giving their image a positive makeover.
‘You need to be cool with the kids’
They learn to use the social media. Unfortunately, an idiot remains an idiot, whatever the communication technology at hand.
Hence, garbage in, garbage out.
They hire image and public relations consultants who, for a princely sum, tell them that, despite the protruding belly and the fast-receding hairline, they need to be cool with the kids.
So, not having much in between their ears, they take Fredric Wertham’s book title as their aim in life, little realising that Seduction of the Innocent was essentially an attack on comic books and not a manual for paedophiles.
They learn to change names and titles, thinking that we are all as idiotic as them for us to believe that a National Harmony Act would be so much more palatable than the Sedition Act that it is meant to replace.
They learn one-liners and even one-word retorts. Like the currently overused word `perception’. When what’s actually on their mind is deception.
So, when even their darling mainstream rags report that crimes may be on the increase, they throw out problematic and evidently inconsistent `statistics’ that are supposed to prove otherwise. But do no such thing.
Then, they roll out this by-now tired cliché that `These fears are all based on perception and that all is actually well’.
But they forget two things at least.
First that there’s still the more sceptical Internet media to contend with. This despite their threats to muzzle even this media via amendments to the Evidence Act and the setting of a `social media council’ to enable (state?) regulation of the Internet.
Second, they forget that the more they attempt to deceive us by putting everything down to ‘our’ perceptions, ‘our’ illogical, irrational and unfounded fears, the more they begin to sound like the boy who cried wolf.
Indeed, they forget that `perception’ can work the other way as well; that we might – indeed, we will – perceive them as a bunch of liars, a group of deceivers, a cabinet of con artists.
And, really, truly, that’s not a perception they can afford going into the next general election.
ROM NAIN is a media analyst and academician who is weary of incompetent, unethical leaders and their apologists and spin doctors in the media who try to get away with murder while professing to rub shoulders with God’s angels.