Thursday, May 17, 2007

Embracing bloggers - Disgracing bloggers

Two weeks ago, malaysiakini reported that Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin aired his intention to categorise bloggers into two groups, ‘professionals’ and ‘non-professionals’ as a ‘mechanism of control’.

I sure don’t fancy being one of the items under his ‘mechanism of control’. But we know the government has been deeply worried about hostile bloggers posting articles unfavourable to them, so the proposed categorisation scheme was euphemised as an ‘assurance process’ to identify sources of reliable news (guess whose news would be reliable?) or even to protect newspaper circulation, as if every Tangaveloo, Daud and Har Lee in Malaysia has Internet-capable PCs.

Sometimes Zam takes us for fools but then most politicians do - and they’re on both sides of the fence – the shepherd and the sheep syndrome.

But eventually he came to the real reason for his desired ‘mechanism of control’, saying that: "... certain individuals and groups were misusing blogs for personal agendas (of course, what else?), such as questioning constitutional religious matters (if these affect you, why not, and it’s our right to protect our constitutional rights?) and causing public uneasiness (how? who’s the ‘public’?)".

OK, for ‘public uneasiness’, please read as ‘BN uneasiness’.

And right at the heart of his fears has been this statement:
“This classification will facilitate (legal) action to be taken against those found to have violated the country’s laws [...] We have to control this. It is feared that these (blogs) will be misused by those who have an agenda to spread slander.”

above underlining is mine

Instead of ‘leaking’ in his pants, minister Zainuddin should participate in the blogsphere. As Khoo Kay Peng wrote in to malaysiakini to advice Zam:
“This way, his team of bloggers will be able to respond to any alleged slander or lies.”

Sometimes the problem facing ministers right up to the PM, is they’re ill served by so-called (and probably clueless) advisors whose sole recommendation seems to be ‘ban this and that’, and ‘confiscate this and that’, that is when they are in a good mood, or otherwise, ‘send’ the hapless target to Kem Kamunting.

Mark my word, sales of Dr Kua’s May 13 book is probably soaring right now, thanks to the heavy handed seizure of books recently – see
malaysiakini’s ‘No Ban Yet on May 13 book’.

Meanwhile, by contrast, the bĂȘte noire of UMNO, Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR, has embraced the blogosphere with relish. It has even enticed the pro-tem committee of the proposed All-bloggers organisation to visit him, or who knows, the All-bloggers made that visit on its own accord.

I must say that I and some other bloggers have been caught by surprise by the visit. In fact I am now quite confused as to what the real objective or role of the All-bloggers organisation is?

If the aim was to make important contacts to protect bloggers’ interest, why visit Anwar as a first stop instead of the Minister of Information? This will only provoke the establishment into believing, rightly or wrongly, that bloggers are pro opposition in general and pro-Anwar in particular. This has been what Zam has feared.

To be fair, the pro-tem chairperson of the proposed All-bloggers did mention the organisation intends to have talks with government ministers including the PM, but I believe the ‘harm’ has already been done. The establishment won’t be too impressed by the unfortunate perception that All-bloggers are biased towards Anwar Ibrahim and PKR. And in this country, ‘perception’ is what matters, not true intention.

The pro-tem committee may argue that there was a pro-UMNO bloke in the team that visited Anwar Ibrahim but I doubt that’s going to be sufficient for a person like Zam or the PM to accept. Why antagonise them when we want them to keep their Big Brother hands off us!

I’m not the only blogger unhappy by the pro-tem committee’s straying so pointedly into the political arena when its originally announced aim was supposedly apolitical, and for bloggers' interests. Well, may I say with all due respect to my blogging friends that at this stage, the title ‘All-bloggers’ may be a bit of a misnomer.

Needless to say, Anwar Ibrahim and PKR have welcomed the visit with glee and made the appropriate announcement on its website. The visit will be milked for whatever PR advantage they can obtain.

Now, this is not to say that the individual blogger may not have political affiliation. Indeed, it would be an anathema to the principle of freedom of expression to curb any blogger from supporting a party through his/her blog.

The reality is many such politically inclined blogs already exist – and we’re not counting those manned by the political parties or personalities such as Lim Kit Siang, Shahrir Samad, Anwar Ibrahim, etc.

Unfortunately there is also a fallacy to presume that all bloggers (save those who are known to be pro-BN) are automatically pro-opposition or even pro-Anwar Ibrahim.

Yes, many of us are non-aligned and non-affiliated, thereby reserving the right to criticise policies, dodgy actions or double standard hypocrisy on both sides of the political fence or even to defend any ‘underdog’ or those we feel have been unfairly subjected to salacious smear campaigns.

Call us loose cannons if you like ;-)

Politics is a dirty business, and the current freedom of blogging has unfortunately seen the dirt level raised, or perhaps the correct word should be ‘lowered’ to a new viciousness. Argumentum ad hominem is not new but now rendered at cyber speed by a mere click of the ‘Publish’ button.

I have sadly witnessed the author of a letter to the Star Online being attacked ad hominen because she wrote something unfavourable to PKR regarding its defeat in Ijok. Instead of only addressing/rebutting the points in her letter, the attacks viciously dissected her employment record (and an incorrect one too) on the Net for all to see, obviously to discredit her rather than just the points she raised.

There seems to be a fanatical intolerance by cyber-jihadist (not of the Islamic kind) that would descend to such guttersnipe level. And if anyone were to be described as a ‘katak’, good lord, who’s the bloke who went from Abim to Umno to PKR to …… now, that’s who!

Khoo in his letter to
malaysiakini observed:

"In the last decade, we have seen an unhealthy corporate culture creeping into the newsrooms. [...]."

Well, there is also a different kind of unhealthy culture creeping into some blogs.

Khoo continued:
"Zainuddin should not resort to intimidation and fear tactics to rattle the bloggers or citizen journalists because this is simply not going to work. He and his colleagues might as well try to change their own mindsets and embrace the New Media while it is still not too late."

Well said, Khoo, and may I also hope that bloggers would not resort to argumentum ad hominen as intimidation and fear tactics when their beliefs or ideology are criticised.

Of course there’s also civilised society’s question of: ‘Were/are you behaving like a gentleman?’


  1. Precisely. I blogged about this unhealthy confluence of "All-Blogs" whatever that means or represents and politics, over here.

    You've got to admit one thing, though: PKR and DAP have been quite effective in making in-roads in the internet. That just means a heightened danger of bloggers being used as a base of support across state boundaries.

    (As an aside, I'm wondering if this unwillingness to associate one's blog with a particular ideology or bent is a good thing rather than not taking a concerted stance.

    Then I remember what happened to Jed's site and I think "screw this shit! no way!")

  2. first issue: zam's take on bloggers misusing blogs for personal agenda. yep of course it is my personal blog so it is my personal agenda, what else eh? and he mentioned the misuse is when we question the constitution or islam. you are right to ask why not. we as the rakyat have the right to question the constitution. we have a right to question islam if it does something not right (same as muslim has a right to question christianity or any religion).

    i was wondering when zam made that remark... "then what am i to blog about?". most of my posts were about constitution, rights, religion, race. MPs and so on - things which the zam guy said we should not touch on! geez.

    2nd issue: all-blogs. it is all-blogs, KT, not all-bloggers. they use this as a short form for the full name of 'national alliance of bloggers', though i can't figure out why and how.

    yes i agree with you that it seemed strange their first 'official' (that's right?) activity is to visit anwar. only serve to confirm what others had suspect that all-blogs is PKR based. it's true what you said that their first visitor should be zam!

  3. with all due respect, the understanding of the context of the all-blogs/anwar visit has been a bit misconstrued in the post above.

    i'm positive that all-blogs will meet anyone and everyone who is open to meeting them, *especially* zam and crew.

    they didn't make anwar their 'first stop,' it just so happened that some people from the anwar side thought such a meeting would be a good idea, and arranged an invite which all-blogs graciously accepted.

    if you read the coverage carefully, you'll see that all-blogs is taking their message of promoting and defending responsible blogging to any party that is willing to listen to them, and promote the same cause.

    anwar was, and if anyone else is, i'm sure they'll be happy to pay said individual a similar visit. that anwar was 'first' has no bearing on all-blogs political inclinations.

    on that note, it wasn't just one staunchly pro-umno (albeit more mahathir leaning) guy who was there. i'd eyeball it as at *least* 3, some of whom have also written extremely hateful things about both anwar and pkr - which of course, is their right.

    jed was kind enough to attend as well.


    with regards to my response that you alluded to in your post, i beg to differ.

    i made it a point to try and respond to the letter without espousing the kind of hate that in my humble opinion appears to inform much of your anonymous writing on anwar and pkr. (guttersnipe? i mean, if you really do hate us, there's not much we can do about it anyway, but nevermind that..).

    i think it is incorrect to suggest that i did not address the points raised in jed's eloquent letter, as i clearly took pains to go through the letter bit by bit, even conceding to some of its arguments.

    in addition, jed's own clarifications were written into the main body of the post.

    i have been charged with making personal ('ad hominen') attacks, and i accept people's right to make those charges, but no one has yet taken the time to rebut the points i raised in the post with regards to opposition politics.

    siapa yang benci, ni?

  4. A jerk is a jerk. A spade a spade. Facts are facts. The truth is Truth. Why call it other names? Intelligence starved politicians are obsessed and fanatical with rhetorics. They constantly harp or rape words like "national security", or vague generalisation like public uneasiness. What else do you expect these pitiful creatures to gibber in public? Is telling the truth slandering?

    "The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." (Plato)

  5. Nat, thank you for your clairfication about the All-blogs visit to Anwar, but really, should you be the person to answer for them, considering you're an interested party? Be that as it may, I'll re-emphasize my points in another posting.

    thank you for also choosing to identify yourself as the owner of the blog I referred to in a de-personalised manner - it's of course your choice.

    The reason why I de-personalised it was to raise a point of ethics rather than personalised attack. I am personally not interested in your feud with Jed Yoong.

    Re your comments "i think it is incorrect to suggest that i did not address the points raised in jed's eloquent letter" did I say you didn't? Please re-read my post and it becomes all clear.

    My main thrust was the ad hominen attack was unnecessary for (and detracted from) your rebuttal. And let's face it, dissecting her career record, irrelevant to any rebuttal to her letter, was guttersnipe.

    You accuse me of hating you guys - don't you think that's too harsh word to accuse someone who chooses to criticise PKR or Anwar Ibrahim?

    In my criticism of your hero, please show me where I had ever resorted to the salacious or puerile. Every point I raise to question his 'sincerity' or 'remorse' of his past have been based on available news information.

    You may not like it but that hardly merits labelling me as a person who hate you! Don't you now see what I had meant by "a fanatical intolerance by cyber-jihadist". ;-)

    That's what I saw in the way you and your colleagues savaged Jed Yoong for a letter that could have been responded/rebutted in gentlemanly fashion - an over the top jihadist retaliation. As one of your mates had recommended, WWAD ;-)

    Don't be so thin skin if you want to be in politics. Just for the records I am not against PKR per se ... but 'nuff said.

  6. I echo Brother KTemoc's thoughts and viewpoints about the need for us Bloggers not to be aligned or slanted towards either the BN or the BA.

    As a Malaysian Muslim Blogger who writes and speaks my mind as to the many issues and matters affecting myself as a citizen of this country and to help defend my faith against unwarranted attacks or to speak up about any issue worth my time and attention, I feel the same way as Brother KTemoc does about the All Bloggers Pro Tem Committee visiting Anwar Ibrahim.

    Such a visit will have it's implications upon us Bloggers and seen to be pro the Opposition and anti the BN.

    We do not oppose the BN or the BA per se. We are just speaking up for our rights and demanding a fair, just and responsible government.

    Whether it is the BN or the BA, if both do not practice what they preach, it leaves us back at square one.

    Politicians will always twist and turn to make their mark.

    The advent of the Blog as an individual's platform to voice out one's opinion without fear nor favor ought to be kept as neither pro nor quo.

    Yes, it is the right and choice of any Blogger to champion whatever political party they align themselves to individually but I think that the All Bloggers Alliance should stay non aligned as an entity if it is supposed to represent all of us as a body.

    I may be all for PAS ruling this nation but if any of the PAS's leaders screw up and expect us, who are their supporters to seal our mouths and remain silent, they can dream on.

    All Bloggers need to take our feelings into consideration and do not assume that they speak for the entire Malaysian Bloggers Community without taking a referendum as to where we stand on any such issues especially when it involves our liberties to be able to blog as we please.

    In this context, I stand with KTemoc on his views here.

  7. Politics is a dirty business.

    All-blogs should be aware of that right from the start.

    Any and every move by all-blogs will have political ramifications to observers.

    To remain apolitical, it was important, image-wise, for all-blogs to be "the mountain".

    Let the Muhammads come to all-blogs, instead of the other way round.

    Poltics 101, mah ... :D

  8. Do yourself a favour nat, and reflect on it.
    Ain't the first time anyone suggested you made ad homimen attack on Jed. Previously too, on Susan Loone.

    Nat, in life, politics particularly, perceptions matter. GREATLY. Yes, it's been said before, too. Even if you don't care what people think, you should care about how your antagonistic style reflects on PKR. You know what they say about the party being bigger than you and all..

  9. "My main thrust was the ad hominen attack was unnecessary for (and detracted from) your rebuttal. And let's face it, dissecting her career record, irrelevant to any rebuttal to her letter, was guttersnipe."

    If we can all now hantam Nat simply cos he is a PKR member, how easily one overlooks that Jed use to work for NST, DAP's Rocket and The Star. And how would you react if it was in fact Jed herself who lied about her employment?

    Besides, was it wrong to get personal? All bloggers get personal, otherwise we won't give a shit about blogging. It won't be our views. We won't use the word 'I think' or 'I feel'.

    I didn't see Jed rebut any of Nat's arguments when defending PKR. All she was make personal demands which Nat conceded to.

    How much more gentlemanly can any blogger be? Would you bend over backwards if someone like her made those demands in your blog?

  10. Quote
    If we can all now hantam Nat simply cos he is a PKR member

    sniper, it's ppl like you who give PKR a bad name. Evereytime you guys get some form of criticism you act like mumbling moaning martyrs, accusing ppl of attacking (or Nat's favourite, 'hating') you on the mere issue of you guys being PKR members.

    Puhleeeze lah! Grow up and stop disgracing PKR by your winching, whining & wailing. No one has the time or inclination to hate PKR members.

    Or, the other favourite accusation - ppl hate Anwar. For your info, ppl don't just 'hate' - they don't trust Anwar, that's why!

    Maybe you PKR guys are so used to hating that you imagine everyone is like you? Maybe that's why you ppl would resort to revolting ad hominen attacks, and shame of shame, against one of the gentler sex.

    Besides, was it wrong to get personal? All bloggers get personal ...

    ;-) see what I mean about you shaming PKR! I am shocked you would even suggest that.

    I don't care about the feud between Nat and Jed - I worry at the viciousness that Nat & Co had demonstrated - it's not pretty.

    Just because you weren't happy with someone's letter attacking your political party, you don't tell the world so and so has x number of hair on her behind, for crying out loud.

    I had actually de-personalised the discussion on the ad hominen viciousness because I didn't want to direct accusations, blame or insult against any particular person, but more to focus on ethics and net-civility, but it was Nat who chose to identify himself. That was his choice.

    If you still need to ask how much more gentlemanly conduct a male should exhibit ... after my discussion in the post, then you will never understand what the discussion on ad hominen attacks has been all about.

  11. boss,

    i thought i had posted a reply earlier, but nampaknya didn't get thru.

    no matter - i can't remember all of it, but in essence:

    okla, i guess what one person finds hateful or cyberjihadist another person doesn't, that's perfectly natural. and if you're not against pkr/anwar/etc per se, than all the merrier :)

    with regards to 'viciousness,' etc, this too is obviously open interpretation and i'm perfectly happy to leave it to the court of public opinion and to the judgment of anyone who has had the opportunity to compare our writings. no worries, mate :)

    as a public writer, i consider myself fair game, so have no problems being criticised, etc.. don't forget tho, to take the time to point out and discuss other potential weaknesses my post may have highlighted:

    - opposition/pkr are being sore losers
    - " racist for not chosing an indian to run in ijok
    - " were the violent ones
    - " only repeating empty catchphrases

    etc, etc..

    if you'd rather focus on me or other individual members, you're most free to do so, my thin skin won't begrudge you the opportunity or mind in the least.

    alternatively, go back to the issues, and if pkr (understandably) is far from your first choice, help us by charting out ways to improve, or articulating of other credible pathways and alternatives for a better m'sia (how dap can reach out to the malays, or something like that). i'm sure all of us will benefit immensely.

    in any case, the entire experience has been educational, and i thank all of you for the opportunity :)

    ps- if you are coming for BUM2007 and happen to feel like it, do introduce yourself sir/ma'am, it'd be a pleasure to talk face to face :)

  12. thank you, Nat.

    re your "help us by charting out ways to improve, or articulating of other credible pathways and alternatives for a better m'sia (how dap can reach out to the malays, ...", have been doing that ;-)

    ... which is what a non-aligned and non-affiliated blogger like me does, that is, if anyone from DAP or PKR or Big Brother wants to listen - but I'll focus more on your recommendations

    as for "if you're not against pkr/anwar/etc per se ..." I didn't say I wasn't against anwar ;-) sorry lah - well, at least until I am convinced he can be trusted as much as I trust Dr Syed Husin