Monday, March 17, 2008

The effect of the mainstream media, or the lack thereof

Much has been said about the impact of the internet on these general elections, and the surprise results it brought. But then, much was also said the first time around as well, when the Reformasi groundswell of 1999 took to the online world to get its message across. They didn't do too well then.

This time, DAP, PKR and PAS, had a better plan, a more cohesive plan, to get their message across to the 1.4 million or so new voters, all of whom are believed to be of the internet generation. And it seems to have worked, thanks in no small part to the disillusionment of mainstream media.

Before the elections however, a group of bloggers decided to push for a campaign to boycott the mainstream media, as they were tired of the one-sided bias towards BN-led information to the detriment of DAP,PKR and PAS activities. While only a mere 965 signatures have been gathered in this campaign, many are trumpeting that this has been a crucial factor in the fall of the BN's political supremacy.

They could be right, to an extent. In information theory, when a void presents itself, then whatever arises to fill the void becomes the defacto source of information. And as long as there is no counterbalance to this, the dichotomy will continue with the polarization of different beliefs and different webs of trust to the different sources of information. Goebbels could not have said it better, but in this instance the mainstream media, the blogs and alternative media practised what he preached. They all gave distorted versions of the facts, thereby blurring the lines between the Third and Fourth Estates.

Within this mutually distorted miasma, the people of Malaysia made their choices on March 8, 2008. As Mydeen overheard one of his customers say, the headlines on Sunday should have read Oh, Fuck !.

A collective Oh, fuck by the BN because they lost, and they lost big.

A collective Oh, fuck by DAP, PKR and PAS because they won, and now what the fuck do they do ?

A collective Oh, fuck by the voters, because they had not planned on providing such a large swing.

Oh, fuck.

And Oh, Fuck, the blogs are now going to think that they actually have reached the objectivity of a properly run news outlet. Already some have begun to trumpet the election of a blogger into Parliament, claiming superlative glory in the process.

The Siber Party of Malaysia (M) asks, were they elected because they were bloggers or were votes thrown at them because the people wanted a change from the BN ? After all, even the self-proclaimed representative body of the bloggers, AllBlogs, has yet to get a mandate from its consitutency by holding elections for their office bearers.

And when bloggers, who masquerade as journalists in the day, use their pulpit to turn untrue assumptions into fact, where then lies the objectivity in facts which the people crave ?

Shanghai Fish, based obviously on beer talk, has suggested that he is privy to insider information. MalaysianInsider information, that is. He links to an article from the NST, and tries to suggest a linkage. However, even a cursory reading of the article would expose two fallacies he is trying to perpetuate. Something does smell of rotten fish here, but then it always has when the void exists.

A blog, or a newspaper, is only as good as the people behind it and the credibility they bring with them. When any news outlet, blog or otherwise, is managed by individuals with the morals of a viper, you would expect the information to be distorted to serve personal gains, such as a public show of support for a comrade who was unceremoniously dumped by the entity being disparaged. Just as the herd mentality takes root.

So, while some blogs and alternative news outlets will attempt to objectively present the facts not covered by the biasness inherent in the mainstream media, not all of them should be consumed as the gospel truth. Like an intelligent citizenry, we should allow ourselves to be exposed to the different views and then decide for ourselves, not to fall into the trap of believing that whatever fills a void has to be, by definition, the fact.

To do so would be tantamount to listening to lies disseminated by a man in masquerade. And honestly, that'll be a drag.


Anonymous said...

As an avid blog reader, I can't tell you how, countless times, I've seen blog postings that are clearly defamatory, and if they are not, the readers' comments certainly are.
Libel and defamation aside, what amazes is that once posted, the allegation gets repeated and takes on a life of its own.
The Mukriz Mahathir victory, I think, is a case in point.
One blog posted: Mukriz Mahathir cheated in elections? Better pay attention to that question mark. Because it was the blogger's escape clause.
I don't think this blogger would get away with it in print journalism.
If you have friends in the newspaper trade, they will tell you that on any given day they can receive faxes or email that can be damaging to someone. Of course they don't print it. Because you need to check your facts first.
Carl Bernstein in "A reporter's assessment" for Woodward's story of Deep Throat makes this point: reporters need editors. "Today's Internet bloggers and television talking heads don't have that.No safety net. No brakes. No one there to question, doubt or inspire. No editor."

Mydeen Aboo Backer said...

Absolutely, anonymous of 23:07.

Bloggers are fond of claiming themselves as new media, yet they dont want to play by the time tested rules of proper journalism and reporting. With this background it then hurts them for they will be dismissed as mere rumour mongerers.

Bloggers who employ proper journalistic principles should stand up and be counted. Not those who use their pulpits as vehicles of personal agenda, and then hide behind the cloak of new media.

Allegations which take on a life of their own is pure Goebbels. Bloggers, it seems, have learnt that. Which is why some of them go overboard.