In the good old days, citizens only had The Straits Echo, New Straits Times and later on, The Star, to feed them with the latest news. The advent of information technology and rise of Internet popularity has seen the proliferation of online news portals - independent and the not-so-independent ones. Since then, news readership of mainstream media has been steadily on the decline and the print media is being sustained mainly by advertising revenue. Beyond all those superficial issues, the fact remains that the rise of the new media has paved the way for more partisan media in Malaysia and triggered an insidious process of political polarisation of Malaysia.
Today, news audience seems to be divided into three segments - the Pro-BN, the Pro-PR and of course, the fence-sitters. Without prejudice, many seem to buy the tales of their preferred media - lock, stock and barrel without questioning the authenticity of the report, the implication of bias headlines, morals, objectivity and even the unhealthy slants of fanatically populist and anti-establishment, anti-corruption rhetoric, anti-PM articles that those independent news portals carried by TMI, FZ, The Ant Daily, MK, Malaysia Chronicle and other sites. Consequently, more are blindly pro-Opposition and narrowmindedly anti-BN with a one-track mind!
Hitler once said: "A lie told often enough becomes the truth."
That is exactly what is happening in Malaysia. the last ten years or so, irresponsible sites have been filling the Internet with lies, distortions of truth, fabrications of concocted reality and all kinds of warped messages.
A very good example is the Altantuya case.
At the end of this post is a list of headlines from various news portals. Even without reading the whole report, citizens are being BRAINWASHED to hate the government!
What is the real agenda of those media sites? Why are they persistently seducing their audience with populist views?
Why are some sites so pro-Anwar and anti-Najib?
For that, we need to examine the content, background and ownership of those sites.
News content that is stems from simple and clear ideological slant e.g. Anti-BN headlines would naturally attract viewers who are ALREADY dissatisfied with the state of affairs. Hence, readers would perceive such websites to be more credible as the owners/writers seem to share their political attitudes.
By reading such distorted articles, these readers are unconsciously reinforcing their stereotypes of the status quo and thus political polarisation multiplies at a very dangerously worrying rate. Things can come to a head when the political ambiance in the country is heated and then fringes may be on the rise.
In reality, citizens have a few choices. They can treat these as the gospel truth or ignore them or accept it and think nothing about those deceptive messages. There is one thing which FEW would ever do.
That is to TEST and to VERIFY the information.
I am not saying we have a perfect government (none exists in this world by the way). We have an imperfect government that is trying to perfect its imperfections in sincere programmes such as GTP, BR1M etc. Along the way, we have little devils in irresponsible news portals spreading doubts, magnifying weaknesses, glorifying the Opposition.
I do not deny the presence of a strong Opposition is important BUT it has to be a wholesome, effective and upright Opposition and that is absent in Malaysia.
There is much irony in news reporting.
1. When the status quo tells the truth e.g. in AG's reports, they are blasted to kingdom come for this and that. Fine - all in the name of efficiency.
2. If the Opposition does something wrong and then the status quo gives them a dose of their own medicine via public criticism, all hell breaks lose and the citizens turn a blind eye to the weaknesses or failings of the Opposition and go into full throttle to blast BN.
3. The worst scenario is this. The whole question of selective exposure is a pivotal factor in polarizing Malaysia. Those who are politically conscious carry with them biases and beliefs that those online sites are believable and trustworthy and deliberately read only THOSE news which can strongly influence their attitudes, speech and voting behaviour. These citizens, armed with their 'perceived' inference of what is right and wrong, go on to become opinion leaders in kopi tiams and INFLUENCE others to share their beliefs. Such a multiplier effect in wider society and at the grassroot level can be very potent in swinging voters to become pro-Opposition.
Now here's the catch.
Some argue and say - if that is the case, why can't the government close down those sites?
If the ruling government would do that in the name of curbing hostility etc... those 'biased' pro-Opposition citizens would say - there you go - we have a government that does NOT practise freedom of speech or press freedom.
It is a Catch 22 for our government, whom I believe is sincerely trying its best to maintain a healthy balance of freedom in a non-hostile and non-confrontational way.
If they pull up editors for misdeeds, people would protest and this would trigger another wave of anti-BN sentiments.
If the government does nothing and allows freedom of speech, the pro-Opposition fellas will say - see our leaders are useless!
Either way, to the pro-PR supporters, BN is always wrong, PR is always right! Sheesssshhh!
The bottom line is this.
Many sites have been spinning their yarn of lies, of deception and myths to the extent that these have become 'truths' in the minds of the audience. You see, the culture of ignorance has made many quite clueless about integrity and journalistic principles.
They do not know what is right or wrong. They only know BN is wrong. Remove BN. All will be right after that WHEN (or so they dreamlah) Pakatan Rakyat takes over.
What a lame and blind displacement of hope!
Their folly is this - their ridiculous belief that whatever BN does is wrong.
To them, whatever PR does is RIGHT. Even if it is wrong, it is ok for their wrong is not as unforgivable as BN's mistakes.
Now you see - our society has really become not only ignorant but so polarized that many have lost their sense of judgement.
They can only see our Prime Minister as the villain and Anwar as the hero.
Anwar - the one who gallivants to foreign countries to shame and blame this nation for anything, anywhere, anyhow he chooses.
Or maybe some look to Lim Kit Siang and his obedient son Lim Guan Eng who has led Penang to four or five consecutive budget deficits, land reclamation issues and botak hills.
In spite of all this...
Despite water cuts and what-have-you's....in the eyes of pro-Opposition citizens....they will say - it is OKlah...they are not as bad as BN.
You see...it is not BN that is taking our citizens on the road to destruction.
It is PR and their insidious media who are marking the routes, paving the different roads to destruction and hurrah for them...many citizens are happily traipsing and spreading their new found 'Pro-PR euphoria'.
Do you see how pervasive is the effect of biased reporting from those websites? They have a malevolent agenda. One to divide, not unite. One to polarise, not to spread harmony.
Maybe now you can understand why this country is so polarised.
Maybe now you can appreciate the uphill task of our government to develop this country for the common good.
Be deceived no more!