LESSONS FROM THE MALAYSIAN ELECTIONS – A STUDY IN KEEPING THE NET FREE FOR OUR CHILDREN.

July 3, 2008

 

The recent Malaysian elections, raises; a host of questions, concerning the advent of the internet in shaping the social and political landscape. Question: What are the learning outcomes? Is the internet perdition or salvation? Can it really generate enough gravity to influence the collective consciousness? Or is this merely an exaggeration banded around by those looking for a convenient whipping boy?

 

(1) Our Goal & Motivation

 

First allow me to explain why the brotherhood (the ASDF think tank) is studying the GE in Malaysia – it would seem we have some insidious intent, nothing can be further from the truth.

 

Many of us are gamers thus it’s not unusual for many of us to show enthusiasm in such competitive scenario. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s studying the competitive strategies of two chicken rice vendors trying to out do each other in the same food court. Or even pouring through meticulous details of what sort of arrow heads the Spartans lobbed at the Persians in Thermopylae. Or something as juggernaut as the American presidential race – in every case, the search in the competitive domain will invariably cover the social, cultural, technological to even the political – if the imperative is understand; how people perpetuate themselves.

 

Central to every enquiry in the competitive arena is; how do people maximize their advantage under a given set of condition? What are the main drivers which will influence the outcome?

 

In every case, there’s almost an tacit agreement within the gaming community, there’s more to it than meets the eye, as the process accounting for why some people manage to win while others lose isn’t really a rational process as much as it remains a very haphazard process; that a voter may be a heterosexual, happily married with two kids, drive a Japanese car, eat out once a week and even be a Manchester United supporter is given, but what factors comes into play when this man decides to vote opposition? Which part of his multi-faceted character swallows up the rest to account for why he decided the way he did?

This will be our challenge in this session.

 

(2) The Multi faceted Face of the Internet

 

The results of our analysis in the recent Malaysian general elections suggest, the search for reason may be self defeating; as they are too many conflicting readings which do not point to one single causal factor why the BN suffered such unprecedent loses.

Did the internet play an instrumental role in outflanking the BN? Yes and no has to be the shortfall, without a doubt it certainly challenged the monopoly of the oligarchy of BN linked news agencies like of the New Straits Times, Malay Mail, Sun and even Nanyang Sian Pau, TV3, Astro and even RTM but a detailed analysis of primary data [pls request for the EV & Bibliography accompanying this read from your read club readers – new readers may write in directly – refer to diagram (ii) 49] suggest so did traditional mediums such as SMS, DVD’s and even snail mail. All played an equal measure in contributing to the end result; the net certainly played preponderant role in shaping collective consciousness, but it’s role should be seen in the correct perspective – it played only a very minor role and it’s influence was confined largely to the urban nodes like Selangor, Penang and Perak.

And this throws considerable doubt on the whole idea the net was some wonder weapon which managed to single handedly outflank the BN and their component parties.

 

Our analysis suggest this has to be an over exaggeration for a few reasons; firstly, we cannot discount ‘poor’ analysis i.e failure to set the correct number of data points on the right causal factors; for instance; the theory of the “supervening” role of the net doesn’t sit very well with how partisan politics has been traditionally conducted in Malaysia; though traditional news media certainly accounts for a large cache of voters.

In the vast majority of cases, as far as shaping voter consciousness is concerned the adage, “Politics is the process of who gets what, when, and how…” is still very much alive in the Malaysian political landscape.

 

Here “ceramah” (impromptu five foot way) politics is still the main medium of wining hearts and minds; this is especially specialized and has even evolved into a sort of science in the rice belt regions of Kelantan and Kedah, where internet connectivity is at it’s lowest ratio of 1: 349.8. /error margin: 5% [see diagram A.1 -compare with urban]

 

In ceramah politics, as Astroboy noted when he was embedded with a group of Malaysian bicyclist (Team F-zero) who were tasked to research this area in detail:

 

“ In one oppositional ceramah held in a padang near a school, all we could see was a lot of sensational talk that had very little to do with intelligent politics; here directly after the singers had filled up the padang with an assortment of folk, some even standing astride their motorbikes; the candidates were spouting slogans like, “if you vote me in I will reduce the price of petrol and rice” was bandied along with lashings of video clips projected on a silver screen depicting a dozing PM Abdullah; the scene was cross between our Singapore getai and Kuo Yok street act; the mood was jovial interspersed with moments of rapturous laughter and it seemed the both the politicians the goreng pisang vendors were out in full force that evening, but who goreng more is hard to say. We heard nothing intelligent from any of these ceramahs and after a while, we rode off.”

 

Not very far from the padang on the adjacent street a Chinese Ceramah was in full swing outside a coffin shop; an angry opposition spokesman pointed to a screen shot of some UMNO youth person holding up and kissing a Malay Kris, then very suddenly someone in the crowd mounted the stage and shouted out, “Pukimah lu siapa? Lu mau kasih saya mati ah? Oh lu inggat, lu banyak samseng ah? Tak apa, in pilihan raya, saya kasih mati sama lu! Saya akan undi DAP!” [translation: “fuck your mother you, who do you think you are? You want to bag me? OK, let’s see who can bag who better; my vote in going to the opposition.” This was followed by rapturous cries of support from the crowd. Later on when we spoke to this man we discovered he was part of the opposition traveling troupe. Again no intelligent political discourse was noted. I can only described what we have witnessed to be something slightly higher than babble that one usually associates with tribal memory, in languages and cultures long forgotten. By then most of us had already thrown away our clipboards and that was when we decided to cycle around to find a YMCA to land. Before we left, someone handed us a VCD with the words, ‘don’t tell anybody ok’ when we played it, it was a grainy scene of a fat elderly Chinese man with some woman performing a dance in some hotel. I think it’s a porno movie. Latter on we found out he’s a doctor representing the MCA post in the district of Muar….this is all very confusing and heady…”

This field report has been funded by the Mercantile Guild and conducted by Team A led by both Astroboy and Scholarboy.

PART 2

Judging from the field report of our intrepid bicycling matahari’s, it’s clear as day folks; the political reality in Malaysia is very far away from the ideal cut light between simple evil and simple good, where the latter can be reliably trusted to win the day; against this political shenanigan that’s often passed off as “real” politics.

Who wins can held hinge on showmanship. This becomes evident when one sieves through the election rhetoric only to discover instead of deep spirited narratives, much of the mainstay of in securing victory has been secured by regularly peddling homily sugary diatribes which are simply impossible to deliver on, like cutting oil prices and doing away with the NEP! These may all resonate strongly in the hearts of the average Ahmad, Muthu and Ah Kow but what cannot be elided so easily is they remain lofty promises which in all likelihood cannot be practically delivered upon!

(3) Revisiting Some of Our Misplaced Assumptions Abt Politics & The Net

This brings into sharp focus the question; what sort of political order does the internet bring with it? Does it necessarily lead to a more informed votership? Or is it simply a very efficient machine to promise everything under the sun to secure the short term goal of winning an election? Central to this enquiry is whether the internet is an effective means of soliciting real and meaningful social change?

The fact the internet is here is never in question; neither is it practical for us to hammer our key boards into ploughshares and return to the age of cottage industries; but the question persist; does the net bring with a new political understanding?

 

I do not think so. As every indication leads me to the conclusion instead of it being a reliable means of soliciting real and meaningful social and political change; the net is simply a disingenuous device at producing “upsets,” allowing even Forest Gump to win over smart.

 

Neither does it need to be managed professionally either, all it takes is lashings of sensationalism coupled with half truths and viola – some McDonalisation of facts assumes the semblance of truth.

 

My fear is although the general elections is cut and dried, the long term issues raised by how the internet will increasingly mould and shape the eventual outcome of Malaysian politics remains unclear.

 

The prospects are bleak, as the advent of the net has demonstrated adequately its power to alter the competitive rules of the game; to the extent of fashioning a very malleable understanding of reality and how it may relate to voters; particularly the sort in which myth and ritual were used to reinforce bonds of shared grievances (real or imagined).

I am painting in broad strokes off course, but that in a nutshell is the long and short of the analysis – no Da Vinci code there.

Here, it would do me well to pause for a while to clarify what I mean when I say: the net changes things and yet it doesn’t – this I do confess appears contradictory especially when certain quarters continue to advance the idea that the net did a admirable job of educating the electorate – by presumably delivering a “new political awakening” – “era gemilang di politik” as it is often described {see analysis annex 12}, but again, it fails to hit the nail of the head; we are left none the wiser on the salient of why did these lapses occur within the command and control structure of BN? And how was the centrality of their political vision registered and supported by the culture that produced it, then to some extent disguised it, and also was transform irrevocably by it?

This is significant as at no time in Malaysian history do we register a clearer manifestation of Malays voting against the very class which they have always regarded as the custodian of their rights.

What remains telling is; there is no doubt based on our findings, the “watershed class” i.e the ranks of intellectuals have been significantly heightened {annex 13} and their recruitment in the national discourse will have a significant impact on moderating the future social political landscape in Malaysia.

 

At this juncture we may profit by revisiting our original goal when we started all this; what is the inventory of the various drivers that might have operated to widen, expand and deepen the knowledge on how the past and present interacted with each other to produce the results of the GE?

This seems to me a question of immideate importance (though a few of my colleagues disagree quite openly with me)  against the backdrop of whether these changes which has course through Malaysian political is a real dawn or merely a chimera?

I say this only because what we have observed was reminiscent of the Mr Brown vs MICA saga, nothing more or less, albeit on a larger supra national scale; the trajectory, pace and dynamics suggested the same sandbox politics featured between two diametrically distinctive cultural forms, those who spoke and expected to be heard and those who did not believe because they could not see themselves as relevant to the system. This in my view is the salient.

 

The real lesson of the recent Malaysian general elections may reveal some truths are even timeless, universal and unchanging: like the Bedoiune tale of the wandering camel, “If a camel strays into my camp once. I return it to its master. If it strays again into my land then I shall have to ask of whether this is really his camel, but if it happens for the third time, then it could be said, the camel belongs to me.”

 

The lessons are sharp and pointed – Institutions, politicians and leaders need to go out and explain their relevance to the plebes and rakyat.

 

They need to engage the crowd in ever interesting ways; its not enough to say people no longer wish to take an interest in the affairs of the world as we may or may not be living in an increasingly dyslexic cultural dystopian brought forth by the advent of the digital age; where everyone may be gainfully seduced by the hype, spin and marketing manifesto of our times; such posturings offer absolutely zero to redress the deficits of understanding and leads only to dead ends.

Leaders will have to wrestle with one reality in this age: how do we craft new ways to bridge across the ‘no man’s land’ of cyberspace to reach the otherside?

 

SUMMARY: ‘VERY LITTLE HAS ACTUALLY CHANGED..’

 

Perhaps the most revealing feature of this study that struck me like a diamond bullet; is how little has actually changed between the informer and informed, speaker and the listener despite the advent of the internet; only this time round, it’s not enough for the latter to try to engage the masses using a monotone drawl while expecting the crowd to sit or pretend to do so as they lapse happily into a semi comatose state; that just buys you the long cane and out you go; doesn’t even matter whether it is the BN or the Council of the planet of the Apes.

The internet will punctuate, interrupt and scissor the dialogue! This seems new only because its old dressed as new; granted the narrative will meander; it may even be disjunctive like line dancing where someone steps into the circle from time to time to do their song and dance only to step out for someone else to step in; there is alot of room for improvisation; but the maelstrom isn’t so different as to suggest, its for one moment ‘new.’

This I need to impress very strongly on the reader.

As it harks back to the period of the renaissance when European scholars like Galileo, Luther and Copernicus challenged the sacred cows of their day – in this on going human experiment where people themselves make up the very raw material of the experiment, the internet makes it all possible.  

 

In this respect the role of the internet does not shape collective consciousness as much as it assumes it!

Here, we might falsely believe the medium has usurped power like a thief in the night; but it’s the opposite as the capacity for collating, winnowing and synthesis thought has merely shifted; it longer resides in the monopoly of cloistered decision makers or even in a committee of a rarified few; instead it’s dispersed and fragmented away from the central core; it’s no more a dystopian nightmare as a return to the distant babble transmitted haphazardly by word of mouth with usually a few scrawls on papyrus or clay only this time the narrative is in short post and one sentence quips in the comment box; very much in the way our ancestors once forged the wisdom of our species with primitive cave drawings of stick men – we have my friends truly come full circle.

 

To say that the net is so distant a country as to deny it a rightful place in politics by attempting to impose reason upon it’s form has to be a travesty of logic; spurious reasoning such as; what it should ideally be? Or how it should and shouldn’t treat information. Or whether it’s a reliable instrument to convey the truth is to deny that in spite of its rudeness, irresponsibility, duplicity and stupidity; these remains the hallmarks of real human interaction that was present before, during and after what we as a society often refer too as political awakening; here the so called ‘evil’ is mundane, trite and day to day, not so different from not being able to get skimmed milk in X,Y or Z neighborhood, petrol hikes, hair loss or slippery bathroom tiles – they are inconveniences which have always resided in the folds of our society. There is nothing new here, but to label them as a “new” problem is to assume every human condition is treatable and what we are presented with today is something which is previously alien to us; but again if no one proposes to turn the ECP into a island wide moat filled with man eating crocodiles just because a few people regularly drive into bollards; or suggest closing down cinema’s and turning them into food courts as chatterers in a darkened movie theater persist; then why should we even consider imposing our traditional values on the net by attempting to control it?

 

What are the real lessons from the study of the impact of the net on the recent Malaysian general elections? It’s really a tale of the hare and the tortoise; one merely embraced the net as a medium, not as a matter of choice, but out of sheer necessity; the traditional streams of expressions available had been either co-opted or rendered useless as it was designed with one sole mission to marginalize them at every turn and opportunity; using this new opportunity, they begun to question the necessary lie; that the regime has made the world a better place, including unmasking the tragic realism that a better tomorrow can only be delivered at a cost; that nothing last forever; that if the good outweighs the bad, it’s by the slimmest of margins. At first readership was dismal, but eventually as the intellectuals grew disenchanted with card board news, they too turned to the net for brain food. This the ASDF considers as the critical turning point [please refer to diagram (iii) for a detailed analysis of the parametrics]

 

The other simply trudged along as if it was business as usual; oblivious to these changes; from time to time like authors who write books which only seem to languish in the discount section; they will lament, their message is too advanced for humanity; man they say is not ready yet for the ‘truth’; and is it such a wonder when the day after tomorrow dawns – they are left wondering why the world has suddenly raced ahead without them; while the other is busy making hay?

 

I suspect the art of self deception of ascribing blame to the net for everything ranging from erectile dysfunction to losing national elections late will always have a particularly tenuous hold not only on BN politicians, but also every political hegemony that once assumed power and now vexes no end, how best to perpetuate their class politics by trying to surmount the problems posed by the net; their lament of an encroaching dystopian nightmare that threatens to leech away our understanding isn’t so unusual when one considers how the internet threatens their reality; usually the narrative is couched in terms of why it doesn’t pay for us not to eat our veggies?; but even then, this sort of sanctimony can only really amount to a pipe dream as the Malaysian elections showed only too clearly; people without hope not only don’t write; but what is more to the point, they don’t read to learn any ‘new’ as much as to edify their ‘old’ beliefs.

They don’t take long looks at anything, because they lack the courage to change with the times. Theirs can at best be described as a way to despair as it refuses to have any kind of ‘new’ experience beyond the safety of the familiar offered by the sanctuary of the ‘old,’ and the internet, of course, is a way to have ‘new’ experience and much more. Is it such a wonder all they can offer is the promise of offering the ‘old’ in the age of the ‘new?’

 

In the light of these sobering changes brought forth by the advent of the internet. Our problem now is that the political class and the ruling hegemony have begun to speak the language of panic and treating the independence of the net as one of many negotiable values but as one value that should never be allowed to trump all others; in other words theirs is the narrative of fear.

 

Again it would seem this is ‘new,’ but it’s not so novel when one considers this was exactly how the Samurai’s once managed to perpetuate their class politics through the cult of the sword by banning gun powder; or how the Mandarins once ritualized their social and political code by nurturing the illusion; they remained firmly fixed in the linchpin of the known universe.

My point is there is nothing ‘new’ here and this should be continually re-emphasized to calibrate the optic of how we should rightfully see the inner workings of the net as force in shaping our society.

What we see from this litany of woes concerning the dystopian vision of the net is not cold cut reason; as it remains a self serving wall of denial that is propogated as the ruling hegemony have simply not managed to figured out how to prosper or to even ‘make sense’ of this new technology; neither do they seem to show any inclination to learn beyond that offered by the staid assumptions of how the world should be, instead of what it has become!

Is it such a wonder they invariably retreat to the familiarity of  the status quo ante trench line, whenever they are challenged.? Yes, there is safety in the familiar.

For this reason and this alone; we as netizens must always return to the first defensive line of logic that the net should ALWAYS remain a free domain; free from legislation; free from interference; free even from the meddling of our own kind and above all free to even evolve as it is.

In my view, there’s no better vindication; no better testament, no clearer declaration of faith of our resolve and commitment than to say;

 

“We shall leave it as it is in the hope that the good currency will somehow prevail over the bad”

For despite our greater will and beliefs to forge a better tomorrow none of us can deny that is precisely the attitude which makes possible many of the wondrous and beautiful things which we have come to associate with the net – I have a dream my friends…..I have a dream.

Darkness 2008 [Primus Speech / Hansard 9937]

 

[Primus Speech Excerpt By Darkness in the Great Hall] Thank you senators for allowing me a humble servant to speak in defense of the internet; I declare this 147 session of Great Hall closed – long live the brotherhood!

 

 

[This paper was first submitted by Darkness in the Great Hall in Primus Aldentes Prime before a full sitting of the Interspacing confederation comprising of 72 nations @ sitting No. 299 (Registered under Confederation Hansard – Primus) – it is a tribute to the Malaysia people on the results of the GE in 2008]

 

Foreword by Darkness: “I wish to extend my warmest regards and gratitude to our Malaysian channel partners and the International confederation of gamers for assisting us in this ground breaking report on the recent Malaysian general election.

 

To our Malaysian brothers, we say, “semoga anda Berjaya!” – I wish to thank both the Royal Thai Creche and our Malaysian counterparts for allowing me to address the Confederation in our great hall. Indeed this is a rare privilege for a man of such humble ranking as myself. You must beg your permission, if I appear nervous.

Before, the grand fleet, “The Fist of God” leaves the Malaysian blogosphere – as a symbol of our friendship wish to present a fully operational Dimitri class space station to the Malaysian people – we hope this will be an enduring symbol of our deep spirited ties and commitment to growing the underground gaming network.

In the year of IIX of Pandishah, I hearby declare the 7th session of the international gaming debate closed –  and  may I wish you all a good stay in Primus Aldentes Prime –  Long live the brotherhood!

 

Darkness 2008

 

 

[Kindly note: the brotherhood press and all their channel partners have ceased ALL PUBLICATIONS in the Singapore Blogosphere from

 

 

 

 

 

Sat 21, June 2008, @ 1400 hr

This is ‘protest’ and ‘boycott’ of what the brotherhood and their readers consider to be an illegitimate action on behalf of the 13 bloggers and their friends – the brotherhood maintains their proposal is illegal as absolutely NO attempt has been made to either inform, discuss the matter with the relevant parties – as such they DO NOT RECOGNIZE THE VALIDITY OF THIS BODY AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE NET IN ANY WAY WHATSOVER ! This article and series in the great hall has been brought to you by the FILB and contains previously unreleased material. This material was previously posted in the strangelands, the confederation, ASICS, Phi Beta Kappa, The Singapore Daily and the Intelligent Singaporean – The Brotherhood Press 2008]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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