All of a sudden it is fashionable to blog in Malaysia. Before the General Elections bloggers were looked upon as rabble rousers and ne’er-do-wells. They were by turns liars, the unemployed, unemployed women (a great horror to former Turism Minister Tengku Adnan), people with axes to grind, misfits, discontents, failed journalists and other disparaging epithets that the status quo could think of.
Then the General Elections happened in March. Bloggers like Jeff Ooi and Tony Phua were perceived to have parlayed their blogging status into political status and marched into Parliament. Everyone had to explain the political upset that saw the Barisan Nasional losing two thirds of its majority. The correct interpretation was that Malaysians were so sick of the Barisan Nasional’s greed and arrogance that they decided to punish them, so they voted the oppositiion, even though they may be PAS, PKR, DAP or anyone else – so long as it wasn’t BN.
The sexier interpretation of the political rout wa sthat somehow bloggers were instrumental in catalyzing he fal of the BN. The New Media may have helped spread information around to break the BN’s hold on power but to this day Unspun’s seen no convincing study to support this sexy interpretation.
Despite a lack of evidence it didn’t matter. All of a sudden, blogging was de rigeur. UMNO admitted that blogs helped erode their power. It subsequently instructed its politicians to blog. Then others, from ex politicians to journalists, got into the act, Khir Toyo started blogging, so did Mike Tyson. Then Wong Chun Wai and now we hear that Mahathir also waded into the blogoshpere.
Others, seeing that there is a gold rush of sorts to the blogosphere will nonetheless join in.
This is all in a way good as there can be such an opportunity for everyone to exchange opinions and points of view – if they understand what the blogosphere is about. Alas, Unspun is not so ptimistic. Unspun fears that many of these new loggers will be disappointed by their response they get because they think their past experience has prepared them for success in this virtual world.
It is not that easy. In the Net everybody is equal. So if Mahathir, for instance, blogs and says something, as he is wont to do, that is contentious and does not quite make sense. He can, for the first time in his career, expect all and sundry to savage or flame him. This is something that woudl have not happened to him in real life as his charisma, authority and social standing woudl have discouraged the more vehement critics. How will he deal with these critics then? Moderate his blogs and allow only the more sedate comments through?
Same with Wong. Each time he writes something in The Star he’s guaranteed an audience, mainly bcause The Star is the largest circulating daily in Malaysia. Now, he has to attract the readers to his blog, and take on his critics head on. Or moderate his blog so that only sedate posting come through. At which case it would be a sedate blog with few readers. Blogging is also not journalism so it is interesting to see if this journalist of more than two decades’ experience can transition to this new medium.
Unspun thinks it is s a good thing though as the new medium shores up new realities for all to confront. But even as we all start up blogs it would b good to remember that the Net doesn’t change anything, it just makes it easier, faster and cheaper to reach more people. The fundamentals of persuasion, and whether you have anything worthwhile to say in the first place, remain.