All on the blogwagon

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.

13 thoughts on “All on the blogwagon

  1. Hello HC, too bad we couldn’t meet up to ngopi ngopi when I was in JKT last March…

    Ho ho ho… everybody’s a convert now. From Toyo to Tyson to Tun. It’ll be interesting to see how they engage their fellow bloggers / commentators and how they go about dealing with opposing views.

    Had quite a great time when I last went back. Organized a small do and managed to rope in Marina and Eli Wong (MP Bkt Lanjan) for teh tarik Anu Radha came too and so did Kali’s brother who stopped for a chat (didn’t get his name). Even mokciknab’s Pa too graced the event.

    I hope Tun M knows what blogging is about. Yes, I’d certainly like to hear his thoughts about press freedom under his watch.

    Oh well, back to being a swampman again…


  2. too bad, same thing cannot go to Indonesia, here we only have 16 millions internet users (active), much smaller number of users r interested in politics, even much smaller number of users are bloggers.
    The media here somehow are imbalance in delivering information, we need the balancer.


  3. “The fundamentals of persuasion, and whether you have anything worthwhile to say in the first place, remain.”

    Yes indeed. It’s just like good ads, all you need to do is package everything nice and make it believeable and people would rush out to buy them even tho it’s useless. PERSUASION> That’s what it is.

    Since there are so many people online claiming to be “alternative” medium, if it’s used in the wrong way, the damage being done is immense. Think about the confused youths, minors. When they read such things, they’d believe half of it. There, polluting the minds of others it so much easier now. SO much so if you want to play around with these political games online. Woah, don’t get me started.


  4. the down side to ‘alternative’ media is it promises impartiality. it promises freedom,. it promises information that is not obliged to a ruling body, a governmental institution, an advertiser, or capitalism itself. but it also brings forth the issue of credibility because face it, as citizen journalism rises, the integrity of information and news itself is placed on the table. it is only wise that we apply discretion when absorbing info from blogs. always ask ‘how come’, ‘why’ and ‘where’ the info came from. Half truths are glorified as truths. lies are substituted for stories that don’t attract traffic, and the innocent are slayed in the name of fame and popularity (in the context of maintaining blog audience).


  5. @darciwil: A bit naive isn’t it, to expect that people will not use the NET to manipulate others? The line between persuasion and manipulation is a thin one in the best of times (e.g. when you wear a tie to an interview when you normally wear one, are you trying to persuade/manipulate the interviewer into thinking a certain way about you?).

    The fact is that humankind has been playing these games since forever and these games continue on whatever medium that comes along and the Net is just the latest medium.

    @Phillix: I think there is a great misunderstanding about the new media and how it relates to journalism. Equating the new media with citizen journalism is misleading for precisely the reasons you’ve outlined and anyone that takes the new media as an authoritative source of news ought to have their heads examined.

    The best analogy Unspun’s heard of new media’s use to us is that blogs should be viewed as is a few people hanging around a neighborhood pub. Lots of information gets passed around, some reliable, some exaggerations, some outright lies.

    Over time, and through the demeanor in which the speakers conduct themselves, you would know who to trust and who not. In the meantime, the information is also useful, if nothing to expose you to the wide variety of news and views being aired in your community. That’s better than sitting at home watching the telly and being oblivious of your community.


  6. that’s what i’m saying, if there are more and more blogs sprouting out, people should be more wary of their intentions. I’m quite concerned that there are still a lot of *naive* people out there who tend to blindly believe the things they read on the net.

    Do you belive in self-regulation of blogs, dear unspun? šŸ™‚


  7. @darcwil: more and more…out of hundreds of thousands so a few thousand more blogs won’t make it harder to make sense.

    The Long Tail has some pretty good ideas about how people culd separate the wheat from the chaff in the blogosphere. Not much more difficult than selecting the kidn of newspapers to read, really.

    Self regulation of blogs? Nah. More in favor of letting a hundred flowers bloom school of thought. The free market will decide what’s worth reading and what’s not, get into regulation and you bump up against the age-old question of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


  8. “…Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?…” There you go again…. This time, I’ll come and spank you myself in Jakarta.

    Be there probably circa next weekend.
    “…Que Sera Sera…”


  9. act many ppl still dont have a blog yet. but ppl are now using blogs for many diff purposes – and like you mentioned, politics is one big one.

    wonder if any minister will have a blog soon (not cm, but cabinet minister) šŸ™‚


  10. Sure or not? Anyway, I’m leaving for Bukit Tinggi next Monday. No Minang has since replied… If you’re away, I do the Surabaya route next. And end in Jakarta. Where I’ll give you the promised spanking of your life….. earthquake or not šŸ˜›

    And to QuaChee, Mahathir just opened one. Badawi Promised a sleeping one, and Toyol has one which no one understands… To answer your question, yes.


  11. lol. at least the government is keeping up with the trend of blogging. That’s a fresheing change innit? I think Shabery said that they will make use of blogs to disseminate information. About ttime i suppose. They might have their followers too in fact.


  12. Sure, as long as you say good things about the Malaysian Government. But then it would be a really short Blog. Otherwise, they’d throw your ass in Jail for either Sedition, or ISA, and throw away the Key.

    I’d like to throw in the UMNO fellas, and send in the LIONS !!! (not the club)

    Truly Asia, Truly Dying of Inbreeding now…..


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