The Kanjuruhan football tragedy and the government’s miscommunication

Things happen and they do so not in black and white. There are reasons and counter reasons as to why things happen that will be unveiled only by time and careful investigations.

Some things can be disputed. Were police and military provoked into using force by rowdy football fans? There was certainly some provocation, if the video clips of the night’s event are accurate. Was there fear among the security personnel that the crowd in the rafters would join the mob on the playing field? There were some spectators that were seen climbing the 2 meter high fence to get in on video clips.

These, however, did not explain why the security personnel had to fire tear gas at the crowd, or resort to beating them up with their truncheons and fists. There was also a memorable scene in which a military officer executed a flying kick at a spectator.

Acts like these would inflame the emotions of anyone, what more the soccer fans who are usually on the receiving end of administrative and enforcement injustice and foul play in their everyday lives. In addition they are wrong, using teargas on soccer matches are against FIFA rules and the stadium was overpacked.

But that was one incident that the authorities could easily blame on the commanding officer at the stadium. Indeed the head of the Malang police has been received of his duties over the incident.

The buck does not, and should not, stop there though. The head of the national police should take responsibility as this incident happened under his watch. Instead, he washes his hands like Pontius Pilot, and orders an investigation. As if he has no responsibility for the behaviour of his men. As if Ferdy Sambo and his gang’s activities in the police had nothing to do with him; as if the shooting of some FPI members under suspicious circumstances were the acts of some unrelated officials.

Instead he offers the children of the dead victims of Kanjuruhan a job in the Police if they wanted it. That ‘s surreal. We stuffed up and inadvertently killed your father at a football match, so you can grow up to be like us, guaranteed of a salary and acting with impunity.

Then there is the PSSI chief, Iwan Bule who welcomed officials who were “happy” (bahagia) at the emergency centre in Malang just after the tragedy. He too promised to launch an investigation.

What’s likely to happen is that some officials down the line will be the fall guys. They will cop the blame but the top officials will continue being sanctimonious about how everyone should play their part in ensuring safety, how reforms were needed (but are never implemented), and engage in a harmless bout of finger pointing.

So at the end of the day nothing gets solved. In time the anger will abate and it will be business as usual. But it is just a matter of time before another tragedy involving angry crowds and poor police crowd control happens. Sad and depressing. My heart goes out to the victims of Kanjuruhan and the victims of the countless incidents of bad and unfair security enforcement.

Why Bjorka should worry the Government

The danger of hacker Bjorka to the Government lies not in the information he purportedly hacked and leaked. The danger comes from the reaction of Indonesian netizens to any news or posts about Bjorka’s antics.

Bjorka

Check out Twitter and other social media news feeds and typical reactions are support for Bjorka and criticism of the government. Bjorka is, to many, becoming a folk hero like Robin Hood or V in V for Vendetta.

Rightly or not, the netizens’ reactions suggest Bjorka is being seen as someone flipping the bird to a government that is engaged in Double Speak, authoritarianism and Thought Control. The stuff that folk heroes battle against.

The perception of their reactions may be skewed. Netizens are known for their groundswell of rage against any authoritative figure. They may represent only the modern day chattering classes and no one else.

This is not to say, however, that they do not have a legitimate reason to rage against the Government, a sentiment that is ironically fed by the Government’s reaction to Bjorka.

So far the Government has fumbled and sent mixed messages about Bjorka. The dismissed him as inconsequential and that he has not really hacked anything important. Yet they rail against him and seen fit to set up a high level data security task force to curb activities of Bjorka and other hackers.

The Government also fed the netizen’s sense of contempt for authority from mishandling its reaction to data security leaks. Information Minister Johnny Plate’s response about needing to keep OTPs secure only exposes what many perceive to be a normalization of stupidity and incompetence in the highest levels of office.

The fact that he has not been held accountable for this and many other gross mistakes and misstatements in the past is increasingly being seen as a normalization of impunity.

This is because these days almost no one in high office is being held accountable for anything, either through their own actions or for something under their watch.

Hence you have Ferdy Sambo running a mafia within the highest echelons of police and no one high is being held accountable. In other countries the Minister for Law and the Head of Police would have to resign for letting something like this happen under their watch.

The normalization takes place because their is no longer any effective political opposition. The media, already reeling from the onslaught from social media, is cowed and does not ask questions. Foreign journalists, those pesky foreigners who ask pointed questions, are not being issued permits to work here.

Just about the only avenue for proper dissent these days is on the internet. But even here, Big Brother is at work. The word “Buzzers RP” is used with fear and loathing by netizens because they are seen as the Brown Shirts of the elite to muzzle any criticism.

When all avenues for healthy criticism and dissent seem blocked and controlled, people like Bjorka become admirable.

In all the stories of folk heroes fighting against authority the pattern is always the same. Tyranny and control up to a point where everyone is fed up. They do not know what to do. Then someone emerges who can tweak the nose of the authorities.

The people love him, the authorities overreact and attract more hatred. They start making mistakes and drive more people to support the Bjorka figures.

Then an idea of resistance is sown and from there it grows and grows.

Will this happen in Indonesia? Unlikely, but never say never….

Tone deaf, in a very black and white way

Comments that in most societies would leave the audience aghast get a laugh and applause in Indonesia. Even when a member of the audience is the President of Indonesia himself.

PDIP Matriach Megawati, when addressing her party’s convention first took issue with Tukang Bakso (meatball vendors). She said she told her daughter Puan not to end up with a Tukang Bakso and the audience – including Jokowi – laughed. Puan tittered.

The comment that takes the cake, however, was when Megawati was talking about the Papuans. She said they were black but lately it was better because many of them were beginning to be fairer (because of mixed marriages with non Papuans) …”they have begun blending and becoming very Indonesian”.

As if you can’t be “very Indonesian”because of the color of your skin is black. As if a Tukang Bakso has no dignity and ability to care and love someone.

Such elitist, racist tone deafness. And the President laughed as all these remarks are made. A few days after his love-fest pawn to Megawati on how beautiful and charismatic she was. CRINGE.

Who can speak for the G20 spokesperson?

What qualities, skills and experience do you need to be an effective spokesperson?

For chair of the G20 Summit Indonesia all that’s needed to become the spokesperson for this prestigious event is evidently looks, youth, pop iconicity and privileged education.

Photo of celebrity Maudy Ayunda who was appointed as G20 spokesperson. Her appointment is being criticised as a way for Indonesia’s president to woo the youth population. Photo: Facebook

Credit: Facebook

The appointee, 27-year old Maudy Ayunda has a plenty in the looks department but is she savvy in handling tough questions that surely comes with the job?

“At her first briefing, she appeared to ignore questions about Putin’s attendance. Organisers told journalists to ask about her personality instead,” reports The South China Morning Post.

The paper further adds: “As part of a team of spokespeople, her role is to report the G20 meeting results that are relevant to Indonesia while sensitive issues would be handled by other representatives, Ayunda said in response to Bloomberg questions.”

One wonders what PR Professionals and feminists would think about this interesting role carved out for Ayunda.

Who’s really responsible for the trashing of Ade Armando?

OK, let’s get this out of the way: Unspun believes that voilence in retaliation for words is almost always not justified.

Having said that, I cannot help but to think that Ade Armando and the society that has elevated him into a public icon of sorts has brought the violence upon themselves.

Armando is of course the lecturer and social media influencer who got beat up badly when he attended a demonstration on April 11. He literally lost his pants in the beating and he was hospitalised after students and police rescued him from the mob.

Many Indonesians took to Twitter to express their disagreement with his views but also condemned the violence as excessive. Others pointed to the excessiveness of the khadruns.

These are valid opinions but I think it misses the point of why the violence occurred – a point that implicates Indonesian society and the media because they have allowed public discourse to degenerated into a pissing match on Twitter, or whatever social platform platform is current for the day.

Consider Armando. What is his claim to fame? He’s a lecturer in communications but has he distinguished himself in scholarship? Has he published any noteworthy papers to qualify himself as an expert or authority in politics or society?

Armando is also often described as a social media influencer. What does that mean? That he tweets loudest and often on subjects? That he clickbait his content so they evoke emotions and increases their talkability? And since when does someone with a huge following on social media qualify to influence public discourse on important matters?

Yet there he was being quoted by the Press because of his provocative tweets, being asked to host or moderate talk shows, being invited as a commentator in politics and society.

By doing so the Press has failed in its duty to exercise judgement in the shaping of public discourse. Instead of giving a platform to only those who exercise common sense, moderation and clear articulation of values, and also skilled in the art of disagreement, they have, in building up Armando, unleaded on Indonesian society a troll in the guise of a thought leader.

With people like him on pedestals public discourse is now a shouting match over Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. It has also become an arena for gang warfare where might makes right. Armando and a few others like him, buzzers one and all, throttle measured public discourse in the name of free speech.

Confronted by the might of buzzers, rumoured to have government backing, you can begin to understand the pent up frustration and anger of those who position themselves on the other side of the fence. Add to that a very uneven enforcement of the law and you have a powder keg.

The April 11 beating up of Armando is one of the manifestations of this pressure building up.

Perhaps it is time for those in a position if real influence to reflect on the harmful path we are in and the need to bring public discourse back to where it can do most good for society?

When everyone sounds sassy and is an expert

Remember that iconic cartoon from the early days of the Internet in the New Yorker?

The Internet has moved on a lot since then. Apps and other services now make it so much easier to create and upload great looking content.

So much so that I think the saying “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” needs to be updated to: “On the Internet, everybody can look and sound like an expert.”

This is what I am seeing on my social media feeds, no matter if they are Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Reels….

Everyone, even if they are green behind the ears and have not done anything to win them respect in the industry, is now capable and do try to come across as an expert dispensing tips, advice and listicles like they are going out of fashion.

They are aided in their quest for their 2 minutes of fame by platforms such as Glints and other headhunting outfits out to find a cheap way of generating relevant content.

So in the PR industry, for instance, you have consultants with less than a year’s experience lecturing their peers on media relations, engaging influencers, client servicing…every topic that is sellable to aspiring industry workers.

Then there are the masterclasses carried out by hoods who can’t even qualify as apprentices. Same MO. Young, ambitious people who don’t expect to be paid but grateful to be given a platform to show off to their peers.

No doubt some of these speakers are good and have fresh insights but most of them, I suspect, would be pedestrian.

So the question that needs to be asked here is whether this democratization of the ability to look and sound clever on the internet (for materials all you need is to do a Google or YouTube search on the subject matter and presto! You can sound like a pro!) – actually helps enlighten or dumb the audience.

What do you guys think?

Startups and their irresistible offers to our employees

If, like me, you run a small to mid-sized business then I’m sure you’d empathize when I say that the startups are the bane of our lives when it comes to staff retention.

Like voracious vultures their HR officers and talent scouts circle our businesses for any of our staff who show promise. When they spot them, they open their deep wallets and swoop in on these young workers with offers so they will find difficult to resist.

I’ve been wondering if these enterprises end up empowering these young talents or ruin the rest of their lives. The source of this musings is because I know of the daughter of a family friend that quit her present job because this startup offered her, a person who has been in the workforce for 3 years, about Rp60 million per month basic salary, plus share options in the company.

To be sure. She is bright and talented. She could cobble together a good-looking PowerPoint deck and present fairly convincingly. But when it came to managing people she was still green, unable to convey instructions concisely and clearly and making sure that her direct reports understood and executed her instructions well. She still had to, like good wine, mature. Her ego still got too much in the way and she became defensive under pressure.

Someone like that, in a world not distorted by startups and e-commerce companies, would find it difficult to command a monthly salary a third of what she’s being offered in the communications industry.

To her credit, she sought some advice before she accepted the offer. Asked what I thought, I had one question for her: “What skills and experience of yours, do you think, their generous offer is based on?” She never gave me a clear answer but said she was fearful that an opportunity like this would not come again.

Pressed to elaborate what I thought I said she should not be to worried about missed opportunities. Indonesia today is awash with investors pouring money into startups, even those with dubious business models. They would still be around in a couple of years.

If she spent this time in a conventional business where she could be mentored properly she would, at the end of this period, be so much stronger professionally. She could then command an even higher salary then but more importantly she would be more equipped to handle the other aspects of a competitive professional environment – the internal politics, the art of managing upward, and the measured responses required when things go terribly wrong.

On the other hand, if she joined a startup now, she could end up like so many of the highly-paid young and talented people in startups today – good to look at and listen to, but not too closely, or the superficiality or immaturity will start to show, contributing to bad decisions, tamper tantrums and anxiety.

My pitch, however, lost out to the prospect of drawing a fat paycheck, a grand sounding title and the allure of working in a startup. She decided to join them in the end.

I didn’t feel too flustered by that because she was not working for me and she might be able to land on her feet after a few stumbles. But I can’t help wondering whether, on the whole the startups are doing any favors to these young talents and the industry with the irresistible offers.

Helping out journalists when they need it

What I wrote in the Maverick blog today. Journalists are getting Covid and this causes many of them financial difficulties.

Many companies expect their help in publicising their messages in good times. Now when times are tough, they need out help

https://maverick.co.id/uncategorized/plight-of-the-information-front-liners/

Mining for trouble

This is a post I wrote for our company’s blog

Those who have an interest in media handling skills would find this interview — between the BBC’s Rebecca Henschke and Terry Filbert, the CEO of Baru Gold Corp that runs Tambang Mas Sangihe — a masterclass on what and how not to say things.

The company has been attracting a lot of attention lately following the sudden death of Sangihe Deputy Bupati Helmund Hontong, after the BBC reported that he openly wrote to the national government opposing the setting up of the mine.

Two days after that report, he collapsed and died on a Lion Air flight between Denpasar and Makassar.

Read the rest of the story by clicking on the link below:

Was Naomi Osaka professional in not wanting to take press conferences?

As someone who trains the C-Suite on Media Handling Skills, what we in the PR profession sometimes shorten to Media Training, I can empathise with Naomi Osaka for not wanting to speak with journalists after her matches.

At the same time I cannot but help wonder if Osaka was professional in citing mental health as the reason for pulling out of the French Open.

However you look at it though, the power equation between the media and their interviewees is changing because of social media ,so it should prompt journalists to do some navel gazing at how they should behave in press conferences and other interview situations. Let me explain.

Great opinion piece by Jonathan Liew in The Guardian

Firstly, Osaka deserves our sympathy because the media can be inane. How inane? see this article in Vice.

The media can ask all sorts of questions, whatever suits their fancy. This is so and has been so for a long time because of the power that the media once held over our public lives.

At their apex, the media could make you or break you because they were the only means of reaching a wider audience. They acted as gatekeepers and shaped the opinions of the public. Their influence was so pervasive that Mark Twain counselled us to “never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”

The residual authority from its heyday makes many journalists think they have a right to question any public figure and lob hardball questions at them. Never mind the caliber of question, the interviewee should answer truthfully, honestly and openly, without losing their cool. If they lose their temper in the process, then tough luck for the interviewee and good luck for the journalist because it makes good copy or television.

Then there is Osaka. Here one needs to be careful as once mental health is invoked in this age of cancel culture, everyone gets hyper-sensitive. To be heard even questioning whether the excuse is appropriately professional is to face the possibility of being accused of insensitivity, racism, sexism and other labels.

Nonetheless what needs to be said is that she did, as a consenting adult, sign a contract with the French Open and part of the contractual requirement is that she appear at press conferences after matches. It’s not right, and may not even be informative for the viewers and fans, but let’s face it, professional tennis is not a sport but part of the entertainment industry. The industry is funded by sponsors and advertisers. To keep sponsors sponsoring and advertisers advertising they need to feed the Content Beast. When Osaka signed with the French Open she signed up for feeding the Beast, which in turn ensured a large pay checks she gets when she wins tournaments.

I am sure that someone like Osaka must have been media trained. The answers, when she was still speaking at press conferences, were good ones. Even when she was faced by stupid and inane questions. She was able to hold her own. Some of the fundamental lessons in media training is to expect the media to ask inane questions but mercifully reporters’ questions do not matter; what matters is our answer – what we say and how we say it. Another lesson is that reporters tend to ask the same questions many times, even when you’re just answered the same question.

Everyone, from this perspective, should take a leaf from Henry Kissinger’s playbook. He famously walked into a press conference saying something like “I have prepared my answers, I am now ready to take your questions.”

It is therefore a bit debatable whether Osaka’s decision to pull out of the French Open was a professional move, after all one of the definitions of a professional is someone who makes money from a certain activity or a sport. If you make money from the sport, it behoves the professional to understand how the sport is funded in the first place.

No matter which side of the debate you fall on, one issue that we should all consider seriously is the professionalism of the Press. What should professional sports journalists ask that would inform, educate and entertain (tastefully) their readers and viewers? That would be a journalist’s job.

But when they descend to inanity, then they are not doing any favours to anyone. They need to realise that in today’s world, where a player can tweet and reach more people than the entire audience of their media outlets, they no longer live in the days where they buy ink by the barrel.

Flipping the bird at cyclists

Let’s be honest. How many of you had that great feeling of satisfaction when you saw that photo of a motorcyclist flipping the bird at a group of cyclists taking up more than half the road?

There must be many of you because that photo has gone viral and spawning hundreds of conversations about the cyclists.

Like you I despise those ostentatious, spandex-clad morons who lack even an iota of social awareness.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with cycling. In my younger days I was also into cycling but then it was about the ride. It was about you, the wind on your face, pushing your limits and enjoying the view.

Which is what so many of the Jakarta cyclists is not about. To begin with there is no great view. If you cycle in Jakarta there are only bad roads, a poorly maintained concrete jungle, inconsiderate motorists and polluted air.

So what it is that attracts so many of our city’s un-atheletes to take up this sport? My theory is the ability to show off to others. Cycles that cost hundreds of millions of rupiahs, cycling clothes and gear that are top of the line is part of the ensemble. Then there are the selfies and instagram posts. If you’re a real cyclist you’d probably post at most photos of you bike, its beautiful lines against a beautiful background. But not so in jakarta, its about pot-bellied Bapak wrapped in expensive spandex, atop a yet more expensive bike. Of the putatively trendy Ibu or Mbak with their over-the-top make up, fake eyelashes and enhanced boobs wrapped in expensive spandex on top still more expensive bikes.

The bikes they prefer seem to have one major criteria – that they are expensive. This is the reason why Bromptons are so popular here. Each bike is enough to feed a few families for a few weeks yet you see posts of a family of five parading their Bromptons.

The same show-off mentality extends to another category of bikes – the Moge. or Moto Gerde or Harley Davidsons.

Those bikes are supposed to signify freedom of the road. Again its man or woman communing with nature on their trusted metal steed.

But in Indonesia? It’s a sham. You have Harley riders riding around Jakarta with a police escort clearing traffic ahead of them (in a city with no views, bad roads, traffic jams and pollution). Yet this does not stop them from throttling their bikes in the midst of traffic jams so that the other car drivers and pedestrians can heart heir virile throaty roar.

What’s common about these bikers – whether on a Harley, an expensive road or mountain bike or a Brompton – is also their propensity to behave like they own the road when they get together. Reinforced by numbers they act as if everyone must give way to them and get really offensive when someone tries to ask them to have consideration for others or to follow road regulations.

Why do they behave so disgustingly? Is at the hear of it a low self-esteem so that they can only feel their worth through expensive things and subjugating others to their will, never mind if what they do is right or wrong?

Are they not aware that when they parade their expensive stuff in front of the rest of us, either in real life for on social media, that our thoughts are not, “Wow, how cool are these guys!” but “What an obnoxious asshole!”?

You have to wonder whether these cyclists, many of them well educated, affluent and well-traveled, are capable of social awareness. Awareness of how others really think, or has the cycling helmets stopped the blood flow to their brains.