So who’s behind #NoWitchHuntKarHut?

Update August 28: One of the buzzers involved in the campaign has admitted to being asked to Tweet, the client remains a mystery, and he has apologised for taking on the assignment here.  Unspun thinks it takes a big man to admit that they were wrong and to ask for forgiveness. Perhaps the Netizens should cut him some slack from now on.

Since my post some netizens have named the alleged digital agency and one of them have come up with a shitlist of all the buzzers involved. The company or alliance financing the campaign remains a mystery (at least to Unspun).

The original post:

The hashtag #NoWitchHuntKarHut (KarHut stands for Kebakaran Hutan or Forest Fire) began life on Twitter ostensibly on August 20, three days ago, by a buzzer. It sat there innocuously until this morning, when it seemingly caused a civil war among the Twitterati of Indonesia.

What was it about and why did it cause such a furore?

burning-13As far as can be pieced together the hashtag was a campaign initiated by a digital agency based in Jakarta. It gathered and paid some buzzers to use the hastag and get through the message that large corporations have been unfairly singled out when apportioning blame for forest fires. The unfairness resulted from the fact that smaller corporations were just as guilty for starting forest fires.

All sorts of buzzers were recruited, even those who normally would be more comfortable with lifestyle and consumer consumption than environment and public affairs. They were apparently told by the digital agency that the campaign was also an Indonesian reaction against Singapore that has been trying to assert pressure on Indonesia. Naively some of the buzzers swallowed that story, hook, line and sinker.

So when the buzzers got to work, a civil war, not unlike that in  Marvel comic that many of them are fond of,  broke out between them and the other buzzers who smelt something fishy about their fellow-buzzers suddenly taking up the cause of Big Palm Oil. Not being wall flowers, they spoke, or rather tweeted their minds, and soon there seemed to be a groundswell of sentiment against their fellow buzzers that had apparently sold out to land grubbing, environment-destroying, cynical large corporations.

The war  got so bad that one prominent buzzer was reported to have closed his account because of all the criticisms he was receiving.

Being curious about such things and having a suspicious mind Unspun thought that the usual large corporation suspects were behind the move so he checked with friends he had in their woodwork. They told him that they were flummoxed as anyone as to who was behind the campaign as they weren’t. These are friends, not the organisations, talking so Unspun tended to give them the benefit of the doubt.

So if it is not the usual suspects who could it be? Who was sophisticated enough to engineer a campaign ostensibly on behalf of the large corporations but in reality aimed to discredit them? And who else would have the kind of money to pay the digital agency to run the campaign and pay the buzzers? And why that peculiar hashtag #NoWitchHuntKarHut? It is a clumsily long hashtag. The use of the “no withch hunt” idiom suggests a Western mind or one brought up on western education (or an agency whose strategy is led by a Westerner).

One source, who corroborated on the identity of the agency, said he heard that an alliance of companies (that was not part of the usual suspects) was behind the funding of the campaign. But there was no more information. This deepens the mystery. Are there other players out there out there trying to discredit the established Big Boys? Who would gain from such a move, if true? Are we about to see a round of musical chairs in the Palm Oil industry? What is going on?

Fear and loathing over funds for Ibu Saeni

They say that no good deed goes unpunished.

 

The four young people who had been so moved by the plight of Serang Warteg owner Ibu Saeni try raising money for her over the internet — and was too successful at it — must be savouring the irony of this saying now.

Here’s how the story unfolded: On Wednesday, Serang city authorities cracked down on Warteg owners who had opened for business during fasting hours. One of the wartegs they raided, with reporters in tow,  belonged to 53-year old Ibu Saeni.

TV coverage of the raid showed several officers swooping on a hapless Ibu Saeni behind the counter and putting all the food that represented her entire day’s takings into plastic bags to be carried off to an unknown destination.

warung-makan-razia

Shocked and awed, Ibu Saeni broke down into tears.

Not helping things, the city officials had one of their own explaining unsympathetically to the TV cameras that they raided the wartegs because their owners had violated a city regulation not to sell food during fasting hours.

When the incident was aired and reported over TV and other news outlets there was great outpouring of sympathy for Ibu Saeni, and disdain for the officials who were perceived to be picking on the small businesspeople while leaving the more privileged show ones (the larger outlets and chains operating in shopping malls) untouched.

Amid all the chatter on social media arising out of this incident, four young people  – Alexander Thian, Jenny Jusuf, dan Yogi Natasukma and Dwika Putra,  (Disclosure: Dwika works in my workplace) decided to do something to help Ibu Saeni.

Since they  were heavy social media users and influencers in their own right, they naturally turned to the Net to raise money for Ibu Saeni. They had thought that they could raise Rp10 million, maybe Rp20 million, to help her after the trauma she had been through.

So they appealed for donations. Dwika had an account in BCA that he used for his personal expenses. So he emptied that account and used it as a vehicle for accepting donations to Ibu Saeni.

Then the unexpected happened. The response was so good that the four of them were first delighted then shocked as contribution after contribution came in. When the fund ballooned to Rp80 million they began to realise that the money raised after that mark would be better utilised for helping other victims of the raid. So they used social media to tell would-be donors that whatever was raised after that would be disbursed to other Warteg owners who had also been raided by city authorities.

Still the money kept pouring in and when the deadline for the last donations came they had raised a whopping Rp265 million!

They were touched. They were elated. They were amazed by the generosity of their fellow Indonesians. But they were also getting a bit scared an frustrated.

This was because while many Indonesians were praising them and appreciating their initiative to do something instead of merely tweeting or Facebooking about their frustrations, others have been outright mealy mouthed and nasty about their motives.

It would have been fine if these critics questioned whether it was the right thing to do to try to help a woman who had broken city regulations but the bottom line was much lower than that.

The intentions and integrity of the four were questioned. Hiding behind the safety and often the anonymity of their Twitter and other social media accounts these critics started to insinuate against the integrity and intentions of these four.

Some said that they were Christians out to denigrate Islam, Others that they were out to make a name for themselves on the sorrows of Ibu Saeni. Still others questioned whether they were trying to make a profit from the interest accrued from the interest on the Rp265 million before the disbursement,. And some questioned whether they wanted to insinuate themselves into politics.

It is ridiculous. It is petty and totally unwarranted, forcing one of them, Alexander Thian, to address the issue in his Facebook page.

The truth is sometimes very simple until people try to complicate it. My take on this incident is that you have four young people with their hearts in the right places. They wanted to help an old lady in distress and got off their bums to do something about it.

They made an appeal and the response was way beyond their expectations. So now they have to deal with how best to disburse all that money so that it is not only fair but seen to be fair. There is nothing more to it.

Instead of dumping on them these critics should shut up instead and look into themselves to find out where such snarky, petty and ill-willed sentiments come from. Appropriate topics to contemplate during the month of Ramadan, when the aim is for people to become better human beings.

 

Guerrillas and Telkom’s Netflix Blockade

My latest posting at the Maverick blog on Telkom’s decision to block Netflix.

 

The block and tackle surrounding Netflix

Netflix’s entry into Indonesia caused a bit of excitement because it offered the consumer more choice. But shortly after its entry into this market it came across a seemingly huge obstacle. State telco PT Telkomunikasi Indonesia announced on January 27 that it was blocking access to Netflix from its platforms IndiHome, Wifi.id. The Great Blockade was ostensibly carried out, said Telkomsel on the headline of its press release, “to protect customers.”

 

What is it that Indonesian customers need to be protected from? Telkom, again through its press release, listed violence and pornographic content as well as to prevent it from business operations that are “against the public interest, morals or disorder.” Horror! Violence and pornography? Have the decision makers at Telkom watched Indonesian TV or other internet sites recently?

Somewhere along the line Telkom also said that it was upholding the law with the blockade and protecting the “sovereignty of Indonesia from foreign players.”

Very strange reasoning here but while one may be a bit down with a possible rise of moral policing, degradation of the powers of reasoning, and jingoism at any opportunity, we here in Indonesia should also rejoice by the fact that there is competition as well [Read More].

 

 

 

Ahok: Last man standing and Indonesia’s best hope for change?

Living in Indonesia these days feels as if someone has pulled the plug, and all the common sense and integrity that we expect even of our most revered political hopes are draining quickly out of the country.

The Outsider Jokowi, whom many of us had hoped would be a catalyst for change against a corrupted and ossified elite, now seems a shadow of his former self after his indecisiveness over the KPK-Police issue. Some people are hoping against hope that his dithering was actually some master chess move to get rid of Budi Gunawan who is widely to have been foisted on him by PDIP matriarch Megawati. This seems a long shot, however, and suggests that the hopes had watched too much Black Adder and the antics of the scheming Baldrick in their formative years.

Recently we have also seen the disintegration of Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan. Once lauded for his fantastic performance to get the country’s rail transport to run on time – no mean feat considering how bad it was – Jonan his been on crash and burn mode since the Air Asia disaster. he berated Air Asia for the failings of the aviation authorities, then he banned several routes for no good reason, then shot his mouth off on civil aviation investigations into the crash. He also issued a bizarre ruling that airlines would not be able to sell tickets at airports. And when it came to Lion Air the Minister who is known to roar at his subordinates his disapproval, squeaked like a mouse and got the state-owned Angkasapura to bail out the private airline as it did not have enough funds to compensate passengers stranded for hours because of its delayed flights.

And Surabaya Mayor Risma, once considered part of a new wave of local leaders able to effect change in Indonesia, has recently gone off the rails with her crackdown on young lovers and the sale of condoms on Valentine’s day. Why she is encouraging backroom abortions and the spread of HIV with this morally-infused crackdown is anyone’s guess.

The KPK, once the hope of Indonesians to clean up corruption is now a shadow of its former self as the new head hints at going soft on the real issues. Sure, it has been weakened by its fight with the police over Budi Gunawan and the police and the judiciary are responsible for wounding it, but let’s not forget that some of the KPK’s wounds are also self-inflicted.

Begining with Antasari some of the KPK’s leaders like Abraham Samad fail to recognise that in this high profile job whee you are up against a lot of bad guys, they must be more virtuous than Caesar’s Wife if they are to maintain the integrity and authority of that office. Alas they had feet of clay and exposed the Achilles Heel for its opponents to take pot shots at.

Which bring us to Ahok, the Governor of Jakarta. He is now being threatened with ouster from his post by the City Councillors. They want him out because he’s refuse to confirm to their version of the City budget that, as we are learning more every day, contains irregularities that suggest corruption.

Ahok seems vulnerable because he does not even have a party to back him up, the’s a Chinese in the traditionally non-Chinese dominated arena of politics and he’s a Christian in Islamic majority Indonesia.

None of this seems to have fazed him, however, as he continues not only to defy the Councillors but to do so in a confrontational manner. Granted, Ahok can be abrasive and he may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but his bravery and Devil-may-care attitude may be the thing that Indonesia needs now.

Unspun would argue that Ahok, more than Jokowi or any other politician deserves the support of the public. If there are enough of us who are willing to take to the streets to frighten the hell out of the councillors then they will back down and a strong message will be sent to all politicians that the People, not them, are in charge.

if Ahok, with the support of the people, can prevail over the corrupt city councillors and their parties, there stands Indonesia’s best chance of knocking down the other bowling pins of corruption and elitist politics. A victory for Ahok could prove a decisive and fatal blow to the old forces.

There have been some demonstrations in support of Ahok, notably yesterday’s gathering at Bundaren HI during car free day. There is also a petition being signed by tens of thousands at change.org.

But that is not enough. Shame is not a language that the politicians and councillors understand. Neither is logic. The only language they understand is force. Force can be manifested either peacefully or violently. There is no need to resort to violence in Indonesia under the present circumstances.

So what should be done? Occupying the City Council to deny the councillors access or, better still, if they are inside, denying them exit would be tremendously effective. Half jokingly a friend yesterday suggested that the artistes and others who were so effective at the Salam Dua Jari Concert should organize another event calling it #BringtheHouseDown.

Nothing short of something like this would force the councillors to back down. The problem, however, is whether Indonesians, especially Jakartans, have been gentrified by social media to the point of ineffectiveness. Do they possess the same spirit as the protesters in 1997-98 who brought about the Reformasi, or are they faux democracy supporters armed with social media accounts. A bit like harley Davidson riders pretending to be road warriors?

It is too easy these days to “do something” for a cause by liking it on FB, Tweeting a #, or signing up for a cause in change.org that results in — nothing but a lot of noise ricocheting about in cyberspace with no tangible real effects.

So what is it going to be? Waking on the Internet or taking to the streets?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running out of good sense?

The Nike Bajak Jakarta run yesterday has propelled itself into a storm of controversy because of the massive traffic jams it caused in the city. The reason why it caused gridlock in the traffic was because Nike decided to hold the run in a busy part of town at 4pm on a Saturday – when traffic is at the best of times heavy.

(Note: for a first hand runners account read Romeo Gadungan’s posting here)

What ensued are furious commuters forced unnecessarily to sit in their cars or on their bikes as runners, egged on by Nike Indonesia’s tagline #BajakJKT and slogan of “You Vs JKT”, smugly showed their mastery on the roads with their branded and expensive shoes, heart rate monitors, water bottle holders and other accessories.

B4vgJCICMAAtbMd.jpg-large

This smugness caused even more resentment on the part of the fuming commuters  against the runners and the brand. How would you feel when, after fuming for hours on the road, you checked your twitter feed and you see lots of complaints on one hand and self-congratulating, self-congratulating runners on the other?

Runners are now being called douchebags, hipsters etc.

Nuelhip

This is not entirely fair to the runners but Unspun thinks that there is a lesson to be learned here by runners, bikers and other performing athletic feats on public roads: Jakarta roads are already crowded with too much traffic, so if you get a chance to use these roads you need to be aware that you are sharing these roads and you need to be considerate to the motorists.

Too often Unspun has seen runners and cyclists (and Harley Davidson owners too, although they somehow don’t fit into the athletic category) acting as if they owned the road during Sundays and when they are out in packs. They expect all other motorists and commuters to give way to them or be bawled out by them.

Most of the runners on the Nike run, however, were the victims of enthusiasm to the point of not exercising running prudence, perhaps because of the desperation to do something physical and outdoors in shopping mall-obsessed Jakarta.

So many of them signed up for the run even when they did not know the route and time of the Bajak Jakarta run.

run

If you are into running (and Unspun knows a little about this, having completed two marathons and several 10Ks and half marathons, albeit about 3 decades ago) you would want to be fussy about the route, the organisation (does it look like they will have good traffic control, crowd control, first aid, water, is it hilly or flat etc) and definitely the time.

We are living in the equatorial region. It gets very hot very quickly once the sun rises. It is for this reason that most runs are timed at 5am or so because by the time it gets to be about 9am it starts to get scorchingly hot for runners.

The other reason why runs are scheduled so early is because there is still little traffic on the roads thereby causing minimal disruption to the other road users.

Why Nike, a brand that must have deep experience in running and organizing such events chose to have it at 4pm in a busy part of town is intriguing to say the least unless it too is inflicted with her mentality when it comes to running.

Over the past two years, we have seen the rise of running as the sport of choice for hip, young and not to young Jakartans. The fact that they can now clock their performance on electronic gadgets and then show them off to the world through apps such as Nike’s +,  Endomondo, ICardio and Runkeeper has helped to fuel the popularity of running (and also cycling).

The popularity has reached such a stage that any enthusiastic but unimaginative marketeer will suggest to their bosses to hold a run if the brand wants to “connect” with the masses and the young.

So we have seen a plethora of runs happening almost every week being sponsored by all sorts of companies with the money such as insurance companies, health product manufacturers and banks (although the irony of a bank run does not seem to have fazed them).

This eagerness has resulted in some less than well organised events. In the Standard Chartered Half Marathon recently, for instance, the organisers ran out of water in the later checkpoints causing some runners to suffer from dehydration. Two were hospitalised. One of them apparently had a heart attack.

It is perhaps time for every body involved in such public runs to get together to discuss how to ensure that runs do take into account the safety and health of the runners as well as the commuters.

From the city government that issues permits, to the police who are in charge of diverting and directing traffic, to the athletic bodies, event organisers and sponsors, there should be clear guidelines on the timing, route, logistics and safety provisions for the runners.

Runners should also be more discerning about which events they join. There is no lack of choice these days so unless organisers publish the timing and the routes before hand, they should not sign up like desperados. Force them to be more responsible or they won’t get your participation.

Running is a great sport and recreation. Runs can be enjoyable – both of runners and the rest of the people they share the road with. But like that Sub 4 that most marathoners aim for, you need to work hard at it. Now hit the road!

A sorry apology over the “opportunity” arising from Robin Williams’ death

This is a timely reminder for all of us in the communications industry not to get carried away by our literary abilities and thought leadership skills, to the extent that we become insensitive on matters that matter to people most.

A mistake has been made, an apology issued but I wonder what PR professionals would make of the Twitter apology? To me it did not go enough. There was no mea culpa and then it segued straight into intent. It falls short of an ernest apology, especially for professional wordsmiths.

Personally I am saddened by the death of Robin Williams, who has been a part of so much of the lives of  people of my generation since Mork and Mindy days.

That he apparently committed suicide because depression only goes to show how vulnerable we all are to this condition. The role that depression plays in our lives, especially when we get older, is rap and scary. We all need to learn more about depression and its link with Alzheimer’s Disease.

RIP Robin Williams.

PR Giant Edelman Apologizes for Calling Robin Williams Death an Opportunity

But says blog post on sparking mental health discussion will remain live

By David GrinerAugust 14, 2014, 10:40 AM

Robin Williams died Monday. Authorities say he committed suicide. | Photo: Jay Paul/Getty Images

 

Edelman is usually tapped with helping brands avoid or disentangle themselves from public backlash, but the global PR firm instead found itself in the hot seat this week.At issue was a blog post from media relations strategy evp Lisa Kovitz, who said the suicide of comedian Robin Williams created a PR opportunity for groups advocating for better treatment of mental illness.

“As we mourn the loss of Robin Williams to depression, we must recognize it as an opportunity to engage in a national conversation,” she wrote. “His death yesterday created a carpe diem moment for mental health professionals and those people who have suffered with depression and want to make a point about the condition and the system that treats it.”

While she certainly has a point about such a high-profile tragedy bringing mental health and depression into the spotlight, quite a few readers found the post to be in poor taste.

Most of the backlash likely stemmed from Gawkers writeup calling Edelman a “soulless PR conglomerate” using a celebritys suicide to promote its own expertise.

Asked by Adweek whether she regretted the phrasing or the intent of the blog post, Kovitz directed us to Edelmans tweet of apology this morning:

 

Despite the companys apology, Kovitz said the blog post “will remain live.” Most critics of the post said they felt it was positioned as a sales message for the PR agency:”Using someones death as an opportunity to position yourself as THE PR company to walk potential clients through the best way to benefit from this conversation is callous,” said commenter Erin Blaskie, who shared her complaint with her 30,000 Twitter followers as well. “Instructing potential clients to pay your firm money to help them take advantage of this situation is gross. This isnt a PR opportunity. This is someones life lost.”

via PR Giant Edelman Apologizes for Calling Robin Williams Death an Opportunity | Adweek.

(Disclosure: I run a communications consultancy that sometimes competes with Edelman’s local operations, but this posting has more to do with how the profession should behave rather than about  competitor firm) 

 

Something to like: Friends of Captain Zaharie MH370 Facebook page

If you are family or friend of Captain Zaharie, the pilot of MH370 that went missing more than 10 days ago and feel that much of what is being said about him was unfair, careless or plain sensationalism, what would you do?

You could face the media but that would be a huge strain. The pressure would be enormous, you would be subjected to a public inquisition and a small slip of the tongue could crucify you and reflect badly on the Captain. And even if you are good with the media you could still be subject to misinterpretation and misquotes.

Yet you feel that you need to set the record straight on some matters. In the captain’s case, some media reported that authorities raided his house and confiscated his home-made simulator when apparently the facts are that they want to the house and respectfully asked if they could inspect it. Th family cooperated fully and even helped to dismantle it. It was a picture of cooperation, not of authorities busting into the defensive home of a political fanatic.

What do you do? For Captain Zaharie’s family and friends their answer lies with starting a Facebook Page “Friends of Captain Zaharie MH370“.

FOCZ

It would have been better if they had identified who exactly was hosting the page to give it more credibility but under the circumstances this was enough and they have taken to providing information and clearing the air about misreports and misinterpretations.

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                     Continue Reading

This is smart use of social media during a crisis-like situation and corporations would do well to take a leaf from the Captain’s family and friends for their own crisis moments.

And why not? The Internet now allows almost anyone to own their own media. You could, in short order, set up a blog or reconfigure your webpage, set up a Facebook page and a twitter account, or use your existing one with a particular hashtag to do what the Captain’s friends have just done.

What you can do then is post notes to inform or announce information, or correct misinformation. If you want to go further you could also post your own videoclips and even open up a “press room” where you take the media’s questions and answer them through the net. The journalists would not like this very much as it takes too much control out of them, but what choice do they have if that is the only source of timely information from you?

This is not to say that a corporation should eschew the traditional face-to-face interviews, briefings and press conferences but social media now allows you to have a medium where you too can be a broadcaster to take the monopoly of power from the mass media.

Yet this is something corporations don’t do enough when confronted with emergencies and crises.is it because bad habits are hard to break, or that they feel that they are not engaging enough unless you do things in the real rather than the virtual world?