Beware the normalization of floods by Anies Baswedan

Normal is when something happens often, becomes predictable and loses the power to shock, anger and spur people into action.

The biggest danger that Jakartans face is the normalization of the widespread floods which is happening so often lately, I think about seven this year so far.

Each time time it floods the same things happen. From early on Netizens start posting photos of floods in their areas.

Residents, frustrated by the floods, taking the law into their own hands at Aeon Mall, Jakarta Garden City…the new normal during times of floods?

There is the photo of cars leaving waves of muddy water in their wake . Old women trying to cross a torrent. Valiant acts by random Samaritans.

Then the funnies: Tik Toks of people on beds, on tables above flood waters. Some dancing, some fishing.

Inevitably there will be video posts of snakes or fish, especially koi, swimming in the floodwaters.

All they will curse and rant at Anies. How he is incompetent. How his pseudo-religious claims were all empty, how is kadrun supporters, who helped oust the effective Ahok from governorship were now reaping the whirlwind of their distardly acts.

Anies would, in turn, mutter something inane, and the groundswell will once again froth vitriol at him, with Jokowi buzzers leading the charge.

Then nothing will happen. The flood waters will reside and with it the hue and cry that accompanied the floodwaters will die down – until the next major flood.

This normalization of floods causes frustration all around as it exposes the powerlessness of the city’s residents. This is dangerous as such feelings, pent up, would need an outlet.

And so it has happened. The poor residents near at Jakarta Garden City has resorted to rioting against Aeon Mall, blaming the developer there for causing the floods in their area.

Someone has to do something before this too becomes the new normal.

Actions not Tweets, Tik Toks, Instastories and FB posts and rants is what is needed. Actions singularly focused on forcing Anies to act or to leave office need to be carried out.

Who can take these actions instead of being brave keyboard warriors, before the cycle of flood-netizen outrage-violence becomes the new normal?

Kurawa, Big Media, and the GoodBener who would be president

A battle royale is raging on Twitter between established online media houses including kompas.com, kumparan.com and professional buzzer @Kurawa and so far there have been threats of legal suits, applying the Draconian UU ITE and others.

The story unfolded on January 5 when Rudy Valinka, aka @kurawa, tweeted an accusation against Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan for media placement carrying the messages that he was GoodBener (rally good, a play on Gubener) to become President. Kurawa said it must have cost a few hundred million rupiahs, an unnecessary expense that could have been used to alleviate the plight of flood victims.

 

 

He then followed up with screen grabs of how several media outlets seem to have similar headlines and quotes.

Here’s one from Kumparan.com

 

 

This one from detik.com

 

And this one from Kompas.com

Then @Kurawa started saying he was disappointed by kompas.com for receiving a media placement from Anies, as he thought that Kompas.com was really objective.

@Kurawa also attacked other media, including Jawa Post. The editor replied to him on Twitter saying that their reporter had not ”complied with proper procedures” when uploading this story and they were therefore removing their story.

Kompas  fought back, saying that their journalist wrote the original story and others had copied their content. Kumparan also disagreed to allegations. From there, as with the way of social media, things all got heated up and murky because everyone started weighing in.

There was talk of lawsuits, the use of the UU ITE, going to the press council and other remedies. As usual, everyone had strong opinions.

What lessons can the rest of us get from this incident? Here’s Unspun’s list:

1. Kurawa may or may not have jumped to a premature conclusion that the publications all had been bought over by Anies to report the incident. The media, however,  still needs to look at themselves and how they report the news

2. What’s obvious is that there was a lot of cut-and-paste and story/photo sharing on the level of the reporters. How   This managed to evade the scrutiny of the editors is the real story here. And even if they had, surely a good editor would look at the competitors’ stories the next day and call in the reporters for the cut-and-paste stories?

3. The established media’s standards have been dropping for a long time and they are not functioning as a vigilant Forth Estate should. Issues and incidents arise and just as fast sink into obscurity and neglect. There is no follow-through of stories to their end. Hard questions are not asked.

4. The established media houses should realize that the only way they can recover from this tailspin of diminishing advertising revenues is to boost their credibility. It is only with good, hard reporting that they can stand any chance of staying alive, let alone return to profitability. The Guardian is a good example where good journalism pays.

In a time in Indonesia when all the three estates of the country – the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary – have shown themselves to be dysfunctional, it is more important now than ever for the Press – the Fourth Estate – to  provide the checks and balances that would ensure that Indonesia remain a vibrant democracy.

One can only hope that this incident forces everyone involved to do some introspection of their rights and obligations to Indonesian society, and then go ahead to discharge them.

 

 

 

Alexis: right decision for the wrong reasons

Alexis almost certainly has prostitution as one of its services and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan is right to close it down if morality is his kind of thing.

But shutting it down based on press reports rather than on hard evidence is worrying, as it sets a bad precedence of executive action based on suspicion.

What this means is that in future all the Jakarta government has to do is suspect that you are guilty of a violation to impose sanctions on you.

And the basis of their suspicion? Media reports.

While there are many responsible and professional journalists out there who would document and recheck their facts before going to print, there. are many more still who are slack, naive and easily manipulated or can be bought or intimidated.

This being the case, it is not difficult for anyone to engineer negative stories against any business or party. And given the depleted ranks of journalists because of falling ad revenues it is easy for even implausible stories to be copy pasted onto other publications, amplifying the negativity.

With Anies’ action to deny the renewal of Alexis based on mere press resports rather than, say, an investigation by City Hall officers or the Police, we have entered the dubious territory of Kangaroo Courts.

We’d better hop onto trying to right this wrong before we end up in Anies’s pocket.