Thursday, 19 May 2011

Check, some news just isn’t right

Brave New World (The Star Online)
19 May 2011

The irresponsible, unfounded and silly abound on the Net. It is up to responsible news organisations to verify the truth of the matter before picking up the story.


HEY! Guess what? The other day I was wandering around Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur and I saw a group of Hindus discussing something in their temple compound.
You know what? I think they want to make Malaysia a Hindu state!
They are somehow going to get two-thirds of both the Dewan Rakyat and the Dewan Negara along with the Council of Rulers to change the Constitution and make us a Hindu state.
No, don’t laugh. I recognised a politician in there among them, so it must be true.
How can you tell this story is true? Well, you are reading it in a newspaper aren’t you? And to make sure this story is truly credible, I’m going to make the same assertions on my blog.
Does this sound stupid to you? It does? Well, that is because it is.
Now in the world we live in today, anyone with a computer can say any old thing, no matter how obtuse, and then get it out for the whole planet to see.
For example, the “scoop” that a bunch of priests and politicians are going to turn this country into some sort of Christian state.
It’s a wild accusation – irresponsible, unfounded and silly.
However, on the information super highway, you get a lot of silliness and this is to be expected.
In my view, this freedom to be as dumb as you can be is a price worth paying for the freedom of expression the Net gives us.
However, I find it is surprising that this “scoop” would be carried by a newspaper. Aren’t newspapers supposed to work within this strange thing called “journalistic principles”?
Shouldn’t a newspaper check out a story first by doing a spot of investigating? I don’t know, perhaps by calling the organisers of this “insidious” meeting of Christians and asking them.
The conversation could sound something like this: “Hello Padre, are you going to convince Parliament and the Council of Rulers to make this a Christian state? You aren’t? Are you sure, because a blogger said you are.
“What’s his name? I don’t know because he uses a pseudonym. Perhaps there is some other way you want to do it, maybe by force?
“What did you say? Oh, yes, Christians make up only 7% of the population and there is no Christian Army to call upon.
“I see, so it’s just a silly accusation then? Right, well, thanks for your time Padre.”
There you go, simple. No need to do a Woodward and Bernstein with midnight visits to underground car parks to meet informers named “Deep Throat”.
A simple phone call is all it takes.
Speaking of simple, it came as no surprise at all to me to hear Ibrahim Ali jumping on this story and then proceeding to rave and rant.
He promises to lead a crusade against Christians, and that he and his jolly Perkasa pals will be the first to lay down their lives.
What a brave man he is because I would have thought that such language would definitely bring the law down on your head.
I mean what if some Buddhist said he wanted to wage war on Muslims, he would have been locked away under the ISA or the Sedition Act before he can say “bad karma”.
But then it doesn’t take much bravery to say such things where Ibrahim Ali is concerned. Especially if the de facto Law Minister has given you the freedom to make such comments.
He said we have to live with such comments and he won’t use the Sedition Act.
This is because people say such things on the Net anyway and to single out Ibrahim Ali would not be right.
Hey, that’s good to know. So if lots of people say the same thing on the Net, then the Government won’t take action against any single person? This is a fascinating new policy.
Does this mean that if, say, a thousand of us put on our blogs, tweets and Facebook that we want an armed rebellion, no action will be taken?

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Terror threat remains

Brave New World (The Star)
5 May 2011

Osama bin Laden’s death does not mean that the problem he symbolised has gone, not until the causes of terrorism are dealt with properly.


THE killing of Osama bin Laden has been dominating the news. This is to be expected, of course. After all, he is the embodiment of all evil where America is concerned. And what is important to America must naturally be important to the world.
Despite my sarcastic tone, let’s be clear. I think the world is a better place without Osama, mass murderer and hide-and-seek champion. He has claimed responsibility for the killing of thousands of civilians and in that he is monstrous.
I am of course aware that people like former US President George W. Bush and former British Premier Tony Blair are also responsible for the deaths of thousands with their, I submit, utterly unlawful war against Iraq. Be that as it may, Osama is still an international criminal and his demise will not see me shedding any tears.
It will be interesting to see what happens from this point. Already there are some choices made by the Americans which will raise heated debate.
The fact that Osama was so quickly buried at sea will mean that his body is now irretrievable. This will doubtless give fuel to the conspiracy theorists out there to claim that he is not really dead.
The politically cynical point out that this operation has come at a terribly convenient time for Barack Obama. The killing of Osama will boost his flagging popularity, just in time for the tough upcoming presidential election.
I for one believe that he was killed by the MI6. It is all a British plot designed to keep the world’s press preoccupied so that William and Kate will have a peaceful honeymoon.
Flippancy aside, the death of Osama does raise serious questions. There is a saying used by some who practise stick fighting: to destroy the enemy, you must de-fang the snake.
This means that if we destroy the opponent’s weapon, in this case his stick hand, then we have achieved a step to victory.
This principle, although generally sound, does have its problems. For destroying a person’s main weapon does not mean the problem is solved.
Just because a person loses his stick hand does not mean he has lost his other hand, legs, head and elbows. A key factor may have been removed, but the problem could still remain.
We can see this on the world stage in Egypt, for example. Although former President Hosni Mubarak is now gone, corruption is still rife in Egypt — and so is the economic chaos that the people were so angry about.
In other words, the “fang” is gone but the rest of the body is still there. In Egypt, it was not simply Mubarak that was the problem but an entire system rotted to the core after decades of corruption, nepotism and oppression.
With Osama now dead, it does not mean that the problem he symbolised has gone. The world must still deal with terrorism and, more importantly, the causes of terrorism.
There will always be mad men in the world, those who think that violence is the method to achieve their objectives. But for these kind of people to get large numbers of followers and supporters cannot be simply explained away by saying that all of them are bad.
Terrorism is not some sort of mental problem, it is the result of political, economic and social factors.
In countries where the political process is exclusive and people are not allowed to take part in governance, either because the system followed is a dictatorship or a sham democracy, they are more likely to turn to unlawful methods to get their point across.
When there is widespread poverty and desperation, it is easier to get recruits into a cause which promises salvation, even though the promise comes with a price of mindless violence.
When people are faced with gross social injustice, men like Osama with the message that they will fight that injustice (as deceitful as he may be) will draw plenty of eager followers.
Osama is dead, and although this is definitely a blow to Al-Qaeda and other organisations of their ilk, it does not mean that all is well.
Unless the approach taken goes beyond cowboy gunship diplomacy and idiotic jingoistic flag waving, and while the causes of terrorism are not dealt with properly, all that has been achieved is the destruction of a fang. The threat is still there.