February 23, 2013
Politicians lose out on votes, journalists lose out on credibility, and the rakyat loses out on information. In the end, we’re all losers in this toxic game.
Have you ever felt like doing a karate chop on your television when watching Buletin Utama? Or suffered high blood pressure just after glimpsing the front page of Utusan? Or choked on your morning coffee when surfing Malaysia Chronicle?
Last night, my apolitical sister told me she actually felt like puking when watching Buletin Utama. Apparently, they were reporting how a prominent PAS leader likened recipients of the Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (BR1M) vouchers to animals.
“What rubbish! As if Nik Aziz would be stupid enough to say such a thing!” cried my usually mild sister.
“Obviously a spin,” I agreed automatically, rolling my eyes. Typical Buletin Utama, feeding lies to the masses, I thought.
But then my journalistic instincts, on a brief reprieve after failing to get analysts’ responses for my article for the day, kicked in.
What if it isn’t spin? I mulled. What if this time it’s actually true, bona fide news, and I’m dismissing it, before even verifying if the report is true, because I know TV3 is biased?
And therein lies the irony of the biased media. What blatantly biased news agencies don’t get is that the more they hit out on the other side, the more sympathy people feel towards the “victims”. It’s reverse psychology 101.
Take for example BN-controlled media like Utusan, TV3, NST. Every time they give the opposition bad coverage, most of us from the middle ground automatically assume its spin or, at the very least, not telling the whole story. Immediately, the opposition become martyrs in our eyes – the underdogs that we should root for.
And the same applies for pro-opposition news portals like Malaysia Chronicle, and even, to a certain extent, FMT. Honestly, another sister of mine, who is absolutely determined to vote for the opposition in the coming general election, actually shook her head and sighed “poor Najib” when reading the article ‘PM missed a beat on drummer ad’ on FMT.
As for me, every time Malaysiakini/FMT/Malaysia Chronicle columnists wax lyricals about what a “failure” our prime minister Najib Tun Razak is, I can’t help but sympathise with him and feel like reminding the world that ‘hey, if it weren’t for BN, we’d still be an agricultural society.
But then I pick up a copy of NST and feel nauseous at the sight of the bum-kissing headlines plastered above Najib’s face, and the cycle of sympathy-hate continues…
It’s just really ironic, because these news companies, journalists and columnists are bending over backwards to please their political masters, yet they are inadvertently doing these people a disfavour. Because while these news companies can keep the party’s staunch supporters feverishly happy with their one-sided, sugar coated, liberally-censored news, the politicians are definitely not winning any new fans.
And that’s a huge goldmine they’re missing out on. According to a survey by Yayasan Ehwal Siswa in two public universities, more than 50% of the 2,000 students interviewed were fence-sitters when it came to deciding which party they would support for in both parliamentary and state seats.
So what’s the solution? Obviously not blatantly biased news media that censors any unflattering reports – because then the middle ground will just see this as a propaganda machine akin to Harry Potter’s The Daily Prophet.
No, the only solution that works out for all politicians, journalists and the rakyat is to get rid of political intervention in the media. Exorcise the bias. Go back to fair and balanced reporting. Stay loyal only to the facts.
I feel like taking our BN leaders by the shoulders and telling them “if you think that you’re doing the right thing, then let the media freely report everything you’re doing. Let the media provide the rakyat with all the facts so that they can conclude for themselves that, yes, you’re doing the right thing.”
The end result of a free and fair media is that once it gains the rakyat’s trust, every time it reports on a politician messing up or doing a good thing, we the rakyat can accept it as facts to take into consideration when voting, rather than mere progaganda or lies. Dudes, it’s a win-win solution!
So please, no more spinning gasing headlines like “Najib wins over crowd in Penang” or “What a Joker! Adnan sure of clean sweep seats for BN in Pahang” and get back to reporting plain facts.