On the 8th of March 2008, the Barisan Nasional (BN) had faced a major loss of seats in the country’s 12th General Election (GE). Pundits have deduced a myriad of factors that contributed to the unexpected results such as the flaws of the country’s economy, bad governance, inefficient politicians and so forth.
Viewing from the politics-is-all-about-perception perspective, BN’s political casualties in the GE were caused by the brilliant and effective use of the new media by BN’s archenemy Pakatan Rakyat (PR). Even though the PR leaders were extremely shocked by the unexpected results, they definitely understood the labyrinths of communication and were savvy in hitting the right spots through media to influence their targeted “publics”.
It has been more than 2 years now since the election’s unforeseen victories and losses, yet again, PR is still progressing far ahead from BN in terms of painting the perfect picture of Malaysian politics according to their own party’s agenda.
Social Media Remains Under Utilized by Barisan Nasional
As the BN leaders and machinery begin to explore and intensify the usage of popular tools in the new media such as blogs and youtube, PR have moved on to a newer trend of spreading information that reaches its audience with a faster pace and of better convenience; social media.
To date, a number of PR’s leadership have been the pioneer users (and popular as well) of the revolutionary microblogging platform. Twitterleaders such as Lim Kit Siang, Nurul Izzah, Nik Nazmi, Hannah Yeoh, Teresa Kok, Loke Siew Fook have been actively posting 140 worded notes that are interactive in nature and more often than not, current issues related.
Based on their daily posts in comparison of each other, it seems that the pattern of issues conversed are similar where most of them have successfully highlighted certain keywords and sentences that represent the same stance on a particular issue. It could be possible that the leaders have cooperated in establishing an informational web networking on Twitter just like they do on blogging. Their modus operandi of spreading information to targeted publics are synchronized and presence are ubiquitious in the cyberspace.
Hence, the repetition of the words, statements and hashtags have been effective in informing their “publics” or followers on a particular issue. In fact, twitter-users also rely on these politicians’ accounts for firsthand news on any occurence.
Whereas from BN, only Khairy Jamaludin, Tun Faisal Ismail, Ezam Mohd Noor and Wee Ka Siong are most followed and have been responsive on current issues.
Return of The Traditional Media
While the BN accellerate their cyber machinery, PR and their supporters which include activists, academicians, researchers, writers and others are returning to publishing books to inform and influence the general public with progressive and leftist prone ideas. These books of provocative ideas are very critical in subjects like human rights, ethnic-relations, Malaysian history, governance or politics come in both types; factual and non factual. Both forms have managed to put the BN government in a disadvantaged situation in the informational warfare.
Publishers like KiniBooks, GerakBudaya, Zed Books, Matahari, SIRD have been actively publishing books that entice readers among academicians, students, graduates and professionals. Unfortunately, there haven’t been much books that are popular enough to clarify the allegations posed against the government.
These pro-PR publishers have even established a publishing network such as by the organization of the annual Kuala Lumpur Alternative Book Fair. Also, by looking at the types of books that are sold in famous bookstores in Kuala Lumpur, PR’s network of spreading ideas which conform to their principles may succeed in reframing the educated’s ideal values towards Malaysia as a multicultural country.
The abundance of such books will enable Pakatan Rakyat to win big in the next election, if, the BN government sleeps on in this war of information and ideas.