Propaganda and Lies, Courtesy of the Malaysian Government
A recent announcement by the Malaysian government has been stirring up the wags of the Malaysian blogosphere: the announcement of a team to fight "lies" ostensibly spread by blogs.
More than a few people have criticised the government's plan to set up a team devoted just to spreading the government's version of events over cyberspace. Several have compared it to the dystopic novel 1984 by George Orwell, where a Ministry of Truth spreads well, lies.
These criticisms have some merit. But if you ask me, not much harm is being done by the government's attempt to engage in discussion in cyberspace. It is certainly better than trying to reject the medium wholesale.
The government is often criticised for being behind in adopting blogs and other new forms of communication — something the opposition is notably not deficient in (every Member of Parliament from the Democratic Action Party, the largest opposition party in Parliament, has their own blog).
So now that the government is trying to play catch-up, it is being criticised — I smell a double-standard here.
Furthermore, disseminating one's point of view is better than trying to suppress others' viewpoints. The government has previously made it clear that the internet will not be censored, and I believe that we should welcome their attempts to now embrace this medium.
What I would be concerned about is the sillyness of the practical details when it comes to implementing their plan. Much like the ill-fated proposal to register bloggers, there are defects you could drive a tractor through in this plan.
The government said it intends to monitor blogs, and issue an immediate response to anything it considers a lie. The first question is, what blogs will they be tracking?
Will they track all Malaysian blogs, an impossible feat? Or will they confine themselves to the most popular ones, and allow misinformation from lower-level blogs to continue going around?
Then there's the cost-effectiveness of this programme. How much will it be costing the Malaysian taxpayer to have this propaganda spewed around the blogosphere? It is not cheap to maintain a team constantly tracking and responding to blogs.
In the first place, the "truth" (from the government's point of view) is already abundantly found in newspapers and press releases from our own Ministry of Truth (AKA the Information Ministry — which has its own fiascoes that will be dealt with in another article).
It's quite redundant to be repeating this "truth" in the blogosphere when most of those reading blogs already know the "truth", and simply refuse to believe it. It's the exact opposite of preaching to the choir — it's preaching to Satan himself. It's a complete exercise in futility; nobody will be buying the "truth" the government tries to sell us.
Will this scheme to monitor and respond to blogs founder, as the proposal to register blogs did? It's not immediately clear, because unlike the registration idea, this proposal does have some merits.
But if it doesn't founder, the plan will certainly flop. I am quite certain it will have no impact whatsoever on what or how people actually think and believe, because the government itself lacks the credibility to lecture people on what constitutes truth.