Information, Ideas and Blogging
A couple of days ago, I attended the Bloggers United Malaysia (BUM) dinner at the Lake View Club in Subang Jaya. It was interesting, meeting in person so many notable personages in the Malaysian blogosphere — and I must admit it was a bit of a shock to keep running into people who knew who I was and/or about this site.
I regret to say that not many of the speeches given there stood out, although they were clearly well above par for a Malaysian speech. (I still remember the painful farce I was witness to at the HELP University College dinner last month.)
I do recall Sonia Randhawa's speech, however, which emphasised that journalists do, by and large, support greater freedom of expression — it is publishers which have been more frightened of embracing blogging.
What stood out, though, was the statement by R. Nadeswaran, a columnist for The Sun, where he writes as Citizen Nades. He emphasised the need for bloggers to be respectful of individuals — criticise the politician if you must, but don't make it personal and libel him. He also recounted how he lost two classmates to the racial riots of 13 May 1969, and how as a result he has always been careful to avoid writing anything liable to cause another racial incident.
(Ironically, both Randhawa and Nadeswaran are not bloggers but journalists. I'm not sure if this is just a coincidence, or if there is a correlation between the memorability of a speech and whether the person speaking is a blogger or journalist.)
When the panel of speakers began accepting questions from the floor, I was one of those who got the chance to add my five cents. Basically, I asked why the blogosphere has failed to fully accept its role as the fifth estate.
The fourth estate of journalists reports both information, and provides ideas, in the form of opinion columns and editorials. As I have explained before, without ideas, all the ranting and rioting in the world will not get us anywhere.
Why, I asked, is the supply of ideas so limited in the blogosphere? I can hardly name any bloggers with original ideas — Bakri Musa is one of the few. As I said, when I want ideas or opinions, I still end up turning to newspapers like The Sun, rather than to blogs.
Jeff Ooi was one of the panelists who elected to respond to my question. Basically, he explained, the mainstream media has stopped reporting on anything worthwhile, and now only feeds us opinionated propaganda.
As a result, the blogosphere consists largely of informative news, rather than views as well. However, Jeff reassured me that he thought the blogosphere would start churning out constructive opinions and ideas in a few years.
I think Jeff has a point, but it still grates me that finding thought-out ideas and opinions about our country amongst blogs is far from easy. Since the newspapers (The Sun excepted) don't produce any opinions worth reading, it seems logical to me that the fifth estate should fill this niche as well.
In any event, it was a very interesting evening, and I'm glad to have met so many people I never thought I would see in person. I only hope that Malaysian bloggers can keep on moving forward, and start developing constructive opinions. The fifth estate should not be an echo chamber for one set opposition viewpoint, just as the fourth estate should not be an echo chamber for a set establishment viewpoint.