Friday 21 November 2008

Blogger Wars: Of Mangkuk Hayuns and Blind Mice (A Page From History)

A blog (a contraction of the term "Web log") is a Web site, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (artlog), photographs (photoblog), sketches (sketchblog), videos (vlog), music (MP3 blog), audio (podcasting), which are part of a wider network of social media. Micro-blogging is another type of blogging, one which consists of blogs with very short posts.

As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs. With the advent of video blogging, the word blog has taken on an even looser meaning-that of any bit of media wherein the subject expresses his opinion or simply talks about something.

Blogging has actually been around for sometime albeit in different formats. Before it became popular, digital communities took many forms, including Usenet, commercial online services such as GEnie, BiX and the early CompuServe, e-mail lists and Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). In the 1990s, Internet forum software, such as WebEx, created running conversations with "threads". Threads are topical connections between messages on a metaphorical "corkboard". (Source mainly Wikipedia)

In Malaysia. blogging only "exploded" and became a communication tool of phenomenon proportions in the last one and a half years or so. Although new "freedom" of expression on the Net came with the enactment of the Communications and Multimedia Act (1998) during Mahathir's watch, the daring only became apparent in Abdullah Badawi's tenure.

[The Act was passed, to fulfill the need to regulate an increasingly convergent communications and multimedia industry. The Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 is based on the basic principles of transparency and clarity; more competition and less regulation; flexibility; bias towards generic rules; regulatory forbearance; emphasis on process rather than content; administrative and sector transparency; and industry self-regulation. The Act seeks to provide a generic set of regulatory provisions based on generic definitions of market and service activities and services. The jurisdiction of this Act is restricted to networked services and activities only.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission was created persuant to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Act (1998) as a new regulator for the communications and multimedia industry in Malaysia. At the same time, the The MCMC took over regulation of the Postal Services on 1 November 2002. On the same day it also was appointed the Certifying Agency under the Digital Signature Act (1997)].

Though we had/have bloggers of all genre, the mushrooming of socio-political blogs led the "blog-revolution". Dr Mahathir's daughter Datin Paduka Marina, an avid blogger (rantingsbymm) feels that “blogs grew exponentially because of people's almost uncontrollable need to speak out. People were bursting to express themselves."

Pride in growing their blogs is another motivator, and certainly there is idealism.

This idealism probably fueled the exponential growth in numbers of so-po bloggers in a country where mainstream media (MSM) has lost credibility due to acute governmental intervention.

Even the good doctor himself started blogging from 1st May, 2008 when he could not find a better medium/tool to circumvent the "muzzle" put on him in the MSM.

We are witnessing the evolving paradigm that blogs bring to news reporting and commentary; blogs can and do serve as alternative news media in a country long starved of independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires. What we are seeing in essence is Citizen journalism, also known as public or participatory journalism or democratic journalism. Citizen journalism should not be confused with civic journalism, which is practiced by professional journalists.

Unfortunately we have few journalists in this country who are allowed to be professional and this therefore leaves much room for alternative media.

Citizen journalism is a specific form of citizen media as well as user generated content. It is the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information even if it's completely wrong and misleading." That bloggers can also be completely wrong and misleading does leave a sense of foreboding that mass media in Malaysia is not out of the woods yet!

In Malaysia, while there are hundreds of so-po bloggers, not many are considered credible enough although to a degree they have managed to sway public opinion. Established bloggers who report the news tend to become the news themselves and this undermines their impartiality.

The blogger largely recognized as the grandfather of blogging is Jeff Ooi of Screenshots and he was the first example of a socially conscious, independent and impartial commentator on things Malaysian. He was non-partisan until he joined DAP to eventually become a member of Parliament. Jeff Ooi gave the ruling coalition government its first taste of blogger discontent and pain in the ass.

He and fellow blogger, Ahiruddin "Rocky Bru" Atan have the dubious distinction of being the first bloggers in Malaysia to be sued in a case widely viewed as an attempt by the govenment to muzzle bloggers. The case is ongoing and being sub judice, much wind has been taken out of their blogging sail.

Also in the news is the undisputed Malaysian blogger king, Raja Petra Kamarudin. He needs no introduction and in my opinion, Malaysia needs more Malaysians like him. RPK IS Malaysian so-po blogosphere and there is no close second...not even Chedet. RPK's hallmark consistency has been the mainstay of his credibility and compared to a PM who has perfected flip flopping into a fine art, it is no wonder why people continue to read RPK's anti-establishment fodder.

Lawyer/Activist Haris Ibrahim is another blogger of note (Peoples' Parliament) who both writes and gets involve on the ground.

It also appears that with the quick boom, so-po blogging seems to have somewhat peaked off in recent months. What is even worse is the way some so-called mainstream bloggers seem totally consumed by the brand of idealism they peddle that they are totally closed to other ideals and realities. They are even turning on their own and tick off fellow bloggers friends, whom they accuse of being not impartial, no longer independent, etc, etc, without realizing that by being purportedly on the other side of the divide, they are being no different. Many claim altruistic intentions to provide independent, reliable, and accurate information including wide-ranging and relevant commentary, but they seldom really do without being biased.

I am amused by the tirade in blogosphere as mainstream (so-called) socio-political bloggers label each other for their respective leanings. What is clearly apparent is that certain bloggers think they are the custodians of moral and ethical codes by which so-po bloggers in the country must abide.

These self-appointed keepers are usually those who rode the tsunamic wave of discontent during GE12 and who now seek greater relevance and legitimacy in the political scene than what hit counters actually mean. Some are so caught up in their own demagoguery, and role as self-styled "peoples' champions" on the back of the sometimes deluge of reader comments from their coterie.

Their driving cause seems to be, "...anything but Barisan Nasional" and their current icon is the self-declared reformed Anwar Ibrahim. After almost 40 years of BN excesses one cannot really blame them. But the burning question remains whether they can hold Anwar to his many wonderful promises should he become PM.

Alas, I suspect so-po bloggers would not have as much relevance if the MSM had not lost much its independence. The death of press freedom started with the UMNO takeover of Utusan Malaysia in 1961 though it was not widely recognized at the time. An interesting two part interview in The Nut Graph Online news portal, of the then editor-in-chief of Utusan, Said Zahari sums it up. Please read:
1. A Strike For Press Freedom and
2. Utusan Will Become Very Irrelevant

No comments: