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Monday, January 22, 2007

Bloggerhood Backlash in a digitally flat world

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Walk with Us - the rallying call in support of two bloggers being sued by NSTP et al. And not surprisingly, in true manifestation of a world becoming flatter by the minute, a new blog has sprung up as a Walk-With-Us Central, so to speak. Also, not surprisingly, it's called Walk With Us.

Image hosting by PhotobucketTaking a stroll in a fast flattening world

The suit being filed by NSTP et al has resulted in an unprecedented, if not unexpected, response from the Malaysian bloggerhood, both based at home and abroad. It has also not surprisingly gotten the attention of RSF (Reporters Sans FrontiƩres, or Reporters Without Borders), an international press freedom watchdog.

There is also talk about the formation of a Bloggers Defence Fund, and surrounding that, numerous ideas of how to help out with the legal fees likely to be incurred by the two bloggers of note, Jeff Ooi and Ahirudin 'Rocky' Atan.

So, are these suits being instigated by agents of the Government, using the NSTP as a proxy? Truth is - we don't know, and Walski will not speculate. But the general perception sensed in the bloggerhood is that it is. And perception is 90% of "truth" - regardless of whether said "truth" is really true or not.

Take the ever popular Malaysian snack, the cucur kodok (deep-fried banana + batter balls), for example. As long as you perceive there is some content of bananas, the cucur kodok will be a banana-based snack, nevermind that in most cases it's 90% flour. More like banana-DNA-laced flour batter balls.

But Walski digresses.

Without a doubt, the pending defamation cases awaiting hearing are water-shed cases. They will be precedent-setting cases. But wariness within the bloggerhood abounds. The fear is that this merely marks the beginning of a bigger onslaught on our already battered freedom of expression. Again, the 90/10 rule of perception applies. And the perception is that we are under attack.
(more battered flat-world thoughts in the full post)

Deep down, however, the truth (as Walski perceives it) is that the move by the NSTP is being seen as the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. The last straw adding to years of pent up frustration against the mostly Government-controlled press. NSTP has just given their detractors a cause, and whether or not their suit is justified becomes secondary.

One could say that the backlash being seen is a manifestation of a flattening world brought about by open access to information via the Internet. Specifically, a backlash against a media body that has resisted, or possibly even ignored, the true implications of information access freedoms. A media body that still wants to believe itself to be the guardian of news - a paradigm perhaps true a decade ago. A paradigm destroyed by citizen uploading, a technology-driven phenomenon that has fueled a flattening world. And the pending suit, if nothing else, should open the eyes of the Government - that they cannot dictate what the citizens can or cannot belief to be the truth anymore.

The implicit message the Government is this - either be more transparent, and adopt transparency as a standard operating procedure, or risk incurring the wrath of a nation whose confidence in The Government is fast eroding. Obfuscation only leads to speculation and rumors, and is a paradigm that can no longer exist unchallenged in a flat digital world.

Ultimately, the change has to come from within the Government itself - to finally wake up to a fast changing world of unimpeded information flow. To continue with the paradigm of information suppression will be counter-productive in the long run. The NSTP is merely a limb - it is the brain that needs to decide how the limb moves and how productive (or unproductive) the actions executed by said limb will be. And the brain really needs to act fast, in this instance.

Because real-time, in a digitally flat world, isn't anymore. It's faster. And accelerating by the minute.