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Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Power of Public Opinion

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Image taken from Guerrilla News Network, hosting by PhotobucketThis post begins with telling you about a certain Lt. Ehren Watada, who's currently facing a military court martial, due to his refusal to be mobilized to Iraq.

You may be wondering why Walski is writing about this, when the case involving Lt. Watada is something that is happening half-way across the world. That may very well be, but it has a lot to do with what's happening right here in Malaysia, albeit in a not-so-straightforward way.

In case the name Ehren Watada doesn't even ring a single bell, read this Wikipedia entry about him. The one-sentence summary: he is the first commissioned officer of the US Armed Forces to refuse being mobilized to Iraq, to face the aftermath of a war he says is "not only morally wrong, but also a breach of American law".

Which brings us to what went on yesterday.

Wednesday, February 7th, marked the last day of the EXPOSE WAR CRIMES: CRIMINALISE WAR conference, organized by the Perdana Global Peace Organisation. In his closing speech, former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir made a statement, quoting panelist Dr. Shoji Sawada, that (and Walski's paraphrasing here) "there are 2 superpowers in the world. One is of course the military superpowers, and you know who they are. The other is the power of public opinion".
(more power to change the world, in the full post)

And as much as the US mainstream media wants to spin it, the public opinion in the US, with regards to the Iraq War and the subsequent occupation, is changing. Not that George W. gives a rat's ass, but it is changing.

The courage exhibited by Lt. Watada in refusing to serve in this morally reprehensible occupation, post-invasion, is definitely an important indication that the people of the US are perhaps slowly waking up from their post-9/11 shock-induced fuzzy mindedness. To have an officer refuse to serve is a very big deal.

On January 29, the US Army prosecutors dropped 2 of the charges originally levelled against Watada. What is significant is that this has prevented two journalists from being subpoenaed to testify against Watada, for statements of dissent that he had made to the media sometime last year. It has prevented the US government from using the press, in this case, as a tool to further their attempt to circumvent the rising public opinion against their Iraq policy.

The following short video is from YouTube, talking about the significance of the two charges being dropped. In particular, pay attention to the first 45 seconds or so, and what one of the journalists, Sarah Olson, has to say. It bears much similarity to what Walski sees as the dilemma faced by the Malaysian press.

Change can and does happen - sometimes even for the better. In part, it was the shift in public opinion that forced the US to pull out of Vietnam. A change that jolted the US administration at the time that they were funding a losing war.

And sometimes, all it takes to get the ball rolling is one person, fueled by the power of changing public opinion. Perhaps Watada will be that one. Regardless of the court marshall's outcome, which incidentally should be known within the next few days.

So lets recap. And hopefully you'll begin to see the coming together of several seemingly disjointed occurences and ideas. Trust Walski on this one - they are inter-related.

Public opinion plays an important role in shaping public policy, provided of course the government of the day gives a shit, and wants to listen sincerely and do things truly for the benefit of the people. It is this same public opinion that has the power to stop governments from going to war. Again, provided they aren't to wrapped up in themselves, pursuing self-serving agendas.

And the press, in being one of the mechanisms that helps the shaping public of opinion, needs to be seen as non-partisan when reporting on issues, and not seen as being merely the instrument of government propaganda, which, in fact, is the common perception of many Malaysians today with regards to our own MSM. Unfortunately, there are active laws preventing true press freedom in this country, and the government uses them without hesitation, when they deem it necessary.

So, the two big questions that Walski must now ask:

1. Where do the Malaysian mainstream media and press stand? and

2. Does the Malaysian government truly give a fuck and listen to the real Malaysian public opinion, on any matter, or are they just way too wrapped up with themselves to even bother?