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Sunday, April 24, 2011

A blogosphere divided...

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Updated: Further thoughts on this in the full post

For the record, Walski was an exco member of All-Blogs, the now (probably) defunct fledgling organization that eventually evolved to become Blog House Malaysia.

Reading this posting by Rocky Bru leaves Walski with somewhat mixed feelings. No, he has no personal beef with any of the current Blog House Malaysia folks. In fact, he maintains a cordial relationship with quite a few of them (albeit at a distance these days).

It is good that Najib wants less polarization in the blogosphere, but our PM needs to ask himself this question: What's causing the polarization in the first place?

The answer is easy to surmise if one conducts even a cursory survey of the Malaysian blogosphere (more on that later).

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What happened to the "anti-Establishment" bloggers?


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Just before lunch, a Singaporean ex-journalist who now lectures for a living, and who was invited as a speaker at the 1st Malaysia-Asean Regional Bloggers Conference which ended today, asked what the PM would do to reduce "polarization" in the Malaysian blogosphere.

The Prof observed that the "usual suspects" were missing from this inaugural regional conference. The "usual suspects" is a term he used in apparent reference to bloggers harped as anti-Establishment.

I was seated at the main table in my capacity as the Adviser to the Blog House Malaysia, the NGO that organized the Conference. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, our patron, and Blog House Malaysia president Syed Akbar Ali were up on stage with the Prime Minister, who had just delivered the keynote address. Rosmah, Siti Hasmah and three Asean bloggers were at the main table with me. It was standing room inside the ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel as all 300 seats for lunch were taken up by sponsors, bloggers and observers.

Najib said he, too, would like to see more inclusiveness and less polarization in the Malaysian blogosphere.

"Perhaps this is something the Blog House of Malaysia would want to take up ...", he said, throwing a challenge to the Blog House Malaysia to rope in bloggers "from the other side" of the political divide.

(a blogosphere divided, and why, in the full post)

What image does your mind conjure when the term “anti-establishment” is mentioned? The answer would depend on in whose mind the image appears. Some see “anti-establishment” as being against the government, while others might see it as being against the political party or coalition behind the government. A whole other group of others consider being anti-establishment as anything less than agreeing 100% with 100% of what the government AND the party/coalition stand for – the group Walski calls the Binary Thinkers Brigade.

And the list of what the term possibly means can probably be expanded, ad nauseum. In truth, “anti-establishment” is really in the eye of the beholder.

So why the polarization, you wonder? Simple – it’s the way bloggers from either side of the political divide conduct themselves online, particularly within the sphere of social media, blogs inclusive.

The sometimes crude language aside, the acrimonious way supporters on each side pushes their agenda to the fore is juvenile, and very often creeps into the realm of the ad hominem. Granted, Walski is sometimes guilty of doing this, too, particularly on Twitter, but it’s usually in response to asinine, irritating and insulting rhetoric.

It has gotten to the point that when an idea or statement is challenged, the return argument almost immediately degenerates into a name-calling tit-for-tat. And then you have the holier-than-God-Himself politician wannabes who have gotten their butts super-glued to their high horses. Saying that these folks are irritating is a gross understatement.

So, why is there polarization in the blogosphere, Mr. Prime Minister? It’s in part because of the very juvenile and condescending way your party and coalition’s supporters conduct themselves in social media. They are not doing you and your initiatives (many of which are good) any favors. Not one iota.

The whole, like it or not, is usually viewed as a sum of its individual parts. Many times, the individual parts maintain the image of their individuality despite belonging to a whole that may try to be different characteristically. And who make up the parts that form the executive within Blog House Malaysia? Here’s a list, taken from their website:

President - Syed Akbar Ali
Deputy President - Akhramsyah Muammar
Secretary - Tony Yew
Deputy Secretary - Firdaus Abdullah
Treasurer - Zakhir Mohamad

Committee Members:
- Shamsul Akmar
- Endie Shazaly Akbar
- Eric Woon
- Datuk Nuraina Samad
- Salahuddin Hisham

Advisor: Datuk Rocky Bru

Image taken from Blog House Malaysia, hosting by Photobucket Anyone who’s familiar with the Malaysian blogosphere can immediately recognize the fact that many of the names mentioned above are fiercely partisan, and pro-BN. Walski won’t spoon-feed you on exactly whom – that’s a reader exercise, if you’re really itching to know.

Some of these very individuals – and again, Walski will not mention which ones – are asinine and condescending online. Seeing them as part of Blog House Malaysia is in itself a turn-off.

Now, in Rocky’s posting, he did mention that Blog House Malaysia welcomes all bloggers, regardless of from which side of the political divide. Walski will give Rocky the benefit of the doubt and take his word for it.

But looking at who’s helming it, trying to be more inclusive will be an uphill task. Like justice, it’s not enough for an organization to claim to be non-partisan, it must also be seen to be non-partisan.

Frankly, the leadership of Blog House Malaysia – the sum of parts – does not at all give the impression of non-partisanship, knowing what the individuals post online, either on their respective blogs, or on Twitter.

Sorry, Rocky – not that he doesn’t believe you, but that’s how Walski sees it. As do how many other bloggers would probably see it, too.

Be that as it may, Blog House Malaysia (BHM) has just successfully pulled off the first Malaysian-ASEAN Regional Bloggers Conference. For that, Walski congratulates you – job well-done, from all accounts he’s seen/read.

It has managed to succeed where All-Blogs didn’t, and Walski does hope that it enjoys success in its future undertakings. BHM is certainly better funded these days, and enjoys patronage of the highest possible level.

However, for Walski there is probably little chance that he will be signing up anytime soon. Again, it’s the sum of parts thing, and how some of the parts portray themselves online. Adding to that is the patronage – no secrets as to whether said patronage “looks” non-partisan or not.

The Malaysian political blogosphere (or bloggerhood, as Walski calls it) can generally be divided into three – those who are pro-BN, those who are pro-Opposition, and those whom have chosen to not be pro-anybody.

Walski would say that he classifies himself as being part of the third group.

But because BN has positioned itself as the Government (and not the party that makes up the executive branch of government), those who don’t support BN 100% are usually seen as being anti-Government by default. Again, it’s usually the Binary Thinkers Brigade who view it this way.

Walski will say that there are some within the Blog House Malaysia leadership who think this way, or at the very least, portray themselves online as if they do. Until BHM can prove itself to be inclusive (and not just say it is), until then there will be resistance to participate.

He speaks for his own self in this regard, but Walski is quite sure it is not him alone who thinks that way,