Salleh Said Keruak
Political analysts look at Malaysia’s 2008 general election and conclude that the Internet or social media played a crucial role in influencing the outcome of that general election. In fact, that was around the same time that US President Barack Obama came into office and his entire fund raising campaign was done through the Internet.
It cannot be denied that the Internet not only played a crucial role in Malaysian politics since seven years ago but, in fact, is playing an even more crucial role today. The adage “do not believe everything you read on the Internet” has been replaced with “whatever is reported on the Internet is the absolute truth”. And what used to be called the alternative media -- the Internet and social media -- is now regarded as the mainstream media by many.
What can be regarded as the Internet war or media war in Malaysia has been given a new twist with the involvement of the foreign blogs and media. Malaysians have this perception that anything foreign or imported has to be better than local grown. This is not only as far as consumer goods is concerned but for news as well.
That is why foreign publications such as Sarawak Report and Wall Street Journal are regarded as the bastions of truth. Since they are foreign based and western run then what they say can only be true. No one doubts the veracity of their reports mainly because they are foreign and western based.
It was actually a very clever strategy by those who want to discredit Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to turn to foreign publications to conduct their campaign. If the story came from overseas then it must be true because foreigners only dabble in the truth. And this was why many believed that Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction -- because the western media said so.
In time, however, people began to realise that they were duped. The stories were lies meant merely to discredit Iraq and rally world support for the US war against Iraq. In time, too, many are going to find out that not all of what the western media is reporting about Najib is true as well. But then, just like in the case of Iraq, they will find out too late and only after the damage has been done.