Cyberbattle to own the ‘truth’
ANALYSIS By BARADAN KUPPUSAMY
The ‘truth’ is still out there in cyberspace where the Bersih 2.0 rally is concerned.
THE Bersih 2.0 rally might be over but the battle to own its truth is still being fought over social media which had become a fierce battleground.
People from both sides of the political divide have weighed in with their experiences of July 9 on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and so forth.
Some of the things uploaded now include a video clip of a man who had supposedly died, a hospital that was blasted with water cannons and a PKR activist who died of a heart problem during the rally but his death was blamed on the police.
The person who faked his death on video has been traced and identified as an Al-Arqam member from Selangor. He is said to have run off when the police sent him to hospital.
Then a supposedly “Chinese man” was seen holding a loud hailer for the man (said to fake his death) as he prayed. Eventually, the “Chinese man” had been exposed as a Selangor PKR man who is a Malay. A blogger posted his picture for viewers to judge for themselves.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, meanwhile, was seen grimacing in hospital after the rally but his detractors scoffed at the images.
It’s a war zone out there in cyberspace. The Pakatan Rakyat appears to be winning at times; at other times, the Barisan Nasional.
Pakatan had always enjoyed a well-oiled social media network. It was first seen in action during Anwar’s black eye incident and later in the first sodomy trial and subsequently the purported arsenic poisoning.
One of the prominent websites at that time was the Free Anwar website managed by Raja Petra Kamaruddin. It did Anwar a great favour and is also credited with helping to free him in 2004.
Pakatan was always a step ahead of Barisan in exploiting the developments in social media.
During the years since the Free Anwar website, Anwar himself led in the fight to exploit social media for its powerful ability to connect disparate people.
Today, social media is working overtime for Pakatan as it seeks to manufacture consent for his political themes.
Tech-savvy youths were checking iPads and smartphones during the days leading to the Bersih 2.0 rally and on the day itself.
They sent out tweets, posted comments and images and wrote about their experiences at the rally.
The truth can sometimes be lost in the maze that is social media but some images do not lie, such as the incident which took place at Tung Shin Hospital.
There is overwhelming evidence that tear gas and water cannon were fired into the hospital area after rally participants ran helter skelter into the hospital area. Images and video clips of the incident were recorded and uploaded online by many people.
It is well known that some ministers lack social media skills or have not found time to watch videos online but still make statements that later put them in a spot.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have thus become a contested arena with many pro-Barisan Nasional and pro-Pakatan Rakyat supporters arguing over their version of what the “truth” is.
For Anwar, the important thing is to keep up the political momentum achieved by Bersih 2.0. Their hope is that the next general election is held soon to capitalise on the political momentum created by the rally.
He needs the Bersih 2.0 rally to be talked about everywhere, besides calling on his friends in the Western media to write about it.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, on the other hand, has been spending time explaining things. While on a visit to London, he was interviewed on CNN where he took questions on the rally, on police brutality and on his economic transformation plans for the country.
Najib has to put a distance between himself and the effects of the rally on the people, especially the youths who are upwardly mobile.
The social media is Anwar’s strong suit. The same cannot be said about many government leaders.
But not everybody is connected and those who are connected deeply disagree on what really happened on July 9.
The silent majority is out there and when they speak, it will be a roar.