Why Harapan is losing the cyberwar to BN - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, January 29, 2018
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | Here’s how the opposition can reclaim lost ground in cyberspace. “It doesn't matter if justice is on your side. You have to depict your position as just.” - Benjamin Netanyahu
COMMENT | The more Pakatan Harapan talks about needing Dr Mahathir
Mohamad to secure rural Malay votes, the more this plays into the hands
of Umno. There are three ways that Umno uses this particular narrative.
The first is that a majority of the Malay community does not support
Harapan hence Mahathir is a traitor to the Malay race by attempting to
split the vote, the second is that the mandarins of Harapan realise that
their choice of Mahathir as the Big Cheese leading the charge is
causing dissonance amongst the faithful, and the third, is that it also
gives the Umno state the opportunity to attack the legacy of Mahathir,
1. Gives succour to those why do not want to whitewash his contributions to this country. 2. Allow the ruling hegemon to use the opposition own words about the
former prime minister to point to the hypocrisy of Harapan.
They do this without harm to themselves or their narrative that the
opposition is weak and in need of saving. The more Harapan invest in the
narrative that they need Mahathir and the rural Malay vote (not to
mention all those corruption scandals that apparently will cause the
zombie apocalypse), the more damage this does to their narrative of
If the Harapan leadership and supporters think that what Australian
National University (ANU) researcher Ross Tapsell said about BN winning the cyberwar is complete bunkum, I suggest stepping out of the echo chambers. Not only is Umno winning the cyberwar, they use the rhetoric of
opposition leaders and their online supporters in propaganda materials
that are extremely effective. Now, some people may consider this lazy or
maybe it is just working smart. The end result is that BN supporters or
those who just do not care, are given clear messages as to what Umno
stands for, while the opposition is scrambling to pander to diverse
demographics in the hope that something simple and intelligible comes
out of their mixed messages.
To recap, when I wrote that Harapan needs a clear narrative, I wrote this
about the 1MDB scandal – “When Nurul (Izzah Anwar) says that Prime
Minister Najib Abdul Razak does not talk about his scandals, what this
really means is that the Umno grand poobah is not playing defence. Umno
is on the offence when it comes to the corruption scandals that plague
“He does not need to talk about them because he understands that
these scandals are complicated and that the opposition’s rhetoric that
he is an international outcast does not jive with the photo ops that
‘world leaders’ provide for future services rendered.”
With regards to the ongoing seat allocation fiasco and the conflicting messages
from Harapan leadership – “Furthermore, when you talk about the
opposition being oppressed and the need for people to empathise with the
opposition, and the path to this ‘empathy’ is a clear narrative, you
are on the wrong path.
“Here's the thing. People want to believe that politicians empathise
with them even if politicians clearly demonstrate that they do not.
Therefore, when the people see all the infighting that goes on in the
opposition, they translate that to the opposition only being concerned
about themselves and political power.
Some people dismissed the “Manifesto of the 99%”
released by a coalition of left-wing groups, but the reality is that
what is in that manifesto – which can be read in Malay, Tamil, Chinese
and English – is exactly the type of bread-and-butter issues that the
demographic that Umno maintains a choke hold over is concerned about.
You know what the evidence for this is? The fact that this is exactly
what the message that Umno is sending its base when it comes to
welfare, educational and economic issues. This, of course, is done in
the Umno way, through the lens of racial and religious politics but the
core issues, remain the same.
As I said, grassroots organisations know what the people most likely
to vote for Umno think and want, but more importantly, they understand
what they need. Umno knows this too, which is why their policies of
handouts for the Malay polity and governmental benefice for the
non-Malay/Muslim demographic is neither contradictory nor counter
intuitive. In other words, giving them what they want so they do not
think of what they really need. That is Politics 101.
This is why when we look at the great upsets in electoral politics
all over the world but specifically in the US, there has always been the
major element of grassroots activism working in concert with
on-the-ropes political hegemons to pull off electoral victories that
mainstream pundits assumed impossible. This includes highlighting
regional issues to bringing out the vote.
Every time oppositional political operatives tell me that they are
making progress in the rural demographic, I keep asking them why is this
not in the echo chambers of the alternative media? Why are these
efforts not the front and centre of the oppositional discourse? Why
isn’t the opposition changing the narrative of what the rural
demographic really cares about instead of wallowing in the personality
politics of their leadership and the whole 1MDB financial scandal which
means very little to the demographic that really matters?
The usual answer I get is why isn’t the press covering these news
stories? The press covers sensational topics, and if their audience
wants to read about the latest stupid thing a BN personality says or the
latest scandal that Umno vomits out, then this is what they will do.
Honestly, most human-interest stories do not get the kind of traffic
that these bread-and-butter stories get. Put it this way. If the
alternative press is the propaganda organs of Harapan, then the
opposition is really screwed. However, the alternative press is not the
only way to change the narrative.
People laugh at what Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said about
the open hall in Bagan Datuk but the reality is that it plays well with
the demographic that keeps Umno in power. There has always been an
element of theatrics in Malay politics that non-Malays mock, but it
would be dumb to think that what Zahid did was for the benefit of an
urban Internet-savvy audience.
Not only has Umno got the mainstream media that highlights all Umno
is doing for the communities it relies on, they have an extremely
sophisticated online mechanism which propagates their efforts for
marginalised communities. Not all Umno propaganda is how the opposition
is dominated by Chinese interest or how the former prime minister wishes
to destroy that foremost of Malay institutions –Umno. Umno propagandists send me material which has nothing to do with
demonising the opposition but of their efforts to satisfy the wants of
communities that they hope are their vote banks. Furthermore, people
actually repost these messages as a means of doing something for the
community. Do you get where I am going with this?
All I get from oppositional operatives is how the country is screwed
because of Umno and the latest in corruption scandals, which mean very
little to the demographic that Harapan claims it needs. If Harapan does
not manage to change the narrative soon, and reclaim lost ground in the
cyberwar, not only will they lose this election, they may also give Umno
a two-thirds majority.
Take what “Bibi” said in the opening quote seriously.