Monday, May 14, 2007



By Kashminder Singh, Editor, SURF! *

“It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exrcised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives,” – Dorthy Thomson – notable American journalist 1893-1961

The Internet has been a great leveler. On the Web, website of a small company can be as professional or even better than that of huge firms.

Over the last few years, that same level playing field has reached the area of human discourse. Individuals have created and occupied space in the are previously the sole domain of traditional media. Through the use of medium like blogs and related new media tools, they have become an increasingly important voice in society.

In tandem with this rise in profile, blogging has understandably become an emotional issue and brought critics and supporters out in force.

However, no one disputes one fact. Blogging or more accurately, the “user generated content” phenomenon is not going to go away. And the sooner everyone understands this, the better.

Those who seek to stem the tide do not understand the medium. There have been calls, for example, to register and ‘censor’ blogs. But that will simply drive blogs underground. Never mind, the same people say. We’ll get our ‘IT People’ to track them down. Easier said than done. Ever wondered why those powerful US agencies can’t track down the terrorist websites out there?

So let’s be straight and direct. It won’t be possible to control, block or track bloggers. But that’s not the point. There should be no reason really to even consider that.

What is needed is to understand the phenomenon and seek to engage rather than confront. Bloggers are not aliens. They are Malaysians and like any other grouping; they are a microcosm of our society.

Sure there are some bad ones out there, just like there are bad ones in the streets. But I am not referring to the bloggers that are being knocked so often. I’m talking about the blogger who set up a site to discuss the best places to visit prostitutes in KL, or the person that gives, in very graphic and detailed language, instruction on how to prepare and take drugs. Those are the kind of blogs we should be fighting against.

The other bloggers and especially the blogger people in high places seem to be afraid of, have actually added much needed quality and breath to the current discourse taking place in Malaysian society. By the way, blogging is not an isolated trend. It’s simply the latest manifestation of human activism that we’ve seen over the last quarter century and which had earlier seen the rise of NGOs and other personal initiatives.

So listening to them might be a better thing to do than fighting them.

Bloggers are the voice of the people. The only difference is that this medium has given them much more power.

Power they certainly have but I don’t see tham as misusing that power. Most bloggers are just decent people trying to share their opinions and ideas. In their own way, they’re helping to make our Malaysia better.

Of course, like any other intense consultations and especially when there is a clash of differing opinions, some of their postings are goint to hurt. But that is not because their postings are hurtful but because the subject is painful.

On their side, bloggers will hve to treasure and protect the space they’ve created. The words of Dorothy Thomson holds true to this day. The power to determine their future participation in Malaysian civil society lies in their own hands.

If, God forbid, their baser nature comes to the fore I’m confident that their influence on its own wane and ultimately wither.

But I’m betting it won’t happen. These are decent and well meaning Malaysians we’re talking about here. After all, people who like Mee Rebus can’t be all that bad.

* Permission was sought and approval was given to reproduce this editorial piece.

This April issue is Surf’s 4th and it retails at RM9.


Daily Nibbler said...

Internet and Blogs are like two edged swords. They can be used to better the lives of users and can be the great leveler. They can also be used to destroy, slander and corrupt.

It is up to us.

yok hoong said...

Hi zorro

on slander using blogs, please see comments by the great Shaziman and of course comments by Jeff. Hey, this guy shaziman is another candidate for the Idiot of th Month award. Any seconder, please

Elviza Michele said...

"What is needed is to understand the phenomenon and seek to engage rather than confront. Bloggers are not aliens. They are Malaysians and like any other grouping; they are a microcosm of our society"

I couldnt agree more with the statement.

What is nerve recking about people who loves mee rebus are their transperancy. Certain quaters in this country are indeed challenged by these people and hence they confront bloggers.

As for me, my blog isnt a political one and in all honesty I dont think I ever misinform or mislead anyone. It is just an everyday reflection of our lives.

Be that as it may, I wish to be in a country which respects the basic rights of its citizens. Other than that, to further critise the bloggers would be a waste of time.

Good thoughts this morning Zorro

zorro said...

Yoon Hong, I have a bigger candidate..see latest posting.