Written on 3/29/2008 01:06:00 am by sikapitan

I received a text message on Thursday evening informing me of a massive police operation going on at PWTC. Then, as I was reaching USJ, I received another piece of message that said that a few ministers have resigned, and there was going to be another “earth-shattering” announcement after Maghrib prayers. This was confirmed by another source, again, via sms.

This is perhaps another example of the latest shift in politics, one which we have seen in more mature democratic societies, but only now being felt here in Malaysia. I am of course referring to the power of information. Information has always been an integral part of politics, but even in terms of world politics, it has seen its importance outweigh other components only in recent times.

No longer does military might or economic prowess supersede the importance of disseminating correct information to the widest target audience possible. The US of A invasion of Iraq is the perfect example of how even a powerful country could be on the wrong side of something just because the information that was being relayed to the widest audience in the world does not support their argument.

Despite their military supremacy, undeniable importance in the world economy and wide impact on societies throughout the world, the Americans could not prevent intense scrutiny almost instantaneously by the entire world. Every mistake is amplified, every perceived victory is scrutinized.

The same is happening here in Malaysia. Ironically, the government’s effort in promoting broadband usage perhaps single-handedly created the “YouTube” culture in Malaysia that spawned an almost one-sided Opposition camp in the World Wide Web. Words no longer mean as much as videos, and even blogs are no longer traditionally text based to maximise its impact on its target audience. More and more people have the time to surf the net, and put in their input, because less and less time are needed to access WebPages.

This is in furtherance to the power of the SMS, which also came indirectly as a result of the government’s effort in promoting mobile connectivity throughout Malaysia. We have all received dozens of SMSes during Election Day, constantly updating us on the results, sometimes hours before it came out on mainstream media. It has left the traditional communication medium, sadly, almost irrelevant (as long as it remains objectively PARTIAL to certain quarters).

When Pak Lah announced (after a lengthy Supreme Council meeting) that UMNO has decided to support Ahmad Said (what else can they say?) and hold the UMNO election this December (good news for us, bad news for Pak Lah?), immediately news were disseminated through SMS. Discussions went off in households throughout Malaysia, just like mine. My guess is for every one person who received an SMS, another 3 – 5 would hear about its content.

I text a friend telling him that December is too long. I e-mailed a friend that Pak Lah has again lost another battle in what’s looking like a long and complicated war for his own political survival by appearing to bow down to pressure from Sultan Mizan. By the time the news was repeated on midnight, I have already discussed, argued and reached a conclusion on the issue reported.

The power no longer lies in the hands of the select few but spread out to those who could provide information. Managing the communication channels remain a thorn on the side of Barisan, who has dismissed alternative channels simply because they themselves remain archaic in their form of communication. Ironically, there’s a YouTube video of Anwar Ibrahim appealing to rural voters by referring to an e-mail (on the latest corruption gossip) he read from his BlackBerry. It worked to perfection because information was relayed instantly to the listening crowd, even though they might think that the BlackBerry is a form of fruit. How many UMNO Supreme Council members who use e-mails (personally, not using their political secretary), let alone a BlackBerry? Go figure

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