During nomination day in March, in quaint Bandar Tun Razak – where Selangor menteri besar Khalid Ibrahim was contesting against Tan Chai Ho – the gathering crowds were screaming at each other various epithets and insults about foreign ladies, anal inclinations, woeful submarines, mixed spouses and stuff you can’t get out of a trashy novel.
Are they true, were they ever true, will they be true?
Does it matter in Malaysia – that is probably the better question.
What may matter is that Khalid won, and many more also did, and rumours had a large impact on what people thought about candidates and contests.
Malaysia is a nation that relies more on rumours than it does on truth, and those characters in the prime minister’s fourth, fifth and even basement floor have only themselves to blame – if rumours rule the roost.
When truth is a hostage
Since school, I was told what to believe in. There was never an occasion when I am asked on what I thought of things. In some senses facts were the monopoly of the government.
As similar as fact and truth are, they diverge when facts are monopolised and subject to strict interpretation of the powers that be.
No one ever got a real detailed account of Memali, and how it all escalated to Musa Hitam’s resignation as deputy prime minister. Neither will the canvassing and eventual result of the Umno presidential elections in 87 ever to be known.
Who did produce the pictures of Razaleigh Hamzah wearing a Kadazan Christian headgear on the eve of the 1990 general elections – severely denting the chances of Semangat 46 which came out as an out and out Malay party.
How about some investigative journalism about the 1996 Apcet conference in Kuala Lumpur broken into by BN friendly groups?
Stories have emerged about them of course. But these were pass downs before the internet age fully immersed itself in Malaysia.
Despite Guttenburg’s print, in Malaysia, rumours have become the more trusted source of information, because those who ran and still run this country, starved us of processed news.
Our news is two parts – either the official version, which a large population detest and unprocessed news, stuff that seeps in through the grapevine.
When lies become facts, rumours become truths.
Malaysia Today is not your Times or Daily Telegraph, is more to the National Enquirer. Raja Petra’s strength was he wrote what people readily believed.
He put to print what people felt should be in it, whether or not it can be supported.
It was the repository of the oral tradition of unprocessed news that grew substantially since the Mahathir era.
So when the Khairys and Hamid Albars of the world poo-poo the news coming from it, they are conveniently ignoring their party’s hand in setting up an environment where speculative journalism can reign.
The volume of support emerging for the man – who should not be in jail for writing, no one should be – is not going to simmer down.
The time has come where people have to be persuaded to a point of view, not forced to it.
If many are already stubbornly opposed to one side while the side they support has little persuasion, it is all about the sense of deception they feel about the hypocrisy the ‘official side’ have perpetrated in the dissemination of facts.
So for some time still, Malaysia will remain a rumour nation. Have a secret to share?