UMNO is winning the propaganda wars again

by Eyes Wide Open

Well, well, well. It seems after having lost the information war during GE2008, UMNO has finally gotten its act together, perhaps thanks to the RM20 million contract givern to the APCO, the mega PR company.

In the years running up to GE2008, the opposition parties and Malaysians sick of the ruling parties’ corruption, incompetence and arrogance made effective use of ICT and the internet. Popular opinion was turned and UMNO/BN was dealt a swift kick in their collective arses when they least expected it.

UMNO quickly rushed into the blogosphere and there were numerous pro-UMNO/BN blogs springing up overnight. But it proved to be too little too late. UMNO has made very little impact in turning  the opinions of anti-BN netizens back to their favour as dissenting sites have won immense loyalty from net-savvy Malaysians.

Since then, online debate has stagnated with each camp (pro- and anti- BN) firmly planted in their respective cyber-trenches. And like the trench warfare of WW1, it wasn’t pretty. There was plenty of bloody (verbal) fighting, spaces for discussion (if any) were cramped, crowded and the soldiers could not be moved from their positions.

Although pro-UMNO/BN sites made only some impact on the Malaysian opinion, the government-bashing sites had not made any significant gains in new readership either.

Fast forward to today.

Almost 2 years after being caught with their pants down, UMNO/BN is back in the forefront of propaganda warfare again. This time, they’ve taken the battle to social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace and such. And this time, it is the Opposition and anti-UMNO/BN brigade caught napping.

This is because for too long, the anti-UMNO/BN forces were content to rely on Malaysia Today and other online news sites to report “the other side” of the news, secure in the thought that MT’s million hit per day readership could not probably be breached by UMNO’s cybertroopers, whose capabilities up til now were merely to visit blogs, hurl insults and run.

All that has changed as can be seen in the facebook site MENENTANG PENGGUNAAN NAMA ALLAH OLEH GOLONGAN BUKAN MUSLIM.  At last count, the group has breached 190,000 members in just a few days after being formed (as at 11 January 2010) with its stated target of gathering 1,000,000 members.

It boasts an impressive admin list, numbering among them Dr Ridhuan Tee (Islamic scholar and penghasut extraordinaire) and Tun Faisal Ismail (Pemuda UMNO Exco and its New Media Unit’s Chairman). The group’s offiicers officers include the proxy MP Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, ultra-Malay blogger “Piggy Singh” and 35 other UMNO or UMNO-linked personalities.

There is an immense organisation running just this one facebook group! Discussions are carefully steered along the path of UMNO’s official propaganda line. If exchange of views quiet down, a person will revive it with a carefully worded imflammatory comment. No more of that barbaric attacks that pro-Opposition blogs are so used to – this is a social networking site. So discussions are kept socially acceptable.

Below is an example of an exchange in a discussion.

A. …Bahkan, nama Allah telah digunakan sebagai Tuhan yang maha agung oleh kaum jahiliyah sebelum perutusan nabi Muhammad s.a.w.

B. tu arab zaman JAHILIYAH dik oi, awak nk ikut jahiliyah @ ikut Islam yg sbenar? Allah / Solat / Zakat dsb nya tu mmg dlm bahasa arab tp slps Islam tu dtg Allah dsb nya tu telah didefinasikn hanya utk Islam shj.. klu arab kristian ajak u solat di gereja u nk ikut ke? sbb arab kristian di tanah arab pun speak in arabic…

Notice the clever twisting of facts, diversion of topic, subtle character attack and half truths being spread? All in a very civil tone. This is an example of the kind of discussions in the group. Packs of moderators disguised as Everyday Joes roam the discussion rooms. Their job: to divert all discussions back to UMNO’s agenda.

The group is extremely active with several wall postings in an hour. Inflammatory statements are also constantly being pushed into the group’s consciousness. An example would be :

Padamkan API di puncanya masalah…mahkamah sivil bukan tempatnya…
Pelik ??? nak tukar rujukkan tuhan dari JESUS ke ALLAH walau apa keadaan sekalipun menggunakan mahkamah ke????……
Padamkan PUNCA api …….itu aje…

Irrational discussion is encouraged, as is clearly demonstrated by this person’s statement in the discussion entitled Penggunaan Oh God, Oh My God Di kalangan Orang Islam:

em… lagi elok dari dia sebut “oh jesus” lak kan? “oh god” ni agak general. sebab god tu maknanya tuhan. kalimah “Allah” tu adalah nama tuhan kita. dan kita ada 99 nama Allah yang lain. wallahualam.

This discussion was about TV characters saying “Oh my God!” According to this young lady, “Oh God” = “Oh Tuhan”. Since Allah is the only true Tuhan, no one else can use the word God also. Nor the other 99 Muslim names for Allah. What next?

Unwinnable arguments are  carefully avoided in discussions so that Muslims in the group would not be “confused”, as in this exchange in the discussion kepada yang menyokong penggunaan nama Allah kepada kesemua Agama (the first person is trying to make a point that Allah is a pre-existing word and thus Muslims have no exclusive right it):

A. saya nak tanya, nama bapa rasulullah siapa?

B. Sy xmahu bgaduh..Sy xnk Islam dipermainkan.Sy xnak nama Allah dipermainkan.Fikirlah kpentingan kita sbg muslim,kepentingan generasi ms hadapan.Wallahualam.

Notice the words being used. It was the government who denied the East Malaysian Bumiputras their right to religion FIRST. but the assumed posture in all the discussion is that all non-Muslims on the offensive and are insulting Allah!

All the usual propaganda tricks are being used mercilessly. For example, this “guilty by association” tactic:

A. ini adalah website paling BANGSAT lagi LAHANAT yg pernah aku jumpa didalam versi Bahasa Melayu!
website ini masih beroperasi walaupun aduan telah dibuat kepada pihak admin
beberapa gambar telah pun disekat dari disiarkan di website ini.namun,artikel2 CELAKA ini terus ada seperti biasa. (an Indonesian blog highly insulting to Muslims & Islam-EWO) APAKAH TINDAKAN KITA SETERUSNYA?

B. Itulah akhirnya nanti jika kita buka pintu untuk mereka guna kalimah Allah..mereka tak tau nak hormat..l

While the relentless propagandising going in facebook is dangerous, it must be noted that this kind of civil discussion is rarely seen in blog comment sections as there is usually major mud slinging going on from both sides. By engaging people in neutral territory such as facebook, UMNO is able to effectively indoctrinate the nation’s youths again.

After all battles in the red ocean, UMNO has managed to tap the blue ocean of social networking sites. And UMNO has cleverly managed to manipulate the Allah controversy to canvass support from the nation’s youth. And their achievement is nothing short of amazing! The level of support something that not even all the combined facebook pages of PR party supremos – Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Abdul Hadi Awang, Tok Guru – is able to muster on facebook!

The people who spend time at social networking sites are usually young people who are not very interested or educated in politics – they join to social network. This is a “virgin market” for them who know how to tap into it.

And UMNO knew how to tap into it.

Make no mistake, come GE13, the Opposition has its work cut out for them. at least 200,000 of these young impressionable Malaysian facebookers’ first political indoctrination has been from UMNO. And assuming that these 200,000 facebookers have an average of 200 facebook friends in their network…

You do the math.

They will be the next voters.

4 Responses to “UMNO is winning the propaganda wars again”
  1. Ahmad Syafiq says:

    Great, I can foresee BN getting their 2/3 majority in Parliament once more. =P

    So much for the so-called tsunami. They (UMNO) have really outdone themselves this time around.

    Yes, I have to agree with you, the opposition cannot bank on the Internet alone to win the war. They have to use many other alternatives.

  2. Collla says:

    Thats not get me surprise… i have visited the column and indeed some of it words inflamatory… but its no different from somes nflmatory comments in malaysiakini i’ve read… so the conclusion i’ve made from recents viewing both is 2 kali 5 sama saja…

    my suggestion is to establish “kumpulan menyokong penggunaan Nama Allah” and let see who will gain more followers…. we can also see the hint of political influence among youngsters

  3. –establish “kumpulan menyokong penggunaan Nama Allah” and let see who will gain more followers–

    There are already groups like this in facebook. but they are not organised, started by individuals. So that’s why they are scattered and not coherent.

    Also, people who are more interested to fight will fight. People who love peace (mistakenly) don’t want to get involved.

    very sad situation in our country.

  4. Ahmad Syafiq says:

    As of current now, the group who does not support non-Muslims to use Allah has about 207,000 members and counting.

    While on the other hand, the group who supports the usage of Allah by all Malaysians have about 68,000 members.

    Thus, they have triple the numbers. UMNO have won the war.

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