Friday, March 16, 2007

A Quick Quack Quack in the Barnyard of Opinion

All bloggers are liars, they cheat people using all kinds of methods. From my understanding, out of 10,000 unemployed bloggers, 8,000 are women.
Tourism Minster Tunku Adnan sharing his informed opinion about bloggers at a media conference which coincidentally, was International Women's Day. (The original article appeared in Sin Chew Daily.)

The irony was not lost on bloggers (here and here).

Rehman Rashid, who I am very happy to see writing again, admitted himself a "luddite" who would rather write with a trusty old typewriter, or even pen and paper than a computer. Now here I can sympathise, as I find my ideas flow very much better when I scribble in my notebooks and the computer with all its can be a bloody distraction. (Work a bit, check comments on blog, check sitemeter, work a bit, answer e-mail, read other blogs, work a bit, check other e-mail, work a bit ...).

But my sympathy ends when he launches into an anti-blogging tirade:

In my opinion, what they’ve really done is prove why freedom of expression was a really bad idea. In this country, a host of folk who never had a hope of getting published are now proving why not.

The local blogosphere is the domain of life-challenged grumblestiltskins and disenfranchised pundits whose asinine maunderings only show why they should never have had day jobs in the first place.

Rumour, innuendo, half-truths and damned lies are their stock- in-trade, and previously sacrosanct standards, principles and ethics are now laughable.

Are they not entitled to their opinion? Of course they are, as much as everyone else is entitled to ignore them. I would venture, however, that everyone has an opinion and a rectum, and not that many seem capable of telling one from the other.

But no, it’s all good. Let a hundred thousand million flowers bloom; let all voices be heard, in however fractured language, whether or not they have anything pertinent to communicate or any information worth more than spittle to offer.
All nicely echoing the NST's stance. (Ministers can defame bloggers, newspapers can defame bloggers ... but it doesn't work the other way round, huh?)

All this makes me feel very hurt and angry, for myself and for my friends in the blogosphere. (And there is an ever-growing sense of bloggers all being in this together no matter what our personal views on the NST vs Jeff and Rocky issue.)

Speaking for myself, I blog primarily:
  • because I enjoy it
  • because my fingers don't want to stop writing
  • because of the friendships I make through it
  • because it has brought a number of precious like-minded souls into my life
  • because it allows me to explore issues (and this often leads to the articles I sell)
  • because of the conversations it opens up
  • because I want to create a resource for those interested in the local writing scene
  • because I want to encourage writers
  • because I want people to know how great reading is
  • because I want to communicate a love for poetry
  • because the newpapers (least of all the NST) do not cover the topics I want to read about (books and writing ... and much else)
  • because there are issues which the mainstream media chose not to explore in any depth even though they are in the public interest (censorship, create a reading culture in Malaysia) and which I hope are read by those with the power to make changes
  • because i'm a big-mouth
I see blogging as something not apart from the print media but something that absorbs information and opinions from it and feeds back into it, as I've argued before. My blog posts have been picked up on numerous occasions by other publications including (roll of drums) the Guardian and USA Today, as well as by the local press.

My posts here, no matter how rough and ready, have provided me with the material for newspaper and magazine articles for which the print media have paid. Indeed, many local bloggers are also journalists! (Often writing under a nom-de-blog.) It isn't an either or thing - people who love to write will put their words out in any way they can.

I actually much prefer blogging to writing for newspapers or magazines. The editorial control is entirely mine, and that's a heady feeling. There's no-one to change my words. I don't have a word limit, so I can say what needs to be said without having to discard useful material. (Even when my articles are published I often feel I have to supplement them on the blog with all the interesting bits I had to cut out!) There isn't a deadline to meet (although blog-news times out more quickly than print-news). And best of all, my readers turn up and tell me when I'm talking bullshit or something strikes a chord with them.

But being published in a newspaper or magazine always confers greater respectability: an editor has found your work worthy of being put before the public. That will continue to mean a great deal. (And I still get a rush of adrenalin when I see my work in print!)

There's a lot of junk in the blogosphere? Yes, it is a bit like the wild west, with everyone staking out their territory. The writing is extremely variable in quality, yet most of us cut through all that and find writing informs us, excites us, makes us laugh, makes us angry, makes us react. I'm always on the lookout for new writing talent (for the readings I organise) and am finding plenty of evidence of it online. Blogging also encourages a groundswell of writing which will undoubtedly result in a bigger pool of competent authors and journalists in the future.

And yes, we learn to take what we read with a pinch of salt, looking for the sources of information, reading the links. The newspapers have always given Malaysians plenty of practice in how to read behind the lines, through the lines, upside down between the lines, in a country when what is not stated in the newspapers (sacrosanct standards and all) is often more important than what is. And I daresay blog-readers are putting those critical reading skills to good use.

But the whole NST vs the blogosphere issue is one that makes me very unhappy because there should be symbiosis between bloggers and the media (as I think there is in the West) and not the out-and-out confrontation there is here at present. Part of the problem, I think, is that the bloggers have carved out greater freedom for themselves in a country where the press have never enjoyed much of it, and that's bound to create tension.

Anyway this is just my quick quack quack in the barnyard, slung up between my first and second cup of tea of the morning.

Feel free to ignore all this. I'm just a blogger. What do I know?


Juria said...

This shows how insecure they are toward the influence that bloggers can bring. Mine is totally personal, found and made great friendships, learned and discussed many new things. And it's totally unfair for us not to be able to speak up our mind (in a respectable manner). Are we in the 'big brother is watching' period?

FBT said...

I must say I do not understand why some "real" journalists get so hot under the collar about bloggers. If bloggers are no good, no one will read them. If they deal in lies, distortions etc, they will only attract other idiots like themselves. Otherwise, in the main the blogosphere is just a social and communication network, and what's wrong with that?

I find it amazing that journalists, who are supposed to be in favour of communication, should effectively say, "How dare these idiots put what they have to say in the public domain?" That is the most anti-democratic illiberal sentiment conceivable.

And as for the Tourism Minister - words fail me: but then I'm accustomed to our elected representatives opening their big mouths and flapping their gums in public to show how remarkably ignorant, bigoted and parochial they are. He's a moron, but I'm not suggesting that he doesn't have the right to advertise the fact. No doubt Rehman Rashid would say that he should be silenced for his own good.

saras said...

The venom and vitriolic that Rehman Rashid spews makes me wonder what it is exactly about bloggers that he is so afraid of. For I see fear behind the scathing comments; hence, a desperate need to diminish and rubbish bloggers. Perhaps, to use his own words, he does not know the difference between opinion and the rectum.

animah said...

Rehman Rashid can't tell the difference between his opinion and his rectum.

Eliza said...

Hi Sharon, there would be a large gap in our lives if you and other bloggers stopped your writing on the net.
On RR's piece - I had heard quite a high opinion of him as a writer, but am afraid his diatribe against bloggers (and against freedom of expression?? wha??) has caused my estimation of him to sink - deep.
Blogging has allowed so many Malaysians to - finally! - find their opinions and express them, and it amazes me how the powers that be fail to recognise this positive effect of blogs.
I can go on and on about this, but suffice to say I'm deeply disappointed with the NST's stance on blogs and blogging. I don't see this happening in the international media where heavyweights like Guardian and the Independent and the NY Times have embraced blogs and regard it as a not-to-be-ignored extension of the mainstream media.
Here, blogs are seen to be a menace to society than a crucial part of it. Blogs are seen to be anti-government than a channel for the people to voice out concerns (as citizens, we are allowed to have our opinions on the running of our country, surely?).
Lord, I've written almost a blogpost on this. But yes, am disappointed.
ps: On Tengku Adnan's comments, Malaysiakini TV has posted his response.

Tunku Halim said...

Perhaps they just fear the winds of change.

dreamer idiot said...

That's just him and his opinion, let us enjoy and celebrate what your own blogging has done for us Malaysians.

susan loone said...

very well said!
the war really has to stop - between journalists and bloggers. as both are fighting for greater freedom. keep on blogging your good stuff :-)

Jenn said...

hear hear. At least bloggers are talking and not bombing. Or taking over people's countries.

Blog, not bomb!

YTSL said...

Et tu, Rehman? Sad, very sad. :(

And Sharon, I second your words and feelings about there being a growing sense of us bloggers all being in it together, whether we are political bloggers or not.

Also, FWIW, one of *my* reasons for blogging -- contrary to the "poisonous" stereotype that some people (including those who really ought to know better!) have of bloggers -- is to try to spread positive word and share positive vibes around...something which it would seem that I/we need to do more considering the bile and such that is being spread by certain anti-bloggers!

Lastly, re the criticism that there's lots of junk in the blogosphere: And there isn't in our local rags and such? :(

To cite a specific example: There are a heck of a lot of bloggers whose film reviews and writings I trust and think are way better than what I see appear in our local newspapers (and movie magazines)... :S

acid burn said...

Cheers to yourself and all bloggers! I wonder when will they grow tired of bombarding us with insults...

irene said...

I think the biggest flaw in both the minister's and Rehman Rashid's comments is that they didn't distinguish between blog... uh... genres(?). There are olitical / pundit blogs, there are blogs about specific subjects like books, technology, etc., and there are personal blogs. Some people are too busy talking about books to spread rumours and others are more interested in trying to solve their own problems (and blogging about them) to even dream about disrupting social harmony. The fact that these two men seem to lump all blogs into the same category shows that their comments were made as a knee-jerk reaction to something, makes them sound rather ignorant and discredits their own statements.

The Quiet Storm said...

Sad sad man that Rehman is. He shouldn't have made a fool of himself in such a fashion! Sad sad man!

Glenda Larke said...

A great post Sharon. I too read the Rehman article and just gaped...

But - having been hopelessly misquoted several times in the newspaper by reporters, and having had what I said (about bird flu) slanted a little differently by a journalist, I am always a little chary of railing against someone who is quoted as saying something really, really stupid. Maybe the Minister is not as stupid as he sounded, but simply had his words twisted. At least I hope so.

animah said...

Sharon, I love your blog and don't get disheartened by those who chose to attack bloggers, in particular the "8,000 bloggers who are unemployed women". It could be that these "men" can't bear to see that women who are supposed to be demure and serve them sweet tea when their men get home from work, are now finding a great place for their voice.
They are both Malay men (or at least have Malay male mentality) and can't handle women empowerment.
As for RR, the blogs are having a field day - you should see what they have to say about him. Perhaps its the only way he could get talked about (I mean, does anybody remember Rehman Rashid these days) was to make himself look stupid.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks all for you comments

tsl - yes, as far as reviews are concerned - i have great respect for those on the blogs, and would like to see better ones in the press

irene - yes, i believe he was talking about the political blogs but he doesn't differentiate between different kinds. 'spose if he were specific he'd be looking at legal problems ...

glenda - yes, i can sympathise with being misquoted knowing how distorted interviews can be. but jeff ooi has the ministers response loaded up from youtube so i guess the guy hung drew quartered and barbequed himself with special sauce (for some resona i can't get any sound on my computer)

animah - yes i have seen the other blogs - came away for rocky's blog actually feeling very sorry for rehman after open season was declared - how did he not know that this was what the reaction would be???? i also wonder about why his editor let this through ...

don't worry, am far from disheartened! just blowing hot air through my opinion!

Greenbottle said...

ah rehman rashid...what a grumpy old man...but actually he's quite right . probably 99.95% of local blogs are crap - mine included , not that i give a flying fuck (as kurt vonnegut would say) what rehman says-(and by god i've read a lot crappier blogs than mine).

but it's that o.o5 percent that people take notice and go to... and the good thing is all these good ones are FREE!

and one of that 0.05 % is bibliobibuli ... so don't get too worried about rehman's diatribe... he can go on and write with quill if he likes...does he have a blog? (evidently not). it' a pity, i like his writings.

savante said...

Beautifully written. Gotta say... you go girl! :)

bibliobibuli said...

i like his writings very much, greenbottle ... and i like yours too. rehman says he doesn't want to blog. fair enough, not all writers feel the need. i'm sure he could outblog us all if he did.

am not worried ... i didn't actually take this piece too personally, but feel that the press just are not giving a balanced view and there are very many positives they should be reporting.

Irman said...

>>> They are both Malay men (or at least have Malay male mentality) and can't handle women empowerment.

Isn't this exactly like what the minister said?

Kari said...

Great post, Sharon. fbt said it well: there is a lot of rubbish out there, but there are gems, too, including your blog. It is the one blog that I have to read on a regular basis. Not only are you a great writer and knowledgeable of the literary scene, you are also a supportive, encouraging, mentor. And you are not the only one! How could anyone be against people writing about their opinions?! Amazing that people could think that way, let alone publicly announce this backward thinking!

LiNaLaNi said...

maybe i'm too juvenile or immature in saying this..but somehow i think the minister only want to read what they want to read....the truth always hurt....

lil ms d said...

i agree with everything you say. (clap clap clap)

i have come across really great reads/blogs, and made a few new friends too. sure it's a bit of a cowboy town on the Net, but when you meet gems of blogs, it feels really good.

keep on blogging sharon. yours is the first blog i read each morning, and i go back to a few times a day.

The Angry Medic said...

Whoa. Looks like I stumbled on this discussion a bit late (I was, as my Director of Studies put it, "prancing around on stage when you should be working") but I firmly echo all that has been said above. I used to have great respect for Rehman Rashid, but this diatribe doesn't sound like him. Maybe someone "coaxed" him out of retirement with an offer he couldn't refuse to write in support of his old pals at the NST?

As you were recently described on another blog, Sharon, you are the literary hub of KL and of Malaysia at large. Don't take any of this personally...the work you've done (and continue to do) is invaluable. I for one am very happy you's kept me from going insane despite the brain damage incurred by being in this medical course :P

bibliobibuli said...

yes, shouldn't take this personally and nothing would make me want to stop blogging lah! just would like a more balanced representation of blogging in the media, especially as outside the urban areas few people seem to be reading or writing blogs.

glad i'm helping to maintain your sanity levels, medic ... but you don't actually sound all that sane even so.

Former fan of RR said...

Yes I pity the man(rehman that is) ! He shouldve had more semse to not incur the wrath of bloggers!

Yes I agree that some are crap,(yours is fab, sharon, you write in precised English) BUT whats so wrong about expessing oneself and promoting one's interest publicly? He did it with his book, so why cant we do it with our blogs and make friends with those who have similar interests?

He shouldve thought deeply about making a fool of himself that way.
Coz now His new nickname is Rectum Rashit!

Anonymous said...

What more can I add? How come I've never visited your blog? Never too late I guess. Rox

bibliobibuli said...

former - self-publishing a book. self-publishing a blog. ways to get words out.

rox - no never is. come back again.

Anonymous said...

Another "Me too" post ! :) the above people are probably right... most blogs are fun for the entertainment potential alone.. even this blog goes south sometimes, but most of it is good :D