Information technology has broken down geographical and cultural barriers and enabled ordinary citizens to keep an eye on what is happening locally and internationally. Text messaging, social networking and the Internet have allowed many to share ideas, hopes and even to unite many in their political aspirations.
Countries such as Philippines (2001), Ukraine (2004) and Lebanon (2005) organized demonstrations via text messages/emails/Twitter in their respective countries. Only in democracies did communications objectives achieve their objectives. Countries such as Columbia, Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Iran that used cell phones, Facebook and Twitter for their revolutions/protests merely managed to embarrass the government but failed to remove it from power.
The 2008 General Election’s in Malaysia showcased the power of cyberspace but changing trends have shown that we cannot take cyberspace for granted. One can never replace human wisdom by the digital world/space.
Net usage may have increased due to greater broadband penetration but netizens may be surfing for interest in pop culture, social networking, marketing and other reasons than that of advancing their own political philosophy which may even be absent/deficient!
The Internet may air increasing cases of corruption, leakages, injustice and provide avenues for them to lobby for change. While messages may hit its target audience, the numbers or reactions can never be definite. A very mysterious place, the Net may make it easier for those of us with similar political inclinations to hobnob, and to engage with others with similar beliefs with no guarantee that the content can persuade them to change their minds to voting a particular way for the collective good of the nation. One gives meaning to the message according to experience, past experiences, expectations and many other factors.
Whilst we may have the freedom to use these avenues for our own devices, this freedom may not be promoting other forms of freedoms.
There is little guarantee of a positive reaction to the opposition after reading exposes. While some may vote for change to put to an end authoritarianism or corruption, others may not for various reasons. Perhaps, that is why the same government has been voted back over and over again for the past few decades even though many are aware why this should not be the case. Such trends point at a very alarming fact.
The status quo is working very hard to recapture lost ground. At their disposal are experts and consultants who boost their public image, prepare persuasive speeches, launch public relations blitz or even to manipulate the topic of discussion for the nation.
Their election campaign probably began the minute the 2008 GE was over and they have probably executed strategies, plans, blueprints after serious thought, discussion and debate.
Obviously, Pakatan Rakyat must really get together to strategize, unite and execute their plans. Enough small talk, pipe dreams and failed visions. Time to shape up and really deliver before the next GE! An overdose of articles with political slant can be too much to bear for some. Political fatigue is in the air. Despite the numerous exposes, some opposition leaders are still not delivering.
A surfeit of hammering personalities or the same issues over and over can actually be an overkill working to their own disadvantage. Are some still floating away in their ivory tower with no inkling as to how the rest of the political landscape may have changed.
Various online portals are trying to present their messages differently via different templates, writing styles, focus, etc. but responses to these have been slowly but gradually dwindling. Not a good sign at all.
The Internet may have changed the world but the world that is now changing the internet. Communication strategies to elicit change must be revamped.
The same overused worn-out tunes that irritate our ears must not be replayed.
While there may be achievements in some areas, huge cracks and chasms seem to be driving parties apart from within and even in the wider society. Apathy, indifference and silence are on the increase. This must be arrested. Something must be done.
There are just far too many factors at work to confidently predict or even hope that cyberspace can help bolster the position of the opposition in the next elections. Suffice to say that it will certainly vary according to the motivation and agenda of those who seek to use them for their own devices.
Have the opposition parties rolled their machinery, manifesto and shortlisted their potential candidates? Will they reinvent themselves and communicate differently to moot for change?
Time to start cracking or crack when the crunch comes!
Masterwordsmith is a retired lecturer, bibliophile and blogger who hopes to see a better Malaysia in her lifetime.