Monday, July 21, 2008

What We Say In The Court of Public Opinion

Does repeating things often enough make people believe them? This is an interesting topic that Michelle Yoon wrote in her latest post Repeating things often enough. Also, in a recent letter to Malaysiakini, a writer gave reasons for his view why Anwar is not guilty. In my opinion, we need to make a smart distinction between a statement of fact, a statement of view and a question.

For example, if I repeat to myself each day that I am loved by God, I will actually feel the blessings of being loved by God. This is actually a spiritual fact for me while for others it may be just a view. (Try replacing God with a stone or another person, and you'll be disappointed.)

But if I repeat to myself each day that Anwar is being investigated for sodomy as often as I read the papers these days (MSM and government are suffering from Anwar-phobia), it does not make me believe he is guilty or innocent at all.

The more the government tries to implicate him, the more the public will tend to believe otherwise. But for me, what is repeated is a media-bias against Anwar in MSM and a media-bias against the DPM on the Internet. Neither establishes the truth. Even in the questionable "court of public opinion." (How many "witches/sorcerers" were burnt in the Middle Ages by the court of public opinion? How many "communists" were prosecuted in the McCarthy era by the same court?).

What we bloggers should be doing is to repeat reasonable questions in the most objective and creative ways so that the "subject" of our question is willing to engage in a dialogue. But if we prejudge a person as a criminal (like one former PM calling certain Western governments imperial Zionists and genocide murderers) in the international court of public opinion, then that's the end of the dialogue. They won't even bother listening or persuading you against your biases/prejudices.

Postscript: Reading this blog post by Tony Pua on Dr Syed Farid Alatas, I am impressed by the level of maturity and intelligence of many Muslims who can analyse religious issues. Extending the theme of inter-faith dialogue, I think that dialogue across all political and ideological communities will resolve some of the current problems of this nation. For a start, the government should start a meaningful dialogue with its boss - the voting public - even though almost half gave their support to the Opposition.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Thanks for leaving a comment.

You have a point. But I guess my contention is that there are some things that are not established "facts", and when they are repeated often enough, there are people who come to believe in what was merely a "perception".

Take for example Anwar's 1998 case. Dr M repeated it so often that there were people who started to think it believable, even before anything could be proven in court. I'm not saying everyone believes something when it is repeated, but I think the tendency is there.

The repeating of "questions" as you've put it, is probably the best way one can remain objective and sane at a time like this when accusations are being thrown all over the place.

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