Much has been said about the ISA detention of Raja Petra Kamarudin. Over the past decade, the 58 year old has emerged from obscurity to become a sort of cult figure for some Malaysians, and his detention has become a cause célèbre for “the quest for justice and inequality.” RPK is also perceived by many to be some sort of figurehead and rallying point in their opposition to the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional coalition that has governed the country since Merdeka 51 years ago.
Who are these RPK supporters?
Do they truly represent the Malaysian social milieu? Well, they themselves certainly feel that way. A browse through RPK's Malaysia Today portal would give that impression. The lively postings allude to a sense of inevitability in the socio-political evolution of this country, where some sort of People's Power movement, indeed an alternative irresistible political force, would sweep through Putrajaya to obliterate and replace the current ruling oligarchs with an "enlightened" administration driven by the mantra of Ketuanan Rakyat.
Is this really an accurate sketch in the complex Malaysian socio-political canvas? Do these people -- the posters, lurkers, trolls and bots inhabiting the Malaysia Today cyber-habitat -- really represent the conscience and aspirations and, indeed, the essence of the Malaysian people, a compelling sampling of the changing socio-dynamics permeating our nation?
Who are these people then?
Malaysia Today is a typical SoPo portal, an aggregator of third party newsfeeds and blog postings, spiced with some original articles by RPK himself prior to his ISA detention. The Malaysia Today Webmaster (RPK in the past, and now his close associates since his detention) would "moderate" incoming readers' comments to ensure congruence to the portal's political sentiment. RPK himself saidthat daily he had to delete 500-600 comments sent by Malays, which he termed the "UMNO Cyber Troopers." This effectively skewed Malaysia Today into a supra cyber platform for non-Malays to spew their bigotry and chauvinism while sheltered from Malay reactions.
Typical of other SoPo blogs and portals, the site is frequented by the usual suspects, namely political gossip junkies in need of their daily "fix" of sensational revelations and maladies of the ongoing Malaysian political telenovela. The human tendency to revel in a schadenfreude orgy was satiated by RPK's rich pipeline of sensational "scoops" as well as his series of "True Stories" of our historical past, including a revisionist portrayal of the May 13 Incident, a version much more palatable to his predominantly non-Malay audience.
Visitors to his portal may not necessarily share RPK's ideology or the anti-Malay, anti BN/UMNO flavour of the content. Many just want to read alternative viewpoints to supplement the less-than-credible spin spewed by the mainstream media. Some visitors may, indeed, be RPK's many enemies, wanting to check out his latest antics. Yet others are just curious.
Out of this pool, a smallish group ultimately immersed themselves into the Malaysia Today cyber-habitat, became hyperactive posters, and evolved into "MT junkies," glued to the site for hours on end, alienating themselves from the realities of Main Street Malaysia and oblivious to the constantly shifting socio-political undercurrents that define Malaysian politics. These MT junkies -- overwhelmingly non-Malay -- actually believed their own postings, facilitated by the total lack of competing Malay viewpoints as these were "moderated away" by Malaysia Today's Webmasters. The MT junkies reinforce this make-believe empowerment by incessantly regurgitating the same points of view, essentially preaching-to-the-converted, in their comments to every new Malaysia Today story.
The propensity of Malaysia Today to block comments from Malays (RPK's "UMNO Cyber Troopers") that would countervail the bigoted viewpoints of the Chinese chauvinists and Hindraf sympathizers contributed to this false sense of empowerment among the non-Malays.
The unbridled spiral of prejudice and contempt -- in a make-believe cocoon devoid of the voice of the Malay majority -- fueled an irrational exuberance among the MT junkies over a perceived "inevitable" change in the Malaysian political landscape, where the non-Malays (in the guise of DAP's Malaysian Malaysia stance shrouded by the Ketuanan Rakyat mantra of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition) would have the major grip on political power in this country while the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional coalition would collapse and dissipate into thin air.
This RPK chap, a likable personality with a free-spirited, bohemian streak, was gradually emboldened by the ceaseless cheerleadings and promptings of the MT junkies. Ever more sensational stories were churned but these could not satiate the hungry hordes. RPK then did the ultimate – he himself became the story, starring in his own improbable sinetron radiating from the keyboard of his PC.
With RPK in the starring role, who needs third party revelations? He is the story! He can craft his own play and act in his own drama. He has reached the nirvana of SoPo blogging. Quite predictably, hits on Malaysia Today hit the roof, giving chedet.com a run for its money. RPK was now on par with Dr. Mahathir Mohamad! Nobody gets larger than that in Malaysia. Pak Lah, Najib Razak and even Anwar Ibrahim were reduced to supporting cast and bit players in the eyes of the MT junkies. A sense of invulnerability descended upon the Malaysia Today cyber-habitat and the mystique of RPK’s infallibility permeated his congregation.
But again, who are this flock of adherents that contributed to the deification of RPK in the cyber universe?
Here’s a quick and dirty classification:-
Groupie Gang I: The Idealists These are the believers of a new, utopian Malaysia devoid of racial, religious and class conflict; a land of plenty for all; a just, corrupt-free nation of civil, law abiding citizens united in a celebration of cosmopolitan multiculturalism. The thought leaders of this small but influential group include fellow bloggers Dr. Azly Rahman, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, Dr. Bakri Musa, Harris Ibrahim, as well as writers Karim Raslan, Wan Hamidi Hamid and politicians, Zaid Ibrahim and Tunku Aziz Ibrahim. The Idealists, albeit for different reasons and motivations, advocate either the abolishment or a revamp of the NEP, demonise Ketuanan Melayu, and view BN/UMNO as an obsolete post-Colonial relic quivering through the final vestiges of its existence. The elegant intellectual discourse spewed by the Idealists, usually revolving around the need for social justice, meritocracy and more “progressive” Malay attitudes are well received by the predominantly non-Malay MT junkies as this would entail the dismantling of perceived Malay-centric policy legacies built over the years by BN/UMNO. The non-Malay MT junkies usually refer to this group in their comment postings as the “good Malays.” Articles and blog postings by these "good Malays" are prominently displayed in Malaysia Today and their Chinese and Indian-friendly comments are approved by the gatekeeper, giving the casual Malaysia Today reader the false impression of a softening Malay stance amidst the perceived newfound political clout of the non-Malays in this "new" post-318 Tsunami political landscape.
Groupie Gang II: The Anwaristas This collection of visitors and posters view Malaysia Today as a convenient platform to spew their venom against anything that had to do with BN/UMNO, more so the likes of Pak Lah, Najib Razak and Hamid Albar. The nucleus of the Anwaristas’ gene pool can be traced back to Anwar’s ABIM and Reformasi days. Many are ex-hardcore UMNO cadres purged from the party in the aftermath of Anwar Ibrahim’s battle royale with Dr. M. These are essentially closet UMNO people – in attitude and mindset – the “have nots” in the intra-Malay competition for patronage and privileges. Beyond a common enemy in a Pak Lah/Najib-led UMNO, they have no affinities to Groupie Gangs I, IV and V and do not partake in commenting except to glorify Anwar Ibrahim and to ridicule the key UMNO personalities.
Groupie Gang III: The PAS Malays These are predominantly PAS members, with some PKR supporters among the lot. They view UMNO as their ideological foes and tolerate the other RPK Groupies (for now) in their bigger quest to win the Hearts and Minds of the Malay masses. This group makes up a small minority in the English-centric Malaysia Today Cyber Habitat and many have filtered away amidst the strident criticisms on Islam by the portal and the comments sent by the anti-Malay MT junkies.
Groupie Gang IV: The Rabid Anti-Malay Racists These are the bread-and-butter of Malaysia Today and form the majority of the posters. Their posts and comments say it all. Everything in Malaysia is linked back to their hatred of the Malays. These are the ethnic-Chinese chauvinists, Hindraf sympathizers and assorted hangers-on who suffer from an overwhelming sense of alienation in this country. They equate every symbol and instrument of Malaysian statehood – from Bahasa Malaysia to the Negaraku to the Rukunegara to the Songkok to the Jalur Gemilang and, of course, the Keris – to the Malays and hence not worthy of their respect and deference. This attitude spawned a deep-seated hollowness permeating their souls as they languish in a land whose essence run contrary to their aspirations. Hence, every post emanating from this Group would revolve around their revulsion of and paranoiac vengeance towards the Malays. Of course, when like-minded posts coalesced in the Malaysia Today cyber-habitat, an explosion of Malayphobia saturates the portal. And with the Malay voice effectively moderated-away by the Webmaster, this racist mania continues unchecked and unchallenged. The venom and ferocity of the attacks are matched only by the “spin” applied to various issues by authors and articles allied to their non-Malay agenda. Of course, to appease the Anwaristas and the PAS and PKR Malays, these Rabid Racists would replace “Malay” with the term UMNOputra or Mat Rempit or just plain beruks, but the message to the casual reader is clear: They hate Malays, and all the maladies of this country can be traced back to the Malays. Their own kind – the “repressed, smart hard working people” – are portrayed as a Superlative group, held in check only by the smothering political grasp of the Malays (oops, no … by the “UMNO people”) crawling in their subsidised tongkats and crutches.
Groupie Gang V: The RPK Cultists To this group -- mostly young, impressionable non-Malays with their first intoxicating taste of politics – RPK is a demigod, a messiah sent by the Gods to rid Malaysia of the bad guys, to single-handedly rescue Malaysia from all the maladies caused by these people. Yes, all these and then some in one fell swoop of his …. errrr ….. keyboard! The cultists elevate RPK to a Supreme Being-like persona, a larger than life sage whose every word is the gospel truth, who’s every action is holy, and whose every pronouncement must be followed. Utterances of “my RPK,” “our RPK,” “I love RPK,” “RPK our hero,” “RPK wants” and “RPK says” began to percolate in readers’ postings and comments on Malaysia Today. I get blurry images of Jim Jones, Idi Amin and Kim Il Sungas I forage through the thick undergrowth of readers’ homage to RPK in Malaysia Today. And you know what? I think RPK actually gradually believed in this burgeoning personality cult and began to suffer lapses of self-grandiosity as manifested in his later posts and articles.
So what happened when RPK got banished to Kamunting? What happened to his hordes of supporters, the people who would join him arm-in-arm in a fight to the death with the ruling oligarchs? Where are the untold millions that would march to Kamunting to tear down the walls and hand-pluck RPK from the grasp of the baddies? Where? A hundred people in Anti-ISA and Free RPK t-shirts assembling at the entrance of the Kamunting camp or a couple of hundred people holding a candlelight vigil at Dataran Merdeka just don’t cut it.
Is this the real Malaysia? Is this group of affluent predominantly non-Malay urbanites a true sampling of the Malaysian population, representing the sentiment of the rakyat? These people may be nothing more than a like-minded interest-group with deep-rooted animosity towards the Malays, egged on by partisan politicians naturally at loggerheads with their BN/UMNO rivals.
What about the on-line petition drive to free RPK? How many actually signed up?
A sampling of the Free RPK Petition
Does this list represent Malaysia’s demographic mix, a necessary condition to “transform the nation” from Perlis to Johor to Kelantan to Sabah into a different Ketuanan Rakyat paradigm? After discounting the meaningless prank names such as “Father of Najis,” “Death 666,” “Johnny Doe” (in the above sample), as well as the non-citizen residents and foreigners signing from afar, how many people actually signed up? How many legitimate citizens actually walked the talk and signed the petition? 10,000? 30,000? 100,000? These are peanuts compared to the purported millions of hits charted daily by Malaysia Today.
Assuming 100,000 Malaysians actually signed the petition, this would represent less than four-tenth of one percent or 0.0036 of Malaysia’s 27.5 million people, or one out of every 275 Malaysians. It means, 274 out of 275 Malaysians don’t really care. Is this four-tenth of one percent the Critical Mass sufficient to revolutionise the Malaysian political landscape, the people with the mandate to dismantle this country’s socio-economic-political equilibrium?
These people are just a smallish cyber-community not at all representative of the Malaysian ethno-cultural milieu. But isn’t Malaysia Today the voice of the people?
Any blogger will admit that the number of "hits" do not translate into number of people. A Malaysia Today junkie might reload the portal 20-30 times a day just to access the stories. Also, not more than 30 hard core junkies post 90% of the comments. Go check the site. It’s obvious that a small group of hyperactive adherents account for a large amount of postings, hence, essentially preaching their political gospel to themselves in an affliction which may be termed “inbred blog postings syndrome.”
Again, where are the Malays? Where is Mainstream Malaysiana that would change the country? The writings on the banners allude to a predominantly ethnic-Chinese grouping. What does this say? Why are the Malay majority not taken in to RPK and the ideals of Malaysia Today?
The vast majority of RPK’s supporters are just armchair quarterbacks and fair weather cheerleaders and people with nothing better to do who essentially outsourced and sub-con their political activism to this poor chap from the airconditioned comfort of their homes and offices, from their cosy beds and plush sofas, cybercafés and chic gourmet coffee joints. They are not even representative of the country, in terms of demographics, dispersion and political inclination. These junkies are more akin to the lunatic fringe than to the mainstream of Malaysian society. Who are these people? The content and nature of their postings revealed an English-literate motley crew of private college kids, bored pensioners, the unemployed, the under-employed white collar salarymen, the disenfranchised and a handful of professionals -- all with chips on their shoulders. There is also a good sprinkling of expats and foreigners posting from faraway places (146 countries according to RPK in the clip above). Plus a fair bit of ex-Malaysians with axes to grind and some kiasu Singaporeans. Hardly forming the vanguard of the Malaysian Rakyat. Yes, RPK (and poor Marina and kids) were conned by these people. These cyber-opportunists outsourced and sub-con their politicking to him while they cheer him from the comfort of their cosy homes and plush offices. Many seemed to ignore that RPK is a real human being, a late middle-aged man with a wife and many children. A man with responsibilities, hopes, fears, aspirations and vulnerabilities like the rest of us. These parasites and blood suckers ruined his life and unnecessarily estranged his family from mainstream Malaysia. RPK himself is not really a grave threat to national security. His incoherent rantings and pathological animosity towards BN/UMNO and prominent UMNO personalities are old news. RPK is a known loud-mouth, a prickly irritant with a penchant for the dramatic. For many, his revelations and cyber activism are no more than pure entertainment, melodramatic political gossip on par with TV3’s obnoxious Melodi and a much needed comic relief from the socio-political quagmire of the past 3-4 years under Pak Lah’s disastrous watch. But RPK’s real fault lies in his propagation of Malaysia Today as a cyber platform for assorted bigoted and racist characters to spew their venom against the Malays and, in more than one instance, to ridicule Islam. His personal vendetta against the UMNO Cyber Troopers (purportedly led by Azalina Othman Said and Norza Zakaria according to RPK in the clip above) degenerated into an almost blanket deletion of pro-Malay comments, hence rendering the portal into a one-sided anti-Malay arena in the uniquely Malaysian game of race-tinged politics. Indeed, MT Junkies (the Rabid Anti-Malay Racists and RPK Cultists mentioned above) are the bigger threats to national security. These racists, bigots and cyber-misfits hide behind their anonymity to flood Malaysia Today with venomous racist postings, instigating hatred for the Malay majority, ridiculing Islam, and spewing seditious spins to various national issues. This was the real threat and his refusal to curtail this threat finally nailed RPK.
My advise to RPK, Marina Lee and family: take a few steps back and view the bigger picture, the real landscape out there. What exactly is your struggle? Justice? For whom and where? The Penans, Dusuns, Senois and Semangs deep in our rainforests? Kedah paddy farmers? Trengganu fisherfolk? The ordinary civil servant or private sector clerk? The hardworking Pasar Malam vendors? The labourers in our plantations? The trishaw/beca man (yes, we still have them)? The hard core urban poor? Who? Where? Why aren’t they outraged by your ISA detention? We don’t see them take to the streets in Kota Bharu or Sarikei or Lahad Datu to demand your release. Most have never heard of you! Aung San Su Kyi you are not. Nor are you a Nelson Mandela or a Xanana Gusmão.
You are just a political tool for some selfish interests, for the elitists far removed from the grassroots and the ordinary man.
RPK doesn’t really speak for the real Malaysians out there, for the 27.5 million people from Langkawi to Besut to Batu Pahat to Kemaman to Santubong to Miri to Ranau to Semporna. RPK hardly exists in the consciousness of these masses. No, RPK speak only for the small lunatic fringe of our society -- the affluent, private art school on daddy’s-money set (bottom below) and the rabid anti-Malay Chinese chauvinist (with Marina, top below) and Hindraf Indian racists languishing in the deep murky crevasses of the cyber world. RPK and his ideals do not represent the sentiment of the vast majority of Malaysians.
RPK, Marina Lee and their kids were used by the nameless parasites lurking in cyberspace These anonymous characters embody the worst of human traits; they got something for nothing. Oh yes, they got their schadenfreude fix all right when the going was good. They have chewed the sweet fruits plucked by RPK, and spit out the pits to be picked up by Marina and her kids. The long lonely trips to Kamunting, the endless court dates, the deprivation of a husband and father, the despair and helplessness – will all be borne by Marina Lee and family.
Finally, where is Anwar Ibrahim? What is his stand on RPK’s detention? RPK gave his life, metaphorically speaking, to uphold Anwar’s “ideals.” RPK bet the ranch on Anwar becoming PM on 916 and came out a loser, a pathetic flat broke loser. Has Anwar and gang even addressed the RPK ISA issue? Indeed, his silence is deafening. What about Lim Kit Siang? Once Teresa Kok and the Sin Chew reporter got out, Unker Kit Siang has disappeared as well. What about PAS? Do you think either the old ulamas or the younger Islamist cadres have anything in common with RPK? Do you think they like RPK? Did RPK and his MT junkies pushed for the release of Nik Adli, Tuan Guru Nik Aziz’s son, who was under ISA detention for many years? I don't recall any Ah Sohs, Ah Mois, Leng Chais and Uncles bearing "Free Nik Adli" t-shirts in front of the Kamunting camp. Actually, you MT junkies would not recognize Nik Adli even if he walked right past your smug faces. And you expect PAS to sympathise with RPK? You expect PAS to fight for RPK amidst Malaysia Today’s anti-Islamic postings and its readers’ rabid rantings against Islam?
In a nutshell, do you think the Pakatan Rakyat gives a hoot about RPK? No. He was a useful tool. But he was also a disposable tool. RPK is no use to them now. Indeed, he is now a distraction . They want to govern the nation. They have no time for this old chap. To them, RPK is just a lost soul who threw too many dices in his own little crapshoot. Their focus is on 27.5 million men and women. Not one guy who spoke and wrote too much. And they won’t glorify, deify or make a martyr out of RPK either. That’s already reserved for one man.
Marina, you owe it to RPK to close down Malaysia Today. Your “struggle” is for nothing. These sly political opportunists and selfish cyber-parasites don't deserve your sacrifice. There are hardly a few thousand legitimate signatures in your Free RPK petition. Only a few hundred turned up in candlelight vigils and at the Hari Raya assembly at the gate of Kamunting. What does that tell you? There is no avalanche of support for RPK. There never was. The “millions of supporters” are just but a mirage spawned by delusions of grandiosity that snowballed in the Malaysia Today cyber-habitat over the years.
Let this be a lesson to other bloggers. Do not get caught in your own demagoguery, in a propensity to over-fantasize your relevance to the political process and role as some sort of a “peoples’ hero” based on the digits of your blog’s Hit Counter and a bucketful of readers’ comments.