Many have celebrated the Internet as an instrument of emancipation, provider of media or information freedom and also a tool for social-political activism. The unprecedented win of the Pakatan Rakyat in the March 2008 elections for instance has been credited to the popularity and unstoppable wave of the liberating powers of the internet.
What I want to focus on is the much celebrated use and availability of the internet as a tool, method or mechanism of social-political activism or change, and leave out its supposed contribution of emancipation and media or information freedom to Malaysian socio-political shifts.
Firstly it must be said outright that never before has drastic social-political change taken place because of the internet. Not only because during the time of the American Revolution or the French Revolution or the Meiji Modernisation the internet had not exist but, even in the last 30 to 50 years since the web 2.0 revolution swept the world off its feet there has not been any great social or political change effected by it. Which brings to question the fact that why now so many politicians now have blogs, facebook and personal webpages? This is especially so of the Pakatan leaders who cry and shout for radical change.
On the presumption that the internet was the catalyst of the March 08 ecstasy many politicians have now turned to the internet to boost their presence, image and personality. But one wonders, since when did politicians and leaders of a nation tasked with leading it are suppose to have a presence on the internet?
The elementary duty of an individual who holds a public office is to deliberate policy and ensure the carrying out of concrete policy as well as political-economic-social reform. Politicians are not supposed to be part of the virtual associates. They are supposed to run the ground, not dominate the internet.
Immediately I can see two responses to this accusation ricochet back towards me. First is of course the fact that many of this blogs, facebook and websites are not manage by the politicians themselves but by their assistants. This raises another question; certainly it is only meaningful if the politicians themselves tend to these tools; it is one of the reasons why they were set up in the first place, so that these leaders can have personal rapport with their supporters or fans. Such purpose is defeated if the task is delegated.
Secondly another response might be that this is important to relay information and latest updates. Again this is not the task of politicians. They should be discussing cutting edge policies and blueprints, not supply the latest information and scandals. Leave this to the independent media or alternative media or whatever you wish. Since when did political leaders become investigative journalists?
And of course BN leaders being the useless, senile and brainless people they are, hop as well on this internet bandwagon. Also falling into the belief that they lost so badly in the March 08 elections because of internet absence, they then come out with all sorts of virtual or electronic master plans to counter this great Pakatan ‘internet challenge’. This is not surprising though because no one expects much of them, not being able to think of anything original, they just join in the perceived new found ‘weapon’. Thus living up to their brand name as outdated users of second hand ideas, followers of stupidity, and their favourite, ‘saya yang menurut perintah’.
Secondly, and this is what is most distressing, is that because of the internet, we; the society at large who seek social-political reform and change, have lost sight of the location of the Leviathan; the State, and the users of the State machinery and apparatus; the Barisan Nasional.
The State with all its bureaucracy and machinery is fundamentally a violent entity which task is to perpetrate violence. It is the only entity which has the power to impose legitimate violence on its people. It does so, and is given the right to do so, when individuals refuse to follow its dictates and commands. Any refusal or resistance will be met with the full force of the constitutional-legal system, the police force and the FRU. And let us not forget that cohabitating in intercourse with the State is of course the Barisan Nasional. It is the one which pulls the strings of the State bureaucracy and machinery. Consistent instances of State imposed violence; look at HINDRAF, BERSIH and the ISA march.
The point I want to make here is this; the State-BN violence does not exist in the internet, it does not exist in the virtual world. It exists everywhere around us; from our homes, to our schools and universities and also our workplace. What does not exist there cannot equally be threatened there.
Thus all the activism or the calls for change or reform in the cyber sphere does not amount to anything. It does not threaten the State-BN unification in any way. All its machinery and bureaucracy are still intact. Where State-BN violence exists, there is where our resistance should be. That means in our homes, our universities and workplace. Physical and mental violence must be met with physical and mental resistance, not virtual demonstrations and protests.
The problem with our undying faith and dependency on the internet is this; it firstly, reconstitutes the terms of resistance and secondly, shifts the points of resistance. It induces a double consciousness in our minds, thinking that we are fighting the oppression of the State-BN in the internet but in truth, we are actually doing nothing.
For where the real violence is, there is no resistance. While we are being oppressed in the streets and violence is perpetrated by the police and legal system blatantly, we resort to virtual resistance, protesting and demonstrating strongly on the internet. It is as if we are bullied by Rosmah in school but then we keep quiet and take it out on our Ultraman Taro action figure when we reach home.
I’ll give an example; the recent shooting of the 15 year old boy by the police. As usual there is the expression of outrage in the internet. The fact is this; the IGP and the PDRM does not exist in the internet, they are not virtual reality. Such an incident should actually immediately bring out the thousands to the streets or Putrajaya to call for the resignation of the Minister and IGP. It is in the streets where such arrogance and incompetence and recklessness have occurred.
By ranting and raving on the internet we are allowing the reconstitution of the terms of resistance; we limit the methods of protest through only words and writing, and in doing so we inevitably shift the points of resistance from the streets of Parliament, Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam, Georgetown, Kota Bahru, Ipoh, and everywhere else, to the internet, a virtual world which does not exist and where you can become Rambo or Zorro and yet still be useless.
In short, if movies depicting acts of sexual intercourse on the internet are sexual pornography, social-political activism in the internet in pursuit of change is nothing but socio-political pornography. Something which you fantasize but cannot feel, something which you think but cannot touch. You indulge not only in intellectual masturbation, but also electronic masturbation. An imagined resistance.