Sunday, September 13, 2009

The magpie barks propaganda: How to read partisan blogs 5

For this fifth instalment of HTRPB, we'll be looking at a post by blogger Pasquale of Barking Magpie. In the past, he has posted entries titled "When will the Malays learn!!! The Chinese will and can never share power once they ARE in power!", and "CPM stands for Chinese Party of Malaya and they failed to form a Chinese entity in Malaya...cept for Penang!". The post we will be looking at is more recent, and titled "A short note on Anwar Ibrahim by a commenter using the handle "Deacon1957".

In it, Pasquale reproduces in its entirety a comment left at his blog, which accuses Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (DSAI) (inter alia) of being:
  1. A CIA agent working to destabilise Malaysia;
  2. Responsible (through "his Indonesian network") for the current Indonesian "hatred for Malaysia"; and
  3. Of working to "discredit traditional Islam and plant one of two of America's version of Islam in all Islamic states..."
If the commenter (or Pasquale himself) had any evidence for these accusations, it was not shared there. You can read the entry for yourself here, but what I want to focus on are the propaganda techniques used by Pasquale when he uses a photograph to reinforce the accusations against DSAI.

The above photograph is placed at the beginning of the article, captioned as follows:
Flanked by former US President George Bush's most right wing Jewish-Zionist American cabinet members (Cohen and Wolfowitz), and the man in the middle will sell his soul (or already sold) to the Devil, and already betrayed the Malays and will betrayed his mother, and at all cost, even destroying the country just he thinks he can be the next PM! This picture was taken in 1997 in Penang.
What we see here is a classic example of propaganda, i.e.:
"...communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda." (bold emphasis mine)
In just this photograph and its caption alone, Pasquale has managed to use the following propaganda techniques:
Let's see where and how he uses them. First, Reductio ad Hitlerum: Since George W. Bush is the most reviled US President in Malaysia, if not the world (imho, quite rightly so), by identifying Cohen and Wolfowitz as members of his cabinet, disapproval is cast upon them.

Second, labelling and appeal to prejudice: By labelling both Cohen and Wolfowitz as Jewish, and relying on prevailing stereotypes and prejudices against Jews, again a negative light is cast upon them.

Next, the big lie(s), which I debunk below:
  1. William Cohen was never in George Bush's cabinet. He was in Bill Clinton's cabinet, as Secretary of Defense.
  2. He is not Jewish. His father was Jewish, his mother was Protestant; he went to a Jewish school, but he is a Unitarian.
  3. In 1997, Paul Wolfowitz was Professor of International Relations and Dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University; George W. Bush was not elected President until 2000.
Next, the half-truth: Are Cohen and Paul Wolfowitz Zionists? Yes, especially Wolfowitz. Was George W. Bush a Zionist? Yes. How about Barack Obama? Not as much as Bush, but basically yes. Can you get elected or appointed to public office in America if you do not support Israel? Probably not. Given longstanding US foreign policy, it's safe to say that the vast majority of American public officials (with a some rare exceptions) are pro-Israel. Is it uncommon, unusual or somehow sinister for Malaysian leaders to have been seen with Zionist American officials? Certainly not; scroll down to the end of this post to see who else has been photographed in their company.

Next, transfer: By presenting an image of the target (DSAI) with Cohen and Wolfowitz (identified as "George Bush's most right wing Jewish-Zionist American cabinet members"), the propagandist wants to project their supposedly negative qualities onto DSAI. Note that the context of the photograph (besides when and where it was taken) has not been given.

Finally, name-calling and appeal to fear (in bold): "the man in the middle will sell his soul (or already sold) to the Devil, and already betrayed the Malays and will betrayed his mother, and at all cost, even destroying the country just he thinks he can be the next PM!"

There you have it: just take a photograph, neglect to mention it's context (what was the occassion, what was said), neglect to mention that others have been in similar situations, add some outright untruths, half-truths, racial prejudice and fear; uncritical readers will irrationally adopt a negative attitude towards the target, in this case DSAI.

So, what should critical readers bear in mind when reading anything:
  1. Independently verify the "facts" presented. Propagandists like Pasquale never let the truth get in the way of a good smear.
  2. Look for the half truths and selective presentation of facts, ask if any relevant information that could reframe the situation has been left out.
  3. Be aware of any irrational, emotional response they feel; is it the result of a specific propaganda technique being used?
  4. Most importantly, ask where is the evidence for the message being pushed? Without solid evidence, it is merely a smear.
Although Pasquale denies this, Malaysians Unplugged Uncensored have made (what I believe to be) a convincing case that Pasquale is actually Rusdi Mustapha (or Rosdi Mustafa). Furthermore, according to Dato' Ariff Sabri of Sakmongkol AK47 (in his post of 16/5/09), this Rosdi Mustafa "works in the PM's outfit and one of the media handlers". This is how Dato' Ariff describes Rosdi (these words were probably written in anger, so please read with a pinch of salt. I've underlined the parts I feel are relevant):
I see him loitering around Dato Najib's office engaging in whispers with other officers prompting us to believe he is privy to some top state secret. These are all symptoms of juvenile childishness. It is just his way of urinating to mark territory. I am here, you are out there kind of thing.

What do you make of someone who works in the PM's office saying the above? I can only say, this is someone who shamelessly exploits his official status to excoriate others just for the fun of it. He mistakes vile and abusive remarks for forthrightness. I am afraid that reflects his deficiency in moral and intellectual fibre.
If Pasquale is indeed a civil servant, my question is this: are Malaysian taxpayers paying for (or subsidising) a propagandist at the PM's office? While all civil servants must be free to pursue their own political beliefs on their own time (although the present DG of PSD seems to think otherwise), it is wrong for government leaders (and civil servants) to use their offices, staff and other government resources for party political purposes (even though Umno/BN seems to do otherwise). Pasquale's post was posted on Thursday, 10 September, 2009, at 11:23 am; that is well within standard Malaysian civil service working hours. Did he use a Government issued PC and internet connection? These are reasonable questions for Malaysian citizens and taxpayers to ask.

When Damian McBride, then special advisor to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown was caught discussing the setting up of a website to smear the Labour Party's political opponents, public outrage forced him to resign. From Wikipedia:
"...he [McBride] and another prominent Labour Party supporter, blogger Derek Draper, had exchanged emails discussing the possibility of disseminating rumours McBride had fabricated about the private lives of some Conservative Party politicians. The emails from McBride had been sent from his No. 10 Downing Street e-mail account."
Gordon Brown had to apologise, and was called to account in Parliament, for his subordinate's shenanigans.

If Pasquale is a civil servant in our PM's office, shouldn't we be demanding the same of him and DS Najib?

Malaysian Heart

Note: This photograph (from here) of Tun Dr. Mahathir (TDM) and George W. Bush was taken on 14 May 2002, during TDM's visit to the White House. Just obtaining an invitation for TDM to visit Bush cost RM 4.4 million (US$ 1.2 million), which was paid to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. For the record, Abramoff (who was later convicted of fraud), "diverted 'money meant for inner-city kids' to Jewish settlers occupying the Palestinian West Bank in order to help them 'fight the Palestinian intifada'", AND is Jewish. Was taxpayer money used to buy TDM's invitation? Read more about the issue here.


  1. Now the lies are exposed he's either a madman barking or an idiot

  2. I think to be fair, the same standard should be applied for accusing Najib in the Altantuya's murder. Where are the so called evidence? None so far except propaganda in the net.

    As you mentioned: Most importantly, ask where is the evidence for the message being pushed? Without solid evidence, it is merely a smear.

  3. he who live by the sword dies by the sword.

  4. And this is why I've stopped reading Pasquale, Demi Negara, A Voice, Marah-ku, etc, etc.


How to Paste Text into Comment Boxes

Google seems to have disabled pasting text (including ctrl-v) into blogger comments boxes in Firefox. The good news is that:
1. You can still copy paste using Internet Explorer (I successfully tried it with IE7)
2. With Firefox, you can still "Drag and Drop" text into the comment form. I have successfully dragged and dropped text from MS Word, websites (HTML) and from ScribeFire (plain text and HTML). Just do the following:

a) reduce the size of the window you want to take the text from, and place it near the comment box
b) Highlight the required text with cursor
c) Click on the highlighted text and drag it over to the comment box and drop it there.

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