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:
- A CIA agent working to destabilise Malaysia;
- Responsible (through "his Indonesian network") for the current Indonesian "hatred for Malaysia"; and
- Of working to "discredit traditional Islam and plant one of two of America's version of Islam in all Islamic states..."
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:
- Reductio ad Hitlerum (in this case, ad Bushum)
- Appeal to prejudice
- Big lie
- Appeal to fear
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:
- William Cohen was never in George Bush's cabinet. He was in Bill Clinton's cabinet, as Secretary of Defense.
- He is not Jewish. His father was Jewish, his mother was Protestant; he went to a Jewish school, but he is a Unitarian.
- 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, 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:
- Independently verify the "facts" presented. Propagandists like Pasquale never let the truth get in the way of a good smear.
- Look for the half truths and selective presentation of facts, ask if any relevant information that could reframe the situation has been left out.
- Be aware of any irrational, emotional response they feel; is it the result of a specific propaganda technique being used?
- Most importantly, ask where is the evidence for the message being pushed? Without solid evidence, it is merely a smear.
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.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.
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.
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?
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.