Friday, November 18, 2011

Mandi Rasuah

[Dipetik daripada blog Pak Samad,]

Dia mula mandi air rasuah
konon dari pancur air amanah.
Dia bersihkan (atau kotorkan)?
Yang penting dia bermandi
bawah pancur harta dan kuasa.

Dia luaskan dewan layandiri
berlatih menjual apa saja—
rumah, tanah, ekuiti, maruah.
Dia menyanyikan lagu ringgit
bagi kelompoknya yang buncit.

Setiap tahun dia galak bertani,
menyuburkan slogana itu-ini.
Apa sajalah asal dipercaya.
Rakyat yang dilatih berasuah
mula nyanyi lagu-lagu dosa.

Dia dipupuk menjadi peniaga
demi untung, deminya saja.
Dia diasuh menghitung ringgit,
dijanji harta sungai dan bukit
tanpa ilmu pun dia tetap bangkit.

Dia tergalak bermandi air rasuah.
Kita bahagia, kita bersih, jeritnya.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Part II: Ad Baculum, Islamic State and Malaysian Chinese Politics in the 11th General Election, March 2004

Analysis: Some Strategies of Fear as Seen from the Local Media

This study recognizes that the election campaign advertisement portrayed the “us versus them” ideology. “Us” are portrayed as ‘good/saint’, ‘patriotism’ and ‘supporter’ in issues verses the ‘bad/evil’, ‘propaganda’ and ‘protester’ of “them”. Rhetoric of fear or ad baculum tactics was used to bring out that contrast. Emotional words presented together with visual effects were the most commonly employed tactics. Visual effects used include pictures and caricatures. Other ad baculum tactics included rhetoric of number, packaging of images and rhetoric of colours.

Despite some types of rhetoric not present within the scope of channels of this paper, combining any of two or more type of rhetoric tactics often found. Combining two issues in one advertisement and presenting it with two rhetoric tactics was very commonly practiced. Findings below were presented according to issues.

Issue No.1: “Peace” verses “Chaos
Figure 1: Advertisement 1 to 3
In Advertisement 1 (refer Table 1 in Appendix II), the word “Peace” << 和平 >> is displayed as implicating “vote for peace”. Present also is a BN’s logo, urging to vote for BN. The presence of the word and the logo bring out the image of “good/saint” to BN. This is further reinforced by visual effect through a picture of a baby at the mother tender hand just below the word “Peace”. Advertisement 2 is of same style of Advertisement 1 but the “good/saint” image it tried to bring out is “Unity” << 團結 >>. A picture of three friends of different races created the visual effect of unity between various races. In both advertisements, a slogan stating “Past. Now. Future” << 過去. 現在. 將來 >> was found just below both words mentioned. This is seen as a “reminder” to the voters that BN has brings peace and unity in the past and present and only BN is capable to continue bringing it in the future.

The two advertisements’ effects as in Advertisement 1 (Peace) and Advertisement 2 (Unity) were further strengthening strongly by advertisements as in Advertisement 3. Advertisement 3 showing two contrasting picture on peace issue. On the left side was a scary war wrecked scenario contrast to the picture of Malaysia’s famous Twin Tower in a calm environment on the right. Below the war wrecked picture was stated “act of terrorism and fanaticism rampant” << 恐怖主义和极端主义横行 >> while below the Twin Tower picture, wrote, “Enjoy peace and stability” << 享有和平与稳定 >>. The word “or” << >> is used to contrast the two pictures. A slogan “Please vote BN to strengthen the Chinese’s strength in Government” << 请投国阵一票加强华族在朝力量 >> is stated. Thus, this advertisement is portraying “bad/evil” image to fanatic group at the same time contrasting BN as the “saint savior” to the Chinese over terrorist and fanaticism threats. Below the ‘vote for BN’ logo stated the phrase “to ensure your future” << 保障您的将来 >>, thus, further emphasizing BN’s image as a “saint savior”.

Figure 2: Advertisement 7 and 8

Advertisements that are more directly contrast against PAS are seen in Advertisement 7 & 8. Advertisement 7 shows many demonstrators with one of them clearly showing off a picture of Osama bin Laden who was accused as the mastermind of ‘September 911’ terrorist attack in the United States of America. The description below the picture portrayed the demonstrator as PAS supporters, which stated, “PAS make used DAP to segregate the Chinese votes” << 回教党利用行动党分散华裔选票 >>. This advertisement link PAS with chaotic and fanatic behavior thus, playing into the voters’ fear that if PAS win, chaos is imminent. The headline for this advertisement is, “Use your voting right wisely. Do not let others to determine your future” << 善用手中选票:别让他人决定您的将来 >> while the ‘vote for BN’ logo with the phrase “to ensure your future” (just like in Advertisement 3) was positioned at the bottom to emphasize the need for BN to prevent chaotic events happening.

Issue No.2: “Freedom” verses “Restrictions”

There are 11 revealing visual rhetoric advertisements found published in the major Chinese newspapers on freedom verses restriction issue. Advertisement 9 to 16 showed eight of those advertisements, presented in the same style to highlight several of restrictions if the oppositions formed the government. Each of the advertisements has four characteristics: the word “Ban?” strip across the center of the picture shown in the advertisements, a header phrase at center top, description below the picture and a ‘vote for BN’ logo at the bottom. The word “Ban” << 禁止 >> is relatively big in size while below the ‘vote for BN’ logo is a slogan stating, “to ensure your future.”

Figure 3: Advertisement 9 to 11

Advertisement 9 shows picture of a female artist singing with the header phrase stated, “Concert” << 演唱会 >>. The singer did not dress scantily. The description below the picture states, “Once the oppositions become the government, concert would be prohibited” << 一旦反对党阵线执政, 演唱会将被禁止>>. It scares voters to vote for BN to ensure that in future, concert will still be allowed. It is a sister version of El Salvador guerrilla’s slogan stating, “Vote in the morning; die in the afternoon” mentioned as example earlier.

Advertisement 10 shows two pairs of properly dressed guys and girls dancing with the header phrase stated, “Dancing” << 跳舞 >>. The description below states, “Once the oppositions become the government, the dancing among opposite sexes would not be allowed” <<一旦反对党阵线执政, 男女共舞将不被允许 >> Advertisement 11 shows five guys and two girls wearing a full set of swimming attires, including swimming trunk (men), swimming suit (lady) with head cap and goggles. The header of this advertisement stated, “Swimming costume” << 泳装 >> while the description below, said, “Once the oppositions become the government, the females would not be allowed to wear swimming costume” << 一旦反对党阵线执政, 女性将不被允许穿泳装 >>.

Figure 4: Advertisement 18 and 20

Played on the issues of religion freedom, Advertisement 18 contrasted two statues of Buddha, one being destroyed and the other are in well condition and receiving prayer from a devotee. The picture of the destroyed statue was tag with “Afghanistan – the statue of Buddha was destroyed by Talibans” << 阿富汗:佛像被塔利班炸毁 >>. While the other picture was tag with “Malaysia – BN promises the freedom of religion practice” <<马来西亚:国阵保障宗教自由 >>. Directly against PAS, BN’s advertisement as in Advertisement 20 urged voters not to vote for PAS with the headline stating “The fact has proved that PAS did not respect the Chinese cultural tradition” << 事实证明: 回教党不尊重华人文化传统 >>.

Issue No.3:“Development” verse “Backwardness”

Figure 5: Advertisement 24 and 25

Various advertisements asked voters to remember Malaysia’s achievement in 47 years of BN ruling, good relationship with China, development of Chinese education including establishment of University Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) as MCA’s effort and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as the best leader to fight corruption in Malaysia. Examples included 4 continuous pages of advertisement of Malaysia achievement milestone year by year as in Advertisement 23, three advertisements portraying Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as the modern Justice Pau (Advertisement 24) and successful effort of MCA to improve Chinese community (Advertisement 25). Advertisement 26 urged that mother tongue education should not become political issues talk but must be solved properly soonest possible.

Issue No.4: Transference

Figure 6: Advertisement 27 and 32

Transference issues seem to target DAP by BN. In the BN advertisements, DAP was associated with PAS in order to ‘transfer’ the fear of Islamic state establishment to the DAP. In this case, DAP was portrayed as supporting PAS’ vision to set up an Islamic state and helping them to win the election by weakening BN political forces. Thus, following slogan is used so frequently in many of the BN advertisement: “If you vote for DAP, you will weaken the force of BN in opposing the PAS. Giving support to DAP means giving support to PAS.” That slogan even appeared as a stand-alone plain advertisement like in Advertisement 27 and 32.


The data collected seem to give us an idea that “might is right” as the appeal to fear was used up to the maximum by the members of the ruling party Barisan Nasional (National Front), especially Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) through its controlled media. The opposition parties cannot match Barisan Nasional in term of campaign fund and most important, access to media. This is clear as during the 11th Malaysian General Election, Barisan Nasional contested in every Parliament and State seat but the opposition only contest in very few selected seats for both Parliament and State level. As a result, the Barisan Nasional coalition won 199 Parliament seats (90.87%) and 453 State seats (89.70%).
Barisan Nasional formed the ruling government at national level and for all state except Kelantan state where PAS won marginally. Barisan Nasional continues their 47 years grip on the Malaysian politic since independent, leaving the voters a “convenient” attitude toward political preference. Not only voters, especially the Chinese preferred to maintain the current “comfort zone”, both the voters and the oppositions already have pictured in a landslide victory for the Barisan Nasional, thus challenging the Barisan Nasional is merely for the sake of opposing only. That is the psychology reason on why the oppositions are never viewed as a capable ruling party not only by the voters but also by themselves. These reasons hand Barisan Nasional an almost sure win while this situation results in strengthening the Barisan Nasional control on media access and the psychology reason mentioned. That is a two ways causal relationship cycle that will continue to strengthen each other over time in Barisan Nasional favor. So, in conclusion, as a hyperbole, Barisan Nasional is expected to maintain their dominance in politic arena until the end of the world if that cycle didn’t break off. It might take a paradigm shift to break it and would be a mammoth task for anyone. However that it should start off with educating the voters to assess political issues rationally, not based on emotion especially fear.

Note: Original source and full version of this article is available at]

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ad Baculum, Islamic State and Malaysian Chinese Politics in the 11th General Election, March 2004: Part I

Note: This article is part of my published journal paper in Journal of Politics and Law; (2008); Vol. 1(1): 25 – 39; entitle “Ad baculum, Islamic state and Malaysian Chinese politics: A rhetorical study of selected Political advertisements in the local Chinese media during the 11th Malaysian general election campaign”

This study analyzes the rhetorical strategy of using the emotion of fear as a political tool in the 11th Malaysia General Election campaign. The three-prong objectives of this study are to analyze the main themes and issues used to address this tactic of fear, the general perceptions that non-Moslems in Malaysia have of the concept of Islamic state as a symbol of fear and rhetorical strategies used to provoke this fear. The scope of the study is confined to the conventional communication model of “Source-Message-Channel-Receiver”. The “sources” are political advertisements, the “messages” are Islamic state theme and related issues, the “channels” are symbols or rhetorical strategies and the “receivers” are the voters, with special reference to Malaysian Chinese voters. The findings concluded that the National Front party (Barisan National, BN) used the fear factor effectively in its campaign.  This situation is further enhanced by the strong control of BN over the Malaysian media in addition to the character of Chinese voters who generally prefer not to leave their current comfort zone and are afraid of an Islamic state.

Bentham was perhaps the first to relate fallacies to politics as can be seen in The Book of Fallacies; from unfinished papers of Jeremy Bentham (By a friend. London: J. and H. L. Hunt, 1824). The Bentham’s Handbook of Political Fallacies was later revised, edited and a Preface by Harold A. Larrabee was added before it was published in 1952 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press). However, the concept of fallacies discussed in that particular text is not exactly the same as the concept of what informal logicians means. In the context of informal logic, Ralph H. Johnson was the first proponent who discussed the relationship between informal logic and politics. In his paper presented at the Conference on Logic and Politics in Amsterdam, February 19-22, 1990, Johnson discusses the role of informal logic in the analysis of political discourse and some dangers we encounter in applying this logic to politics and its possible remedies. Among the popular fallacies commonly used in politic is ad baculum, the fallacy of appeal to fear. Fear is a classic political weapon, used throughout the ages. Its mechanism is simple, making the people afraid and telling them that you are the one who can save them.
This paper will try to analyze one of the political discourses, that is political advertisements and how these advertisements were used as a rhetorical strategy for causing fear. Thus, a few objectives below will be analyzed:
1) What are the kinds of main themes and issues used to address this tactic of fear?
2) What are the kinds of fear or general perceptions that the non-Moslems in Malaysia have of the concept of Islamic state as a symbol of fear?
3) What are the kinds of rhetorical strategies used to provoke this fear?
Meanwhile, the scope of this study focuses on the three above-mentioned objectives and uses the conventional communication model of “Source-Message-Channel-Receiver”. The source of study is the main political parties’ political advertisements in the local Malaysian main Chinese media.

Rhetoric, Ad Baculum and Fear
Aristotle in his Treatise on Rhetoric (translated by Theodore Buckley, 1995: 11 & 24), defined rhetoric as a faculty that considers all possible means of persuasion on every subject. Today’s definition of rhetoric has become much more complex due to its more than 2,500 years of history and evolution. Its definition has expanded from Greek classic formal oratory to include all types of literature or non-literature, oral or written discourse and even visual. Thus, rhetoric includes non-discursive or nonverbal symbols as well as discursive or verbal ones. Speeches, essays, conversations, poetries, novels, stories, comic books, television programs, films, art, architecture, plays, music, dances, advertisements, furniture, automobiles, and dresses are all forms of rhetoric (Foss, 2004: 5).

The fallacy that appeals to fear is an argument that uses threat of harm to advance one’s conclusion. This fallacy according to Engel (1986: 220) is also known as “swinging the big stick”, as the Latin word for stick or staff is baculum, and this argument is known in Latin as argumentum ad baculum.

Quoted from Aristotle’s Treatise on Rhetoric (translated by Buckley, 1995: 121 – 127), fear can be defined as a sort of pain or agitation, arising out of an idea that is evil, capable either of destroying or giving pain. However, people only fear those whose effect is either a considerable degree of pain or destruction and these (pain or destruction) are not far removed, but give one the idea of being close at hand, so as to be on the eve of happening. Generally human are emotional beings, thus are subjected to fear. No matter how the rational mind tells us that there is nothing to fear about, the feeling of fear still exists naturally especially if the event of fear seems close by.

An example of ad baculum tactic is El Salvador guerrilla’s slogan: “Vote in the morning; die in the afternoon” (Harris, 2000). The Nazis had also used the tactic of ad baculum. According to Grunberger (1971), the Nazis used to send the following notice to German readers who let their subscriptions lapse: "Our paper certainly deserves the support of every German. We shall continue to forward copies of it to you, and hope that you will not want to expose yourself to unfortunate consequences in the case of cancellation."

Dhammananda (2003: 9, 10 & 11) explained that fear is an intense emotional reaction characterized by attempts to flee from the situation, imprison and ensnare the mind and flourishes in the fog of ignorance. Therefore, presenting issues of fear to voters and presenting self as the sole savior at the same time might just easily make the voter flee from the fear elements without rightful rationalization and then, leave them no choice but to pledge their vote to the only “savior” party available. Otherwise, there will be unfavorable or negative consequences.

Closely linked to ad baculum strategy is ‘transference’, which is also known as fallacy of association. It is used to associate the argument with something attractive or unattractive depending of the purpose. Thus, by using transference, one could bring the effect of ad baculum to any other party through associating it with the original feared party.

Islamic State
The concept of Islamic state seems to be rather vague, as it was not properly defined in Koran. As such, the vagueness of the term had invited various interpretations. In the Malaysian political context, the interpretation has indeed attracted the interests of two main political parties of the Moslems, namely United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and Party Islam Semalaysia (PAS).

According to the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia or Jakim), the term “Islamic state” is indeed not stated at all in the Koran or al-Sunnah (Jakim, 2004). The same conclusion is also mentioned by Asghar (n.d). Thus, the definition of “Islamic state” depends on each individual, researcher or ulama (Moslem scholars recognized of having specialized knowledge of Islamic sacred law and theology).

Main Theme and Issues Used to Address This Tactic of Fear
Barisan Nasional instilled fear that allowing the opposition (especially PAS) to win will brings changes which are presented as a treat or risk too high for the voters to take. The “changes” are particularly referred to the setting up of Islamic state that is what PAS is campaigning for while the Islamic state idea is packaged to look as a symbol of fear especially to the Chinese community. The cost of change for the voters will be the “comfort zone” they are currently enjoying during the era of the ruling of the Barisan Nasional. Briefly, the comfort zones elements compared to the threats are as below:

1) “Peace” versus “Chaos”: (Issue 1)
Related issues include moderate government based on a mix of secular and Islamic concept versus an Islam fanatic opposition. This particularly refers to PAS and its determination to establish an Islamic state. Leaders of Barisan Nasional are portrayed as loving, family oriented persons while having harmonious living among multi ethnics. The opposition party, especially PAS is shown as related to terrorism and not friendly to non-Islam.

2) “Freedom” versus “Restrictions”: (Issue 2)
Related issues include freedom to practice religion, celebrate festivals, permission to sell-buy selected non-halal products (in particular alcohol and pork), permission for various entertainment businesses including betting, concerts, discos and karaoke lounges and freedom plus equal rights for women groups. These are contradictory to the practice of pure Islamic law, which prohibits most of the mentioned items while maintains inferior status of women compared to that of men.

3) “Development” versus “Backwardness”: (Issue 3)
Related issues include presenting the good track record of economic and social developments compared to both the poor development of PAS ruling state (Kelantan and Terengganu) and the inexperience of the opposition parties to develop the nation. Further strengthening this aspect is the portraying of Abdullah Badawi, the top leader of Barisan Nasional as the Chinese legendary character, Justice Pau who is famous for his justice and anti-corruption stand. 

4) “BN” versus “PAS–DAP-PK”: (Issue 4)
There is also an issue of transference in which DAP and PK are said to be associated with PAS, including helping PAS to minimize BN political strength to the benefit of PAS. DAP, PAS and PK formed the Barisan Alternatif (Alternative Front) to ensure a one-to-one fight with BN during the previous 10th General Election. That has become an issue of transference. Thus, fear issues associated to PAS were “associated” with DAP and PK also.

Kinds of Fear about the Concept of Islamic State
The kinds of fear or general perceptions that the non-Moslems in Malaysia have of the concept of Islamic state as a symbol of fear can be categorized according to issues as below. This is refers to the Chinese fear of PAS setting up an Islamic state for Malaysia.

1) “Peace” verses “Chaos

a. Terrorism activities could emerge in Malaysia or the new government could support global terrorism activities prompting hostility from other countries;

b. Aggression towards non-Moslem ethnics similar to the situation in Indonesia might happen;

c. Forcing non-Moslems to adopt Islamic elements.

2) “Freedom” verses “Restrictions”

a. Restriction to practice religion;

b. Restriction to celebrate festivals;

c. Banning pigs rearing;

d. Banning selling-buying of non-halal (Note 3) products (in particular alcohol and pork);

e. Banning betting and gambling activities;

f. Restrictions to stage concerts and the establishment of discos and karaoke lounge;

g. Inferior treatment of women.

3) “Development” verses “Backwardness”

a. Economics mismanagement causing various social hardship;

b. International boycott or avoidance in terms of foreign direct investment and international trade that might affect the economics negatively;

Analysis: Some Strategies of Fear as Seen from the Local Media
To be continue in Part II.