Saturday, July 12, 2008

Uncovering the truth about rumours; Obama, Anwar and Najib

Uncovering The Truth About Rumours

2008-07-12 00:00

Anwar, Najib and Obama have one thing in common –all three are victims of virulent and malicious rumours. The reason why there’s so much venom against them is because all three share another thing – aspirants of high office.

By definition, a rumour is a story or statement in general circulation without confirmation or certainty as to facts. A rumour is, therefore, unverified information incapable of being true or false.

The rumours about Obama is that he’s a secret Muslim began surfacing viciously as soon as Barack Obama began looking like a credible candidate to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. Presidency.

If the rumour is not nipped in the bud, then Obama might as well kiss goodbye to his ambition to be the first black man to occupy the White House in 200 years.

Matt Stearns of McClatchy Newspapers says all of these slurs on Obama are categorically untrue. “In the ugly new world of online political rumor-mongering, aggressive Googling and e-mailing allow anyone to join the cacophonous misinformation campaign against a politician — in this case, Obama,” he said.

“Dirty tricks have been a part of politics for as long as there's been politics. But the Internet has taken "the old-fashioned slanderous whispering campaign to a completely new level," said Brooks Jackson, the director of the Annenberg Political Fact Check, a nonpartisan organization that monitors the truthfulness of political discussion. "They are more dangerous and more insidious."

Obama set up a crack team of cybernauts - a rapid response internet “war room”- to track and respond aggressively to online rumours that Barack Obama is unpatriotic and a Muslim.

He and his advisers are aware of the danger of such rumours, amid polling data showing that a significant number of Americans believe he is a Muslim or are suspicious about his background.

Obama’s campaign said that the cyber team would respond immediately to any inaccurate information about him.

He has been so successful, that the Internet campaign set up to fight the rumours has also doubled as a massive fund raising machinery unmatched by any other in the history of the American presidential elections campaign.

When Fox News aired a report in January claiming that Sen. Barack Obama had been educated at a radical Muslim madrassa, his campaign beat the story back with the candidate himself going on television to call it “ludicrous” and a “smear.”

"People believe things they hear from a trusted source," said Julie Germany, director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet at George Washington University. "If you get an e-mail from a close friend or a work colleague or your parents, you're more likely to believe it. That's how word-of-mouth marketing works."

The first clear appearance of the theme on the Web came in a Dec. 18, 2006, column by Debbie Schlussel, a Detroit-based writer, according to an Internet report.

“I had a lot of readers ask me about Barack Obama and his background, and a lot of them had heard he was a Muslim or thought he was a Muslim,” Schlussel said. “I looked into it, I found out his middle name was Hussein.” The result: a column titled “Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always a Muslim.”

Anwar has incredulously survived a round of rumours started a decade ago now he is subject to another new round of rumours which is the same as the first one.

Anwar was on the verge of toppling party strongman Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Umno president and prime minister as well just before the Asian financial meltdown a decade ago.

Khalid Jafri came up with a dossier on Anwar: “50 Dalil Mengapa Anwar Tidak Boleh Jadi PM” or “50 Reasons Why Anwar Shouldn't Be Prime Minister.” The book accused Anwar to have involved in sexual scandal and treason. The books mysteriously made their way into the hands of delegates attending the Umno general assembly in June 1998.

The choice of the word “dalil” is interesting as it means more than just “reasons.” Dalil are arguments based on verses in the Holy Qur’an as proof of its validity. As it turned out, Anwar was sacked by Mahathir four months later on 2 Sept 1998 arising from these dalils, the main one being sodomy.

Anwar sued Khalid for defamation and won but Khalid later passed away. Anwar lost the sodomy allegation and was thrown into the slammer for six years and was beaten to pulp along the way. He finally appealed against the conviction and won.

Anwar has declared himself as prime minister-in-waiting after the 8 March general elections and has set 16 Sept as his date with destiny. Suddenly a 23-year university dropout made a police report that he was sodomised or raped by Anwar. Is this for real? Or just another rumour? As in the previous allegations, Anwar sued for defamation.

As for Najib Razak, the deputy prime minister, rumours about him and his wife, Rosmah Mansor abound linking them to the mysterious murder of a Mongolian woman. Out of the blue, P.I. Bala made a statutory declaration linking both Najib and Rosmah to the murder. The SD was read out by Anwar. Within 24 hours Bala went missing or into hiding, triggering off another round of rumours. Both Najib and his wife are not seen to be taking any vigorous measures to counter the rumours except to deny them and relying on the police to take action.

Shouldn’t both Anwar and Najib learn from Obama’s strategy in dealing with rumours? They are not being tried in a court of law but in the court of public opinion. The cyber jury is still out.

Addressing the Internet rumours at a January debate, Obama said: "Fortunately, the American people are, I think, smarter than folks give them credit for." Malaysians may be just as smart. (By BOB TEOH/ MySinchew)

( The opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of MySinchew ) MySinchew 2008.07.12

full here: Uncovering The Truth About Rumours
Sin Chew Jit Poh, Malaysia