Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Taking the battle online


Wednesday February 8, 2012

Midin Salad
By YU JI



Barisan-linked websites must be original in content to level up against Opposition’s.

HOW many of us are aware that the state Barisan Nasional has a “Unit Media Baru”? Its job is to counter the Opposition’s significantly stronger online presence. The unit is headed by PBB Youth Information chief Abdul Aziz Tan Sri Adenan. Each of the three other Sarawak-based Barisan component parties is also represented by an appointee.

At SUPP, new Youth chief Tan Kai has selected the young and loyal Gregory Tan. At SPDP, the appointment was personally supervised by party president Tan Sri William Mawan; he chose Audie Chua, a former PRS member who runs Audie61 — a website that will either make you laugh, or angry.

Over at PRS, little is known about its Unit Media Baru representative Majang Renggi.

All four have been presented with letters of appointment, so it’s clear that Barisan is taking up the online challenge rather seriously.

At the bottom of this column, I’ve attached addresses to several websites and blogs linked to the unit.

Here, I’m not going to prejudge for you the quality of the websites. Take a look for yourself.

Audie61 might be the most popular of them all here. Its author Chua claims a readership of at least 600 or 700 unique visitors a day, and during times of intense politicking, as many as 20,000 daily hits.

Chua says he is also in charge of guiding some 40 other bloggers and Facebookers.

Chua believes Barisan’s online presence is “levelling up” against Pakatan Rakyat’s.

“I really feel it is. We are taking a much more direct approach by taking the battle online,” Chua told The Star this week.

He said the state Barisan’s online strategy during the last state election was all wrong.

It was a mistake for the state government to hire foreigners to run Barisan’s Internet campaign, he said, accusing these people being nothing more than “mercenaries”.

“Barisan had been really complacent (about its online campaign). We didn’t learn from the 2006 experience when the Opposition was already very strong (online). And then in the last state election, they brought in these “mercenaries” who were not Sarawakians.

“They were not fighting for the state; if tomorrow the state is burning, they won’t care,” Chua said.

The blogger insisted that none of Barisan’s Unit Media Baru members were being paid.

“We are not paid; we are doing it for the party,” he said.

Audie61 is not for the faint-hearted. Its content is controversial, bombastic and at first glance, in need of serious editing.

I mean no offence, but poor designs and bad language are common features at many of these Barisan’s Unit Media Baru affiliated websites. (One of the blogs linked to a SUPP member consistently misspells grassroots as “grass roofs”).

If Barisan were to “bring it on” to the Opposition online, then it should seriously consider why sarawakreport.org has enjoyed such success.

Too many of the Barisan-linked websites are merely regurgitating content from other websites.

On the other hand, sarawakreport.org attracts tens of thousands worldwide daily because it contains new data, which is presented in an easy to read and clear format.

Prior to the last state election, a copycat portal, sarawakreports, was set up to confuse the public.

It was as pro-government as sarawakreport.org was pro-Opposition; but it never achieved its intention.

For sarawakreports to so blatantly copy an idea in order to tarnish its pro-Opposition’s strength, only displays the former’s very bad tastes — and frankly-speaking, laziness.

Yet, there’s now talk that sarawakreports be making a comeback. I do not know if Barisan’s unit has anything to do with it.

“When you are going into battle, you don’t reveal your strategies,” Chua said.

It’s quite clear to me that Barisan will continue to languish in urban areas.

Its efforts to gain support among young, urban voters have not been good enough.

The Barisan’s strength will continue to be found in rural areas.

“It’s quite obvious they (the Barisan unit members) cannot engage with sarawakreport.org.

“If they can’t engage with the things brought up by sarawakreport.org, then that tells you a lot,” said Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s political scientist Prof Madya Dr Andrew Aeria.

“Reasoned arguments are missing from most of Malaysia’s public debates. It (the Barisan unit) will help the Government if they blog intelligently and rationally.

“But if they just spew venom, hatred and opinion that borders on racism, then “no lah”; it will end up having a detrimental effect on whoever they are supporting.”

Perhaps the most telling weakness in Barisan’s cyber campaign is all these things combined: PBB and SPDP have no official websites; SUPP’s news section was last updated on Aug 3, 2010; and PRS’s latest news is a cut-and-paste article from www.theborneopost.com.

With “efforts” like these, it’s no wonder so few know about the Unit Media Baru.

The followings are some of the pro-Barisan Nasional websites and blogs:

> putihmaya.blogspot.com — A combination of user-generated content and links to news from other sources. Relatively frequently updated.

> audie61.wordpress.com — One of the more popular bloggers.

> parochialsarawakian.wordpress.com — Content mostly from official news sources. Focuses on the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy.

> protonace.blogspot.com — By a keen supporter of SUPP’s new line-up but not a big fan of some of the Sarawak government’s top-brass.

> muluview.blogspot.com —Defender of the state government’s environmental and land development policies.

> sarawakscorecard.wordpress.com — Ano-ther blog set up with the sole purpose of regurgitating news promoting the central region corridor.

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