23.10.2015

Polarisation within society

A respected academic once lamented how the development of alternative media and the considerable amount of anti establishment news have polarised Malaysians in general.

The anonymity of online news and the chance for readers to interact with the article therein has resulted in respondents making unreasonable comments, something they will not be able to do in the mainstream print media.

The respected scribe concluded that when freedom is exercised in such an irresponsible manner, it is inevitable that political polarisation will increase.

A majority of those following the new alternative media put the blame on the intense rivalry between the two major political divide in the country – the Pakatan are blaming the Barisan of controlling the mainstream media, while they themselves are taking advantage of flooding their political ideology online, attracting the young and IT savvy to their side of political thinking.

The Barisan-Pakatan political divide has resulted in the polarisation of the society at large. It has gone beyond the usual loyalties associated with competing political ideologies in a democratic system.

Any student in political science will obviously come to the conclusion that polarisation has its obvious consequences, particularly in the current development of what is happening in the alternative media.

A rough survey of any one of the articles found on an online site shows a blind, almost fanatical attachment, to the interests and views of one party or coalition which disregards or dismisses completely the position of the other party or coalition.

Those making comments to stories which are anti-establishment observe a total inability to see the wrongs committed by one’s own side and a complete unwillingness to appreciate the positives on the other side.

There is also clear evident from articles and stories in the media that there is a rapidly declining engagement in rational, balanced discourse on national issues on both sides of the political divide.

Those who have read both the mainstream as well as online news, most of which are anti establishment, sees the obvious shrinking of the middle ground in national politics.

Most disturbing of all, there is a clear show of a dramatic increase in vile, vulgar epithets and foul, filthy language found in online sites, websites and blogs associated directly or indirectly with one side against individuals who are perceived to be on the other side of the divide.

There is a school of thought that the increase in violence seen today may be due to unrestricted views on how problems should be handled, some of which advocate taking the law into their own hands.

It may not be possible to restrict such blinkered views, but it may be possible to make outcasts of those who do so, rejecting them and their opinions and denying them a forum to air their extreme, illogical views.  Even then, there will be many who will cry censorship, and with the government’s earlier decision not to limit or deter online freedom, this suggestion may not be the solution.

Polarization has always been a part of history, from the days of the Industrial Revolution which polarised society into the rich and the poor, then the breakdown of society into the Communist iron/bamboo curtains and the Western capitalist.  The same theory continues today, dividing the world into polarised Christian and Islam.

But polarization within the society in a country could do more damage to its people — dividing the society as we know into a political divide which refuses to accept the concept of agreeing to disagree to their individual beliefs.  It could well break out into an internal strife, a worrying development which no one wants.

The views expressed in this article is the personal opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of the party.