We deserve the Fake News law

MY reaction to the Fake News law, was one of celebration. I mean, how can you not take solace in the fact that I can now report every single tweet and Facebook post of lies and slander regarding the #UndiRosak movement, and just shove everyone in jail or make them pay a fine?

It's brilliant! It's vengeful! It's oh so lovely vindication, retribution and revenge after three months of facing down lies and slander from all sides of the political divide.

Right?

Wrong.

The Fake News Act not only looks at your WhatsApp messages, your Facebook posts and messages and even your tweets, it also analyses the style and way you write.

In other words, it could even police sarcasm and cynicism – and those two are characteristic of my personal style of writing.

I understand why the government wants to pass this bill, and I'm sure we all do. The reason for it is because the internet and social media have become breeding grounds for misinformation and hatred. It triggers racial and religious discord, and dogmatic supporters end up using fake news to bolster their arguments.

And let's face it, politicians and their supporters are rather dogmatic in their pursuit of a win come the 14th general election, to the point that objectivity has been deleted.

Safe to say, we now like Bush have adopted the stance of you are either "with us or against us". Everyone wants either a change at all costs, or remain the same at all costs – and the first thing they're willing to sacrifice is objectivity.

But all this being said, a Fake News law does nothing other than to entrust a monopoly on truth to a person outside of the news industry. I'll give you an example.

Let's take Invoke's latest survey that indicated Malay voters no longer favour the government and Pakatan has the ability to win five states.

The survey pointed out the following regarding Malay votes: 28.5% back Barisan Nasional, 14.1% back Pakatan Harapan, 18% backing PAS, 22.3% refused to answer and 17% were undecided.

This was used to say Pakatan could take five states in Peninsular Malaysia.

But, can I also say that it shows 39.3% of Malaysians are so disillusioned that they might boycott the election and even support #UndiRosak?

Of course I can. The data is vague in that sense and if that does happen among the Malay voters, whatever pointed by an optimistic pro-Pakatan survey could instead well be in support of us few calling on millions to boycott both sides.

Thus, even the news itself is open to interpretation, and not fake. It's just framed differently, narrated differently and angled differently by news portals to attract eyeballs and hold our attention. The average attention span is estimated to be 15 seconds.

So, can we actually say the news is fake?

Let's consider another example. Since I'm a chain smoker, I know this much, vaping is harmful. Is this statement true? Yes.

But if I say vaping has been proven to be 95% less harmful compared to regular smoking – is this true? Yes, it is also true. Neither of these are false statements, but both can call each other misinformed or damaging to the other's cause.

Now, allow me to point out one more example: a 93-year-old man calls an 83-year-old "senile" for running in an election in 2013, and calls a 70-year-old "too old" to become prime minister in the same year. And yet, in 2018, he's running for prime minister.

Misleading? No. Fake? Nope – you can actually Google the videos and articles to find it. Hypocritical to the core? Very much so.

And this is the problem with fake news, politics and Malaysians in their passionate support for whichever side – we are oft too invested in wanting what we want that we would embrace lies, hypocrisy and even close an eye at whatever proves us wrong, branding it "fake news" when it clearly is not.

So, if a Fake News law is passed, it will be a sad critique that Malaysians have lost the objectivity to judge news and instead require a judge to keep them in check.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com