Smokescreens that hide the real issues


Smokescreens that hide the real issues
By Zan Azlee

It’s been awhile since we heard about Jamal Md Yunos, the leader of the Red Shirts and Sungai Besar Umno division chief. I thought he had to retire from the limelight and concentrate on his failing (failed?) seafood restaurant. But I guess not since he is back in the news!

On Thursday, Jamal and his men had driven right up to the Selangor Menteri Besar’s office in Shah Alam, took out several crates (twenty, to be exact) of beer and proceeded to smash the crates and all the bottles in front of the building’s gates.

He said that he was sending all this beer to Menteri Besar Azmin Ali and that he and his “gang” can enjoy drinking all the beer they want, but they had to do it inside the office building instead of anywhere outside.

This is, of course, in response to a report in Utusan Malaysia saying that Azmin had approved a beer festival in the state, ignoring police advice. However, his strategic communications director Yin Shao Loong has said in a statement that this was a lie.

The Selangor MB’s office has challenged Utusan to provide the proof that he had uttered such a thing. His lawyers will be issuing a letter of demand to the newspaper asking for an unconditional retraction, public apology and damages.

What is funny is that every time Jamal Md Yunos pulls a stunt like this, the media and members of the public will all go into a frenzy. They will report about it, talk about it and spread all the pictures, videos and article about it.

Everyone will be obsessed with it and this becomes a perfect smokescreen to cover up real issues that the public needs to be paying attention to and discussing. Issues that are more pressing such as corruption, security, economics and politics.

We see a lot of these sensationalistic issues that become smokescreens for bigger issues. Last week, we had the big hoo-ha about the laundrette in Johor that had a sign saying they do not want to serve non-Muslims because of cleanliness issues.

The real value of sensational stories

These issues, which are mainly identity politics which deal with petty racial and religious issues, will usually take the nation by storm. It is because the issues are simple and easy to understand, hence easy to react to and get angry at. But usually, they are quite surface-level as well.

Real issues that need to be given attention, such as the 1MDB corruption scandal, which involves complicated white-collar professional swindling, are a bit more difficult to understand by most common folks.

Another issue that could use a little more attention would be that relating to sexual crimes against children and also child marriages. But again, this is an issue that is a little bit complicated and requires a little more understanding of culture and law.

So these issues are usually pushed aside when the petty and sensational stories appear because they are more complicated and require a bit more effort to understand and get angry at. So you can see the convenience factor at play here.

A case of ‘wagging the dog’

I’m sure you might remember a movie called Wag The Dog” starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro. It was about a spin doctor who acquires the services of a Hollywood producer to cover up a political sex scandal involving the president of the United States.

That movie is exactly what the situation in Malaysia reminds me of. It would seem like there is a master control room somewhere with a team of writers, producers and directors who are constructing and dictating that these issues should constantly crop up to keep Malaysians occupied.

I understand how these petty issues can get us all riled up and frustrated. I find myself getting caught up by it many times, too. Yes, I do agree we still need to condemn these issues, but we cannot allow ourselves to be blinded by it totally.

It’s just too easy for us to fall for the smokescreens and that is exactly what they want us to do. So we need to be aware and rise above it. We need to show them that we’re not as gullible as they think we are.

But I have to say, it is quite satisfying to see that at the time of writing, Shah Alam chief assistant commissioner Shafien Mamat has said that they will be investigating Jamal Md Yunos and the rest of his gang for unlawful assembly.

Yes, I know. He has been arrested so many times before and he always gets released without any charges being brought against him. This just makes me contemplate more about “Wag The Dog” and about that big master control room in the sky.

Oh, look at that. Looks like I’ve been blinded by the smokescreen again. Sigh.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

Get Zan Azlee’s latest book ‘JOURNO-DAD: The chronicles of a journalist who just happens to be a dad!‘ today!

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