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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Information, misinformation and deception

We have a scarce supply of accurate information, an oversupply of misinformation and occasional outright deception.
COMMENT
MH 370Malaysia really had quite a bit of scare in the past week! With MH370 investigation reaching its climax and the Kajang elections reaching feverish proportions, a MAS jet flew into a flock of birds in Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), Kathmandu, on Friday.
This happened exactly on the same day and time that I landed in Kathmandu but thankfully I was on AirAsia. I only knew of it today when I read the online media.
MAS officials confirmation came two days after the Kathmandu Post newspaper report.
The common denominator for both Kajang and MAS is information, misinformation and deception.
The Kajang by-election is thankfully over and Malaysia can hopefully focus on other issues that are of national and international interest.
However, there are lessons learnt in Kajang that must not be forgotten.
What the hack!
It was reported that 11 PKR leaders’ handphones were hacked and messages prejudicial to Pakatan Rakyat were sent out in the run up to the Kajang by-election.
This same incident occurred in Kota Damansara DUN election during the 2013 GE when the voters were bombarded with SMSes on the morning of the election stating that the incumbent candidate has withdrawn.
This caused tremendous confusion among the voters that morning and shifted the pattern of voting
Obviously this illegal act is a deception and it is frightening to see that it is repeated in the Kajang by-election.
This kind of sabotage of the democratic process ought to be strongly condemned or our democracy will lose even more credibility if this is widespread in GE14.
A serious investigation of this hacking will allay the fears of the public as data privacy has been compromised. It will not be difficult for the authorities to trace the perpetrators.
If no action is taken, it can be assumed that such acts are condoned. Such twisted information communicated with an obvious devious intention is categorised as deception.
Misinformation
Misinformation is incomplete or bias information made available to an unsuspecting public that will steer their perception of issues. Delayed information can also be categorised as misinformation.
“Malays more ‘sensitive’ than other races to statutory rape issue”. The circus of words by deputy home minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, and his aspersions of the attitude towards it by different racial groups is a naughty attempt at misinformation.
Misinformation can also take the form of choosing ambiguous words that are stringed to appear as cohesive sentences but yet in totality is meaningless.
This art was perfected by ex-US president Bill Clinton during the grand jury testimony of his alleged illicit sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky.
In the MH370 case, the many answers given at the official press conferences border on misinformation.
No clear facts were stated as many were “still subject to official investigations”. No clear statement about the carriage of hazardous cargo – were they mangosteens or highly inflammable batteries?
If they were dangerous cargo, an elaboration of the security precautions taken in compliance with international requirements would be pacifying to the public.
This accumulation of unanswered and partly answered questions give rise to unhealthy speculations and rumours.
International press coverage on MH370 is forced to speculate even as we now hesitate to reveal our cargo manifest to aid the Australians in the SAR operation.
The stone-wall of no information
Not providing information is one of the best ways of evading the issue.
With regard to the SPM results – why are our high scoring results different from our low scoring results when judged against international benchmarks like Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results?
It seems unreasonable that the mark levels for our SPM grades are covered under the Official Secrets Act.
With the scarce supply of accurate information, an oversupply of misinformation and occasional outright deception, the internet is abuzzed with discussions about MH370 and other national issues.
Certain mainstream media have been “blacklisted” by a perceptive public as trust is lost through publication of misinformation.
Bloggers with differing opinions are sought for discerning readers to evaluate arguments from every angle.
More Facebook comments are blocked and many are “unfriended” for providing abusive comments that carry no information value.
As the educated public see for more credible information, uncredible media organisations, bloggers and websites will be blacklisted for their lack of information, their misinformation and also their deceptive statements.
Will our federal and state governments be blacklisted as well?
Truth seeks light, lies seek darkness – we judge our governments on the information they provide or NOT provide us!
Jeffrey FK Phang is an asst professor at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman while also an activist with Friends of Kota Damansara. His passion is in creating caring communities that are safe, harmonious and livable.

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