By Salahuddin Hisham
Sept 15, 2017
DOES spinning a story based on fake news, ignoring facts, and massaging or cooking up figures and facts help one’s political cause for influence, to win seats and acquire power?
With so much spinning going-on, that question has been haunting yours truly for quite some time. For one, there is the feeling that too much spinning only makes the public refuse to believe anything that comes out in a certain media platform, personalities and generally politics.
Not only that, the public seems to avoid even the mainstream media that they perceive as spinning by virtue of not disclosing the full story.
To be fair to media practitioners, it is never possible to give a comprehensive full picture. At best they could is to do a special feature but the few articles will still be based on the angle they deem fit within the limitation of space or time.
Ideally, the media – be it mainstream or alternative or citizen journalism media or social – should not spin but be factual. As a non-journalist, yours truly would define factual as describing an event or presenting issue as it is without inserting opinion or perception.
Let the facts and figure, image, video, documents and what have you tell the story. Obviously, it is difficult and the message will get lost. But since the subject is about spinning, then that would be the ideal way.
Maybe there is room for opinion but it must be from true experts with the years of experience and not instant Maggi Mee expert some find in abundance on social media. It also means that views need to be referred to known and quotable sources for the public to scrutinise their credibility.
It has been the practice of professional and ethical journalists to do so. Proper journalism only report on verifiable stories. Not about hearing this and that from undisclosed sources.
As of today, it is increasingly frustrating for the public to know the truth. Googling for info is getting frustrating as it requires sophisticated search techniques to get the right info immediately.
By having all that available, it allows them access to what is the truth or more accurately, closest to the truth. Wikileaks or a local copycat, Selangorleaks.com is an approach.
The recent working visit to the United States by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Najib Abdul Razak had few examples of how dishonest spinning can get.
So Najib spinned a little that Malaysia’s order of Boeing air planes for Malaysia Airlines and EPF together with Khazanah investments are us helping to strengthen the US economy.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) helps strengthen the Malaysian economy. One would logically say it does help the US economy a bit.
However, Malaysia’s intention is not to help but it has it’s own purpose and objective. US President Donald Trump was sharp to touch on the market having been hitting new highs.
Malaysia did not do FDI but purely the global diversification of the investment portfolio of the national pension fund. These have been going on for quite some time since the days of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration.
EPF could not possibly own shares in all the local companies listed in the stock market. Most of the shares do not meet trust fund status. And, it is risky to put all the eggs in one basket.
There are opportunities out there to enable the fund achieve the desired stable, reliable and fairly good return for a size of fund that is challenging to manage. Most of the top companies in the world are listed in the US bourse and almost all the top global companies are in US or China.
Trump’s campaign promise was “Make America Great Again” and the focus is on rebuilding the aging infrastructure and bringing in investments to create jobs. Any portfolio manager would immediately jump into stocks in sectors linked to infrastructure development.
The Malaysian delegates will look ill-prepared if they spoke of seeking investment from the US at a time their agenda is to attract investments into the US. It is a bit of spinning but it has not crossed into the realm of falsehood.
As for Khazanah Nasional, they made money from their earlier investment in Alibaba.com and decided to plough back with a little bit more to spare.
Their investment in Alibaba.com managed to get Jack Ma to help us build the Digital Economy initiative. It means the investment is more than about return which apparently has been extremely good. There is also technology to acquire, manpower training, business joint venture, and even reverse FDI back to Malaysia.
All this investment done is not going to divert government’s money meant for public expenditure. So why spin in the manner that the government helped the US economy at the expense of local needs? And, why the spin that government should be bringing in investment instead of investing abroad?
It is spinning based on non-disclosure of facts and misleading the conclusion. Thus it is an insult to any decent people with intelligence and appreciation of facts.
As for the Boeing order, the only choice to buy airplanes is Boeing from the US or Airbus from Europe. The Opposition has no basis to criticise. That is unless Malaysia Airlines decide to pull out of the airline business.
The order is the business decision of Malaysia Airlines based on its planning, assessment of the future market, and needs. Why the politicising?
The public can express their views since after all, it is a company owned by a national sovereign fund. However, do so with honesty and sincerity without any ulterior intention of running down the government at any cost or to gain political favour.
Do so with the best interest of the company. It should be expressed in the most intelligent and courteous manner. There should not be any hurling of insults and the willingness to accept any different views from others.
PKR vice president Rafizi Ramli has been doing such spinning and strengthening it with wrong “facts” or those plucked from the sky. For instance, he recently raised the issue of over aggressive tax collection by the Inland Revenue Board and conjured up figures and charts to show sharp increase in for the last few years.
The problem was that his data was all wrong. IRB had achieved more than RM100 billion in collection since many years ago and not recently. The rise in tax collection is on a steady growth and did not display any sharp rise.
These sort of wrongful allegations or deceptive spinning cannot be left unanswered. The better would be to answer it immediately. However, wrong “facts” need to be answered with the right facts and not another spinning based on a conjured up figures.
It only prolongs the wrongful discourse and usually gets diverted away in the wrong direction from the issue discussed.
If one cares to observe public discourses, arguments presented with the right facts and figures will satisfy the public. The issue stops and is even forgotten, and it ends any potential public relation disaster or avert any political nightmare.
This is an advice media officers or information officers or propagandists of politicians, political parties and the government should heed.
If the mainstream media sticks to ethical journalism and spends more research to present the right facts as comprehensively plausible, without the spin, the mainstream media’s credibility will improve, trust will return and the public will return to buying mainstream media products.
The only thing is that the platform maybe different. They will have to think hard and be creative to secure revenue.