I wonder if Bob Teoh’s reply to my latest column has done Sin Chew Daily and - in particular - CC Liew any service.
He began with Shuzheng’s personal attack against me. Who is Shuzheng? Nothing but a Chinese answer to Ibrahim Ali, who believes every bit of Chinese culture to be superior. In fact, Shuzheng is worse than Ibrahim Ali, for the Perkasa leader at least has the guts to come out arguing - albeit to be laughed at - while Shuzheng only hides behind the computer screen venting his hatred at anyone that is not to his liking.
Any Chinese Malaysian who happens to champion the Bangsa Malaysia concept or be a Christian is invariably regarded by him as a ‘sellout’, and woe to those who carry a ‘western’ name - and that includes Teoh and me.
Paradoxically, Shuzheng’s rancorousness and bitterness - evidenced by his maniacal attack on Hannah Yeoh - do not in the slightest reflect the ‘very fine’ Chinese culture that Shuzheng so longs for the entire world to appreciate. The malevolence in him/her alone is the biggest betrayal to his/her belief.
Anyway, this letter is not about Shuzheng but Teoh’s defence of Sin Chew and CC Liew. It is however sorry for me to say that Teoh, despite the years of journalistic experience under his belt, may need to undertake a crash course on journalism, perhaps much more so than Johann Hari.
Do the mainstream media all over the world exist just to sustain the establishment as Teoh has claimed? This is news to me. In 1997, many of the mainstream newspapers in the UK - from the Sun to the Guardian - threw their weight behind Tony Blair’s Labour Party, rather than backing the ruling Conservatives. The Guardian is especially known for being ‘anti-Tory’, which is no small feat considering that the Tories have dominated British politics for over three centuries.
In 2003, the Glasgow Herald of Scotland, voicing the concerns of the Glaswegians, was vociferously opposed to the War on Iraq pursued by the Blair government. It is also common for the left-leaning and liberal New York Times and the Los Angeles Times to go against the White House when the latter is perceived to be closing its mind.
Teoh’s remark that ‘the Wall Street Journal invariably is an apologist of Wall Street’ is therefore most flabbergasting, for the Journal does always make its position clear not only on issues related to the stock market, but also to the US fiscal policy, even taking the government to task whenever necessary!
In the same vein, the Liberty Times of Taiwan is independence-leaning and often takes umbrage at President Ma Ying-jeou’s reunification stance vis-a-vis China. With a daily circulation of 700,000, it is not only mainstream but also bent on changing the status quo.
I do not dispute the history of Sin Chew Daily (then known as Sin Chew Jit Poh) being made a sacrificial lamb on the eve of Operasi Lalang in 1987.
For Teoh’s information, I led a small group of high school mates to visit the Sin Chew office in Taman Maju Jaya, Johor Baru, the following day to signify our solidarity with the daily that I had grown up and very much identified with. I suppose it was a relatively brave token of appreciation given the climate of fear engulfing the country at the time.
But what Sin Chew did suffer does not grant it the immunity from reproach. The Star, too, was a victim of Operasi Lalang, but the once critical and vocal English daily is now barely a shadow of its former self. At least Wong Chun Wai - deride him how one may - does not attempt to explain away his paper’s failure as a watchdog by playing at victimhood!
Warped beyond recognition
If Teoh does read Chinese, he should go back and have a detailed study of Sin Chew’s special edition on Najib Abdul Razak’s ‘ascension’ to prime ministership in April 2009 - and that on Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's back in November 2003 - that was embarrassingly fulsome and unashamedly flattering.
If anything, the newspaper that once prided itself - and quite rightly so - as a voice of conscience is now warped beyond recognition, and appears only to have fallen victim to the Stockholm syndrome.
CC Liew and his close aides - as far as I know - were deadly against it when the then-flourishing Nanyang Press Holdings expressed its interest in buying the ailing Sin Chew Jit Poh in the mid 1980s. The reason? Market monopoly could snuff out the Chinese press industry.
Much water has passed under the bridge and it does look incredulous that the man who was once a firm believer in market competition has turned an apologist for one of the most concentrated patterns of media ownership in Asia.
It is kind of Teoh to provide Malaysiakini readers with a backgrounder to Sin Chew, but it does not explain the daily's degeneration of the present.
Perhaps Teoh can also do Sin Chew and CC Liew a favour by telling me why the best-selling newspaper in the country has allowed one of its deputy editors-in-chief to twist the contents of an Economist report for his own purposes, the editorial team to republish articles without the consent of the authors, and to permit funny names such as Little Media Soldier and the Little Red Riding Hood to pass for serious writers?
None of these practices can be said to be ethical and they form a phenomenon that one does not usually see in mainstream press around the world.
JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.