The Bangsa Malaysia kool-aid redux

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”

― Noam Chomsky, ‘Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda’

COMMENT | I noticed a radio station that before the elections did not cover politics is now covering politics with a newly discovered vigour. I really have no problem with this. Indeed, journalists from what was the alternative media before the elections have now become “mainstream” in the sense that where mention of them was verboten before the elections, now they and their opinions have become important in this “new Malaysia”. I noticed that in one of these radio stations’ latest ad/gimmick is centred upon the “Bangsa Malaysia” kool-aid, which I do have a problem with.

Ever since I started writing for Malaysiakini – seven or eight years ago – the major theme of my articles has been a rejection of state propaganda. However, rejecting state propaganda is like shooting fish in a barrel. Far more dangerous was the propaganda of the then opposition, carried out mainly by the DAP, which was the Bangsa Malaysia canard.

I had assumed that after May 9 and the realities of power sharing at a federal level between various Malay/Muslim power structures and the DAP, this nonsense would be dropped. But the reality is that if anything, it has become more virulent. DAP’s Liew Chin Tong’s latest piece is evidence of this.

The piece starts off with a justification of why the 100 days promises were difficult to sustain, which as usual – for some local politicians – meant alluding to the American experience. Cherry picking from the American experience is a mistake that most local politicians make. For the record, most criticism of the 100 days promises of Pakatan Harapan is not that they could not fulfil those promises but rather they were waffling on them.

Nearly every promise they kept had to be dragged out of Harapan and this is a good thing. Politicians do what is politically expedient, while the citizenry who voted for them have to keep them in check. But this preamble of the hardships Harapan faced when committing to their promise is merely a prelude to the rise of the Bangsa Malaysia canard that Liew is shovelling at us.

Liew says, “For instance, I may be Chinese culturally but politically I participate in public life as a Malaysian, not as a Chinese.”

Really? Forget that the personal is political, but what does political life really mean? Political life in the Malaysian context is defined by constitutional provisions that are manipulated by Malay power structures to maintain racial and religious hegemony at the expense of the minorities. To claim that one participates in political life as a Malaysian is absurd when the majority ethnic group in this country participate in politics as Malays...

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