Airing overheated intellectual egos

Published on  |  Modified on

It appears to me that your columnist Fathi Aris Omar is trying very hard to project an image a true intellectual trying to deal with the intellectual 'crisis' of our Malaysian society. Sorry to say, however, that he does not have the necessary ingredients for doing so.

Fathi has been known for a long time as a propagator of the 'press freedom' concept in Malaysia. But his conception of press freedom is also acutely lacking in substance and understanding.

What he has been propagating is nothing more than journalistic anarchy, where every newspaper provides their writers and contributors uncontrollable freedom to write whatever they wish and still get themselves published.

In order to demonstrate his own 'freedom' and 'fairness', Fathi criticises both the government-controlled media for their lack of freedom and the opposition newspapers - if you can call them that - for not publishing articles that criticise the opposition movement itself.

I think this is indeed a naive and unrealistic understanding of press freedom. Fathi's understanding of the concept seems to deny newspapers their rights to have their own unique conception of things.

To me, press freedom does not entail denying newspapers such right therefore to have their own particular biases but for the authorities to allow the existence of newspapers with different biases to exist side by side.

Fathi should be asked to write an article criticising the conservative perspective on any current issue and still get himself published in The Time or The Daily Telegraph in London!

Of late since Farish Noor withdrew into oblivion Fathi seems to have unilaterally taken the mantle of an 'intellectual' writer and critic. But his own understanding of the concept 'intellectual' itself appears to me to be equally lacking in substance. Furthermore, his criticism of the so-called 'intellectual crisis' is not rooted in the social reality of our society today.

I am never impressed by someone who simply quotes verbatim the words of some obscure 18th and 19th century European writers because those quotations can be easily obtained from some encyclopedias and through searches on the internet when the significance of those quotes and the relevance of their social context to today's Malaysian social reality are not first established.

One can attempt to be bookish, and even critical, in one's writing, but one has also to be realistic as well. In trying to be 'fair', as he did in his discourse on press freedom, Fathi again finds it necessary to criticise the opposition politicians especially PAS and PRM as "equally responsible" as the ruling politicians for the ills of our society.

In the light of our repressive social and political system, where the voice and the ability of dissident politicians to affect change is totally muted, I wonder if Fathi has any understanding whatsoever as to the kind of disempowerment opposition politicians are suffering in our society.

Many of them finds not only their own financial resources, but also their human rights, their family happiness and their intellectual expression curtailed. And, on top of all that, they have to suffer the indignity of being criticised by pseudo and unrealistic intellectuals such as Fathi Aris - who in massaging his own ego, is unwittingly serving the role of apologists to the repressive BN government.

I detect a strong flavour of armchair anarchism in the writings of people like Fathi Aris. Such people are normally fond of running down all politicians because they consider all politicians to be self serving and are of no use to anyone but to themselves.

My problem with such armchair anarchists is that it is they who are of no use to anyone but to their own egos. What can one find in the writings of Fathi and also his friends who write for the curious Malay magazine Siasah ? Nothing, but a lot of overheated ego and useless hot air.