Blog Post

Pouissance in Malaysia (updated II)

updated: see below; also, there are concerns that there will be an increased crackdown on bloggers by the government as a result of opposition wins in the recent by-elections that I described below.  More information is available here: http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2008/08/27/plans-for-action-again... .

The power, or more precisely, pouissance, of media and the arts to respond to injustice and to those in control is well-known, even if it must be continually reaffirmed and re-created due to moves by the establishment. Tactical responses rely on the unexpected, at least the unexpected as seen by establishment, in order to be effective. These types of situations proliferate as cheap media technologies enter into formerly repressive situations. An example of this is Malaysia, where I spent some time this summer. While the nation profiles itself as a developing place, with a variety of high-tech industries, the reality is that it has effectively one-party rule, and strict Islamic rule in two of the northern states. As a result, both online and artistic freedom are heavily curtailed. So it is with much fanfare that Jeff Ooi, a blogger and member of an opposition party, was just elected as an MP in the state of Penang. This is all the more important given the large amount of internet use in Malaysia, especially among the young.

Additionally, the arts have been under continual attack by government forces, from the suppression of traditional shadow puppet theater in the state of Kelantan, to the closure of theater shows in Kuala Lumpur. There are now a number of groups performing underground as a way of responding to the repression of new and traditional forms. There is a good book on this subject that is due to a workshop that took place in 2002: Freedom of Expression in the Arts.

UPDATE:Evidently, puppetry is also a dangerous thing in the United States. Among the other illegal raids taking place in the Twin Cities prior to the RNC was one that took place in the last day that was searching for, among other things, "hollowed out puppets". I kid you not: look at the search warrant below. (And more information about the raids available on the Twin Cities Indymedia website.) This raises all of the same questions as I mentioned above in connection with Malaysia, excepting we live in what we believe to be a "developed" country. So, the operational questions are the same as what I've brought up in connection with the thread I opened: what are possible strategies for responding to obviously illegal raids, especially when the people in power are using the same tools as those resisting? And how does academia respond to these egregious abuses of power?

UPDATE II: Even more badness with respect to the conventions and the right to protest. Word just came through that Amy Goodman, respected journalist for Democracy Now!, was illegally arrested by St. Paul Police. Video of her arrest is embedded below. According to Twin Cities Indymedia, she has now been released, although her two producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, are still detained. This is turning very ugly when long-standing journalists are simply arrested under false pretenses. Where is academia's response to these egregious uses of power? As a paraphrase of the old adage goes, they first come for the protesters, and then they come for the academics...

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1 comment

Thank you for writing about this, Nick. Once again the Internet and bloggers and the net press is taking on a role that should be assumed by mainstream media of making such violations of basic Constitutional rights known. I'd love a HASTAC Scholars forum sometime on the rights and responsibilities of citizen journalism. There is so much ridiculous bread-and-circuses these days that distracts the attention of so-called serious media and turns monumental social issues into sidebars. There was incomparably more coverage of the blogger with the wacky pregnancy theories for Sarah Palin an there was to the arrest of serious journalists at the RNC. Again, my thanks for supplying the YouTube video.

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