Nationalism as an ideology is inevitable, even necessary, in a world that began to be organised into nation-states a little over three centuries ago. It is a primary adhesive sentiment in an age in which nations have become the dominant global vehicle of group identity.
there seem to be two distinct nationalisms: inclusionary and exclusionary. One symbolises loyalty to a nation that is tolerant, accommodative and open to evolving cultures and mores. The other advocates a nation which must resist diversity and construct an exclusive ethno-religious identity that must be defended against any dilution the Other might bring into society.
Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua has taken aim at Finance Minister II Johari Abdul Ghani for claiming that Malaysia cannot press charges over 1MDB without a full picture, pointing out that there were no efforts by the government to do so.Wrong Perception
One can drive a very large truck of suspect cargo through the door marked ‘patriotism’. Once the integrity of the nation is invoked and the spectre of social and communal unrest is seen as being at stake, the state buys for itself a lot of room for actions that might have otherwise seemed unpalatable. In that sense, the decision to impose some kind of regulation on social media in the aftermath of the Assam violence and the events that followed, might have passed muster on the whole, despite its problematic nature.
In an earlier era, when the transmission of information was centrally regulated, it was easier to think of it as a resource that needs to be shared more widely and made more accessible. More information was almost always better, and the battle to extract more was often a heroic one. The reason why journalism was seen through a lens of romance was because it represented the act of extricating the truth from the jaws of the powerful and the corrupt. The RTI act in India for instance has been a key instrument in enabling greater transparency and accountability of powerful and hitherto opaque institutions. But with the greater penetration of the market into media and the dramatic democratisation of information, not just in terms of being able to access but also in being able to broadcast it, the default belief in its inherent and limitless legitimacy needs to be rethought.
As media gets seen as having an axe to grind, its coverage of issues gets to be consumed with a filter in place. This creates many parallel narratives of truth, each claiming that it represents reality better. We don’t really know what happened in Assam for the news comes to us contaminated and our 0doubts about it taint it even further. And social media, which bypasses traditional channels of information, is in the name of freedom of expression, able to re-circulate rumours that speak to the deepest anxieties of those vulnerable. The valorisation of the freedom of expression is a product of its context; as information becomes less scarce, more motivated and less inhibited in its expression of human frailties, it might be time to evaluate whether we need more robust mechanisms for creating some sense of order. The value of free expression was derived in part from its scarce availability; today’s problem is the one that comes with its chaotic plenty. Not regulating this in any way may not be as a romantic an idea as it once was.