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DISCERNING VOTERS: Step back and look at the bigger picture
IN politics, there are many ways of getting yourself noticed. One is of course to show that you are better, and another is to show that the other guys are bad.
The two strategies need not be mutually exclusive; often both are employed together via a fine balancing act.
Making one look good by making others look bad is of course a time-tested strategy. Most times, despite our self-professed sophistication, we fall for that, unless of course we make the effort to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
In the battle for the hearts and minds of voters, for instance, the former is to accentuate the positives in you, while the latter is to paint the opponents in the broadest of negative strokes.
With things hotting up politically for an election that must be held soon -- there are fewer days left now than before, and fewer days by tomorrow -- the campaign strategies for both sides of the political divide seem rather clear.
Both sides are going for the jugular in their campaigning, but one tends to favour the negatives by making its rival look bad, over what it could do, or promise to do.
One promises stability, while the other calls for change by disparaging its rival.
One suggests peace and prosperity, while the other promotes anarchy, again by disparaging others. One promises a future of great potential, while the other paints one that is bleak.
And while one promotes democracy, the other attempts to subvert it, by suggesting democracy is flawed and dying.
There is no need to say who is who, since anyone who has been following the domestic political scene would know which is which.
Of course, people have been saying bad things about their rivals since the birth of democracy, and they have been saying good things about themselves, one might add.
The phenomena of attack advertisements and "going negative" are common features of political campaigning. Many consultants have made a living of crafting messages that make their clients' rivals the devil incarnate.
The strategy is how to keep one's hand clean despite employing such dirty tactics.
In that sense, the Internet is a gift to the sly and mischievous. The new media technology has opened yet another front for political discourse and campaigning.
The Internet may democratise the media by tearing down barriers of ownership and cost, but it also encourages irresponsibility and does not encourage accountability.
Being able to run a site, post articles and comment anonymously are key features of the new media platforms. This, one can safely unanimously agree, is a major contributor to the negativities that seem to be overwhelming in our political scene.
Accountability is sacrificed readily by many netizens as they run amok with their opinion and reports of chicanery, thievery and conspiracies, whether they are real, exaggerations or figments of the imagination.
I think it is only recently here in Malaysia that negative campaigning has gotten so much currency that for some, it has become central to their strategy -- more central than trying to inform voters what they will do to make Malaysia and Malaysians better off.
It is easier, I suppose, to disparage others. It requires less fact and work. It is less easy to talk about your plans for the country since that requires quite a bit of thinking, strategising and perhaps even the real-life successes of the plans.
The former requires glibness and good copywriting, while the latter a lot of work. One, of course, chooses a strategy and lives with it.
Oftentimes, we the voters know of attempts to peddle half-truths and lies as the real thing, but because of political exigencies, we look the other way.
Ah! We the voters are not so innocent after all.