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Blogin Hood

A recent article in The Star noted the arrest of an "'Untouchable' crime kingpin" (pdf of the article here).

From the point of view of blogs, what was interesting about that article was one sentence:
"The suspect, who is also widely mentioned in a blog, has since been taken to an undisclosed location in the country to assist in investigations." (my emphasis)

One wonders what is the point of that statement.

Maybe mentioning the blog is a way of indirectly revealing the name of the person arrested? I assume the blog in question is Malaysia Today, which reproduces the article with some links to relevant previous posts (here), and if you read through them a number of names do get mentioned. However, to work out who exactly may have been arrested is impossible, given the number of names mentioned, and secondly, one would have to be somewhat familiar with the Malaysian blogosphere to guess that it was Malaysia Today which was being implied...

Not to dismiss the many efforts of Raja Petra Kamaruddin (RPK) to expose links between organised crime and senior police and/or government officials, I honestly don't think his blog is the direct cause of the arrest.

Some of his readers do though (comments from the above-linked post):

And how do you think they caught this untouchable?

And why are they cracking sydicate crimes?

All because RPK exposed them and they were made to look like fools. So to salvage whatever reputation they have as cops, they had to do this.

Johorians owe all this to RPK. Malaysia owes this to RPK. (Anon 05/08 10:49:51)

Who is running to police force? IGP pr RPK? Looks like RPK because he is the one who has been exposing the culprits. (Asamboi)
It also struck me that this is one of the few cases where a blog is mentioned in the MSM in a more-or-less positive light: i.e. this is implying that the blog had something to do with the arrest. As argued in a previous post, in Malaysia blogs are generally framed as uncontrolled, dangerous and irresponsible politically-driven free agents that embody all that is undesirable in an arena of unrestrained freedom.

[As a side note, it's interesting how 'blogs' are being assigned the agency (much as 'television' is blamed for short attention spans, or 'video games' are blamed for increased youth violence): anthropologically, one cannot ignore the blogger, embedded in his/her cultural context, who has agency, though of course the blog can take on something of a life of its own - being a passive agent, perhaps ... hmm this needs more thought... ]

Perhaps a metaphor will help to illustrate the idea that is jostling around in my head. Imagine a centre and periphery model, or centripetal/centrifugal forces...

At the centre is order and authority, supported by a responsible media reporting that avoids sensitive issues; surrounding this we have various agents (such as opposition parties) who, while challenging authority, do so within the rules and thus don't threaten the fundamentals of the order. At the periphery, there are uncontrolled chaotic agents that do threaten the centre - some infringing all codes with regards to sensitive issues and the like: perhaps hiding behind a mask of anonymity - threatening the most basic of the controlling mechanisms of the state, the control of the body (a la Foucault); others, such as RPK, reveal themselves but do provide a space for other anonymous players in the comments area of the blogs. Also, perhaps, to those unfamiliar with the blogosphere, the symbolic imagining of the internet as a chaotic, uncharted, everything-goes area means that although someone like RPK is not hiding himself at all, the opaqueness of the unknown (i.e. the internet) means that he is cast in a somewhat devious light.

The stories of Robin Hood place him as an inhabitant of the forest, which at the time was much feared and to be avoided, and the opposite of safe places behind closed doors and town walls (think of all the other fairy tales with scary forests). As a charismatic leader of outcasts, operating at the edge of the 'known world' he paradoxically achieved good through forbidden means - made necessary because the bad guy occupied the centre.

Similarly, blogs/bloggers seem to be cast as individualistic free agents that operate at the edge of the 'known world' - 'in' the internet, metaphorically the outlying forest wherein lies danger and chaos, but also containing potentially redeeming figures - where they are able to perform both beneficial and dangerous acts.

Trackbacks on : Anthroblogology – Commercialisation in the Malaysian Blogosphere

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Hi and thanks for dropping by – this post is to explain (a bit) the anthropological research I’m doing on Malaysian blogs and bloggers for a PhD in Social Anthropology at Monash University. If you’re a Malaysian blogger, or a blogger living in Malaysia


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alliedmartster on :

Hi again. We met at the Chinese Assmebly hall the other day. Had not had the time to troll the blogs! Good observation.
Really, here in Malaysia, it is not proactive, as far as the gov is concerned!

julian on :

Hello, thanks for dropping by :-) I reckon that with the internet, things are moving so quickly that large organisations like the state can't keep up...

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