Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bloggers shouldn't need to write the truth!

I have to vehemently disagree with our respected former PM on this issue. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was quoted as saying "although bloggers are not subject to the same laws governing the mainstream media, they should write the truth all the same."

Assuming that TheStar did not quote him out of context, there is one fundamental flaw in his statement that I just cannot agree with. Blogs are not like the mainstream media. Blogs were not meant to usurp the mainstream media. Blogs were created as an extension of the concept of free speech. Blogs are meant to be written, in whatever way that the blogger wishes it to be written in.

The word, blog, is actually the short form of the original name, web-log. As the name implies, it is meant to be a form of online diary or journal. Those were the origins of blogs. Just like diaries or journals, these documents are not necessarily truths, but do reflect the personal thoughts and emotions of the writer. The fact that they're beginning to replace traditional news media is just an extension of the fact that everything is going online these days.

So, trying to equate a blogger to a journalist is not right. Granted, some bloggers are journalists and some journalists blog, but the vast majority of blogs out there are written by normal janes and joes. Just like a diary, they serve a useful tool for ranting and letting off steam. The only difference is that blogs aren't secret and allow other people to read and share in. They are not meant as vehicles of 'truth'.

By encouraging the kind of thought that bloggers are journalists, Dr M will dangerously continue to create the impression in the public's mind that bloggers (and the Internet) are meant to be trusted. It will also shift the burden of truth to the blogger, which is totally wrong and is the cause of the whole problem with mainstream news media in the first place. Blind trust is just asking to be abused, whatever the choice of media.

I've always maintained the fact that nothing is to be trusted completely. Even real world, pulitzer prize winning, mainstream journalists cannot be trusted completely. Everyone writes under the influence of their own personal prejudice and bias. A good journalist can separate the influence, but still needs to be influenced nonetheless. A writer that is totally non influenced is called a machine, not a journalist.

So, the onus should be on the readers to discern what they think is the truth. This should be based on presentation of facts. A reader must learn to differentiate facts, fiction and opinions. Never confuse fiction and opinions for facts, that's what a professor of mine told me once. Listen to everything, but learn to search for the facts, and make up your own judgements and opinions based on it.

Therefore, Dr M should actually be telling people not to believe anything that they read but to tell be people to think for themselves based on all the information that they can obtain, both from the mainstream press as well as blogs. He should encourage them to ask questions and scour the world for answers, not continue to be blind cattle and trust the 'new media' instead. That will just propogate the existing problems onto the online space.


~ xYz ~ said...

agreed!! haha.. not all blogs are to be trusted completely, or those who read my blog are almost always being told the wrong thing.. =D

Shawn Tan said...

i'd say that no blogs are to be trusted at all!! (not even mine).. like they say in x-files: trust no one, the truth is out there.

~ xYz ~ said...

haahaha.. cool-ness! i miss watching x-files...