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Who’s under your bed?

Throwing derogatory labels at political foes on the hustings is a cheap tactic that does not enlighten anyone


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As we approach the general election, certain politicians have become occupied slinging mud at their rivals, accusing them of nefarious ideological leanings or political affiliations in the hope that the outrageous labelling would scare the living daylights out of voters.

In particular, Pas president Hadi Awang has blatantly accused his political foe DAP of being pro-communist, a label that is calculated to frighten off Malaysians who are averse to such an ideology, especially among Malay-Muslim voters.

Such a situation may not be similar to an era of intense anti-communist suspicion in the US at the start of the Cold War that was triggered by the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy.

The making of unfounded accusations of communist subversion and treason, which was then termed McCarthyism, got so horrendous that it came to the point of some people asking – rather mischievously – whether there were Reds under the bed.

Of course, Malaysians are not expected to check what is under their beds, but the labelling has the effect of short-circuiting clarification or discussion for the benefit of the uninformed – which is dangerous, especially if it takes the form of a broad generalisation with a negative hue.

In other words, labels are no substitute for clear explanation or arguments. They can be misleading.

It is worse if the aspersions cast do not have a leg to stand on.

The pro-communist mantra is the latest form of labelling that is added to the political narrative of everything is “the fault of DAP” (salah DAP) that has been making its rounds in the political domain over the years.

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Linking DAP to communism is dangerous in a society where it has achieved the status of persona non grata, which was why DAP politician Lim Lip Eng rightly insisted on Hadi lodging a police report on his accusation.

While DAP, like any other political parties such as Pas, is not flawless, surely it does not deserve a blanket blackening, especially prior to the polls?

Besides, Hadi, who styles himself as an ulama (Islamic scholar), would surely be aware of the dangers of slander in a society, apart from the sins of such misdeeds and irresponsibility according to Islamic teachings.

To be sure, this is not the first time the former special envoy to West Asia cast aspersions on his political foes. Not too long ago, Hadi accused a number of Pakatan Harapan leaders of being immoral and non-believers.

Hadi even cast his net of aspersions wider when he recently accused non-Malays of being the root of corruption in a society that has been rocked by a slew of corruption cases, particularly involving some Malay political leaders.

With polling day around the corner, certain quarters attempted to link PKR to a plot to kidnap a Palestinian man. PKR denied that the Malaysian couple, who were accused of being operatives of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad to execute the kidnap, are its members.

To be associated with Israel, particularly its spying agency, is to commit a cardinal sin in a country that does not have diplomatic relations with the Zionist state. Such an aspersion can be politically damaging.

Indeed, labelling does not add value to political narrative and electoral campaigning.

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What would be really useful for the electorate is for politicians, such as Hadi, to try to convince the common people that they have what it takes to manage and resuscitate the sluggish economy and to clarify their ideas of a ‘good society’.

How would, for instance, the politicians address the pressing issue of corruption in a country that is sitting under the weight of mounting debt, if they are elected into office?

What would be their formula to promote social cohesion in a society that has been torn by the toxic politics of race and religion?

Throwing derogatory labels at your political foes on the hustings is a cheap tactic that does not necessarily enlighten anyone nor make you look intelligent.

After a while, people might wonder whether you would be better off hiding under the bed if you continuously cast aspersions on others. – The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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