大馬華社和中文報章,關係是如何破裂?

無可否認,國陣統治我國六十年期間為了鞏固權力,審查了主流媒體。以我在《星洲日報》不長不短的工作經驗來看,國陣執政時《星洲》雖不至於歌功頌德,也偶爾會批評前朝政府,但當權者長年累月干涉令報館養成了自我審查的作風。故《星洲》報道國陣新聞時偏於謹慎,以免惹來官司等麻煩,任何對不利於國陣的報道和時事評論也必須有百分百根據,館方也確保任何課題都必須補上國陣議員的說辭。相比下,當報道涉及當時的反對黨時,則完全不需要有任何保留和責任,也不怕報道會惹來任何的後果。

《星洲》較多記者編輯都不是國陣支持者,因此上述雙重標準也不是出於政治傾向,更多是高層怕麻煩,難聽來說是欺善怕惡。畢竟國陣執政時,報道不利於反對黨的新聞不怕惹麻煩,最多也是林冠英發文回嗆,那只會為《星洲》製造更多新聞話題,讓向來窩囊的老貓有機會扮扮獅子。然而與此同時,許多記者充滿理想,不只厭惡國陣政府,也極不滿報館高層自我審查的作風。於是,當華社和行動黨等指控主流媒體是欺瞞人民的幫凶,雖然不是沒有理由,但也對主流媒體的僱員極不公平。情況從來都不是記者都吃了政府狗糧這麼簡單(至於高層那裡是否有什麼交易,我不知道),畢竟報館內許多記者是懷著從內部帶來改變的心態繼續留在報館,懷著理想一心一意想做好新聞。他們不只薪水卑微,也沒有從國陣那裏得到一絲好處。大家都是有血有肉的平凡人,在現實面前會妥協甚至背叛初衷;捫心自問,你真的不曾為了五斗米背棄理想嗎?

我之所以想寫這篇,是因為讀到梁文道先生的《撕裂2.0》一文,讓我想到我在《星洲日報》的前同事們。正好此時又逢《馬來前鋒報》面臨倒閉(更新:將繼續營業),坊間一片幸災樂禍,卻不多人思考什麼將取代《前鋒報》或同情《前鋒報》的僱員。梁先生寫道,香港民眾把警察視為北京的走狗,把警察隔絕於同行的同溫層裡,並令警察對群眾產生敵意;這一切為香港示威者和警方衝突埋下了伏筆。我讀了不禁想起,大馬中文報章記者跟華社的關係不也是如此嗎?例如梁先生以下這段:

到底是什麼力量把警民關係推到現在這麼惡劣的地步?就像那天我碰到的幾個年輕警察,為什麼一上來就帶着種拒人於千里之外的態度,要那麼不客氣地對人說話?我唯一能夠想得到的解釋,大概是他們也感受到了空氣中彌漫着的敵意正在包圍他們。走在路上會有人瞪着他們,甚至不時有人低聲嘟囔「黑警」;坐在茶餐廳吃飯,沒有人願意跟他們搭枱,而且還要擔心裏頭的夥計會不會「加料」。既然世界與我為敵,我也只好把全世界當成敵人。

這是一種惡性循環,越是如此,他們越要彼此靠攏,把「警方士氣」當成唯一的救命索,形成一個非常內向的同心圈層。一旦離開這個圈子,就是外面世界裏面各種各樣的批評甚至辱罵,以及大街上無數臉孔模糊的敵人。

而警方最在乎的「士氣」,我擔心就只是像鴉片一樣,是一種吸了一口,可以讓自己舒服一點的抱團取暖,當他們回到街上,外面那個越來越危險的世界始終還在那裏。

我擔心過去十年二十年來,這已經是大馬中文報章的現實。我親眼目睹許多年輕記者如何從一開始一心貢獻社會,到最後逐漸仇視侮辱他們的「鄉民」和煽動群眾「霸凌」記者的希盟政黨。面對外界謾罵,記者編輯形成內向的同心圈層,不只與社會逐漸脫節,也變得自命清高;他們發表一篇又一篇令人作嘔的自慰文,強調理性中庸,與鄉民劃清界線。依我所見,這就是為什麼509大選期間,《星洲》記者編輯的圈子成了廢票黨大本營,我不認為這有任何潛議程,更多是希盟與中文報章關係破裂的後果。如今得到了相對的媒體自由,他們更自我標榜為不顧一切報道真相的勇者,儘管當初國陣政府統治時他們十分窩囊,根本無力招架當權者的審查和控制。

我不怪他們,而且同情這些記者的處境。我也曾經在《星洲》工作和寫文章,也曾不自覺陷入中文報館的迴聲室;我慶幸自己及早離開那裡。說實在的,記者這行業吃力不討好,如果沒有理想驅使,大好前途的年輕人也寧願不做這行,去賣保險都好過;一般人才不如此虧待自己!就算報道水準欠佳,也應該視為能力上的問題,或是把關機制失效。但我絕不會指控他們吃狗糧。那是很嚴重的指控。

華社與中文報章長期對峙的後果是,許多本來充滿理想的青年記者變得厭惡這個討厭他們的華社,甚至滋生敵意。加上很多記者本來就是在華社同溫層裡長大的理想主義者,對國家的全貌不太理解,也對政黨的各種取捨和政治考量感到不解和反感。於是,509大選後僅管媒體恢復了某程度的新聞自由,記者不再活在新聞審查的壓力下,許多長期對希盟政黨以及他們眼中的「暴民」感到不滿的記者編輯卻沒有因此感激新聞自由的到來,反而譏笑那些把希望寄託在選票的選民。在他們眼裡,情況是一直很討厭記者不願接受「真相」的愚民不理智地投了票給不那麼完美的政黨聯盟,他們勢必要這些民眾發現原來希盟不過是愚弄大眾的「另一個國陣」。儘管希盟給了媒體新聞自由,但《星洲》等中文報章絕不會承認他們過去遭到審查和自我審查的歷史,他們假裝自己一直都是真相的代言人,繼續毫不留情地批評如今入主布城的希盟。

(我也不能一竿子打翻一船人,必須指出,不是所有記者都認為大眾都是暴民,509前夕也有很多記者發言反對投廢票。)

從某個角度來看,這不是壞事。我們此刻亟需能監督政府的媒體,而批評媒體的過去無濟於事。但對政府心懷怨恨的中文報界和一群變得厭世的記者,恐怕將在華社對自己作為少數族群的局面心灰意冷之際進一步推動華社變得犬儒和被動,使我們放棄鬥爭。而當記者視民眾為一群臉孔模糊的不理智暴民,那自會加劇中文報章與民眾的脫節,令我國更難以建立有公信力的中文主流媒體;一個缺乏任何有公信力聲音的社會,將導致各個群體更加活在不同的真相中,這不是好事。君不見在美國,右派保守派長期不信任被視為左傾並偏幫社會菁英的主流媒體(福斯新聞除外),他們更寧願相信網上傳言。這種對建制的長期不信任導致他們投票給反建制的特朗普,而特朗普當選總統後更宣稱媒體都是假新聞,令支持者進一步活在自己的真相裡,造成美國社會進一步分裂。

回到梁文道的文章

我們將要看到一種香港史上從未見過的情況,幾乎有一整個世代的年輕人吃過催淚瓦斯,或者至少對抗過警方。他們將來對於這個合法武裝集團會有什麼態度?他們中間有誰好意思說自己想要加入警察,而不怕被同伴藐視?中央政府更加在意的,則恐怕是這一代年輕香港人未來對於整個體制的看法。這一切該如何收拾善後?

如果一整代大馬華社年輕人認為主流媒體已經不值得拯救,不好意思說自己想要成為記者,我們如何建立一個健康多元的媒體環境?很遺憾地,我不見主流媒體如《星洲》用行動證明自己值得信賴尊重,新聞素質反而越來越惡劣。那不只是主流媒體的損失,也是社會的損失。

毫無疑問,民眾沒義務相信主流媒體,尤其是當媒體為了追求點擊率不負責任地煽情報道。大馬中文報章的報導水平常讓我覺得不看新聞還好過看新聞。是的,中文報章曾經遭到當權者的打壓,但被人唾棄只是因為無可奈何的局面嗎?尤其是509後,民眾理應沒理由繼續生氣中文報章,但《星洲》等還是不斷製造給人罵的理由。與其繼續怪罪臉書怪罪民眾不理智,館方和記者編輯也實在應該自我檢討。在這樣的情況下,我不鼓勵任何人無條件相信主流媒體,也不建議任何人只看某份報紙,大家應該掌握媒體識讀力,用挑剔的眼光看待新聞,學會自行判斷報道可取和不可取之處,並從多角度攝取資訊。但我們必須明白,在市場決定一切的時代,媒體素質某程度上反映了讀者素質;如果我們要優質媒體,就得培養賞識優質內容的能力,不管該內容來自主流媒體或新媒體

我們都可以做得更好,但現實是國陣下台後,我們依然在收拾殘局。因為媒體長期遭到箝制,人民已不再相信主流媒體,而當時作為反對黨的行動黨和其支持者也一直呼籲人們唾棄中文報章,導致希盟政府與中文報章的雇員關係惡劣。如今國陣已經下台,但華社與中文報章不是一朝一夕就能恢復信任,就如大馬各族不是一朝一夕就能恢復信任。可悲的是,當華社與馬來社會相互猜疑,當大家為了扎基爾爪夷書法教學等課題鬧得不可開交,中文報章與華社的關係破裂不過是我國整個困境中不起眼的一個小細節。

The Inherent Shoddiness of Everything

The leader introduces the team, praising their amazing teamwork. After building up the case, she proposes THE big idea, brilliantly conjured by the team to solve the client’s pressing problem. All sounds good.

Of course she mentions not the heated meetings where people misunderstood each other. Or that one of the departments went rogue and did their own thing. Or how the writers and the art directors got a bunch of shoddy posters done without communicating their intentions to each other, because that was how they have always worked. Or the entire week they wasted on an idea that went nowhere, because the idea was not properly explained to the CEO.

None of this matter, as nobody imagined it happening otherwise. The job got done, right? And the client is going to love the idea, blissfully unaware of the mess concealed behind a seemingly polished presentation.

Such is work. Remember how much group assignments sucked? Work is more of that, except your projects now affect thousands or millions of customers. Surely there are wonderfully collaborative teams out there, but I suspect that most of us agree that teamwork universally sucks, and people in general are terrible at communicating.

If so, I wonder how we manage to get anything done at all. Yet we collaborated and produced truly amazing things, among many more obvious failures. We are surrounded with products which conception, manufacturing and retail span continents and involve hundreds or thousands of people. While I’m no libertarian, I can’t help but quote Leonard E. Read’s masterpiece I, Pencil, in which an anthropomorphised pencil explained his conception:

Actually, millions of human beings have had a hand in my creation, no one of whom even knows more than a very few of the others… There isn’t a single person in all these millions, including the president of the pencil company, who contributes more than a tiny, infinitesimal bit of know-how… Here is an astounding fact: Neither the worker in the oil field nor the chemist nor the digger of graphite or clay nor any who mans or makes the ships or trains or trucks nor the one who runs the machine that does the knurling on my bit of metal nor the president of the company performs his singular task because he wants me.”

The lesson, according to Lawrence W. Reed:

None of the Robespierres of the world knew how to make a pencil, yet they wanted to remake entire societies.

Indeed.

Wonderful all this products of mass collaboration may be, if we see how most things are made, we will realise that they are far from perfect, and we might wonder why we put so much trust in brands. Even when products are exceptionally well made, there remains a bit of inconsistency and shoddiness. Look closer at a product, and you can almost see which features are demands from managers or the marketing team. You see the compromises dictated by accountants. And the half-hearted implementations. And the miscommunications, which always lead to someone saying in desperation: whatever!

Despite all this, as consumers we are led by clever marketing to believe that products are results of ingenuity and amazing teamwork. We blame the poorly done on bad decisions and flawed visions. We are blissfully unaware of all the miscommunications and messiness that went into the products that we use.


Now, please allow me to shift the topic… like most products, government policies and visions are the result of collaboration – one between people with competing or opposing interests, ideologies, mandates, and ambitions. As the popular quote frequently attributed to Otto von Bismarck goes:

Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made… to retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.

Teamwork was seldom amazing, even in political entities that swear by a common vision – friends in the Malaysian government offered me glimpses of the miscommunication that happens daily in Putrajaya, and I can’t help but draw parallels with a typical day at work. Proposals are misunderstood, people talk cock, high-level ministers broadcast unrealistic targets that everyone else ignored… no matter how shiny and promising a political sausage looks, it was, after all, built with a mixture of workplace politics and serious miscommunication. Yucks!

All this endemic miscommunication makes change hard, even if there is sufficient will and vision. When people talk over each other’s heads and nobody understands what the fuck is going on, we naturally revert to standard operating procedures. Even in chaotic environments, old-timers get their jobs done as usual with little to no instructions, and new instructions tend to go unheeded or scorned at. New comers seek the experience of seniors, especially when attempts with new ideas and work-styles brought more trouble than appreciation, or when they stumble because they realised that no one cooperates with new ways. While change gets punished, the existing system produces suboptimal work effortlessly. Is it any wonder that we eventually succumb to gravity?

Indeed, collaborations on a mass scale can magically produce wonderful results even with minimal and terrible communication, yet they are also extremely resistant to change. To change the way thousands or millions of people work, takes time and systematic reforms. A new leader is simply not enough for anything meaningful.

Armed with this insight, we should be more resistant of the allures of autocracy, especially when autocrats claim that more power is needed to realise big beautiful uncompromising visions.

As we look at autocracies worldwide, we see not nations that stand for powerful visions realised. The countries they governed look just as messy as democracies, if not more so. Despite President Putin’s strongman image, Russia remains a Westworld of corrupt oligarchs which Putin must please or cautiously remove, and despite China’s amazing achievements, from time to time we glimpse fierce power struggles within the Communist Party. Furthermore, everyday we see evidences of misalignment between the Party leadership and its minions. How did Winnie the Pooh got banned? It was likely the result of a censor trying too hard when second-guessing his superior’s wishes, rather than a direct decree from President Xi Jinping.

Let’s cast aside our fetishisation of strong, technocratic leaderships. Undeniably, there are autocratic nations like China and Singapore with consequential achievements, resulting in huge improvements to human wellbeing. Yet, the costs of achievements aside, be careful of attributing such successes to visionary autocracies. Neither autocracy nor democracy can solve everything. As means to an end, their effectiveness must rely on many factors. Autocrats don’t have as much power and control as we assumed, and autocratic leaderships remain massive and messy collaborations.

This shoddiness prevented much greatness from being realised, yet, despite all the existing horrors in the world, the inherent shoddiness of politics may have also prevented many leaders from executing their dystopian visions, and we should be thankful for that.

Back home in Malaysia, critics of Prime Minister Mahathir see him as a manipulative puppet master who single-handedly orchestrated all that plague Malaysia till this day, and hell bent on corrupting Pakatan Harapan from within in service of his racist agenda. Mahathir’s admirers on the other hand believe that he is the only one with sufficient vision, stomach, and cunning to push through necessary changes.

Such simplistic believes are tempting because they promise simplistic solutions. And they are tempting indeed. Throughout the world, conspiracy theorists obsess over the idea of a powerful mastermind single-handedly bringing the nation, or the world, to ruin for his selfish, hateful agenda, whether that puppet master is Putin, Bannon, Soros, or the Kochs. Conversely, people with autocratic tendencies claim that all the nation lacks is good people with the right vision, and the dedication to bulldoze agendas through. Yet assuming that humankind is universally bad with communicating and collaborating, no strong leader is sufficient to solve our ills. Nor are large scale conspiracies likely to be true. There is even a math equation to prove the intrinsic probability of a conspiracy failing!

While there is no doubt that Mahathir is a master politician, a closer look reveals a man often forced by the will of the majority to reinvent his positions throughout his political career. Decades ago, the Islamisation of the Malay majority and the threat of PAS inspired Mahathir to recruit firebrand Islamist Anwar Ibrahim, to retain the support of a more and more conservative base. Decades later, with louder demands for institutional reforms and clean politics, the former autocrat had to reinvent himself as an apparently sincere democrat.

Again quoting Bismarck,

The statesman’s task is to hear God’s footsteps marching through history, and to try and catch on to His coattails as He marches past.

Mahathir greatest genius is co-opting his opponents whenever he feels the need to reinvent himself, even if that means sacrificing his original visions. A diverse and ever-changing nation is no place for stubbornness.

Yet, for all his shrewdness, he ended up leading a diverse and quarrelsome coalition consisting of Chinese-majority and reform-minded DAP, the PAS splinter AMANAH, and UMNO splinters like PKR and BERSATU. And it is obvious that, amidst all the squabbles, Mahathir have difficulty pushing anything through. Despite initial optimism from some and fears from others, more than a year after that landmark election, our news are filled with conflicts within the governing coalition and Pakatan Harapan has yet to get its act together and function as a cohesive whole.

Now, why did we expect any better or worse in the first place? A coalition with diverse opinions, interests, experiences, and worldview should not be expected to speak with a unified voice and act in unity. It will be surprising if Mahathir – or more reform minded Pakatan members, or anyone else – can reshape the nation as envisioned. Besides, a hostile and uncooperative civil service cultivated over the decades by the previous regime makes reforms really hard. Malaysia’s governance is more than just about who leads the government.

Sadly, with every failed attempt of change, the temptation to do things the easy and usual way gets stronger. Change is diluted and misapplied. The old system remains. Everyone succumbs to gravity.

In a nutshell: the world is much shoddier than most people imagined – and harder to change as a result. Neither Trump’s election nor Pakatan Harapan’s win has resulted in the massive change many hoped or feared. Rapid transformations like how Germany devolved into the Third Reich are often decades in the making, and they happen because they are endorsed by the masses. The statesman can only hope to try and catch on to His coattails as He marches past. Change takes far more than great or terrible leadership.

All this may sound pessimistic, yet small changes are better than none. With enough perseverance, tiny acts build momentum over time.

True change will not come from leaders with vision and will. It can only come with systematic reforms that change how everyone and their interests interact. And powerful it may be, inertia will ultimately give way to gradual changes on a mass scale, like how Malaysians worry more about freedom and corruption today, or, on a darker note, like how Malaysian Muslims became more conservative over the decades.

Such changes are organic and involve millions of people, yet they can be, and have been, done. Every individual’s action counts! Before we know it, we would have taken one more baby step forward.

在印尼和大馬聽見神的腳步聲

治國者的使命是傾聽上帝在歷史上走過的腳步聲,趁祂經過時努力抓住祂上衣下擺,跟祂一起前進。

俾斯麥宰相

有犬儒的人會說,這段話是說政治人物須善於投機才能成大事,但是我對俾斯麥的意思有稍微不同的領悟。治國者鮮少可以大刀闊斧地施展理念,就算是有絕對權力的領袖,也只能仔細聆聽主流民意,聽神的腳步聲,順著歷史趨勢走。

就好像一些大馬清流派欣賞的佐科威,在印尼大選中也不得不跟伊斯蘭宗教司合作,來繼續贏得印尼人民的支持。駐雅加達記者文森特.貝文斯在《大西洋月刊》寫道作為總統,佐科威經常招安他的批評者,而不是對抗他們,他經常討好主流選民,而不是推動新的願景。最顯著的例子,就是令鍾萬學入獄那次事件 ⋯⋯ 這段不也在說我國現任政府嗎?讓世俗派支持者失望的是,佐科威當總統後,他的政府一直向保守伊斯蘭主義妥協,非穆斯林LGBT女性等的待遇不只沒改善,還變得更糟。而2017年發文告暗示鍾萬學褻瀆《可蘭經》,令鍾萬學坐牢兩年的伊斯蘭宗教司馬魯夫,竟是佐科威在2019年大選中的競選夥伴

雖然如此妥協,在2019年印尼選舉中,佐科威陣營依然代表著穆斯林社會的溫和派。其對手普拉伯沃不只更積極煽動保守選民,普拉伯沃陣營也不斷發放虛假資訊,宣稱佐科威是共產黨員華人後代支持LGBT,但最嚴重的指控,是佐科威「對伊斯蘭教不夠虔誠」。在如此局面下,佐科威跟馬魯夫合作,有助於打消保守選民的疑慮。

何況佐科威從來就不是什麼政治清流。我2014年就寫過,佐科威極依賴印尼舊政治勢力支持,他當年是得到以為他好控制的黨魁兼前總統兼蘇卡諾長女梅加瓦蒂提拔,才有機會競選總統。佐科威2014年的競選夥伴尤素福.卡拉更是印尼舊政治的代表人物,甚至曾公開講「政府需要流氓幫忙做事」這種話。故佐科威上任時,大家都知道他只是傀儡,實權在垂簾聽政的梅加瓦蒂。

然而,佐科威不是省油的燈。通過一系列精密政治佈局,他迫使梅加瓦蒂退居二線。鞏固權力後,佐科威委任效忠於自己的總檢察長,對政治對手施展反腐調查,頒布替代法令解散被認為「有違團結精神」的民間組織,還在2019年大選中大肆動用國家機械為自己製造選舉優勢。難怪網民和媒體戲稱,印尼擺脫蘇哈托鐵腕治國的新秩序(Orde Baru)時代後,在佐科威領導下迎來了新新秩序(Neo-Orde Baru)時代。

此外,佐科威也做了許多深得民心的舉措,包括大力發展基礎建設,令印尼每年的經濟成長超過5%,加上作風親民,和在反毒與國際議題上擺出強硬姿態。這一切讓他維持不錯的支持率,也讓他再次能夠擊敗普拉伯沃。重視發展甚於一切、對司法程序和繁文縟節不耐煩、有專制傾向 ⋯⋯ 這些都證明佐科威不是很多人誤以為的民主派,他行為和理念上比較接近其他草根出身的亞洲領袖,例如馬哈迪。

說到馬哈迪,他是我國第一個草根出身的大馬首相,跟佐科威一樣,馬哈迪不只大肆發展基礎建設、對民主的限制相當厭煩,也是精明的投機者。有些人相信馬哈迪是個強勢領袖,講他一手摧毀了大馬,也有人迷信他有能力拯救國家。這都太看得起他老人家了!事實上他經常不得不順著民意走向,去招安他的批評者,例如這兩年馬哈迪與過去批評他的林吉祥等人走在一起,搖身一變成民主派,又或者八十年代時,為了回應馬來社會逐漸擁抱伊斯蘭保守主義、伊黨日益壯大,馬哈迪提拔了有魅力的激進伊斯蘭份子安華,並推動大馬伊斯蘭化,來分散伊黨的支持率。後來安華入獄,發生了很多事情,最後釀成509國陣倒台。玩味的是,如今馬哈迪和安華再次領導大馬政壇,而馬哈迪當年想利用安華擊敗的伊黨,竟然和他當年領導的巫統合作。打了幾十年的同一場戰爭,於是在新的戰場上繼續打到天荒地老。

下一屆全國大選還有很久,不知這幾年政治局勢會如何發展?但我預測屆時戰場一方會是安華保守但相對溫和的埃爾多安式伊斯蘭主義,另一方會是巫統伊黨混雜馬來民族主義的神權主義。然而我也必須指出,佐科威在2019年保住權力,不只因為他向保守派妥協,比較關鍵的是在他領導下印尼經濟持續成長,希盟政府如果要做超過一屆,就要拚好經濟。

印尼局勢不明朗,大馬恐怕也不會好到哪裡去。民調顯示四分之三的柔佛州馬來受訪者要求對穆斯林實施伊刑法,有57%要求對全體大馬人實施伊刑法,另外聖母大學宗教與社會研究中心的蘇馬克托尤通過民調發現,大馬穆斯林比印尼穆斯林保守很多,甚至比伊朗孟加拉土耳其等國的穆斯林更加保守。在下一屆全國大選,當雙方陣營致力於討好主流社會,華社身為少數群體恐怕不會有任何好的選項。不過在保守與極端保守之間,我們最後還是會被迫靠邊站,當神在歷史上走過,我們只能身不由己。