It’s both a gift and a curse

OUR politicians have been getting the rap for incessant politicking, but the rest of us are equally guilty of posting messages with political content without giving much thought to our actions.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (pic), who has been breaking his back since the outbreak of the coronavirus 10 months ago, has been treated most unfairly.

In fact, he has been cruelly treated. He deserves better. When comparing his physique in March, one can see how much weight he has lost. And there’s the prevalent coughing of late, too.

As someone privileged to be his acquaintance, I know how hard he works. He will talk about nothing else except his work, even if it’s during dinner time or near midnight.

This morning, someone posted a message that said the Health DG should resign. It said he was seen in the company of politicians in Pekan at that “ill-fated meeting”. The person accused Dr Noor Hisham of “playing politics” and questioned if “popularity and fame had gone to his head”.

Social media is both a gift and a curse, but these cyber troopers, or perhaps, ignorant senders, don’t realise the damage their postings pose. It hurts those who work tirelessly while the keypad-happy simply busy themselves shooting off texts in chat groups on WhatsApp.

Dr Noor Hisham, together with the Inspector-General of Police, Attorney General and Armed Forces chief joined the Prime Minister in attending the meeting in Pekan because his views were needed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

On Sunday, Dr Noor Hisham, again, was asked to be present at Istana Negara when the King met with his brother Rulers. They wanted his presence so that he could answer questions on the Covid-19 situation in the country.

As he was literally stuck at the palace, he couldn’t conduct his daily press briefing on Sunday afternoon, and soon, speculation ignited, with its torchbearers including a mainstream newspaper and a news portal known for sensationalism.

What’s worse is, he was then supposedly asked by the PM to resign. There were many other messages on social media, which also accused him, or the government, of manipulating the figures of infected cases, and questioning how the numbers have kept increasing.

All have done overtime in spreading these bytes of fake news and messages, which has led to fears and insecurity at a time when Malaysia is grappling with a serious leadership issue and a pandemic, which has hit record numbers.

Target the politicians who are players in the high-stakes game, by all means, but it’s only fair to leave out civil servants who are merely discharging their duties. After all, they never asked to be in the limelight.

They are human beings too, and while they may keep their emotions in check, these vicious messages hurt them, like they would any one of us.

It’s a case of never being right, but if there’s any consolation for Dr Noor Hisham, his US counterpart, Dr Anthony Fauci, also draws flak from President Donald Trump, Republican politicians and their supporters.

Yes, we Malaysians should be concerned about developments in the country and we have the right to express ourselves, too. While we should, many of us are unfortunately poor in articulating our views.

We prefer snippets of sniping remarks to put down someone we disagree with, especially on social media. All this name-calling and ridiculing can be tedious work.

While we preach the need for dissenting views, many of us are seemingly incapable of listening and accepting views that don’t align with our political allegiance, despite preaching about democracy all in the same breath.

But here’s the clincher – neighbourhood and professional chat groups and those of old boys’ and foodies’ are being hijacked by a few who think everyone must listen to their views or share their enthusiasm for their political heroes.

The rest of us mostly keep mum for fear of being ostracised, or maybe we want to avoid offending others and run the risk of losing decades-old friendships, but this is the tyranny of the minority on social media.

After exiting a group, you can still get bad-mouthed. So much for freedom of association.

Self-serving politicians are hopeless, and it’s in their nature to politicise everything to advance their careers and ambitions.

The expression on social media is a manifestation of anger and even hate against them, including the present leadership, which has all led to outlandish claims by conspiracy theorists. However, its particularly heart-wrenching when even educated people believe in some of these claims.

Fake news has become believable these days, even if institutions have had their credibility undermined. No wonder politicians are convinced that people can be moulded like putty.

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