Karaoke Culture and the Evolution of Personality Politics
Chapter 4: Please do not Adjust Your Set: International Information Flows, the Media and Security in Malaysia
4. Please do not adjust your set: international information ﬂows, the media and security in Malaysia INTRODUCTION At the beginning of September, 2005, at a public lecture organized by Suhakam, the Malaysian Human Rights Commission, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, was criticizing the United States and Britain for invading Iraq, describing their military action as ‘acts of terror’. In protest, the diplomats and oﬃcers of the two countries on the receiving end of Mahathir’s diatribe left the ballroom of the Le Meridien Hotel in Budapest, where the speech took place. Mahathir’s passing comment: ‘So can we accept that these big powers alone have a right to determine when to interfere in the internal aﬀairs of other countries to protect human rights?’ The people of Malaysia, he said, ‘seemed to be quite happy’, adding his country did not need foreign powers to ensure there was no abuse of human rights (Megan 2005). Both sides of this argument occupied familiar territory: Dr Mahathir had long been a critic of the Western governments; his targets familiar with their role as Mahathir’s neo-colonial whipping boys. It was a game Mahathir played well as Prime Minister of Malaysia as he worked to modernize his country as the head of a multi-ethnic alliance, leading a one party developmental state along what he saw as a secular Islamic model, yet faced by growing fundamentalist and democratization pressures. Mahathir was always on message. The problem was the mass communication media that carried...
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