(Pic by Ratnesh Bhatt; source: sxc.hu) BACK in 1989, when word got out about sex videos involving then Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker DP Vijandran from the MIC, copies were made and circulated. These video tapes inevitably found their way to those curious or voyeuristic enough to want to view them. Still, it took some time for the copies to make their rounds.
These days, thanks (or no thanks) to internet technology, sensational or sexual allegations and materials get replicated, tweaked and passed on much faster — in a matter of seconds. The reactions to the issue spread just as fast. The online medium also allows people to participate immediately in discussions, across the country and the globe.
As word spreads that there are nude images of Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) Bukit Lanjan assemblyperson Elizabeth Wong circulating via MMS and the internet, supporters, critics and opportunists have been quick to react. Their different views and stands — the good, the bad and the ugly — say a lot about the people who make up part of Malaysian society.
(© Gvision / Dreamstime) Sex sells, whether we like it or not. But as individuals and publications, we have a choice whether to exploit it or reject it. When the issue has already entered the public domain and becomes news that cannot be ignored, we still have a choice. Do we sensationalise it or handle it with some degree of decency or professionalism?
Wong lodged a police report after Malay Mail informed her on 13 Feb that some people were trying to distribute intimate photos or videos of her and that the newspaper was running a story on this. Since then, the issue has been all over the internet, developing in its own way and gaining momentum.
Some bloggers have jumped at the opportunity to exploit Wong’s situation just to draw traffic to their websites. Blogger Syed Khalil Al-Yahya, in his post, Elizabeth Wong bogel, acknowledged quite disingenuously that what Wong did in the privacy of her home was none of his business.
“Siapa Elizabeth Wong? Dia ialah Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (Adun) PKR kawasan Bukit Lanjan. Kenapa dia berbogel? Itu taklah saya tahu sebab itu hak peribadi dia. Perkara yang berlaku di rumah dia tak perlulah ambil tahu,” he wrote.
That didn’t stop him from exploiting it to boost traffic to his site, probably in the hopes of getting more ads.
“Kalau tak perlu ambil tahu kenapa tulis dalam blog ini? Hahahaha saya nak juga tulis sebab itu adalah ‘keyword’ yang paling disukai dan dicari oleh rakyat Malaysia dalam tempoh seminggu dua ini,” he went on the say.
“Ini adalah permainan SEO (search engine optimisation) dan sebagai ucapan terima kasih saya siarkan juga gambar separuh bogel untuk anda semua,” he added. He didn’t post Wong’s photo.
Another opportunist blogger copied what Syed Khalil wrote and pasted it in his/her own blog under the post, Panasssss: Gambar bogel Elizabeth Wong. The blogger added, “Kredit untuk syedkhalil.com tumpang sekaki.” This blogger also did not post any intimate photos of Wong.
(Pic by William Picard; source: sxc.hu)However, there are others who have no qualms posting the photos and making lewd comments about Wong and the photos.
Among the bloggers, and not just the famous ones, there is heated debate on morality versus the individual’s right to privacy.
Following Wong’s statement on 16 Feb that the distribution of the images without her consent “constitutes a gross outrage on my modesty, a gross invasion of my privacy, and in particular the sanctity of my personal life”, many have come out in support of her.
A Google Blog Search on this issue will show the long list of bloggers who are outraged by the smear campaign against Wong. Many have zoomed in on Selangor opposition leader and former Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo’s comment that her conduct is immoral and that she should therefore resign.
In his post, Stand for Elizabeth Wong, devilhuai said those who released her photos should be charged. He saw the whole thing as dirty politics by people who are out to end her political life and tarnish the Pakatan Rakyat’s image. He also argued that she has done nothing wrong and should not resign.
Blogger Lucia Lai took Khir Toyo to task in her post, Politics and morality:
“what morality were you talking about here, khir …? her nude picture was taken in her house while she was sleeping. don’t tell me it’s wrong to sleep nude in your own home? don’t tell me sleeping nude at home means one has low morality? what if i sent someone to spy on you while you were bathing, take a photo of you bathing nude and circulate it around – this means you have to leave umno because your morality is in question??” (sic)
(Webcam image by Jeroen Belen, silhouette by Moi Cody; source: sxc.hu)
There are also netizens who have a different view. Blogger Susan Loone’s opinion in her post, Rape of Elizabeth Wong, is that what happened to Wong is a form of sexual assault.
But some of the visitors to her blog are less sympathetic. One visitor who left a comment under the name “bukit lanjan voter” said Wong should resign and the electorate in the constituency should get to elect a new assemblyperson.
The visitor said: “Bukit lanjan voters just can’t tolerate a screwing-around state woman representing them – whether this incident is an intrusion to her private life or not!!!” (sic)
This “bukit lanjan voter” seems quite sure that his/her view represents that of the entire constituency, which had 25,550 registered voters in 2008. But the different blog posts and comments demonstrate that the reality is just the opposite.
Society is not unanimous, and it never has been. There are always diverse views and interests. Some are willing to engage in open-minded civil dialogue, while others presume they have the moral rectitude in the issue at hand. Throughout this process, we get to see the good, the bad and the ugly in our midst.
Cindy Tham turned down the opportunity to watch videos of DP Vijandran’s bedroom romps 20 years ago.