A DAY IN THE LIFE
Someone had asked the question the other day at a casual meeting. It came out of the blue, at the tail end of a wandering chit-chat over this and that, nothing of any real consequence, the usual kind of conversation we have when catching up after a few months.
“You are being paid to write your blog, is it?”
Other people might have thought that, of someone who blogs under a pseudonym, and on political matters. But the surprise was to hear it from a fellow journo of well over 30 years’ acquaintance.
Caught off guard, the answer was a slightly annoyed, blurted “Of course not.”
But it was painful to even have to say that. Had we known so little of each other that such a question could even arise?
In these times it’s not at all surprising to wonder which of the anonymous or pseudonymous articles or comments on blogs are by people paid to write. “Sarawak Reports With An S” was an obvious (and badly-written) paid campaign.
A few political articles submitted to this blog came from people who were probably political hacks for hire. They were published, in good faith: the articles gave reasoned arguments, not invective, on some of Pakatan Rakyat’s antics. Good for some balance.
Not all were used (not all were fair) and eventually they were dropped: they had become less and less convincing. A few weeks later, others (including Malaysia Today and Free Malaysia Today) also stopped using them.
At some sites and blogs, it is simple to surmise that the blogger — some are well-known names — has a sponsor. The sums involved can range from RM2,000 a month to RM20-to-30,000 they say. Some commenters write so often, so regularly, on so many issues (all political), in so many places, and at all hours that even a casual reader would wonder how they could possibly do it just out of personal interest.
They don’t. Some are paid. Some are cops.
But “uppercaise” is known to fellow newspapermen, though not to the general public. Now a journo seemed to think “uppercaise” was being paid? For what? An occasional political commentary, some media analysis, sometimes some news, obits of old colleagues, and some stale insider jokes? It beggars belief.
To say that it was insulting would not even begin to scratch the surface of the hurt it was meant to cause. It had been tossed off quite casually, seemingly seriously. So, not merely to insult, but also to wound.
Just as another journo had done, at another time, phoning up out of the blue in the second of two exactly the same circumstances, to ask, “How do you write so well ah? What’s your secret?”
Does “uppercaise” write well? That’s for the reader to gauge. Many well-written articles are posted elsewhere and in MalaysiaKini and Malaysian Insider nowadays: the Internet’s limitless news hole has brought forth a host of fresh voices and “uppercaise” is just one voice among many. Nothing unusual, surely.
The tell-tale was the flippancy, the shrewish tone of voice, the urgency, the demanding insistence on getting an answer. But the question was unanswerable…
There was some another reason for the phone call, some other motive.
To sneer, with faint praise. To hurt. To cast doubt.
It was vicious. It was deliberate. It was unkind, to say the least.
It was from a fellow journalist. But it was the voice of a dirty, vicious, cop.
Can journos be that vicious to each other? When they can make their money and their reputation by being a stooge of a cop, a politician or their boss?
Don’t ever doubt it.
So scratch two so-called “old friends”, both with service in the same media house. Maybe three.
Scratch said media house, too.
Hacks and stooges, all.
Checking up on email shortly after this was written reveals a note from another “old friend” with a personal complaint. It appears genuine. But it is a diatribe of twisted half-truths. It is the voice of a dirty vicious Malay cop. While composing a reply, a nearby car starts up and roars off, a typical street car with go-faster exhausts and extra loud silencers.
A murmured remark from the next table. “Ee huan nah eh” And from another table, a few minutes later: “Cop.”
Walking out of the 7-Eleven, I pass a group of boisterous young Malay men getting into their cars after Chelsea v Liverpool at the corner mamak, with raucous laughter and loud hoots. “Ha-a-r-r, h-a-a-a, haaa haaa… itu Mat Salleh… haa haaaa….” A few minutes before, a clipped voice in RP had said, Journalist!, the one word cutting through the vacuous chatter of the third-rate Little Englander yobs in the commentary studio. Then, ATM! The hoots of the lads rings through the square.
Later, approaching the junction leading to the house, a black Peugeot 508 creeps around the bend from the tyre shop and slows to a halt at the junction, motionless until I draw parallel on the other side; then it edges slowly into the lane and turns in at the fourth house. The reversing lamp flashes for an instant on and off but the car remains stationary, the driver still at the wheel. The lights of the house are all off. All asleep, or away.
Up the hill, a pair of headlights glimmer in the distance four hundred yards away; there’s been a pair of headlights up there, outside different houses, every other night no matter the hour.
The air is refreshingly cool after the evening thunderstorm, the night still. All is quiet.
But there is a black Peugeot at the bottom of the street. And a pair of headlights up the hill.
Back at the computer I review the email from the “old friend” and recall a late-night drink with some of his chums at a neighbourhood I’d never visited before. From the next table snatches of conversation rise above the hubbub and coffeeshop clatter. “My daughter… ya, beauty queen… Miss Malaysia, you know…. My son… ya, KL, police headquarters… No, Bukit Aman…. Bukit Aman, you know?…. Bukit Aman…”
Filthy, vicious, grasping cops.
And their filthy, vicious, grasping stooges.
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