Two years after Najib Razak started peddling his theme of “moderation”, one that’s more honoured in the breach thereof by various factions of his own party let alone the rest of Malaysian society, The Star has joined the parade by appropriating it for its own promotional advertising campaign.
But then no group, let alone a politician, can claim exclusive ownership of any word in any language.
“Moderation” is one of those feel-good uplifting words with a broad reach, that appeals to many, for few would be called “extremist”.
For Najib and his merry men, it’s a useful word in a desperate attempt to rise above Mahathir Mohamad’s legacy of sponsored racism, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, blinkered thinking, deep-rooted conservatism and crony capitalism (to name just a few traits).The Star has its own legacy in public perception, of being a political mouthpiece of its owners and the Umno-BN establishment. The showcase of columnists under a slogan of “brave voices” and “bold ideas” looks less like a proclamation of faith and more of claiming some borrowed glory.
Thing is, most of these voices are that of outsiders and contributors, purveyors of commentary and opinion, of thought. Mostly, it’s all talk.
In Malaysia’s barren, limited and repressive sphere of public discussion it doesn’t take much to come forward with what the public would believe to be “brave words”: you only need to put up common sense against the prevailing and toxic nonsense of the establishment.
Pathetically, that already sounds radical. More radical would be some courage within the Star towards giving their columnists greater breathing space for contrarian thoughts that are routinely excised.
For the Star itself, sadly, its showcase of columnists is an indirect indictment of its own worth and raison d’etre as a newspaper: not in the subdued and modest clash of opinion, but in what it hawks in the rest of its bulk.
It is an indictment of the insipid reporting passed off as news on its national, local, business, features, specialist and sports pages, and in what it chooses to forego.
For that, there is a more appropriate word. Lackey.