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Framing The Fight Against Terror: Order Versus Liberty in the Mainstream and Alternative Media
Unformatted Document Text:  ICA-6-10348 11 Diversity in journalism The Malaysian case provides one answer to the question of whether the Internet makes a difference. After years of excessive hype, many commentators now argue that the technology’s democratizing potential was overstated, as governments have more power than expected to control dissent on the medium (see, for example, Kalathil and Boas, 2001). This new realism tends to cite the case of China, with its national firewall and repressive treatment of Internet dissent. Malaysia – which like most countries in the world lies between the two poles of liberal democracy and closed authoritarian regimes (Diamond, 2002) – has enough political space for dissenting journalists to practice their craft openly on the Internet (unlike China); but not so much press freedom that they could, like their American counterparts, use newsprint as their chosen medium. In Malaysia, the Internet offers a significant opportunity for alternative journalism. The value of the kind of alternative journalism provided by Malaysiakini in the KMM affair is in the eyes of the beholder. Whether it is viewed as something positive or negative depends on the role one sees for the press. It is facile to think of the issue as a tension between order and democracy. Even if one believes that journalism should serve a democratic function, very different conclusions arise from different notions of democracy. In some visions, notably the pluralism of Dahl and the competitive elitism of Schumpeter, a premium is placed on an elite-brokered consensus without which democracy would be too unstable. Such a perspective implies a preference for orderly political routines and the institutional press. A more radical view of democracy, such as that of Laclau and Mouffe (1985) or of Hall (1992), emphasizes maximum autonomization, noting that any consensus tends to be constructed by unjustly marginalizing dissenting views. It is from the latter perspective that the likes of Malaysiakini can be seen as democracy-enhancing media projects, adding to the landscape of what Fraser (1991) calls “multiple public spheres”: sites where alternative ideas can be aired, and from which the larger consensus can be challenged. To what extent such diversity is appreciated by the society at large varies from place to place and over time. The space for alternative views

Authors: George, Cherian.
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ICA-6-10348
11
Diversity in journalism
The Malaysian case provides one answer to the question of whether the Internet
makes a difference. After years of excessive hype, many commentators now argue that
the technology’s democratizing potential was overstated, as governments have more
power than expected to control dissent on the medium (see, for example, Kalathil and
Boas, 2001). This new realism tends to cite the case of China, with its national firewall
and repressive treatment of Internet dissent. Malaysia – which like most countries in the
world lies between the two poles of liberal democracy and closed authoritarian regimes
(Diamond, 2002) – has enough political space for dissenting journalists to practice their
craft openly on the Internet (unlike China); but not so much press freedom that they
could, like their American counterparts, use newsprint as their chosen medium. In
Malaysia, the Internet offers a significant opportunity for alternative journalism.
The value of the kind of alternative journalism provided by Malaysiakini in the
KMM affair is in the eyes of the beholder. Whether it is viewed as something positive or
negative depends on the role one sees for the press. It is facile to think of the issue as a
tension between order and democracy. Even if one believes that journalism should serve
a democratic function, very different conclusions arise from different notions of
democracy. In some visions, notably the pluralism of Dahl and the competitive elitism of
Schumpeter, a premium is placed on an elite-brokered consensus without which
democracy would be too unstable. Such a perspective implies a preference for orderly
political routines and the institutional press. A more radical view of democracy, such as
that of Laclau and Mouffe (1985) or of Hall (1992), emphasizes maximum
autonomization, noting that any consensus tends to be constructed by unjustly
marginalizing dissenting views.
It is from the latter perspective that the likes of Malaysiakini can be seen as
democracy-enhancing media projects, adding to the landscape of what Fraser (1991) calls
“multiple public spheres”: sites where alternative ideas can be aired, and from which the
larger consensus can be challenged. To what extent such diversity is appreciated by the
society at large varies from place to place and over time. The space for alternative views


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