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Factory clusters and other internet fairytales

It appears that for some, facts are optional as long as the narrative has traction and a frenzy ensues.

Wong Kah Hoe
3 minute read

Malaysia’s favourite past-time now is cyber mob-lynching. It’s free, you can do it from the comfort of your armchair, nicely tucked in an echo chamber, and the practice helps you score fake internet points from like-minded netizens, almost all of whom you have never met in your entire life.

Here’s how to score fake internet points, which go by terms like “likes”, “♥” or “RT”. First, find a villain. Then, find a narrative that makes this villain deserving of being pelted with rotten cyber eggs.

Oh, did I mention that “facts” are optional? It’s fair game as long as the narrative has traction and a frenzy ensues. Who needs facts when all you need is to peddle your outlandish claims like snake oil salesmen do? The objective is to shred into pieces the credibility of your victims and you will be rewarded with fake internet points, which will allow you to walk with a spring in your step for a couple of hours (if you are lucky).

Here’s a recent example: a news item quoting Selangor health director Dr Sha’ari Ngadiman as saying that 54% of Covid-19 clusters in the state came from the manufacturing sector.

One can almost hear “Attack!” from the mob when such articles make their rounds. “Who asked you to reopen the factories?”, “Stupid to reopen factories but not Parliament” and “This is what happens when the Miti Minister kawtim with the towkays” are among the popular narratives that took hold from the get-go.

As though God had instructed them in a revelation, these rabid so-called social justice warriors would seed these notions on their social media timelines with a fervour medieval Europeans reserved for setting witches on fire at the stake.

Did they bother with the fact that Sha’ari had also said in the same press conference that 40% of the infections came from close contact with Covid-19 patients, 22% from those with symptoms, 20% from workplace clusters and 14% from non-workplace clusters? How about the fact that the authorities were satisfied with the Covid-19 SOP compliance in factories?

Nope and why bother? It doesn’t jive with their narrative of the government being irresponsible, especially the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti), which oversees the manufacturing sector. Does it matter that only 20% of the cases were due to workplaces? That’s sacrilegious in their religion called “Government Is Always Wrong”!

What they see is “54% of the clusters came from manufacturing” and nothing else. These people may well be closet flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers too because they only believe things that align with their blinkered worldview that might as well have been taken from a children’s fairytale.

Does it matter that when they hold on to erroneous views, not grounded in reality, they could end up with flawed solutions? Does it matter that when they repeat a lie often enough, they could disrupt ongoing efforts to combat the worst public health disaster the country is facing?

Of course not! Emotions trump facts. As far as they are concerned, “facts” have to line up with their narratives and not the other way round. Rigorous scientific exploration based on data and statistics is secondary to their immutable political beliefs.

Their overriding concern is not lives or livelihoods but the validity and supremacy of their convictions. That would be bad enough under normal circumstances, but during a global pandemic that would be equivalent to a patient rejecting modern medicine in favour of treatment from a shaman. God save us all!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.