The outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus has also seen the outbreak of another “virus” – the Internet virus of lies, fake news and hate speech which is even more critical.
The previous deadly coronavirus outbreaks, whether Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) which originated from China or Middle East Respiratory Synbdrome (MERS-Cov) which originated from Saudi Arabia, have shown that mankind is capable of prevailing over them, and it is reassuring that the Universiti Malaya Tropical Infectious Diseases Research and Education Centre (TIDREC) director Professor Dr. Sazaly Abu Bakar has said that unlike SARS and MERS. the Wuhan coronavirus has a low case fatality ratio (CFR) and appears to be less virulent at present, with the exception of the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
But mankind has to find a solution to the Internet “virus”.
In fact, the “cyber-enabled information warfare” of lies, fake news and hate speech is one reason why the Doomsday Clock in 2020 now stands at 100 seconds to midnight, the most dangerous situation that humanity has ever faced.
Why is the Doomsday Clock so close to midnight so long after the end of the Cold War?
The answer is that we face a new kind of nuclear peril, a new existential threat in the climate crisis, and an information environment so corrupted that it is almost impossible for concerned governments and citizens to mobilize the consensus for necessary action.
Everyone must be troubled by the growing deluge of “fake news” and the rise of “deepfake” footage – digitally manipulated video that is increasingly difficult to distinguish from the real thing – which blurred the lines between truth and fiction and disrupt information and trust.
Let Malaysians turn the present crisis of information and trust into an opportunity to resolve the crisis, where Malaysians develop the media literacy to be able to differentiate between what is true and false, what is information and what is fake news.
Let us turn the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak into a blessing – to pull Malaysia back from the brink of deep polarisation along racial and religious lines because of lies, fake news and hate speech for Malaysians regardless of race, religion or region to come together to save Malaysia and make her a great nation.
It has been said that Malaysians must choose whether they want to become cow herders or pig herders.
Malaysians do not want to be cow herders or pig herders but want to be on the cutting edge of technology, leveraging on the best values from the four great civilisations which meet in confluence in Malaysia, to build a world top class nation.
It is a great fallacy that the political choice before Malaysians is whether to be cow herders or pig herders.
Those who advocate this choice do not support the Pakatan Harapan commitment in Buku Harapan in the 2018 general election ‘to create a Malaysia that is inclusive, moderate and respected globally”.
They do not support the Malaysian Constitution or the Rukunegara principles of nation-building “to achiever a more perfect unity amongst the whole of her society; preserve a democratic way of life; create a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner; guarantee a liberal approach towards her rich and varied cultural traditions; and build a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology”.
They do not care whether Malaysia becomes a kleptocracy, an autocracy or a klepto-theocracy.
They are prepared to use democratic rights of press liberties and the freedom of choice to come to power to create a Malaysia which is the very antithesis of a Malaysia which is “inclusive, moderate and respected globally”.
Instead of focussing on fallacious and misleading choices for Malaysians, as whether they want to be cow-herders or pig-herders, it would be more productive and responsible for political leaders to challenge Malaysians to transform Malaysia into a world top class nation.