13th GE psy(ber)-war begins. John Bertelsen of Asia Sentinel got in touch with me earlier this week after hearing that I'd been given US$10 m by Umno to spearhead the party's blog offensive come the 13th General Election. I laughed it off as crap. He did, too, but his sources were convinced of my "ill-gotten" gains because I'm driving a BMW and I've gotten a Harley Davidson. Hehe. I told him I had the BMW two years ago, soon after I rejoined The Malay Mail as its boss. My Softail Heritage is a well- used but still beautiful Harley, built in 1997 and has been in the workshop since October or Nov.
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I'm sure Umno has a strategy to engage Pakatan Rakyat's army of bloggers, news portals, and cybertroopers during the general election, and with that strategy comes a substantial budget. I am not privy to that strategy and certainly not to any budget that has been set aside by the party. However, if it's RM10 m (as my friend the PKR YB Nik Nazmi had alleged), I don't think that's enough to do the job and I think Nik knows that very well. His own state Selangor alone has set aside more than that amount (RM15 million every year, if I'm not mistaken), just for its internet TV and a small publication in the state. How much is PR spending on its entire cyberspace and social media war room, including the networks based overseas that it's been sponsoring? Quite a bit, I'm sure. In this regards, Bertelsen's US10 m sounds more plausible but the amount is still way too little!
After March 2008, at a blog seminar in Universiti Malaya, I predicted the rise of the BN bloggers to meet the enemies at the next GE. During the 12th GE, Umno and its coalition partners had been overwhelmed by Pakatan's absolute dominance of the new/social media. As we know, it was not that PR was more savvy. It was because BN was totally anti-social media. The advisers to the Prime Minister then totally failed to appreciate the power and influence of blogs, portals, FB and twitter on voters, especially the young ones.
So, yes, expect both BN and PR to invest a lot of money to equip their cyber soldiers for the coming war (I for one do not believe that PR will be spending less than BN!). Expect a few blogs and portals to jump sides or be "bought" over. It'd do good to remember that Raja Petra Kamaruddin, one of the most influential cyber players since the last GE, was NOT on Anwar Ibrahim or Pakatan Rakyat's side until just a few months before the March 2008. Don't forget also, many pro-Umno bloggers who were campaigning against the Abdullah regime at the time with RPK are not back with the BN (even though they are always so critical of the BN government).