Friday, March 25, 2011

'Anwar sex video': A matter of depth and penetration (of meaning)

The Malaysian nation had been rocked yet once again with the politics of sex, this time involving the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. As usual it evokes the usual range of responses or reaction from various quarters. Seeing the whole episode as 'a phenomenon', we can categorize or typify the responses into standard or characteristic forms,which operate almost automatically whatever the 'issues', 'exposure', 'sensation', 'scourge', 'lie' maybe, without being bogged into 'partisan' or 'interested' views, consciously or unconsciously obliged 'to believe' or' not to believe' soundly.

The opposition of course had taken the most natural course of responding. Instinctively it has dissociated, denied the authenticity of the video, and then capitalise. Hence the denial that the main character is indeed the person alleged. Then the issue of content is sidelined or marginalised to become that of the depravity of those behind the whole incident. The issue is redefined as the immoral act of some to 'shame' (mengaibkan), 'disgrace', 'humiliate', linking the issue with past precedence which had somewhat won some public sympathy, in this case the Elizabeth Wong affair. In this manner it is hoped that public attention is deflected from 'content' and 'authenticity' (actual content of video) to 'disqualification' and ' admissibility' (the right of the video to exist is called into question), Strictly speaking this charge of 'mengaibkan' (to shame) refers to the doer and his action, but not to those out to expose it. The pornography is 'shameful' and 'shaming' but not the act of political exposure. By analogy, if a corrupt politician is caught on tape negotiating a shady deal, it is not for him, once exposed, to complain that the exposure is 'embarassing' him. Or at most, the motivation and the morality of those responsible for the exposure should be viewed quite independently of the authenticity and content of the video.  

Then the whole video affair is overblown to fit into 'the dogma of conspiracy'. Almost over nothing, the involvement of the PM, Home Affairs Minister, the Police force were insinuated, the whole affair pronounced as being orchestrated at ' the highest level', all calculated to 'fix' one man . Of course by now this dogma of conspiracy is wearing thin, becoming like a national cliche to those non-doctrinaire. Now the actual meaning of this 'dogma of conspiracy' is interesting and intriguing. Firstly there is a limit to its efficacy. As we know, it is not easy to fabricate truth or lie, even at the lowest level of everyday life. We may succeed in lying to one person, it gets more difficult to lie to two, even more so with three and so on. As the circle of victims gets wider it gets more and more difficult. What more at the national and historical level. You cannot simply fix and arrange a whole complex of cultural or historical phenomena  to support or reinforce your lie or 'conspiracy'. I am sure we realise it is not easy to fix a whole bureaucary, police force, members of public, journalists, battery of witnesses, judges, whole court machinery etc. As the popular expression goes, one may be able to lie to some people all the time, to all the people sometime, but not to all the people all the time.

I am not  as naive as to deny that there can be vested interests or political motives influencing political views or leanings. I am aware too that the nature of politics can involve plots or conspiracy in the conventional sense. But I am certainly sceptic towards ' conspiracy' as dogma: a blanket, instinctive,mechanical, emotional response to whatever political issues of the day. At the bottom of it,' conspiracy' as dogma simply functions as unthinking or fanatical anti-establishment ideology.

As we know the law speaks its own language, but the meaning of life is not entirely represented or monopolised by the legal meaning. For instance the sex video in question do have other meanings, at different depth and penetration. It admits of other angles and perspectives. Depending on positions taken, the video can assume other significance or meaning, deserving our consideration. For example, is it a 'porno'? The content maybe that, but if we consider the circumstances it may not be. Was it shot with a view of the porno market? Is it really meant to arouse, to stimulate, to cater to lust, or is it meant really to record the doing of a politician, with a view of exposure? Is it meant as a product for the porno market or not? Our answer to these questions will make it either a 'porno' or  a 'political document'

. And then there is the question of 'dissemination'. Was it really disseminated? Were copies made and widely distributed in the media, or made public? Actually it was shown not as porno to a sleazy market, but to selected invited senior editors, journalists, public figures with specific relevance. Not quite 'public' or ' porno market'. So  was it a porno item and pornographic dissemination, or simply the preview of a political document in the wider sense?  Whatever we may say about 'gutter politics' etc, the sexual behaviour of top politician or public figures is part and parcel of their public image and political standing, East or West, and history can easily bear this out (Consider Clinton or Christine Keeler?) We still remember the case of the US senator who had to resign over gay solicitation in a public loo.

In the meantime, we note other responses. Wan Azizah had commented why she refuse to watch the video because it is ' haram dan berdosa' (forbidden and sinful). Obvously she is going by the strict or direct meaning of the content. and not as a political document. Some parties are demanding the Trio be arrested for 'possession' and 'disseminating', obviously seeing it as basically 'porno'. Others are advising the public to stop being obsessed with 'sex'  again seeing it essentially as 'porno'. Ustaz Hadi Awang uses the Islamic card, arguing that Islam insists on having four witnesses, missing the point, that is the whole design of the video and modern digital recording, in part playing the role of 'witness'. Or that it can be part of the intention of the Trio in calling the selected niche pre-viewers, not to arouse them but more in the capacity of ' to bear witnesses'

The purpose of this posting is not arrogate myself the truth of the matter, as most of us don't know many details as yet, but merely to share other perspectives, worthy of our attention. Like I say, it is not simply a legal matter, but perhaps more importantly a matter of  penetration and depth (of meaning) beyond the legal.  Having said that, I have faith that truth will prevail if we do not pre-determined the matter prematurely either way. After all who is the person in the video is a question of fact which can be diligently or scrupulously established by proper procedures.



  1. Mr Bean would undoubtedly agree with the esteemed writer; and summarizes the present "box office buster" as: The crux of the matter is (cough, cough) it's all about "depth and penetration"

  2. Tam Dalyell,

    Thanks for visiting and commenting.Yes we need to keep a cool head concerning the issues of the day. Incidently, were you one of the privileged few at the preview? Best wishes