Friday, May 11, 2018

Butthurt Notes Part 2: Big Little Mistakes

Previously, from Butthurt Notes:

I planned a small resistance against BN bots for GE14, started selling t-shirts out of spite, and was swept in by non-partisan, non-governmental grassroots movements to bring people home to vote.

Read Butthurt Notes: Origin Story here

A Flawed Campaign

And now, I must say that Najib and BN's campaign was atrocious. Contradictory messages, distributed network of cybers who sometimes attacked each other and the strange decision to use Najib's photo as the anchor image for most of the posters.

 I went for the KL International Book Fair at PWTC for 10 days and outside the building was a banner stating "Mahasiswa Menyokong Kerajaan Barisan Nasional". You know what picture they used? Not students from the various associations who supposedly paid for the banner. Not UMNO Youth people, not even Najib and some random college kids. No, it was just Najib. Is he... a student?

BN also did the usual dog and pony show they did every GE. The difference this time is that a lot more of their activities are captured on video.

I remember feeling really angry when I saw a video of a BN politician eating while his aide distributed RM100 bills to a bunch whom I presume to be BN party workers. I saw the makciks jumping up and down and showing the thumbs up sign repeatedly to the datuk while saying, "Terima kasih, Datuk. Terima kasih."

It was a cringefest and I felt angry because it tells me this story: For years, the UMNO politicians who were supposed to improve the lives of these folks have neglected them so much that a RM100 note every five years caused them to hop excitedly. It was demeaning and cruel.

Those women are old enough to be my mother, and they dared to treat them like monkeys?


The worst thing, though, was they did these little petty things like (though it is SPR doing this, people will assume it's BN) the voting day on Wednesday thing, screwing up the postal ballots and suddenly including new rules that prohibited Dr M's image from being used. They even cut out Dr M's image from posters or painted over it.

I believe this created small, petty hurdles for a young generation of voters accustomed to facing these things in games. Yes, I have a dumb theory that BN effectively gamified the election. They turned it into a fun game.


The key word here is fun, because back with PulangMengundi and UndiRabu, the community has started making going to the election fun. Some dug up b/w photos of elections in the past and saw that in those days, people dressed up to go and vote. So there was a smaller bunch within PulangMengundi who pledged to wear their best traditional costumes to the polling stations.

Even though just a few people did this on polling day, it already created a festive atmosphere with people arranging carpools and collecting money to give food to weary travellers who arrive at airports. I read that several hundred packs of food were purchsed and given to anyone who arrived to vote.

Again, I must stress these things were not done in support or against any party. The entire goal was to increase the percentage of voters.

As an alternative, someone developed an app - Droupr - for carpooling. It can be used for GE14 and even beyond that.

There was also a loose agreement that saw people in different states going back on different days. At least most of them. Kelantanese people I think mostly went on Monday. Pahang and Terengganu went on Tuesday. I have no idea how the Northerners scheduled their travel, but the roads were jammed anyway.

It was like a very organised Raya thing. People - YOUNG PEOPLE - were excited to vote. They asked their friends to go with them. This young generation loves travel for any reason and what better than 'saving the nation'?

These are all facets of a grassroots movement that made going back to vote fun and relevant for young people who know what the stakes are.

Meanwhile, Back in the Swamp...

Even with all this excitement, I have no idea what was going on in the rural areas. I know the very presence of Dr M and his team of The Expendables would be a clarion call for Malays no matter where they are.

Malaysians remember Dr M as the leader who brought honour and respect to the country. Some remember his less colourful moments, but even then, enough of that group see him as an asshole who fights for them. Most Malays love Dr M or at least respect him and the fact that he brought the old guns out for one last ride suggests he's not a bored, lonely, senile old man who must have his fix of toppling another Malaysian Prime Minister.

Dr M also gave a very public answer on how to talk to rural folks who might not understand the complex, multi-faceted nature of 1MDB. He suggests focusing on things the rural folks could relate to - the higher cost of living they now experience every day. Where previously they could eat three times a day, they could now eat twice or only once.

Where before this, their children could go to MARA Colleges or get scholarships, their younger offspring get less or can't get anything at all.

He hit exactly where the BN government failed. MARA colleges used to be for the excellent students from poor families. Now, almost half the spots are taken by middle class or rich students. You think people won't notice or feel the pinch, when you take their spots? Well. Fuck you, rich assholes.

All Quiet on the Digital Front

Meanwhile, I ran out of bots. I was hunting them happily for a few days at the beginning of the campaign. Russian bots, Chinese bots, local bots. And then they went extinct.

I did not hunt them to extinction. I reported maybe a total of 40? 100? I dunno. I spent half an hour a day on my own. After two or three days, I couldn't find any bots.

I think one of three scenarios could have unfolded:

1. BN ran out of money for social media campaigns.

They may have been advised by some people (hehehe) that Twitter is a lost cause and a waste of money. So they spent on ground troops. Which is good... but risky.

That left only cybertroopers on Twitter in the second half of the campaign. Most of them paid anywhere between 1K to 10K a month. Some received RM100 for 30 tweets, which is pathetic.

2. The MCMC stepped in

The usage of bots were detected and MCMC could have done something. I dunno.

3. Twitter stepped in

After the US Presidential election, I believe Twitter is wary of bots, especially ones that try to influence. Maybe after a few people reported a few hundred bots, they took action?

I don't know. I was busy selling t-shirts.

I must say that I did not make such a great impact on social media this GE14. I used to run campaigns like Anugerah Bintang Popular that had millions of hits, likes and reach. My social media presence was negligible... ON ITS OWN.

The great thing about this was I was not alone. These kids, man. They grow up so fast. There are swaths of users I never interacted with who could read the situations unfolding and come to the same conclusions I do. I checked them out. They're all young, random people with actual lives and followers.

If BN wanted to try use bots and cybertroopers to bamboozle or unsettle people on social media this GE14, they may have found it puzzling that their messaging did not get as much traction as they hoped.

The social media users have adapted to bots and cybertroopers so that it's not that easy to manipulate them. All those years of jumping to conclusions or raising a mob and then realising it was for nothing have educated a whole generation of users.

And when KJ released his video with Najib at a mamak restaurant and another with a well-known actress, people were like, 'meh'.

The messages in both videos were shockingly empty. Just vapid protestations of how the Opposition is lying and that BN politicians are such honourable people, and nothing else.

To Be Concluded