11 июл. 2006 г.

Going Google eyed

Simon Pitchforth (Jakarta Post) wrote:

Well, the World Cup wraps up tonight and we can all get some sleep at long last. My personal player of the tournament would have to be Germany's Torsten Frings, if only for his very wonderful name which sounds more like something that Lance Armstrong would use in the Tour de France -- "Yes my new high-tech bike has got an ultra lightweight carbon-fiber frame... and torsten frings." It was also a pleasure to watch Captain Extra Joss getting his comeuppance in last Wednesday's semifinal. Now though, I suppose that we're all going to have to find something else to amuse ourselves with for the next four years. For those of you planning to forsake your televisions and return to the virtual, online pleasures of the Internet, I thought I'd conduct a brief survey of how Indonesia performs on the information super cul-de-sac.

Indonesia's traditional print media encompass (for English speakers) your very own The Jakarta Post and, for slightly more in-depth coverage, the English-language edition of Tempo magazine, both of which generally do a good job of disseminating the crazy things that go on in this great country. Online, The Jakarta Post's Web site contains comprehensive archives, but can be a little tricky to navigate.

Print media in Indonesia however, constantly walk a tightrope between journalistic integrity and a fear of incurring the wrath and vengeance of the feudal powers that be. Things have opened up somewhat since the toppling of Soeharto but nevertheless, journalistic freedom has often found itself under attack here. Every week, Tempo magazine prints letters from the lawyers of apoplectic politicians and generals which threaten legal action. Both Tempo and The Jakarta Post have received various sinister visits to their offices over the years and have been on the receiving end of threats and/or a good smashing up. Journalists for regional Indonesian language papers continue to be beaten up, kidnapped and even murdered for daring to live up to the investigative probity required of their profession.

Online though, writers tend to be a lot braver. The anonymity of the Internet enables hacks and wannabe hacks to neatly sidestep the face punching, office-trashing consequences of their investigations. A good example of this is the Paras Web site which often features news stories that the papers would perhaps find too hot to handle and is well worth bookmarking on your browser.

Blogs (online diaries) are the latest global Internet trend and people in Indonesia are also joining in the fun. There are some great English-language blogs written here by authors who vent their spleen in no uncertain terms about life in Indonesia and its politics. Many of them resemble this column on steroids. Local blogs worth checking out include, Jakarta Eye, Jakartass, Indcoup, Java Jive and the new Jak Chat forum.

I decided though to head for the global search engine Google in order to conduct a little experiment and see how topical issues in Indonesia are shaping up on the Internet. I first pumped the words, "Indonesia" and "Sharia" in for a search and was rewarded with a colossal 497,000 results including Jihad.watch.org which contains some quite extreme anti-Muslim rants. I then tried, "Indonesia" and "Pluralism" which scored me an even bigger 647,000 results. Clearly this country's current culture war is being reflected online in no uncertain terms.

Next, I thought I'd try a current news story. I performed a search on the words, "Bakrie" and "Mud" but only got a disappointing 553 results. "Soeharto" and "Bastard" netted me a slightly bigger 816 matches.

Always keen to find out how I fit personally into the broader scheme of things, "Bule" and "Scum" led me to the Web site WorldIQ.com which contains a fascinating list of ethnic slurs from around the world. Here the word, "Bule" is defined as, "A white person; literally means albino." Hmmm. Well I certainly can get a bit pink eyed after a few Bintangs. In this derogatory dictionary, the word, "Bule" is sandwiched between the American colloquialisms, "Bhurka Bitch" (Muslim woman) and "Buddhahead" (Asian person). It's nice to see racial tolerance spreading around the world via the Internet like this.

Finally, I decided to search, "Jakarta" and "Traffic accidents" -- a subject close to my heart as I'm sure you'll understand if you've been reading Metro Mad over the last two weeks. My morbid search led me straight to the U.S. Embassy's official Web site where I learned that in the first half of the year 2000, 5996 traffic accidents resulted in 4563 deaths and 3330 serious injuries. Ulp! I guess I'm lucky to be alive. Now where's my Extra Joss?