Monday, December 26, 2011

The harnessing of hatred

ABU has entered the realm of politics and like in the case of football, it is aimed at stoking the emotions of hate to garner support.
THE most common acronym among football fans is ABU, short for ‘Anyone (or Anything) but United’.
ABU adherents are common haters of Manchester United, the current English Premier League champions who now hold a record 19th league title, 12 won under Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the beautiful game’s greatest-ever managers.
United fans, yours truly included, are quite used to getting taunts and jibes from these hating hordes.
The most recent, of course, was after the humiliating exit from the Champions League with the defeat to Basel two weeks ago.
The gloating was all the more extreme as it was only the third time in 17 Champions League seasons that United failed to clear the group stage and ended up booted into the unglamorous Europa League.
One particularly painful ABU devotee kept sending a series of hurtful texts until way past dawn.
Another hater, whose team lost recently to United’s blue and a lot noisier neighbours, sent this text: ‘We lost but ok. As long as ABU at the top.’
It is hard to fathom why the legions of ABU are so bitter and utterly consumed by hatred.
Ask anyone why he or she detests United and the answer will be vague and applicable to most EPL teams or their supporters.
Perhaps it’s just envy. So, in this context, as warped as it seems, the hatred should be seen as the utmost form of flattery.
I suppose it is United’s greatest paradox: It is both loved and loathed for its successes and its style of play.
At, a site that provides the meaning of abbreviations, the list for ABUs is a long one.
In terms of popularity of usage, however, ‘Anyone But United’ is only ranked at 17, way after Ahmadu Bello University (of Nigeria), Airman Battle Uniform, Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, American Board of Urology and Automotive Business Unit.
In Malaysia, ABU has now entered the realm of political usage. A new campaign called “Asal Bukan Umno” (Anything But Umno) has been launched by a group of NGOs and activists well-known for their aversion towards the party.
Umno information chief Datuk Ahmad Maslan feels that ABU won’t work against the party. He said the party had responded by changing the meaning to “Aku Bersama Umno” (I am with Umno).
But as in the case of football, hate can indeed be a mighty strong emotion.
It can be harnessed as a “cool” and acceptable weapon for the younger generation.
The emphasis of the campaign is to create as much odium for the party, which has been the lynchpin of Barisan Nasional and its predecessorPerikatan (Alliance), especially among the younger Malays.
Issues like the cows and condos, now being milked to the maximum, would certainly not make it easy for the party to counter the campaign.
But inciting hatred against Umno’s three million members and associating them with corruption or wrongdoing may be a tougher call.
When exactly did Umno become associated with corruption? Surely not at its inception in 1946 or during the eras of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak or Tun Hussein Onn.
Veterans in the media might remember the year 1993. It was the first time that “money politics” – the euphemism for political corruption – became an issue during the party polls.
Millions were splurged at all levels of the party to secure posts as candidates and proudly sold themselves as affluent and urbane Melayu Baru (New Malays).
But unlike some division chiefs and eventual warlords, most ordinary Malays did not become very rich.
True, there is a lot of hate for Umno out there, especially in cyberspace. One just has to look at the comments posted on the usual news portals to get a feel of the spitefulness and the clearly partisan drivel.
The reality is no party is perfect.
But with politics being a zero-sum game, the Opposition is expected to go all out to paint the ruling coalition in the worst possible light and vice-versa.
The minds of most may have already been made up but the crucial fence-sitters, watching both sides since the last general election, have not.
Will the ABU clarion call strike a chord with the majority of these swing voters? Will they decide on the basis of their perception of the lesser evil or the less risky leadership? It is still too early to predict their move.
To return to the acronym in vogue, ABU is also short for Acceptance for Beneficial Use in medical laboratory usage, Analogue Back Up in the computing industry and All Buggered Up in Internet chats.
For politics, however, I guess the most suitable abbreviation is DTA or Don’t Trust Anyone.

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