Wag the Dog à la Indonesia

Apr 25th, 2008, in Opinion, by

Rima FauziRima says the government creates distractions and the media willingly participate, to hide the real problems of Indonesia.

Wag the Dog à la Indonesia

If you are an Indonesian like me, or a foreigner living in Indonesia, or someone who has been following Indonesian current events, you might agree with me when I say that Barry Levinson’s “Wag the Dog” rings a familiar bell. It is somewhat similar to what has been happening lately in Indonesia.

The government knows the people is much more aware of the situation around them nowadays, the people can see right through them, and the people can see their impotence. So what do they (the government) do to take control of the situation? They create decoys as a weapon of mass distraction. They throw bait at the Indonesian media who in turn almost always turn the bait into a giant media circus, distracting the people’s attention from the real, much more urgent problems at hand.

The Indonesian government’s incapability in the eradication of poverty and improvement of the current economy, monetary and socio-political problems have inflicted what seems to be irreparable damage to the country, the keyword here being “seems”. It is pre-conditioned that way, and while nothing is impossible or irreparable, this situation is continuously yet implicitly portrayed in the media. A clever tactic by the government to throw the people off course and a cruel move by the money-hungry media that has resulted in the general feeling of despair and hopelessness across the nation.

The following media hulla-balloos are among some of the government’s attempts to make sure the public is forever misinformed of the truth; a sure fire diversion:

Media circuses are certainly not against the law. It isn’t even all that evil. It is neither, only when it happens in a place with a higher number of educated people, or at least higher number of sanity. Sadly, Indonesia is not. The majority of the Indonesian people are uneducated people whose opinions are very easily formed by bombardments of information, much like what the media has been doing lately.

The fact shows the media’s prominent role in shaping the general consensus and I think it plays a big part in the rise of fall of the country’s future as well. It is time for the media industry to up their game and not take the government’s bait and fall into the lure of big sales and advertisement prospectives for the sake of profits only.

They must realize the chances of stimulating the people’s mind and making profit off hard journalism is also feasible. They need to start being serious; employ serious, credible and dignified journalists; focus on serious issues; stop exaggerating and over-blowing silly situations; and they need to put more effort into educating the nation with factual and hard truth. The Indonesian people deserve more than what they got, they need the media’s faith that they are able to digest real news.

While light and entertaining news should not be banned, I think the media should refrain from paying too much attention and merit to the actions of the morally and financially corrupt, those who are passing laws or building business that would only benefit a particular group of people while disadvantaging the majority of the Indonesian people.

Indonesia’s Problems du jour

At the present time, Indonesia has so many problems that, if not treated well, they will be a threat to the country. We have environmental problems, three of which that are quite urgent are:

  • deforestation
  • pollution
  • floods

We have been hit with bad regular floods so often that it is starting to affect the economy, health and the well-being of the people. The fact of the matter is, the flood problem is something Indonesians cannot afford to put off any longer.

We have a shortage of food supply which has led to soaring food prices. This is also the culprit of many malnutrition cases across the country, some of which have even resulted in hunger related deaths. Something unthinkable and unheard of just a decade ago.

We are in a deep hole when it comes to labor and human rights issues. We have never had a transparent government and believing strongly in eastern taboos doesn’t help us get out of the top 10 most corrupt governments list either. Besides that, we also have an increasing growth in poverty and gap between the rich and poor, not to mention a mess of government bureaucracy, infrastructure and working system which it is imperative to improve.

One of our biggest problems yet, as you may already known from the reporting of the various local and international media, is that we have an alarming increase of intolerance among people of different groups and religions which could be the beginning of Indonesia’s journey into medieval times. It may as well be the start of the demise of the so-called world’s third biggest democracy. This is probably the deadliest poison, one that could kill this great nation of diverse people from all walks of life and different cultural, religious and racial backgrounds.

Problems in these areas are so serious and incessant that the government should and must re-evaluate its priorities and start doing something about it. They must stop doing nothing but create situations, laws and regulations that will further distract the general attention of the public from their impotence. They should have some kind of a dialogue with (competent) representatives of the people to brainstorm for solution ideas and to get the people’s aspirations on the table. They must stop hiding behind excuses and apologies of how hard it is to “clean up the mess” left by Suharto Inc. and his legacy of chaos. While it is true that time heals wounds and is important in the progress of change for the better, the decade that has passed by has not really showed significant improvement. On the contrary, many feel that we are now in a state of decline, further backwards than when we started 10 years ago.

Now, will the media wake up and start doing intelligent journalism? Will the government realize they are officials entrusted by the people to guide them to a better place? Will tolerance resurrect and save the people from doom?

As always, we shall wait and see.

92 Comments on “Wag the Dog à la Indonesia”

  1. Lairedion says:

    Kudos for you, rima.

    Your article is spot on and personally I’m glad you have addressed the environmental problems. The biggest challenges mankind is facing right now together are the global food crisis and the pollution and destruction of nature.

    A Native American saying:

    Only after the last tree has been cut down,
    Only after the last river has been poisoned,
    Only after the last fish has been caught,
    Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.

  2. rima says:

    he lairedion, that is beautiful.. the native american thing.
    so sad and so true.

  3. timdog says:

    Excellent article rima…

  4. Rob says:


    Dude, you fail to see that in the future we will not need the environment! You really should spend less time on the computer and blogging and more time watching important TV stuff like Star Trek!

    Simply, we will in the future just need to speak to a computer and the food of choice will appear. Secondly, if we ever need to get back to nature we simply move on down to the holographic deck and recreate nature there…

    I am being facetious but making a valid point! People generally do not care and this is reflected in the Native American saying. People will only care once it is too late and then we are in real trouble.


    Nice article…for me the most important issue is the often overwhelming scope of the problems being faced by Indonesia. This is not to suggest that they can never be overcome and not to suggest that Indonesia cannot become a modern democratic State with significant international influence, but what is important is recognizing these problems and coming up with a comprehensive long-term strategy to overcome them.

    Unfortunately, you are right that the government is currently more interested in distraction that action. This will see the sovereignty, economic, race, and religion cards played more often in order to distract. Yet, if the government is successful in doing this then they have good PR people working for them or the media is complicit in the deception…not sure that I wanna make a call on that one!

    Good weekend to all!

  5. GJ says:


    You are absolutely correct!!

    Indonesia and Indonesians need a strong , free and I would add fearless press to hold the elected official accountable. Im not sure when or if that will happen though….sad.

    Well done.

  6. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Adik Rima Yth,

    As a Pancasilaist, I don’t think our officials would do anything like you say. They all take Pancasila as well. Two points:

    1. Please don’t show ke-barat-baratan thinking — as an Indonesian you will know we value consensus and reaching collective agreement, not the confrontationalist style of the West, which has brought colonization and immorality.

    2. Also, your comments suggest the P-4 education, has failed, which I know as a true Indonesian you couldn’t mean to say.

    I thank you.

  7. rima says:

    Dear Mas Achmad,

    You seem to be wither living in the past or are wishful thinking.

    Pancasila is an excellent foundation for the country, consensus and reaching collective agreement is an ideal way to solve most problems, however, neither has been practiced lately (and by lately i mean the last decade or so).

    If by caring about internal problems we are facing, spotting dead on what’s been happening and voicing my concerns make be seem kebarat-baratan (westernized) to people, so be it.

    I have no apologies and nor do I have regrets about it, because at this time it is clear that being ketimur-timuran (eastern) which sometimes verge on being submissive and accepting of all things bad doesn’t work.

    P4 education has failed, had it not, we won’t be in such deep sh*t.

    No, mas, I thank you.

  8. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Mbak Rima Yth,

    But I fear that your cynicism is really just part of the Western media-controlled effort to get us to forget the spirit of ’45.

    Friend, no one who has taken Pancasila education would put their own interests before those of the country. It is impossible, like the laws of physics.

    Friend, the officials, pegawati negeri, who every day go to work in their uniform, and who (used) to wear the Garuda batik every 17th of every month are working hard to realize freedom for every Indonesian.

    Friend, I am sad, when you, who should be part of the generasi penerus (generation to continue the revolution), falls prey to the scheming of the Bules who want Indonesia to break up so they can control its natural resources.

    Perhaps you should study Pancasila again ?

  9. rima says:

    Mas Achmad,

    wow, you make Pancasila seem almost communistic.

    Better to be woken up and to smell the coffee although it will make me appear as a cynic, rather than creating a hallucinatory world of one’s own, where one would believe the government officials a.k.a pegawai negeri are actually working for the country and people instead of fattening their own bank accounts – although to be completely honest, there is a tiny minority who are poor idealist fools, my dear daddy included.

    You and your conspiracy theory here sound like an FPI sympathizer, no, like a government official who sympathizes FPI…
    soaring food prices –> it’s the americans’ tactic to weaken the Indonesian people!
    growing intolerance within the people –> it’s the zionist’s devide et impera strategy to break indonesians and weaken them!
    country in deep sh*t –> must be the result of the bules’ devices to break up the country and people in order to control the natural resources.
    Everybody and anybody else is ok to blame, for it could not possibly be the fault of the Indonesians themselves, could it?

    The government and some of the people are doing a good enough job of ruining the country without the help of the americans/zionist/bules. Although I do not agree with the first “sila” of Pancasila, I was at the top of my Pancasila class, no need to re-take it, thank you very much.

  10. indahs says:

    1. Please don’t show ke-barat-baratan thinking “” as an Indonesian you will know we value consensus and reaching collective agreement, not the confrontationalist style of the West, which has brought colonization and immorality.

    Friend, I am sad, when you, who should be part of the generasi penerus (generation to continue the revolution), falls prey to the scheming of the Bules who want Indonesia to break up so they can control its natural resources.

    Achmad, your statements sound like to justify the earlier propaganda by Asian leaders in regards to promoting Asian values to against “western constructed” of human rights. Amartya Sen stated the argument of Asian values is being used for justification of authoritarian political arrangements in Asia in promoting economic success. Former Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahatir Muhammad had been forthright in arguing that the adoption of western concepts of human rights will undermine economic development by increasing the price of labour and undermining Asian economies’ comparative advantage that has been recognized as cheap unskilled labour and the practice of child labour in informal sector.

    And that makes me wonder why these comparative advantages under grounds of development and cultural relativism seemed to become the loss to development? Just a critical thought. Sorry if this is out of topic’s discussion related to the article.

    Rima – well packaged article. Congrats!

  11. Mauve says:

    Way to go, Rima. Absolutely stunning article.

  12. M.F says:

    Friend, I am sad, when you, who should be part of the generasi penerus (generation to continue the revolution), falls prey to the scheming of the Bules who want Indonesia to break up so they can control its natural resources.

    If the scheming of Bules meaning I can speak my mind, have the real freedom and can say how Indonesian Government has failed me many times, and not just accepting everything, then I am in!

    @ Rima: Keep up the great work.

  13. janma says:

    Achmad is a true talent at ‘wagging the dog’…. LOL
    Great article Rima….. Loved it.

  14. PrimaryDrive says:

    Indonesia has lots of “real” problems, the two most serious ones are actually:

    2. Existing decision making instruments are hopelessly incompetent and ineffective. They are crucial for planning solutions and for allocating needed resources. No other real problem can be solved without effective instruments.

    1. The majority of population are naive; in election they go for popular choices rather than sensible ones. This eliminates the ability to solve problem 2.

    Hence, it is a hopeless situation. Solution? Plenty, if we have infinite time. But none within immediate future. Sadly time maybe something Indonesia does not have: e.g. how to secure energy supply, and food supply, as these two seem to get more expensive by day. We have over 200 millions people to feed, who all want to see expanding economy, for which we need more and more fuels…

  15. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    @ Rima,

    Yes ! Yes ! Yes ! and…No.

    Yes ! — there are forces at work trying to divide and break up Indonesia because they do not want to see the triumph of the brown man, who values peace, justice, and compassion, unlike the Bule, who tries to dominate.

    Yes ! — there is a conspiracy to divide and rule — you said it, not me. Achmad is not racist or does not wish to stereotype racial groups, but it cannot be denied some people have a vested interest in the downfall of an Islamic democracy.

    Yes ! — The Americans are jacking up rice prices to weaken Indonesia so we will allow in Western corporations to dominate our natural resouces.

    No ! — No, friend. Pancasila is the way forward. Taking tests is one thing — but did you really menjiwaithe Pancasila ? Did it reach your bones, friend ?

    I commend you for studying the Pancasila at school, but recommend you take a wiser approach to the depictions of Indonesian officials who are working hard to advance justice and prosperity.

    Achmad Sudarsono.

  16. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    P.S. — I hope you are not one of those tank-top wearing girls, who smoke, drink, and dugem in Jakarta (ajeb ! ajeb ! ajeb !), instead of attending to their home duties. Every time I go out to places like Stadium, Blok M, and even Dragonfly and Red Square — I see the evidence of keruntuhan moral (moral collapse)>.

  17. Lairedion says:


    I had some doubts on your soft approach lately but it’s good to see you’re back at your very best. 🙂

  18. rima says:

    @ Achmad
    There are other developed, successful countries without Pancasila as the basis. I cant possibly say that I thik Pancasila is the only way for, using your words, the way forward. Why, just the first sila: Ketuhanan yang maha Esa – One true God, is discriminatory against the Hindus and their multiple Gods. Along with everything else, Pancasila needs serious makeover.

    I commend you for studying the Pancasila at school, but recommend you take a wiser approach to the depictions of Indonesian officials who are working hard to advance justice and prosperity.

    Like I said, I will not deny there is a small minority of officials who are idealist enough and are actually trying to better the country, but their efforts are tarnished and blocked by the majority that are assholes.

    At the moment in Brussels there are members of the DPR who are here to ‘visit’ the Belgian Parliament, for what I do not know. But according to reliable sources (who are actually with them most days of their visits) they are here for plesiran or a vacation.

    They are not doing anything, they are expecting all to be taken care of the the Embassy and last night, one of the Embassy vans had engine trouble, so the Embassy had to send another two sedans to pick them up for a dinner at the Embassy building, thrown in honor of their arrival. Several of them, upset like little children, refused to go even though two other cars were sent anyway. One of the many examples of our exemplary government officials, and I have seen many like this, not only from DPR but also from various departments.

    PS: I am a woman, who does not smoke, drink wear tanktops unless it’s in the scorching summer heat and go dugem here or Jakarta. Even if I was, it is irrelevant. Now you are sounding like a condescending sexist, I hope it’s not the real you.

    PPS: Evidence of moral collapse could simply be seen from the government and (like PrimaryDrive said) the hopelessly incompetent (corrupt) and ineffective existing decision making instruments taking advantage of the naive majority of the population, not from young girls in tank tops enjoying their youth and having fun after a day’s work. These poor girls are not the enemy, people with your way of thinking is the enemy.
    Janma is right, you are quite good of ‘wagging the dog’, unfortunately, with me you are definitely barking up the wrong tree.

  19. Cukurungan says:

    Rima says:
    the government creates distractions and the media willingly participate, to hide the real problems of Indonesia.

    Me :

    It is only a sick statement from a sick person because there is no bullsxxxit media distractions at all, we can see everyday in TV and other media about gizi buruk and many other bad things and
    there is also many government action to control the foods price and manything to ensure the needs of wong cilik is fulfilled but your sick eyes only can grab a news about Ahmadiyah banning and then you concluded as government distractions toward the real issues.

    If you need medications,
    I am the master healer even my real name is “Heart Healer” .

  20. Keke says:

    @ Cukurungan
    Maybe you should use your real name then, it’s a lot more nicer than Cukurungan

  21. therry says:

    Oh my God, look, there are people who still believe in the Indonesian government!

    “there is also many government action to control the foods price and manything to ensure the needs of wong cilik is fulfilled”

    many thing? what many thing? there is also action? what action? exactly what, if you care to specify? elaborate, perhaps? but wait! maybe you should go and check your grammar first before you want to comment in English – fugly grammar does not make an intelligent impression, you know.

    have there been any actions regarding the Bali bombings? Everyone wants to see Amrozi dead but he’s still alive. Oooh don’t tell me the government is keeping him alive to dig up more information – I mean, how much time do they really need?

    what about the May 98 riots and the many women being raped? In case you have absolutely no clue as to what I’m on about, do you want me to provide the links of the images of mutilated bodies for you to see? What ever happened to those sick twisted criminals who gang-raped women all day all night in front of their whole families? How do you feel if one of those women happened to we your wife/sister/daughter?

    Perhaps Cukurungan is the one in need of heavy meds to keep him permanently hallucinated with this so-called just and fair government system that is keeping the lives and wellbeing of the Indonesian nation.

  22. PrimaryDrive says:


    At the moment in Brussels there are members of the DPR who are here to ‘visit’ the Belgian Parliament, for what I do not know. But according to reliable sources (who are actually with them most days of their visits) they are here for plesiran or a vacation. They are not doing anything, they are expecting all to be taken care of the the Embassy

    What I never understand is why the Embassies put up with that kind of things. Visits by e.g. DPR members should be financed by DPR’s own budget. It would be utterly non-transparant to put the bills of every visiting official to the Embassy. This is probably a typical Indonesian tradition; another one which is impossibly naive.

    So you’re in Brussel then?

  23. rima says:

    Embassies put up with such things because:
    a. it has always been this way. pejabats from indonesia must always be ‘serviced’ my the embassies. it’s just the way it is.
    b. the ambassadors need people to spread the word that he is competent/accommodating/hospitable (DPR members have quite an influence for the careers of members of the indonesian ministries, or projects/businesses)
    c. the diplomats are as bad as the other govt officials, most times visits from home-based officials are like harvest time. what do you mean, you say? well, it’s a chance to ask for money for things they claim to be related to the visits, while in fact it goes to their own pockets. side job-lah..

    Their visit is actually using DPR’s budget (the country’s money) but we all know how little these DPR members make each month, right (notice the heavy sarcasm here), well, they need to be resourceful and they try not to spend their uang perjalanan dinas (official trip allowance) that should have been enough for the trip, meal, hotel and even for presents to bring back to their families. But nooo.. it’s never enough, so they will also ask the Embassies to help them with transportation, foot restaurant bills and so on.

    so many disgusting practices alike over the years, and i see it with my own eyes, so it’s not hearsay.

    Yes i’m in brussels.

  24. pj_bali says:


    A very well written article. You have managed so far to bring out the best comments I have read here in some time. Even Achmad has returned to vintage mode.

    Look forward to reading more of your stuff.

  25. Enigmatic says:

    Great article there Rima,

    And I can’t agree more. Let’s face it. The media is money-hungry and Indonesian media is definitely no exception. And guess what, sex sells newspapers. Hence the extensive coverage on the anti-porn bill and not forgetting, the hyped up talks about the so-called female chastity locks which keep chastity in and cocks out. Pardon the vulgar language, I just need some sex content to keep interests up.

    PS: Guess what the story is featured in many newspapers in Singapore and even Channel News Asia!! Indonesia, you are famous!! Trust me, when I heard this report on the bus, the Malay lady sitting next to me was laughing her arse off. Shows the ridiculity of the Indonesians at times that even I am embarassed of. And of course, since these newspapers bought the news from Indonesia, it again shows how the money-hungry media is just that greedy.

    How sad.

  26. rima says:

    timdog, janma, mauve, M.F, Indahs: thanks for the encouraging words. i will try and keep this up, if this isn’t the peak of the success of my writing attempts already lol

    rob, i am well aware of the wide scope of problems we have. it’s like ‘benang kusut’ or messy ball of string. it’s very hard to know where to start. But i refuse to be a pessimist cynic, i choose to be an optimist one so i am sure there is a solution and someone or some group will stand up and start changing things.

    GJ, sooner later than later I hope. The younger generation are starting to be brave enough to brake the mold, to voice their concerns and to bring different opinions to the plate. Hopefully in the coming years, more and more will rise and help educate the people. and the media? for this we have to wait and see.

    primarydrive, i absolutely agree with you on all counts. and it is scary to know how we are running out of time but nobody in power are realizing how dangerous the situation is for the our sustainable future.

    cukurungan, of course there are reportages on tv/media about gizi buruk and such, but stories like that don’t sell and normally end up in the scrolling text or a minor addition to the ‘more exciting’ news. remember the pregnant woman who died of hunger? people were upset about that, and then not long after that, the RUU ITE made its debut, making people forget all about the previous. focus are shift elsewhere. the government are smart that way. but if you call me sick and have clumsily concluded based only on the ahmadiyya bans, well it’s up to you, isn’t it. nobody can please everybody.

    therry, what you wrote, it’s exactly what i was thinking of. the government tend to sweep all dirt under the rug while it brews into a monstrous of a giant problem. they simply cannot deal with and fix problems immediately, selalu di pending. ibarat luka di dengkul, udah parah cuma dikasih obat merah dan diplester. dikira udah cukup. padahal lama lama infeksi terus bernanah .. eh tau2 busuk, gak ada jalan lain, akhirnya tuh kaki harus diamputasi.

    pj_bali: thanks. i am new to IM so i have not had the privilege to read the previous better comments. but i’m glad you seem to have fun reading my and achmad’s banter lol.

    enigmatic: it’s embarrassing to be famous for something so silly. but it seems the government doesnt care.. but then again, they say any publicity is good, no? :p

  27. Marisa says:

    Well written article, mbak..

    Forgive me for not stating an opinion concerning the point at issue though, I’ve just returned home from what Achmad said as “ajeb! ajeb! ajeb!”, so.. I’m just here to show some support.

    Thanks for writing, and I will surely look forward for your next commentaries here.

  28. M.F says:

    This is just getting weird, what this thing got to do with tank top? And what is woman’s home duties anyway. I am afraid to say but I think I have to agree with Ms. Rima that you started sounded sexist, Mr. Achmad.

    If Pancasila (in your version) required us as women to not smoking, drinking or wearing tank top, then I myself will choose to stay away, not because I love smoking or drinking just because I don’t like being ruled in such sexist and unfair way.

    I don’t see all things you mentioned above as part of Keruntuhan Moral, wanna know more obvious facts? Look at the corruption, or how the government try to ruin the freedom of speech in Indonesia, and how some people seemed admired that kind of government. THAT iss what I called Keruntuhan Moral.

    Sorry to Rima if the comments now is getting out of topic but can’t help for not saying anything about it.

  29. Rob says:

    In addition to being a ukuele playing poet, dangdut singer, and a whole range of other things Achmad is also a professional fisherman!

    He baits the line and then casts it out into the big sea of IM and see who bites…he is a person of some intellect, he is well read, and often very reasoned in the comments that he posts, but he is baiting you all into a response and you all dutifully comply!

    Kudos to Achmad for his ability and obvious skills in doing this.

    My guess is that Achmad is really a white bloke, probably an apologist for all things related to the colonial past of Indonesia, playing the devil’s advocate by masquerading as someone else!

    I do not have a problem with the use by Achmad of a pseudonym as in this particular case he contributes constructively to the debate and enlivens the debate. However, some others merely use their pseudonym to hide whilst espousing any old unsubstantiated crap that they can think of!

    Achmad, at least, allows the forum to address the issues in considering a real and reasoned alternative interpretation. I do not always agree with the bloke but enjoy the lively debate. And perhaps one day I will know who he is besides being the world famous ukuele playing poet and dangdut singer, because I am pretty sure he does not do those things for a living!

    Good weekend to all!

  30. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    All my friend,

    All this talk of ukuele players masquerading as Bules, and the torchbearers of democracy acting like cewek materei (materialistic women), it’s like a cinetron, or an episode of Dono, Kasino, Indro.

    Mbak Rima Yth,

    Women can wear tank top if she wants, but better if it is under her duster or jilbab. If she goe to the ajeb-ajeb place she will not be able to perform her home duties — Mbak Marisa is probably sleeping now after her ajeb-ajebing.


    DPR member sounds like a good job. Do you have any suggestion for party I should join ? I was thinking PKS, but have to get up at 4 a.m. In addition to my three wives, I have a string of mistresses, (dangdut singer, pembantu etc), that need hand phones and jewelry. I hear the mining commission is the most “wet” or “basah”

    Can you make a recommendation ?

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