Wang Lee Hom Saga - How You can Stop Pop Stars and Politicians from Manipulating the Media

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While many are still stunned by the exposé of Wang Lee Hom’s multiple infidelities by his former wife Lee Jing Lei, it is worth reflecting on why influential pop stars can manipulate the media to influence public opinion easily.  

There are 2 media manipulation tactics observed: 

  • To build a “talented family man” image that favours Wang for 26 years, his company used the media to amplify information that fitted the image, whilst cracking down on news that reveal his bad habits.
  • In face of a public row, Wang referred to Lee by her former Japanese name. This is claimed by Lee to trigger hatred (towards the Japanese) among netizens in order to control the tide of online discussions.


Parallel between Wang and Politicians  

In light of increasing media crackdowns and the lack of social media regulation, politicians can easily exploit oppressive laws, cybertroopers, bots and more to create biased news or comments to spread propaganda or divert the public’s attention from important issues. For example, to divert attention from the mismanagement of Covid 19, former President of the United States Donald Trump claimed Covid 19 to be a ‘Chinese Flu’ and shifted blame to the WHO. In Malaysia, after more than 100,000 Malaysians took to the streets after the 1MDB scandal, the then government played the race card and frame the event as a ‘Chinese rally’ to topple the government to muddle public discussions.  Experts also alleged that the employment of Mocha Uson—who has 5 million followers on Facebook— was meant to spread disinformation and gloss over the extrajudicial killings by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. 

In response to such media manipulation, we need to: 

  • raise greater public awareness that fabricated political topics are political tools meant to distract people from holding those in power accountable. Do not react to such issues. Instead, direct the discussions back to important issues such as tackling corruption, Covid 19, extrajudicial killings and more.
  • advocate for more media and social media reforms to regulate problematic content. Reforms can range from removing oppressive laws against media and introducing sustainable measures such as independent panels, to keeping social media companies accountable by improving their fact-checking mechanisms and their community standards.

With greater media literacy and media reforms in place, we can collectively create a better media environment that promotes healthier discussions.

Published in South China Morning Post: