Donald Trump’s success in winning the US presidential election has inspired Prabowo Subianto, the Indonesian presidential candidate with campaign number 02. Prabowo’s style of campaign and strategy is similar to what Trump did two years ago, such as leading people to no longer trust the mass media, spreading pessimism, and using incorrect data.
Prabowo’s statement during a speech at an event commemorating International Disability Day in Jakarta on Wednesday (12/5) reaped a polemic. He accused the mass media and journalists of lying and manipulating democracy. “They [journalists] are henchmen of people who want to destroy Indonesia,” he said.
The statement is actually a manifestation of Prabowo’s protest against the mass media, which is considered to be less responsive to the ‘Reuni 212’ issue. He assumed that many mass media did not cover the event. However, Tirto.id research team noted that dozens of print media making coverage for the event. The news even reached a fantastic number of up to 159 news titles on printed media the next day. All of the news framing was almost the same with positive tone.
Prabowo also accused journalists of not being objective and asked the public not to trust the mass media anymore. He said he would no longer acknowledge the journalists who covered him. He was even reluctant to be interviewed by a number of journalists who were waiting for him after the Wednesday’s event.
Prabowo’s stance that seemed to insult the mass media and the journalist profession is actually nothing new in the political arena. Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) Director Sirojudin Abbas said Donald Trump had done the same thing when he became a candidate for president in the US Presidential Election in 2016.
When competing with Hillary Clinton, Trump had accused various mainstream media of spreading false news, including CNN, NBS, and the New York Times. These mass media were considered not independent, so they were forbidden to cover Trump’s press conference. “I think he [Prabowo] learned it from Donald Trump. What Trump did was clearly demeaning and humiliating mainstream media,” Sirojudin told Katadata.co.id on Thursday (12/6).
According to Sirojudin, Prabowo used the practice of accusing the mass media of dominating the conversation and directing public opinion. In this way, the presidential candidate, who once served as commander of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus), could convince the public that he is a victim of a conspiracy carried out by non-neutral mass media. This tactic is expected to be able to attract public sympathy and increase his electability. Sirojudin said Prabowo has carried out this strategy since the beginning of his campaign.
Prabowo Subianto greeted his supporters after registering as presidential candidate in Jakarta on Friday (08/10). (ARIEF KAMALUDIN | KATADATA)
Before the opening of the 2019 presidential election contest, Indo Barometer Executive Director M Qodari in April had predicted that Prabowo would emulate Trump’s campaign style. At the time, Qodari saw a same strategy between the two in contrasting the lower classes with the upper class and spreading pessimism.
During the US Presidential Election in 2016, Trump played the issue of inequality in his country. He also tried to spread fear that the US was under foreign threats, such as China, the threat of Islam, and Mexican migrant workers. “The interesting thing in Donald Trump’s case is that what he said was not always true. What’s important is that people hear it. The more controversial, the better,” Qodari said.
This strategy is similar to what Prabowo did. In his speech at the end of March 2018, Prabowo utilised the forecast that Indonesia would disband in 2030. This refers to a novel written by two US political and policy experts. Prabowo also accused many elite officials in Indonesia of being ignorant, possessing thief mentality, and being unfaithful to their people.