If there’s one thing we can all agree on when it comes to the Al-Jazeera video titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” is that it caused a major divide in our country, with both ends of the spectrum furious and frustrated.
It has been weeks since the video was uploaded yet tensions are still at an all-time high, especially on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Fights have ensued online and even trickled its way into real life when Al-Jazeera journalists started getting harassed and sent death threats by angered Malaysians. Numerous activists have also been bombarded with vitriol, most notably Refuge for Refugee founder, Heidy Quah, who has not only received an onslaught of hate from the community but has also been questioned by authorities for her involvement with the migrants.
Just when the situation was beginning to subside, a video by Dr. Dustin Pfundheller a.k.a ‘Other Side of the Truth’ was uploaded onto Youtube. The title of the video was “Top 15 Mistakes in ‘Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown’ video by Al-Jazeera.” As you probably already know, this video rekindled the fire and allowed for more polarising and harmful statements to be said and shared over the internet.
Top 15 Mistakes in Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown video by Al Jazeera
Video: Dr Dustin Pfundhelle “Other Side Of The Truth”
— BERNAMA TV 🇲🇾 (@BernamaTV) July 15, 2020
National news agency, Bernama, even shared Pfundheller’s video on their Twitter account, spreading his argument about what Al-Jazeera did wrong, to a wider audience. Many were left dumbfounded by how quickly certain politicians accepted the video by Pfundheller and another viral video by a business traveller praising Malaysia’s handling of the pandemic, despite the fact that they were both made by Westerners who have limited understanding of Malaysia and its intricacies.
Speculation began to circle Twitter as people noticed that the videos were being shared and praised by mostly middle-aged Caucasian men who tend to romanticise Malaysia without seeing its deeply-rooted flaws. Naturally, some concerned netizens took it upon themselves to investigate these people and to find out whether they were sincere in their videos or they were just using our misfortunes to gain views.
The reason I say this is because Pfundheller’s channel thrives on making Malaysian-related content as seen in the screenshot below, where his other videos barely reach more than 2k views while his Malaysian videos reach more than 200k views.
Recently, DG Noor Hisham’s attempt to change the narrative by sharing a video from online entrepreneur, Darren Cronian, who previously travelled across the world to eat a plate of Malaysian nasi lemak, backfired after netizens found Cronian’s past tweets that showed a lack of respect towards the Malaysian community.
I’m fed up of people telling me to have a mask and travel with hand sanitiser. Do I look like an idiot? I’m more worried about the lack of hygiene of others. Like locals spitting in the streets, coughing fits on MRT without mask. People not washing their hands at the toilets..
— Darren Cronian (@remotedarren) March 13, 2020
Due to this, people were becoming increasingly curious about Pfundheller’s past, so one Twitter user by the name of @jiavernn applied her investigative skills to dig-up his past so Malaysians will truly know the person behind those praises.
Since Mr. Pfundheller seems to love doing “extensive research” on Malaysia (albeit getting our laws wrong) I thought I’ll spend my leave days returning the favor <3
Dr. Dustin Pfundheller, better known as Dusty back home, is a 34yo who holds 2 degrees (Maths + Dentistry) https://t.co/BkqqOdDzcS
— jvee (@jiavernn) July 15, 2020
She started off by introducing him as Dusty, his pet name back in the U.S., and stating that he holds two degrees, neither of them related to politics, law or social science. In fact, Pfundheller is a dentist with an additional Maths degree.
She then revealed that Pfundheller spent his time travelling the world in search of happiness after his girlfriend dumped him. A disturbing revelation that substantiates Pfundheller’s romanticisation came from an article written about him, where he confesses his attraction towards “exotic” locals due to their eagerness to speak to him just because he was an American tourist.
Furthermore, Jia Vernn pointed out Pfundheller’s hypocrisy by highlighting a quote by him that implies he would rather “get to know the locals,” because “those residents are the true face of a country and not what the media often chooses to publish.” This was interesting considering the fact that he learned most of his facts about Malaysia through media sites–as mentioned in his rebuttal to Al-Jazeera.
Ironically, Pfundheller has also been to jail, or ‘locked-up’ if you will, when he was travelling in Africa, though the reason is unknown. This was his recount of the event:
“Five people were staying in a jail cell. No bed, just a wet floor. No pillows. A bucket was used to go to the bathroom. At first, I was afraid of the other African men in the same jail cell as me. I was wrong because they turned out to be really nice and friendly to me. They treated me like a VIP in that jail cell.”
That’s rich, especially since the authorities immediately released him after finding out he was American. It sounds like he didn’t actually get to experience the “local” way of life despite boasting about being so close to them before.
He flouted his white privilege yet again when he went to Syria and North Korea, both in dire conditions, and said,
“I went to Syria during the crisis and found out what I saw in the news was completely wrong and that all my Syrian friends were super happy and loving life. Even in North Korea – I saw many happy people enjoying life – something I discovered when I made local friends there.”
He has shown his ignorance many times especially after he praised Israel without any mention of the politics, oppression and war that has been going on for decades. So, why should we listen to his opinions on Malaysia again?
With that said, this shows the importance of doing background checks on the people whose messages we decide to amplify and disseminate to our community. In this case, both Westerners who have been used as messengers were completely unreliable and out of touch with the realities of Malaysia, thus proving that many Malaysians are still under the captivity of Western idealisation.
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