Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Can it ever be right to bully a 10-year-old boy?

If the boy in question is a statue of Barack Obama in a central Jakarta park, then the answer seems to be yes.

A Facebook group campaigning for the removal of the recently-erected statue has already attracted more than 10,000 members.

When the statue's backers hatched their plan to build a statue of the one-time Jakarta resident to inspire Indonesian children to push on to better things, I doubt they could have foreseen such a backlash. The opponents believe it's wrong to have a statue of an American in a Jakarta public park - especially as there are so many local heroes who could have been commemorated there.

It's a sign of how politicised Indonesian society has become. No act here is without its political symbolism. That makes Indonesia a pretty turbulent place but it also means that people care about politics and that's vital for any society that wants to develop.

I'm heading down to the park tomorrow to do a story on the backlash so if you want to suggest any questions that I should ask local residents, feel free to post in the comments or drop me an email.



  1. Ben,

    Does the average persona walking past the statue feel it's a positive sign of hope? Could be a vocal minority on Facebook. Don't know if the statue is about any sort of politics at all? More a small town boy that's gone on to big achievements? If Obama's autobiography is to be believed his mother was involved in a number of welfare causes in Indonesia. Small contribution maybe but is this remembered at all? Maybe there should be a statue of Obama's mum...she obviously did a descent job

  2. What I'd like to know is whether that Facebook guy is representative of opinion round that park. I think the media is reacting more to the Facebook element of the story, since it's novel and all that. If it weren't for Facebook, global media wouldn't have noticed. There was another anti-Obama protest today, in Yogyakarta, which didn't receive as much attention. This guy made a caricatured sculpture of Obama and paraded it around that city supposedly as a protest of O getting the Nobel.
    And another thing I'd like to know is would it have made a difference had Obama been a Muslim.

  3. Thanks for the questions.

    I agreed that journalists do tend to overstate the importance of Facebook and Twitter campaigns, partly because they are reasonably new arrivals but also because it's much cheaper to cover a Facebook revolt form your desk than it is to spend hours pounding the streets.