Palace claim that buzzers are an unavoidable part of democracy questioned

CNN Indonesia – September 3, 2020
Protester holds banner opposing Omnibus Law on Job Creation – Undated (Today)

Jakarta – Arif Susanto, a political analyst from the think tank Exposit Strategic, has criticised Presidential Chief of Staff Expert Donny Gahral Adian who said recently that buzzers are an unavoidable part of democracy.

“It it totally wrong to see the role of buzzers as being part of digital actors transforming democracy. They are in fact parasites who take advantage of freedoms and destroy democracy”, Susanto told CNN Indonesia in an SMS message on Thursday September 3.

Susanto is of the view that democracy should be filled with critical discourse. Buzzers meanwhile, he said, only influence public opinion in a manipulative way and thus erode critical thinking.

He said that these efforts to influence public opinion by buzzers generally succeeds in influencing people who are less information literate and tend to be emotional and irrational.

According to Susanto, the government in this case should endeavour to enlighten the public through digital literacy instead of utilising the buzzer phenomena for political gain.

Susanto cited the case of the Draft Omnibus Law on Job Creation as one example. The Omnibus Law has been the subject of widespread criticism, particularly from labour groups.

“Instead of holding a discourse, the government utilises the services f buzzers to manipulate people to gain public support”, he said accusingly.

Susanto said that the use of buzzers in this context can be viewed as undemocratic. Even more so if it is accompanied by efforts to intimidate people which oppose the Omnibus Law.

Susanto explained that the use of influencers or buzzers is generally known to be for commercial goals. But in the political context, he believes that there are larger ethical consequences because it concerns public issues.

In a political context, influencers play a role of spreading positive news in order to garner political support. Of late however, he said, the role of influencers has been similar to buzzers.

“Their role is to propagandise information through manipulating the emotional and irrational aspect in programmed propaganda. This manipulative aspect is basically the activity of buzzers, to exert control over information which is circulating”, he said.

He said that buzzers generally conceal their aims and identity when promoting propaganda. They often spread fake news to legitimise the ideas being articulated.

Earlier, Adian said that the use of buzzers cannot be avoided and represents an effect of democracy. According to Adian buzzers are not very different from spokespeople employed by the government.

According to Adian, if there are those who defend an opinion or policy buzzers will defiantly emerge to counter this. This applies for those in power as well as the opposition.

He asserted however that buzzers who have often attacked people [that are critical of the government] have no relationship with the government. He suspects that these buzzers are in fact aligned with the government opposition or private sector.

“Buzzers are a category below influencers, their position is only to justify, defend to the very end. This I think is an unavoidable effect of democracy”, said Adian when he appeared as a speaker during a virtual discussion held by the University of Indonesia Alumni Association on Wednesday September 2. (fey/pmg)


A study issued by Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) found that the Widodo administration had spent Rp 90.4 billion (US$6 million) since its first term in office on goods and services procurement containing the word “influencers” in the documents.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Pengamat Nilai KSP Keliru, Buzzer Justru Merusak Demokrasi”.]