Don’t Make Me Quote MLK Jr

Social media outbreaks followed the demonstration that took place on October 8th, 2020 in regards to the passing of the RUU Cipta Kerja. The mixed responses left many confused and feeling unsure. Whilst official press conferences were held, a lot of the footage being used on mainstream media that day came from what felt like endless rolls of violence being recorded — among others, particularly the notorious bus station situation. Many rushed to their preferred platforms and started sharing their thoughts revolving around the day’s events. Of these people, quite a significant number vocalized with anger against the protestors whilst attaching a photo of the burnt-down property. This sequence of events was due to the narrative that was in the media’s interest for convenience, paired with bandwagoning anger that came from a place that lacks the eagerness to question. The danger lies within this comfort and for how long this comfort remains untouched.

“Morons. How is this supposed to prove a point? This is full-blown anarchism, not a demonstration that will call for change. RIP Indonesia’s economy” — a friend with 23.5k followers on Instagram. “The recession is in front of our eyes”, said another friend on Instagram. Both of these captions were posted on their respective Instagram stories with photos of the bus station burning down attached. Of the many points to highlight, I would like to reiterate the backlash of the protests proving that the bus stop is seemingly, of more value than people’s livelihoods to people who are sitting comfortably behind their phone screens. Straw-manning arguments online to boast intellect only makes it harder for those affected.

People want to hear what they want to hear. When “hard facts” are bombarded your way (especially when thrown your way by familiar and credible sources), it’s very easy to digest. Numbers, footage, things you can see and easily describe. This is what makes it so convenient to say, “Ah yes! That is definitely a bus station being burnt down! This will cost money to repair”. Which factually, is true. However, the problem arises when these narratives get blown out of proportion as they don’t require much thinking, and are, therefore easy to agree with. Absorbing things at face value and going on to exacerbate the premature conclusions we’ve arrived at is what further diverts the narrative away from the main point being argued.

Whether or not we are to agree with vandalism being a successful means of protest or not, we have to realize the extent to which things get blown out of proportion. Successfully so, due to it feeding into our biases. In my understanding, successful revolutions happen through violence and strong protest. Under a corrupt system, the diplomatic approach has time and time again been tossed aside — as they either have no mark of significance or are not in the interest of the power holders. We can try to educate for hours upon hours on media literacy, hoping for a significant part of it to get absorbed by the audience. But we can also try to remind ourselves, and others, to question why we feel a certain way about certain things. What position are we in when observing a situation? Question our habit of sitting in comfort which provides us the ability to close our ears.


Jackson, K. C. (2011, May 11). Violence in Political History: The Challenges of Teaching about the Politics of Power and Resistance: Perspectives on History: AHA. Retrieved from

Smith, W. B., Blake Smith Blake Smith is a historian of European interactions with South Asia and a postdoctoral fellow at the European University Institute. His essays regularly appear on, Smith, B., Blake Smith is a historian of European interactions with South Asia and a postdoctoral fellow at the European University Institute. His essays regularly appear on, & Magazine, P. B. (2017, November 12). The Problems of “Privilege”: Lessons from the French Revolution. Retrieved from

(2019, January 03). Retrieved October 29, 2020, from