Research Methods in Mass Communication

What is research?

Regardless of how the word research is used, it essentially means the same thing: an attempt to discover something. We all do this every day. Research can be very informal, with only a few (or no) specific plans or steps, or it can be formal, where a researcher follows highly defined and exacting procedures. The lack of exacting procedures in informal research does not mean the approach is incorrect, and the use of exacting procedures does not automatically make formal research correct. Both procedures can be good or bad—it depends on how the research is conducted. The important thing for all researchers to understand is the correct methods to follow to ensure the best results.

Research is divided into two major sectors, academic and private, which are sometimes called “basic” and “applied,” respectively, although we do not use these terms in this text because research in both sectors can be basic or applied. The two sectors are equally important and in many cases work together to answer mass media questions.

Research phases in Media

  • Phase 1: The medium itself. There is an interest in the medium itself. What is it? How does it work? What technology does it involve? How is it similar to or different from what we already have? What functions or services does it provide? Who will have access to the new medium? How much will it cost?
  • Phase 2: Uses and users of the medium. Begins once the medium is developed. In this phase, specific information is accumulated about the uses and the users of the medium. How do people use the medium in real life? Do they use it for information only, to save time, for entertainment, or for some other reason? Do children use it? Do adults use it? Why? What gratifications does the new medium provide? What other types of information and entertainment does the new medium replace? Were original projections about the use of the medium correct? What uses are evident other than those that were predicted from initial research?
  • Phase 3: Effects of the medium. Includes investigations of the social, psychological, and physical effects of the medium. How much time do people spend with the medium? Does it change people’s perspectives about anything? What do the users of the medium want and expect to hear or see? Are there any harmful effects related to using the medium? In what way, if any, does the medium help people? Can the medium be combined with other media or technology to make it even more useful?
  • Phase 4: How the medium can be improved. Research is conducted to determine how the medium can be improved, either in its use or through technological developments. Can the medium provide information or entertainment to more types of people? How can new technology be used to perfect or enhance the sight and/or sound of the medium? Is there a way to change the content to be more valuable or entertaining?

One theory of mass media, later named the “hypodermic needle” model of communication, suggested that mass communicators need only “shoot” messages at an audience and those messages would produce pre-planned and almost universal effects. The belief then was that all people behave in similar ways when they encounter media messages. We know now that individual differences among people rule out this overly simplistic view.

Media Research and Scientific Method

Scientific research is an organized, objective, controlled, qualitative or quantitative empirical analysis of one or more variables. The terms that define the scientific research method describe a procedure that has been accepted for centuries. All research, whether formal or informal, begins with a basic question or proposition about a specific phenomenon.

Methods of Knowing

There are several possible approaches in answering research questions. Kerlinger and Lee (2000), using definitions provided nearly a century ago by C. S. Peirce, discuss four approaches to finding answers, or methods of knowing: tenacity, intuition, authority, and science.

  • Method of Tenacity: true because it is always true (ex. I don’t believe advertising because my parents said so).
  • Method of Intuition: true because it is self-evidence (ex. A Creative Director uses certain method and always work).
  • Method of Authority: true because an authoritarian person said so.
  • Method of Science: scientific method; definition: “an organized, objective, controlled, qualitative or quantitative empirical analysis of one or more variables”. Scientific method is the standard procedures

Research Procedures

The purpose of the scientific method of research is to provide an objective, unbiased collection and evaluation of data. To investigate research questions and hypotheses systematically, both academic and private sector researchers follow a basic eight-step procedure. However, simply following the eight research steps does not guarantee that the research is good, valid, reliable, or useful. An almost countless number of intervening variables (influences) can destroy even the best-planned research project. The situation is similar to someone assuming he or she can bake a cake by just following the recipe. The cake may be ruined by an oven that doesn’t work properly, spoiled ingredients, altitude, or numerous other variables. The typical research process consists of these eight steps:

  1. Select a problem.
  2. Review existing research and theory (when relevant).
  3. Develop hypotheses or research questions.
  4. Determine an appropriate methodology/research design.
  5. Collect relevant data.
  6. Analyze and interpret the results.
  7. Present the results in an appropriate form.
  8. Replicate the study (when necessary).

Notes: Step 4 includes deciding whether to use qualitative research (such as focus groups or one-on-one interviews) with small samples or quantitative research (such as telephone interviews), in which large samples are used to allow results to be generalized to the population under study. Steps 2 and 8 are optional in the private sector, where some research is conducted to answer a specific and unique question related to a future decision, such as whether to invest a large sum of money in a developing medium. In this type of project, there generally is no previous research to consult, and there seldom is a reason to replicate the study because a decision is made based on the first analysis. However, if the research produces inconclusive results, the study is revised and replicated. 

Each step in the eight-step process depends on all the others to produce a maximally efficient research study. For example, before a literature search is possible, the researcher must have a clearly stated research problem; to design the most efficient method of investigating a problem, the researcher must know what types of studies have been conducted; and so on. In addition, all the steps are interactive—a literature search may refine and even alter the initial research problem, or a study conducted previously by another company or business in the private sector might expedite (or complicate) the current research effort.

Determining Topic Relevance

  • Q1: Is the topic too broad?
  • Q2: Can the problem really be investigated?
  • Q3: Can the data be analyzed?
  • Q4: Is the problem significant?
  • Q5: Can the result of the study be generalized?
  • Q6: What cost and time are involved in the analysis?
  • Q7: Is the planned approach appropriate to the project?
  • Q8: Is there any potential harms to the subjects?

Validity in Research Methods

Internal Validity:

The study is investigating the right subjects or variables. “Artifacts” or “confounding variables”

Factors in internal validity:

  1. History: events during study infulence subjects.
  2. Maturation: subjects’ psychological change.
  3. Testing: subject is influenced by the test.
  4. Instrumentation: deterioration during study (“instrument decay”).
  5. Statistical regression: extreme response influences the study result.

External Validity:

The study is using valid methodology and therefore can be generalized.

Factors in external validity:

  1. Experimental mortality
  2. Sample selection
  3. Demand characteristics
  4. Experimenter bias
  5. Evaluation apprehension
  6. Causal time order
  7. Diffusion or imitation of treatments
  8. Compensation
  9. Compensatory rivalry
  10. Demoralization


Pendidikan dan Memasang Lampu di Langit-langit

Saya punya kebiasaan aneh (yang sepertinya juga dilakukan banyak orang) membaca cepat sembari duduk di closet, kamar mandi. Sebuah waktu nan singkat, tetapi begitu efisien digunakan. Biasanya, dalam waktu yang singkat tersebut saya membaca sebuah bab dari buku yang saya miliki. Apapun bukunya. Salah satu yang paling rutin saya baca adalah majalah Tempo. Pagi ini, saya membaca sebuah sub-bab berjudul “March to Modernity” dalam buku “New Asian Hemisphere”, yang ditulis oleh Kishore Mahbubani.

Dalam sub-bab itu dinarasikan bagaimana modernitas begitu didambakan oleh 6,5 miliar orang yang hidup di Asia dan Afrika, dan bagaimana kemiskinan selama ini dirasakan baik oleh Mahbubani, maupun miliaran orang lainnya. Kemiskinan yang disebut Mahbubani sebagai masa ‘pramodern’ dengan indikator tidak adanya ‘flush toilet’, dan barang-barang lain seperti televisi berwarna, kulkas dan mesin cuci di dalam rumahnya.  Barang-barang yang menjadi indikator tersebut memang simbol-simbol dari modernitas, dimana dunia menjadi semakin paralel, dan tangan-tangan manusia yang mengerjakan pekerjaan rumah tangga sekalipun mulai digantikan oleh mesin-mesin.

Ketika banyak kalangan menengah yang berpendidikan begitu menentang televisi karena memiliki kemampuan merusak (bila terjadi kecanduan menonton). Mahbubani justru menganggap kehadiran televisi berwarna dengan tayangan-tayangannya menghadirkan mimpi dan harapan bagi orang-orang yang menyaksikannya, termasuk dirinya sendiri ketika masa mudanya.

Saya kemudian tergelitik dengan sub-bab yang baru saja saya baca, dan mulai berimajinasi. Imajinasi saya tiba-tiba terhubung dengan bagaimana seseorang mengganti lampu yang mati di langit-langit rumahnya, sementara tinggi orang tersebut hanya 160 cm dan tinggi langit-langit rumahnya 220 cm. Tentu ada alat bantu yang akan dibutuhkan untuk orang tersebut melampau selisih tinggi 60 cm antara dirinya dengan langit-langit rumah. Apakah sebuah bangku untuk dipijaknya, meja atau mungkin lebih baik lagi sebuah tangga. Sebentar, lalu apa hubungannya dengan tulisan dari Kishore Mahbubani?

Begini, anggaplah kondisi dimana lampu mati di rumah orang tadi adalah kondisi yang sama dengan kemiskinan. Langit-langit rumah sebagai cakrawala berfikir, atau ilmu pengetahuan di dalam pikiran kita. Ketika, lampu mati tentu terasa tidak ada harapan, bahkan nyala lilin-lilin kecil sekalipun. Lampu (yang juga merupakan simbol modernitas) dalam kondisi menyala saya sejajarkan dengan kondisi dimana seseorang mendapatkan pencerahan. Dapat melihat sekelilingnya dengan lebih baik karena memiliki sesuatu yang menyala di langit-langit rumahnya.

Orang dalam ilustrasi diatas adalah kita, bagian dari 6,5 miliar penduduk Asia dan Afrika. Untuk bisa menyalakan lampu tadi, tentu dibutuhkan alat bantu dalam bentuk apapun. Bagi saya, alat bantu yang saya maksud adalah pendidikan. Semakin tinggi tangga pendidikan yang bisa kita pijak, maka semakin tinggilah capaian pencerahan yang bisa kita capai. Dus, impian yang selama ini hanya ada di depan televisi berwarna tidak lagi sekedar impian. Ketika itulah kemudian modernitas di alam pikiran mampu kita capai. Sebuah modal yang sangat mendasar untuk mendapatkan hidup yang jauh lebih baik.

Tangga seperti juga pijakan lain yang kita gunakan sebagai alat bantu, tentu tidak akan datang begitu saja. Tidak mungkin terjadi di dunia ini, sebuah tangga menghampiri orang yang akan mengganti lampu di rumahnya. Karenanya, kita harus mencari sendiri dengan berusaha. Hal yang sama yang terjadi dengan pendidikan. Kita tidak mungkin tiba-tiba menjadi berwawasan, pasti ada usaha yang dilakukan. Cara yang paling mudah untuk mengawalinya adalah dengan memulai kebiasaan membaca.

Partisipasi dan Representasi

Sejak tahun 2009, kita memiliki 560 Anggota Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, 132 Anggota Dewan Perwakilan Daerah dan ribuan Anggota Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah yang bertugas untuk mewakili 237,641,326 penduduk Indonesia. Setiap Anggota DPR mewakili 424,359 penduduk Indonesia, dan anggota DPD mewakili daerah masing-masing. Seharusnya setiap warga negara yang mengikuti Pemilihan Legislatif memiliki keterikatan kontrak sosial dan politik sebagai pemberi amanah, sebaliknya masing-masing anggota DPR dan DPD sebagai penerima amanah dari pemilih. Artinya, setiap ucapan, sikap, tindakan, dan kebijakan semua anggota DPR dan DPD merupakan representasi dari suara rakyat (konstituen) yang diwakili di masing-masing daerah pemilihan. Begitu yang seharusnya terjadi pada tatanan yang ideal.

Masalahnya, sebelum terpilih, masing-masing Anggota DPR dan DPD mendapatkan modal kampanye yang tidak sedikit dari “pihak yang berkepentingan” yang sebetulnya tidak memiliki hubungan dalam bentuk apapun dengan konstituen daerah pemilihan. Akibatnya, tatanan yang ideal seperti digambarkan pada paragraf pertama hampir mustahil untuk terjadi. Karenanya kemudian kerap terjadi pelanggaran yang dilakukan oleh Anggota DPR dan DPD, tanpa ada reaksi apapun dari publik, selain reaksi negatif terhadap DPR dan DPR secara kelembagaan. Dengan kata lain, bila ada satu anggota DPR/DPD melanggar hukum, maka efek negatif bukan ada pada individu tersebut, tetapi kepada lembaga secara umum.

Dengan kondisi yang demikian jauh dari ideal, DPR yang memiliki fungsi pengawasan pemerintahan dan perancangan UUD tidak memiliki “pengawas kinerja” karena tidak pernah ada kontrak sosial dan politik dengan konstituen, apalagi dengan yang berbeda partai dengan anggota tetapi berasal dari satu daerah pemilihan. Padahal sejatinya, setelah setiap Anggota DPR/DPD terpilih maka yang bersangkutan mewakili daerah pemilihan secara umum (tanpa melihat partainya).

Partisipasi aktif masyarakat atas pembuatan kebijakan begitu penting, karena merekalah pemangku kepentingan yang akan dikenai  imbas langsung atas sebuah kebijakan. Sementara, representasi Anggota DPR atas masyarakat juga begitu penting, karena persoalan mendasar mengenai apapun yang diatur dalam kebijakan sudah dan akan terjadi di masyarakat.

Pertanyaan yang berulang-ulang muncul di kepala saya ketika menulis adalah: apakah Fulan (sebagai anggota masyarakat) tahu siapa yang mewakilinya di DPR dan DPD? apakah Fulan tahu kebijakan-kebijakan apa saja yang diperjuangkan oleh wakilnya di DPR dan DPD? lalu, apakah betul Fulan bisa mengusulkan secara langsung apapun ide positif yang ada di kepalanya kepada wakilnya di DPR dan DPD? Kalau semua jawaban dari 3 pertanyaan itu “tidak”, mungkin ada yang salah dengan sistem representasi di negeri ini. 

Mass Communication Theory: Definitions and Eras

What is Mass Communication?

Mass Communication is “when a source, typically an organization, employs a technology as a medium to communicate with a large audience“. Questions: If you send an email to a “mailing list,” or if you write a note in your blog or facebook, does mass communication occure here? Or if a marketing company sends you a “customized” email, is it a mass communication process?

Most theories will be discussed in the book (“Mass Communication Theory: Foundation, Ferment and Future”, Baran: 2010) were developed before the modern communication revolutions (the internet, etc). New communication technologies enable us to communicate differently from the mass communication “era”. We need to think of mediated communication as existing on a continuum between interpersonal communication and mass communication on the other end.

Today, the number and variety of mass communication theories have steadily increased. More or less independent body of knowledge from the social science and humanities literature, developed by scholars from social sciences (sociology, psychology) and humanities (philosophy, literary analysis). Some theories are grand, some are “small” and specific.

There are 4 major categories in Mass Communication Theory:

  • Postpositivism
    • Positivism: Knowledge can be gained only through empirical, observable, measurable phenomena (physics, chemistry, etc.). Do you think it will be applicable to study a society? Why?
    • Postpositivism: based on empirical observation guided by scientific method, but recognizing the complexity of human behavior. Goals: explanation, prediction and control. Case study: Indonesian political marketing
  • Hermeneutic theory
    • Study of understanding, especially through the systematic interpretation of action or texts. Began as the study or interpretation of the Bible and sacred texts. Goals: To understand how and why a behavior occurs in the social world.
  • Critical theory
    • Theory seeking emancipation and change  in a dominant social order. Starting from the assumption that some aspects of the social world are deeply flawed and in need of transformation. Goals: Transformation of the society. Example: Karl Marx.
  • Normative theory
    • Theory explaining how a media system should operate in order to conform to or realize a set of ideal social values. Goals: to set an ideal standard against which the operation of a given media system can be judged. Commonly used by theoriests interested in press role in democracy.

Four Eras of Media Theory

Theories will be discussed chronologically, so you have a broad and historically grounded perspective on media. It does not mean that theories developed in orderly, chronologically stable way. Also, older theories are not completely obsolete. Newer theories, as radical as it look, for the most part are updated version of old ideas. Notes: These theories were developed in the Western culture context. Are they applicable in non-Western cultures? This is a big question.

  1. The Era of Mass Society and Mass Culture Theory. Begun at the 2nd half of the 19th century. Mass society theory: Perspective on Western, industrial society that attributess an influential but often negative role to media. Media was feared because it was regarded as a threat to the traditional social order. The audience was considered as a passive target of media. Will be discussed later: Gemeinschaft vs. Gesellschaft (Tonnies); mechanical and organic solidarity (Durkheim); propaganda theory; magic bullet theories; normative theories of media; social responsibility theory; etc.
  2. The Emergence of a Scientific Perspective. Starting in 1940s, especially by Paul Lazarsfeld who fled from Nazi Germany to the US. The use of scientific approach, carefully designed field experiment and measurement, to observe media influence on society. “Media were not as powerful as previously imagined” Thus, the effect of media towards the audience is limited. “People had numerous ways of resisting media influence and were influenced by many competing factors”. “Media seemed to reinforce existing social trends and strenghthen rather that threaten the status quo”. We will discuss the studies by Lazarsfeld, Hovland, etc.
  3. The Era of Limited Effects. By the mid-1960, the debate between mass society and limited effects was over, in which the latter gained more support. The empirical research findings confirmed the latter view. Since no “big problem” in media, Berelson (1959) declared the field communication research to be dead. During the 1960s and into the 1970s, the limited effects paradigm dominated American mass communication research. We will discuss: information flow theory, diffusion theory, phenomenistic theory, etc.
  4. The Era of Cultural Criticism. Mass society notions continued to flourish in Europe. Both left wing and right wing concerns about the power of media, learning from the trauma of the WW II. During the 1960s, neomarxist in Britain developed a school of social theory widely referred to as British cultural studiesNeomarxist: Social theorists asserting that media enable dominant social elites to maintain power. In North America, there was an attempt ot create an “american culture studies” (Innis and McLuhan, for example).

The Emergence of Moderate Effects; The limited effects paradigm have undergone a transformation, due to the pressure of cultural studies and new comm technology. The idea of active audience that uses media content to create meaningful experience. Acknowledges that media effects can occur over longer period of time (while limited effect was unable to understand the media role in cultural changes).

The diversity of theory in mass communication

So you’ll find many theories in mass comm. No single theory could explain all aspects of mass comm. There will not be a “final theory” in mass comm. Macroscopic theory and microcospic theory. It is difficult to implement scientific method to social phenomena. There are four reasons why it is difficult to implement scientific method to social phenomena:

  • Most of the significant and interesting forms of human behavior are quite difficult to measure
  • Human behavior is exceedingly complex
  • Humans have goals and are self-reflexive
  • The simple notion of causality is sometimes troubling when it is applied to ourselves

Conclusion: The situation is complicated because social science itself is somewhat schizophrenic—it is many different things to many different people. However, theories need to be developed to understand the phenomenon, albeit partially.

For further readings:


PS: Thanks to Mr. Putut Widjanarko for the lectures. 

Cities for People, not for Automobiles

Jakarta has been my city for almost 26th years. I could say Jakarta is the breath that lengthens my days. Days go by. Jakarta has now become a monster who ate itself. It’s now almost a rather frustrating and depressing to live in Jakarta, cause only by the traffic jam. I use car for myself in such an egocentric way. The question would be, do I have an option? Nope.

Most people think the way I do (as stated above). They did. If not, why they keep on buying automobiles through consumer credit line? Don’t they know that the option they pick going to stress them with high interest rates? Yes, they do know that, and they take the risk. Because they know the government is working in a slow pace in making progress, while business ran way too fast as usual.

I don’t know for other people, but for me, Jakarta got a major problem made by the system (economy and politic), its own citizen and goes on without something that I called as a “leadership with a-political-will”. These problems have made me think that if changes for Jakarta are too hard to make, in the future no-matter-what I don’t want to raise my children and grandson here. There are too many automobiles and motorcycle, and too few public spaces used as green belt in Jakarta. The city is (maybe) built for cars, not for the industry. Thus, the question people keep asking is more and more infrastructures for cars. Built more streets they said, as if the city still has unoccupied land.

I know, I know you guys work for the automobiles and consumer credit banking industry. You simply have to keep selling those cars and motorcycles. Yeah, one gotta do what one gotta do to earn a living. What kind of live do you have in Jakarta? The one with a rather super-exhausting added with extra pollutant in it? Am sincerely happy that you all live your life to the fullest. Hahaha.. Hope your daughter and son survive the extra pollutant; I heard that those extras are a major silent-killer in the city.

Do you know what I dream about Jakarta? A city with lots of these things:

  • New governor whose also an inspiring leader with political will to act;
  • New city grand design regulation created with active public participation;
  • Pedestrian areas and bicycle paths all over the city;
  • Integrated Bus Rapid Transit, Mono-Rail Train and feeder Buses to maintain mobility without hurting sustainability;
  • Condos, lofts, and subsidized apartments with “sky gardens” around each business district with reasonable price;
  • Schools that ensure students creativity, teach about entrepreneurship and inspire the students about leadership and ethics;
  • Equal work opportunity for all citizens;
  • Healthy good-food culture with fresh food stalls on every streets;
  • Community Spaces or Building to maintain neighborhood bonds and enrich our socio-cultural value;
  • Parks (green belt) and public spaces with Wi-Fi connections to waste some times after office hours;
  • Waste management that ensure waste recycled into energy resources.

As for today, what we need is citizen’s active participation in building this dream to come to live. While in a more global views, political leadership with grand strategic design, technical issues, on-field-implementation and citizenship should be highlighted as the future fixer of Jakarta.

I know, I know, I sounded like a day-dreamer, but do take a look at this websites:; and listen to Jaime Lerner (ex-mayor of Curitiba, Brazil) here, am not dreaming. My dream city does exist, only not in Jakarta.

A Success Recipes for a Country from @AniesBaswedan

Indonesia has 62 million youngsters between 15 to 30 years old out of 237 million citizens, plus superb amount of natural resources all over the soil. But, our true future capitals are those 62 million youngsters not gas, coal, petrol nor gold inside our soil.

What would we do if we have those natural resources without great human resources to manage and make it sustainable resources? And what would we do when all those natural resources ran out, and we don’t have enough scientists on technology that creates innovations? The whole nation will run dry on consumptions. And that’s it, end of story.

Higher education (especially on science and technology) plays an important role in building and shaping the future of a country, everybody knew that already. But, not everyone feels that it’s important to fight for it, by means of, an equal opportunity of education for each children and citizens. On Friday September 14th 2012, Mr. Anies Baswedan gave a lecture on role of higher education to build global competitiveness.

It’s not enough for our country to have scholars who’s managing natural resources, we have to move forward. We have to go and take a good look at science and technology fields. Look at China and its human resources. Almost every factory related to Science and Technology today from iPhone to Blackberry, from Netbook to Ultrabook, they were all labeled “made in China” even some of our Batik printed in China. They truly are the Dragon in the 21st century. Why? Because the government and majority of its citizen believe that to have that Great Leap Forward thay have to invest in human resources.  You might want to check the list of Ph.D.’s in best universities all over the world full with Chinese investing their time on higher education. Yes, the future is in their hands.

On Indonesian cases, we haven’t conquered science and technology fields as powerful as China. Because even if we have it, we haven’t started the industry, maybe because foreign investment aren’t as good as in China or maybe investors level of trust to our government weren’t that good. I myself (saying this without regret), if I could turn back time, I’d rather to have mathematics or physics or engineering as my first degree.

Anyhow, here are list of success recipes for a country according to MR. Anies:

  • Education: Education is key to success. Without education, we have nothing today. Today, education is key for Western countries to rule the world.
  • Science and Technology: The mastery of science and technology enabled the West to go forth, conquer, and colonize the world. Portugal, a small country of 4 million inhabitants, colonized South America, Africa, and even parts of India and China.
  • Meritocracy: Meritocracy is about realizing that good brains exist at all levels of society. People at the bottom of the pyramid now have opportunity to rise, either from rich family or poor family.
  • Rule of Law: What determines the success or failure of a country is not its political system. Rather progress hinges on whether it has a reasonable degree of rule of law, creating a fair, level playing field that allows economic enterprises to thrive and provide an environment within which one can exchange goods and services.
  • Culture of Peace: Today, guns are silent. Their silence has endured, proof of the well-considered decision of policy makers that energy should not be spent on war but on development.
  • Pragmatism: It does not matter if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice (Deng Xiaoping). Deng Xiaoping advised to forget ideology and focus on what works. And today, we can see raise of China.
  • Free and Fair Market Economies: Asia (read: China, Singapore, South-Korea, Taiwan, Japan) is doing well because they understand the value of free market economics. In China, communist party remains in power because successful to implement free market economics in China.

Now, if we have some time to think about this, which pointers above that we already have? None? Hahaha..


ps: Thanks a lot Pak Anies for giving a rather straight-forward and depressing data on Indonesia. Sorry, I couldn’t attached the statistical data inside this posting.

[PENTING] Ini soal Tenun Kebangsaan. Titik! (oleh: @AniesBaswedan)

Republik ini tidak dirancang untuk melindungi minoritas. Tidak juga untuk melindungi mayoritas. Republik ini dirancang untuk melindungi setiap warga negara, melindungi setiap anak bangsa!

Tak penting jumlahnya, tak penting siapanya. Setiap orang wajib dilindungi. Janji pertama Republik ini: melindungi segenap bangsa Indonesia. Saat ada warga negara yang harus mengungsi di negeri sendiri, bukan karena dihantam bencana alam tetapi karena diancam saudara sebangsa, Republik ini telah ingkar janji. Akhir-akhir ini nyawa melayang, darah terbuang percuma ditebas saudara sebahasa di negeri kelahirannya. Kekerasan terjadi dan berulang. Lalu berseliweran kata minoritas, mayoritas di mana-mana.

Bangsa ini harus tegas: berhenti bicara minoritas dan mayoritas dalam urusan kekerasan. Kekerasan ini terjadi bukan soal mayoritas lawan minoritas. Ini soal sekelompok warga negara menyerang warga negara lainnya. Kelompok demi kelompok warga negara secara kolektif menganiaya sesama anak bangsa. Mereka merobek tenun kebangsaan!

Tenun kebangsaan itu dirobek, diiringi berbagai macam pekikan seakan boleh dan benar. Kesemuanya terjadi secara amat eksplisit, terbuka dan brutal. Apa sikap negara dan bangsa ini? Diam? Membiarkan? Tidak! Republik ini tak pantas loyo-lunglai menghadapi warga negara yang pilih pakai pisau, pentungan, parang, bahkan pistol untuk ekspresikan perasaan, keyakinan, dan pikirannya. Mereka tidak sekadar melanggar hukum, tetapi merontokkan ikatan kebangsaan yang dibangun amat lama dan amat serius ini.

Mereka bukan cuma kriminal, mereka perobek tenun kebangsaan. Tenun kebangsaan itu dirajut dengan amat berat dan penuh keberanian. Para pendiri republik sadar bahwa bangsa di Nusantara ini amat bineka. Kebinekaan bukan barang baru. Sejak negara ini belum lahir semua sudah paham. Kebinekaan di Nusantara adalah fakta, bukan masalah! Tenun kebangsaan ini dirajut dari kebinekaan suku, adat, agama, keyakinan, bahasa, geografis yang sangat unik. Setiap benang membawa warna sendiri. Persimpulannya yang erat menghasilkan kekuatan. Perajutan tenun ini pun belum selesai. Ada proses terus-menerus. Ada dialog dan tawar-menawar antar-unsur yang berjalan amat dinamis di tiap era. Setiap keseimbangan di suatu era bisa berubah pada masa berikutnya.

Warga negara, penganut agama

Dalam beberapa kekerasan belakangan ini, salah satu sumber masalah adalah kegagalan membedakan ”warga negara” dan ”penganut sebuah agama”. Perbedaan aliran atau keyakinan tak dimulai bulan lalu. Usia perbedaannya sudah ratusan, bahkan ribuan tahun dan ada di seluruh dunia. Perbedaan ini masih berlangsung terus dan belum ada tanda akan selesai minggu depan. Jadi, di satu sisi, negara tak perlu berpretensi akan menyelesaikan perbedaan alirannya. Di sisi lain, aliran atau keyakinan bisa saja berbeda tetapi semua warga negara republik sama. Konsekuensinya, seluruh tindakan mereka dibatasi aturan dan hukum republik yang sama. Di sini negara bisa berperan.

Negara memang tak bisa mengatur perasaan, pikiran, ataupun keyakinan warganya. Namun, negara sangat bisa mengatur cara mengekspresikannya. Jadi, dialog antar-pemikiran, aliran atau keyakinan setajam apa pun boleh, begitu berubah jadi kekerasan, maka pelakunya berhadapan dengan negara dan hukumnya. Negara jangan mencampuradukkan friksi/konflik antarpenganut aliran/keyakinan dengan friksi/konflik antarwarga senegara.

Dalam menegakkan hukum, negara harus melihat semua pihak semata sebagai warga negara dan hanya berpihak pada aturan. Aparat keamanan harus hadir melindungi ”warga-negara” bukan melindungi ”pengikut” keyakinan/ajaran tertentu. Begitu pula jika ada kekerasan, aparat hadir untuk menangkap ”warga-negara” pelaku kekerasan, bukan menangkap ”pengikut” keyakinan yang melakukan kekerasan.

Menjaga tenun kebangsaan dengan membangun semangat saling menghormati serta toleransi itu baik dan perlu. Di sini pendidikan berperan penting. Namun, itu semua tak cukup dan takkan pernah cukup. Menjaga tenun kebangsaan itu juga dengan menjerakan setiap perobeknya. Bangsa dan negara ini boleh pilih: menyerah atau ”bertarung” menghadapi para perobek itu. Jangan bangsa ini dan pengurus negaranya mempermalukan diri sendiri di hadapan penulis sejarah bahwa bangsa ini gagah memesona saat mendirikan negara bineka tetapi lunglai saat mempertahankan negara bineka.

Membiarkan kekerasan adalah pesan paling eksplisit dari negara bahwa kekerasan itu boleh, wajar, dipahami, dan dilupakan. Ingat, kekerasan itu menular. Dan, pembiaran adalah resep paling mujarab agar kekerasan ditiru dan meluas. Pembiaran juga berbahaya karena tiap robekan di tenun kebangsaan efeknya amat lama. Menyulam kembali tenun yang robek hampir pasti tak bisa memulihkannya. Tenun yang robek selalu ada bekas, selalu ada cacat.

Ada seribu satu pelanggaran hukum di Republik ini, tetapi gejala merebaknya kekerasan dan perobekan tenun kebangsaan itu harus jadi prioritas utama untuk dibereskan. Untuk menyejahterakan bangsa semua orang boleh ”turun-tangan”, tetapi menegakkan hukum hanya aparat yang boleh ”turun-tangan”. Penegak hukum dibekali senjata tujuannya bukan untuk tampil gagah saat upacara, melainkan untuk melindungi warga negara saat menegakkan hukum. Negara harus berani dan menang ”bertarung” melawan para perobek. Saat tenun kebangsaan terancam itulah negara harus membuktikan di Republik ini ada kebebasan berserikat, berkumpul, dan mengeluarkan pendapat tetapi tak ada kebebasan melakukan kekerasan.

Aturan hukumnya ada, aparat penegaknya komplet. Jadi, begitu ada warga negara yang pilih melanggar dan meremehkan aturan hukum untuk merobek tenun kebangsaan, sikap negara hanya satu: ganjar mereka dengan hukuman yang amat menjerakan. Bukan cuma tokoh-tokohnya yang dihukum. Setiap gelintir orang yang terlibat dihukum tanpa pandang agama, etnis, atau partai. Itu sebagai pesan pada semua: jangan pernah coba-coba merobek tenun kebangsaan! Ketegasan dalam menjerakan perobek tenun kebangsaan membuat setiap orang sadar, memilih kekerasan sama dengan memilih diganjar dengan hukuman menjerakan. Ada kepastian konsekuensi.

Ingat, Republik ini didirikan oleh para pemberani: berani dirikan negara yang bineka. Kini pengurus negara diuji. Punyakah keberanian untuk menjaga dan merawat kebinekaan itu secara tanpa syarat. Biarkan kita semua—dan kelak anak cucu kita—bangga bahwa Republik ini tetap dirawat oleh para pemberani.

Anies Baswedan (Rektor Universitas Paramadina)

Artikel ini dimuat di Kompas 11 September 2012. Sumber: Website Paramadina