Different methods of communication imply different social and political relations. Generally, mass media are distributed through centralized broadcast stations or presses and controlled by the elite. Face-to-face communications, which circulate through physically close contact between people, have more subversive potential. The author analyzes rumors spread in the press and by word of mouth during October and November 1998 in East Java, Indonesia. Conspirators and ninjas were suspected of killing many alleged sorcerers and persecuting the traditionalist Muslim majority. In response, local residents established guards against, attacked, and even killed suspected ninjas. Suspicion also was directed against the government, elites, and the armed forces. This subversive content is attributed to the interaction of two forms of communication: oral rumors became written rumors, and vice versa.

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