24 May 2006

The "Negative" Internet

An interesting article from the TODAY newspaper, concerning a PAP MP's fears about the Internet.
PAP must address 'negative Internet'
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday • May 24, 2006

SHE was a new face representing the People's Action Party, but when Ms Denise Phua surfed the Internet during the recent General Election, the tone of the postings stunned her.

They were overwhelmingly slanted against the ruling party.

"I know that something has gone wrong when more than 85 per cent (of the traffic) writes negatively about the PAP," she said at a post-mortem of the GE organised last night by the National University of Singapore Society.
Looking at this matter from the PAP perspective, Mr Wang has to agree with Denise's view. Something has gone wrong. The question is - what? Here are two possible ways of looking at it:
1. The PAP has indeed gone wrong in several ways. The negative content of the majority of Singaporeans' views, as expressed on the Internet, reflect this. Their views can serve as valuable feedback to the PAP.

2. The majority of Singaporeans who express opinions on the Internet have gone wrong in several ways. The negative content of their views shows that they are misguided, confused, stupid, dangerous and/or seditious. The right, sensible thing to do is to trust the PAP.

One point to note is that the Internet is accessible to everyone, regardless of his political inclinations. If you are pro-PAP, you can hop onto the Internet and write pro-PAP comments. If you are anti-PAP, you can also hop onto the Internet and write your anti-PAP comments (albeit with slightly higher risks of being monitored, prosecuted or sued for defamation).

No one forces anyone to say any particular thing on the Internet. Thus what people say on the Internet tends to be what they really think - that is, they're expressing their honest personal views. It's truly the masses' media.

Since the views that Singaporeans express on the Internet are their honest personal views, the PAP, acting sensibly, would probably want to give consideration to those views (the pro-PAP ones as well as the anti-PAP ones). Not to say that the PAP must agree with all of these views, but at the least, the PAP could get some quick, instant insights about what Singaporeans, or the Internet generation of Singaporeans, honestly think and feel about them.

Alas, this won't happen. Why?

In my opinion, the answer is reflected somewhere in the next statement by Denise Phua:
"This is something that the PAP would do well to take into account ... and to manage this channel of communication," she added.

This innocuous-looking statement, as I see it, reveals something quite fundamental about the PAP mindset towards the Internet. You see, they don't really care about the content of, and the ideas behind, your views. You can write about the moral wrongness of lift upgrading threats; the need for alternative views in Parliament; your concerns about healthcare etc. But your views in themselves, even if very logical, convincing and well-reasoned, are of little or no interest to the PAP. In other words, your views as an individual Singaporean just don't matter.

What the PAP is really concerned about is that many other Singaporeans may read your anti-PAP views and may, horror of horrors, actually be persuaded or convinced by your arguments.

Now, now. That can't be permitted, can it? That's why Denise says that the PAP must "manage this channel of communication". To investigate what that might really mean, let's try to paraphrase that. How about this:
"The PAP must try to exert some influence or control over the honest, personal views that Singaporeans are communicating to other Singaporeans on political matters via the Internet." [Mr Wang's paraphrase]

Scary, isn't it.

Let's look at the next part of the article:
Ms Phua stressed that she was not dismissing the views posted on the Internet nor even disagreeing with them. Her concern was more that the coverage was not balanced.
It's pretty interesting that Denise Phua expects "balance" from Singaporeans on the Internet. It's as if all the thousands of Singaporeans who've ever posted anything about politics on the Internet are actually employees of some media company, which has issued some editorial policy to the effect that:
"Political opinions, as expressed on the Internet, shall be balanced. All articles shall first be vetted by our SPH-approved editors."

Dear Denise, that's not how it works. As I said, just about anyone can get on the Internet and express his personal, honest view. The view may or may not be "balanced". If unbalanced, it may turn out to be extremely, extremely pro-PAP, or extremely, extremely anti-PAP. But the view will be honestly held by the individual who expressed it.

That's because unlike politicians, anonymous people on the Internet have no compelling reason to lie about their real views and opinions.

If 50% of Singaporeans on the Internet are pro-PAP, and 50% of the Singaporeans on the Internet are equally anti-PAP, then you get "balance" as a whole, on the Internet. That's good and well.

But if 85% of Singaporeans on the Internet are anti-PAP, and only 15% are pro-PAP, then of course there won't be "balance". After all, 85% of Singaporeans on the Internet think you suck.

To me, the sensible thing for you to do is then to consider why they think you suck, and how you can improve yourself. Rather than think about how to "manage their channel of communication".

Nowhere, for example, was it mentioned that this particular GE was not a snap poll or that the Opposition had the freedom to hold rallies of its own.

Obviously Denise doesn't read my blog. On the snap poll point, I had mentioned on this blog:
Election signals have been in the air for some time, so the opposition has no excuses to say that it didn't have time to prepare.

The more disturbing point is that Denise actually considers it noteworthy that this particular GE was not a snap poll or that the Opposition actually had the chance to hold rallies.

Errrrr, Denise, we ARE supposed to be a democracy, you know. Do you think that bloggers are also to be faulted for not pointing out that Singapore actually had polling stations ... and Opposition parties were permitted to put up posters ... and Singaporean women also get to vote ... and no one was killed or received death threats during the elections ... and enough polling tickets were printed ... and Opposition candidates DID appear on TV?

Denise, don't point accusing fingers at bloggers for not writing about non-events. What would have been VERY blogworthy is if this election WAS a snap poll, or if the Opposition was NOT allowed to hold rallies. That didn't happen, so of course no one really bothered to blog about it.

"More than 85% of all Iraqi bloggers write negatively about me!
There's just no balance ... I need to fix them!"


Joseph Chiang said...

Sigh... when will they ever learn?

Anonymous said...

Tsk tsk,

how do you expect them to learn? comments outta is that the ruling elite has been up there for so long that somehow their 'views' and 'heart' has become so narrow.

and looking at the past few GEs 'esp this one which i got to finally be a Singaporean and voted!' i would say the comment was fair by and large.

Joseph Chiang said...

It took them 20 years (that's how long Mr Chiam See Tong has been MP for Potong Pasir) to finally realise that using upgrading to threaten voters won't work at all. Can I use the word 'retarded' here?

Anonymous said...

Can't shee see the balance is already there?

The main stream media writes posivite PAP stories.

The Internet writers and bloggers write about negative PAP stories.

See balance?

Anonymous said...

PAP's instinct is to control everything they are uncomfortable with.

I was looking at Phua's profile on PAP web site. Given that she was not involved with PAP prior to this election, makes you wonder whether:

a) she got indoctrinated very fast
b) she got chosen because her views reflect those of PAP's.
c) she's politically savvy enough to say what she knows PAP wants to hear.

Anonymous said...

more people should read this blog.

Anonymous said...

I don't know which scenario is scarier: that they don't know how whacko they look when they write like this, or that they think/know they can write this whacko stuff and get away with no repercussions.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if she will said that the ST misquote her..if she received very negative feebacks for this article...;)esp from her boss ...

Anonymous said...

Aiyah, all of them sama sama want to score points so that they can get one step nearer the $1,000,000 minister job. Even the ex-PAP critic Irene Ng tried to sar kar by saying opposition members are trouble makers in parliament.

Unknown said...

Oh... now it's the bloggers' turn to be fixed.

pleinelune said...

Trackback link:


Anonymous said...

heheh i was at the forum, she got thoroughly roasted during the question and answer sessions from the floor. After a while she just kind of sat back, dunno inside whether switched off anot. She is too brainwashed to ever see things beyond hers and her party's narrow perspective.

Anonymous said...

too bad there wasnt much publicity about the forum, else would have attended it.

and if what i read in cyberspace is correct, the news media has screwed up again by putting a very mild version on their prints.

Anonymous said...

yes the 140th media painted a very mild scenario of what took place. The media did not get their facts wrong, but they refused to interpret and comment on what they saw last night. So what you get is a very 1st class bland report.

Other than the precision bombing on denise, the media itself came under heavy fire from panelists and floor speakers alike. The moderator, chandra mohan, tried several times to tip the balance a little by inviting the media present (anyone) to explain their side of the story or at least the chance to counter and right of reply. Of coz the silence from the media is deafening, they simply refused to come to the aid of their distressed comrade. So the onslaught continues unabated. Muahaha!

Anonymous said...

Just saw a short excerpt of the forum on the news.

Did I hear right? Did she also say something like: imagine what foreigners would think if they read these negative comments?

Thought she sounded rather distressed, like she was going to cry.

Anonymous said...

oh no i think it's very scary to hear an MP say something like that..i wonder how many of them think this way.
this is the only medium for us to express our thoughts and they think it's unbalanced??
where got imbalance? they had many years headstart to brainwash us! even before the internet exists!
suck too many balls

Anonymous said...

Another scary thought - maybe "manage this channel of communication" means to "balance" the views by getting more PAP bloggers online. Then your assumption that you get honest views from bloggers will be destroyed.

Anonymous said...

Wonder if there is any citizen's reporting for this forum? after all, in the internet age, the masses' media is by the masses. I for one would have loved to read the transcript.

Sunflower said...

There is one part I really cannot tahan what she had said:

"One member of the audience pointed out that if the Internet was skewed in one direction then, surely, the local media had gone in the other direction, giving far more coverage to the ruling party.

Perhaps, rebutted Ms Phua, this was on account of the fact that the PAP had fielded far more candidates in the GE than the Opposition — and the coverage was a reflection of that."

What does she mean by PAP had fielded far more candidates in the GE than opposition?????

I thought our PM Lee had issued a letter to ask all his candidates to be humble.

In my opinion, if you are good, people can see! Dont need to keep stressing you are good.... I wonder she understand?

Anonymous said...

It's surprising what mental gymnastics one can go through in order to protect one's position.

The statement that opposition members are "troublemakers" is a prime example of this.

Once in power, all sorts of justifications come out why we need to do this and that because this is a threat to us.

As Chiam said with a shy smile, "absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Chiam also said that the PAP would see a lesser percentage of support now, with our more sophisticated society and I must agree with him.

When a PAP member speaks like that, about controlling this and that, it shows a lot about that person, either in terms of their intelligence(making an unpopular gaffe so easily)or their character.

It's fortunate that not all PAP MPs are like that.


Anonymous said...

Wow.. I'm astonished at Denise Phua's stupidity. Like duh, dumb bitch.. If the majority of bloggers are anti-PAP, maybe the majority of bloggers are anti-PAP? So, rather than checking on bloggers, why don't they get the Police department to start blogs praising the PAP? Want to control the internet and bloggers? Go to China and die, dumb PAP bitch!

Anonymous said...

Never discount the PAP or their people as dumb. This woman is new to the party. Co-opted only last year she claimed to have an anti-establishment past. Now if she has any ambition to get noticed by the party's top leadership it makes sense why she said the things she did. PAP rewards blind loyalty and sycophancy well, and this isn't exactly a bad start for her seeing how she dutifully spew standard party lines.

Anonymous said...

I think the free internet community needs to look ahead and anticipate how the government (i.e the PAP) will 'manage' the negative internet as described by Denise Phua.

One way of course is to get their party members or public servants (using the cloak of anonymity - the motto being both can play the game)to respond vigourously to any negative comments about the government. A unit could be specially set up for this.

Another (taking a leaf from the Chinese government) is compel local ISPs to block local sites with what is deemed to be negative political commentary. A bit drastic though and could spoil Singapore's image as a communications hub.

The other is the licensing approach whereby sites with the slightest display of political commentary are required to apply for licences, even outside election periods.

That still leaves sites hosted outside Singapore. Perhaps the government might give the parent companies of these sites an offer they can't refuse.

Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, watch out!

Sleepless in Singapore said...

To some extent, I believe what she said was correct; maybe her choice of words was not accurate.

What I believe is that "85% of opinions on internet are negative towards PAP" does not necessarily mean that 85% of public opinion is negative towards PAP. In other words, the sample taken from the intenet is biased; which not surprising becos majority are young and educated.

For example, I recall one occasion (sorry cannot remember exact details) you asked for feedback about the govt. and I asked whether that would include praises for the govt. And one of your readers said that bloggers are not interested in praises for the govt becos we are already getting plenty of that in the mainstream media already. So any blogger who write pro-govt/PAP stuff are simply not going to get much readership.

If you recall our little debate about the death penalty. I said that judging by opinions expressed on the blogosphere and internet forums most Sporeans are against DP. Yet, a survey by ST (assuming it was properly carried out) showed that majority of Sporeans were for DP.

Note: I said sample is biased (statistically), not your readers are biased.

Anonymous said...

Denise is only interested to read Singapore blog, particularly Mr Brown's blog bec she ever mentioned that Mr Brown has an austic child just like hers.

Cobalt Paladin said...

Erm... actually when I read it, I thought she meant the following:

"This is something that the PAP would do well to take into account ... and to work on the issues raised through this channel of communication," she added.

The italics were my paraphrase and I really think that was what she meant.

En and Hou said...

In short, the Desire to "fix" the Internet.

Anonymous said...

Everyone should watch this. Sylvia Lim speaks very well about what is happening in the post election nonsense.

She is an excellent, logical and good speaker and will be a good NCMP.

My question, "Will any WP candidate be better than Denise Phua as MP"

I am sure your answer is YES


Radikaz said...

The key point is, the incumbent party need these people to toe their party's lines than projecting an alternative views.

Lifting the whip is not going to help, imagine the sanity of going against your boss?

The much debated ideas of fielding candidates in GRC continues to allow such candidates to sneak into the parliament without much effort. Not only they do not have to champion their causes likes most AP does.

Most of them lack the ability to speak in their capability to justify their reasoning than to pull out their FAQ answers in a quickest and broadest ways to address public dissent.

How long are we going to wake up and think we need an alternative parties to balance and made every bills chop and stamped for the goodness of Sinaporean?

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with Boon's view 5th entry above -

she is new to PAP - they need to show the soft side of PAP and used her good work with Autistic Schools to show her soft side, and left her to the tigers. And she tried to do her best in the given circumstances. I pity her. But I guess she has to justify her PAP MP's pay. She will learn to do better. Give her time - can? I believe she can't be all bad - maybe a bit clueless - but maybe a 3rd chance?

Stephen Yeo said...

The scary thing is not whether the PAP has any desire to "fix" the Internet, but whether it is acutely aware of the issues, yet chooses to ignore them. Just like the casino debate last year.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, rebutted Ms Phua, this was on account of the fact that the PAP had fielded far more candidates in the GE than the Opposition — and the coverage was a reflection of that.

What the fuck she talking about ???

Taking out the walkover candidates which has no news value,

the number of candidates from PAP and AP are the same.

Besides what the audience mean is the media purposely keep showing good stuff of PAP but bad stuff of AP even if the coverage is equal.

I bet Denise do not anything about Information Technology.

If she can manage the internet which even Pentagon cannot do, Microsoft and the US Department will immediately hire her.

Bet she dunno what is server, webpage, cookies etc.

Bet she will sack any Govt IT worker who cannot "Manage The Internet" working under her.

She will spend billions on managing internet but with no result.

There goes our taxpayer's money for another PAP "Empty Hole Project" manage by another dumb PAP fella.

She talk without brains.

Anonymous said...

Denise is certainly a modern day communist! If you have opposition - just "manage" or fix them!

Interestingly, nobody in PAP ever mentioned about "proving" to the opposition on the internet that what PAP is doing now is in fact good for the individual.

As of now, there are a lot of under-expressed individuals around here, capable of contributing a lot more to the community and world-at-large, but just repressed by the governmental system.

One thing interesting to note, is that the government mottos speaks about a lot about obedience and striving the best to earn $$$, but nothing about humanity, hence many population feel soul-less and sucked out.