PAP must address 'negative Internet'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:
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.
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.