04 September 2006

The Adventures of BG George Yeo

Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo has ventured into the blogosphere. He appears as a guest writer on local blogger Ephraim Loy's blog. I visited Ephraim's blog and was a bit disappointed. But never mind, it's a start, and that counts for something. I left a long comment on Ephraim's blog as follows:
"Dear BG Yeo:

Congratulations for your brave little foray into the wild & woolly world of the Internet. Since PM Lee's rally speech, I have been waiting to see how the Singapore government will venture into the blogosphere and engage citizens in this space.

For a start, your first few posts are interesting. But my hope would be for you (or your minister colleagues) to write not so much about events in your/their personal life (eating kueh paiti; going to church etc), but about social, political, economic and legal issues that concern Singaporeans.

If you merely write about your personal life, I think you cannot compete successfully with the dazzling range of characters who inhabit the blogosphere, each with his or her own unique story to tell. PAP MP Penny Low might possibly have learned this, from her blog last year - it launched with more publicity than most blogs ever get, yet sank just as rapidly into obscurity. Occurrences like that don't do any good for PM Lee's newly-announced goal.

Why Singaporeans might be interested to read you or your colleagues' blog posts is because you are politicians and ministers. In turn, this means that they are interested to read what you have to say, as politicians and ministers. For example, they would be interested to hear what you, as Foreign Affairs Minister, have to say about Singapore's foreign affairs.

Furthermore they are interested to hear it in your own voice. Here I am not referring to podcasts, online videos and the like which MICA and PM Lee seems so distracted by - these are mere technological toys. When I say voice, I mean your unique personality - the real George behind the title BG Yeo, honest; authentic; human; a little raw; unedited.

That's the way we like it.

Otherwise we might as well read the Straits Times.

(I meant that in a bad way, in case you didn't get it).

Thank you for reading this far. I know your time is precious. A final note - as a ministerial blogging model for you (or your colleagues) to think about, I suggest you visit this (if you haven't already):

http://www.juwonosudarsono.com

I think the name should be familiar. Good day."
Juwono Sudarsono is Indonesia's Defence Minister. I previously blogged about him here.

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49 comments:

Anonymous said...

Belittling ( 'your brave little foray' )

Patronising ( 'in case you didn't get it' )

Mock courtesy ( 'thank you for reading this far. I know your time is precious. ' )

Heck, I 'like' the PAP as 'much' as you do but why can't we be civil in the name of true freedom of speech and exchange of opinions ? Is it so important to you to act like a smart-ass member of the bourgeois ? You have a better side Mr. Wang. Show it. littlempeo

Anon Scaredycat said...

The Iranian President has his own blog too... though I'm not sure if his is a good example for BG Yeo to follow :P

Monkey said...

wonder if you saw my post about this last week
Foreign Minister blogs

Etna said...

Hate to disappoint you, but the "unique personality" behind George Yeo is as colorless as the starched white shirt. Take away his million dollar salary, personal security guards and the adulating grassroots cheer leaders, and you got zilch. As a matter of fact, if you had happened to walk pass him when in was in Shangrila Manila the week before Contemplacion was hanged, you wouldn't have given him the time of day. He is remembered only for playing carrom in the SAF canteen, while waiting for the BG uniform to be delivered. His fancy speeches? Just empty words that lead to nothing, as at Cajun. Think hard of something he has accomplished; surely you don't think he single handedly brought home the FTA? But he's not alone, of course, the PAP ranks stinks to heaven with loads of the same kind. You would imagine the general's uniform will rub off some leadership qualities on him and the other BGs. Heaven help us if gets to "lead the troops" in a real war

Whispers from the heart said...

I remembered him as the one who justified that the casino should be meant for a "certain economic class" of Singaporeans, which I beg to differ.

I am waiting to tell him why.

Mr Wang Says So said...

I thought I was quite civil actually.

"Brave little foray" admittedly sounds a little patronising.

"In case you didn't get it" - I was making a genuine point there. You must understand who the man is; where he comes from; the perspectives he might hold. He might genuinely miss my point, because he might genuinely view the Straits Times as an excellent, outstanding and reliable nation-building press. That's one point of view; we can all have our own points of view; but when we communicate - whether we actually agree with each other or not - I think it's good that we understand each other.

'thank you for reading this far. I know your time is precious. ' - this, btw, I meant sincerely. So maybe you have to pause to think of your own mental filters in processing information.

Anonymous said...

I actually think that for better or for worse, Mr Wang's post gives fair warning to the pappies as to what they might encounter if they start venturing into cyberspace as directed by their honorable leader PM Lee.

I think that when you're a minister (or just someone very, very important), it can be really hard to know what people are really thinking because the people who are in your immediate vicinity will tend to be yes-men, or if not yes-men, then at least people who also closely share your vision of what the world is.

That's why cyberspace is really a good place for the government to start discovering what's really on people's minds. That MP Denise Phua already got a shock to discover that 80% of the Internet are not pro-PAP. Well, it's not a surprise to me.

That's the PAP problem. When you control the media so much, you hear so many good things abt yourself you even start to believe your own propaganda & publicity. Hahahaaha, that's why Denise got a shock when she clicked her Internet Explorer and found that, gasp!, less than 100% of Singaporeans are actually pro-PAP.

It's a bit like that new what's-his-name PAP MP who was reported saying that he was surprised that there really are poor people in Singapore. If this wasn't so sad, it would be funny. But I digress, thta's another kind of ivory tower and we'll talk abt it some other time.

Anonymous said...

Oh, same Anon here. I forgot to add one thing, Mr Wang is very tolerant of criticisms of him. The pappies could learn something from him. But that's just my wishful thinking ...

inspir3d said...

i personally wonder why the younger PAP MPs who are supposed to be 'hip and happening' aren't blogging themselves.

i think BG Yeo's foray into the internet is quite a brave move considering the young guys haven't done so

Peter Tan said...

Dear Mr Wang

For blogging, I felt that he did the "right" thing. He trys to create a "Down to earth human personality" on Internet. He show that he "takes the MRT", visits the SMU without big entourage. He seems approachable and a common man. Reputaion & eyeballs is the new "currency" of the new media. He knows it and is building it up.

Now if George Yeo had used Government resources and blog behind special Govt software/Y-PAP/Stomp etc and come preaching down on the "Alternative media", that would have been a "sure" way to alienate everyone.

I bet you my last dollar, he is testing the water and seening how the people and his colleagues are reacting.

George Yeo is a critical thinker. He was the former MICA (previously MITA) Minister. He is a man to watch and he is playing his card right !

Anonymous said...

I don't know about you guys....but I always imagine Xenoboy to be Vivian Balakrishnan as an alter ego..... Imagine only lah.... I recalled him as my hero speaking out for us then.... imagine only lah....

Anonymous said...

Don't get too wild with your imagination lest you think Wang is LHL ...

Anonymous said...

Ahh.. Ephraim Loy, the notorious pro-PAP running dog who had written letters to the ST forum on more than one occasion in the past.

It all makes perfect sense now.

And no, peter, you do not create a down-to-earth personality when blogging (or doing any other thing). You be yourself. If one is a conceited, arrogant and out of touch bastard, he should not pretend to be otherwise. Period.

Anonymous said...

If we can see that he is 'trying to create a down-to-earth personality', I don't think he can think critically.

I mean, he can't even wayang without us seeing thru him ....

This is going to be quite interesting ... better than IMF protests.

The Legal Janitor said...

to the 2 anons above:

I think its bullshit to tell someone to "be yourself" when you have already pre-judged someone to be "a conceited, arrogant and out of touch bastard".

It's like me telling you to be an open-minded, rational person even though I already know that you're just a brainless anonymous coward.

ColdZero said...

and dat pretty much sorts dat little argument out...

now coming back to the blogging...i mean lets be serious. he's the foreign minister; when he blogs i read so i dun really want a play-by-play of his day starting with his meet the peeps and ending with aloe vera jelly.

but this is a start and its a good start. lets see if we cant steer him into more substantial discussions - pick his brain a little....dats wat the comments function is there for you know.

Anonymous said...

Why can't we just give the man a chance..

"If we can see that he is 'trying to create a down-to-earth personality', I don't think he can think critically.

I mean, he can't even wayang without us seeing thru him ...."

How would you know that he is trying to "create" this personality? And what are you "seeing thru him"? Maybe he is not putting on a facade. And maybe there's nothing to "see through".

Why not read with an open mind and stop pre judging. Heck, he's only on to his THIRD post.

Lam Chun See said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

His posts will all things unrelated to his job. I bet that he will never touch on politcal issues.

Lam Chun See said...

I don't agree with Anonymous who said; "That's why cyberspace is really a good place for the government to start discovering what's really on people's minds."

Like Acroamatic, I think bloggers are A minority among the minority. "We bloggers and blog readers are a bubble in a freshwater pond, who often do not remember that there’s a whole salt water sea out there."

Anonymous said...

"But he's not alone, of course, the PAP ranks stinks to heaven with loads of the same kind."

What kind of people would you like to lead Singapore then? Not only are your criticisms not constructive at ALL, they're loaded with biasness and hasty generalisations as well. Great rant but unhelpful..You think?

-Johnathan

Anonymous said...

Share your Lee!

a singapore blogger said...

Well, Lam, numerically speaking, no doubt you are right. However the number is growing and it is large enough to warrant PM Lee's attention and his devoting 1/3 or 1/4 of his rally speech to the topic in general. So I would not say that the influence / reach of blogs & bloggers is insignificant. The fact that even the MSM pays a lot of attention to this trend and tries to do things like STOMP should tell you that blogs, if not socially significant right now, at least has the potential to be.

Who knows, one day, people like Mr Wang & Mr Brown may be remembered as the forefathers of the new mass media in Singapore ... Is it that farfetched? I just saw a film being advertised, with endorsements from President SR Nathan ... AND ... Mr Brown. The man is now being quoted, together with the President. That gives you some idea of the filmmakers' judgment of Brown's ability to influence public tastes.

Anonymous said...

Chwee Wai!

xenoboysg said...

anon 4.07,

I have offered my blog to the alter ego to help him remember.

cherie said...

Mr Wang, I am a big fan of your blog. I read each and every one of your entries, and appreciate the thoughts that went into your analysis. I even forward them to my friends regularly.

But here, I cannot help but agree with anon 2:03:18 PM. He's a little harsh with "acting like a smart-ass member of the bourgeois", but I'm sure you have a better side.

Why are we trying so hard to dictate what the man wants to blog about?

Are we being fair to him, when he was asked to blog like Juwono Sudarsono, or not blog like Penny Low? I suppose we can hope that he will blog in the capacity of a minister. But maybe that wasn't his intention, and we are reading too much into this.

I don't know. I'm not exactly a pro-pap person, but I read some of the comments and feel that we (in the blogosphere) are not being reasonable.

(I know too, that leaving a comment like this will earn me a lot of attacks. Sigh, go on.)

Anonymous said...

venturing into bloggersphere is like venturing into sharks infested water. more so for a minister calibre who would attempt such a feat. but i must say that by putting his toes in the water, it may attract other kind of species which may offer a wider spread of catch for oceanic studies. but i doubt he will be that adventurous to plunge right into the water.

he will probably be happy you just tickle his feet.

Anonymous said...

Actually I too felt those are fair comments from Mr Wang rather than being ‘uncivil’ or ‘smart-ass’.

If a MIW is serious about venturing into the cyber space to hear and be heard, and not doing this as a form of homework or assignment with half a heart so that they still have something to handover to the school as a routine kind of thing, then they should take Mr Wang advise seriously.

Personally I would too want to read more about their personal thoughts (Not their party stand) on the policies and other international, national or social issues as a politician rather than to read about their daily lifestyle or whatever, though once in a while that kind of thing won’t hurt.

Mr Wang Says So said...

I didn't say that he must write about any particular topic. I said that Singaporeans would be most interested in what he has to say about big national issues. Of course he can choose to write about what he ate for breakfast and the tasty good at his church funfair was. Of course:

1. no one will bother to read him after a while;

2. PM Lee's goal will fall flat;

which can't be what they have in mind. I mean - do you really think BG Yeo started blogging because he wanted to keep a diary about his favourite foods?

He may merely intend that as a start. Or he may be genuinely clueless - ie he's heard about the growing significance of blogs (the MSM says that) but at the same time he's heard that they are online diaries of personal trivia (the MSM also says that); so he's doing what the MSM has prescribed - the personal trivia thing.

Assuming that BG Yeo takes PM Lee's rally speech seriously, then I think that if anything, my comment just pushed BG Yeo several steps forward on his learning curve. Which is good for him. I mean - seriously - what do you think Ephraim Loy will tell him about blogging? If you know Ephraim, you know Ephraim; I shan't say more - if you don't know Ephraim, you can poke around the Internet and find out and draw your own conclusions.

Jamie said...

I'll never forget the time I ran into him at a Xmas party for kids organised by what must have been grassroots types. I was naive to think that the organizers who came around for the collection had a heart for the little ones. Instead, the party, for which I paid $10 per kid, turned out to be welcoming shingdig for George Yeo, new member of the GRC. Obviously upset, I refused to shake his hand when he made his way towards me and my three little ones. His escort was shocked, as he made quick about face and retreated . You would think he might have bothered to query the cause of my unhappiness. What was salt in the wound was when his helpers distributed party pamphlets to my little ones. Guess he never ventures far from his ivory tower, or his "adulating" public.

ColdZero said...

look people, if the govt is confident that their policy positions are intellectually defensible, then they should neither be afraid of nor have problems discussing them in any forum.

on the other hand, if they can't or are afraid to for some reason, then there's a problem somewhere isnt it? public policy isnt a family matter to be kept within the 4 walls of the PAP. so if a minister ventures out in to the blog world, it shouldnt be to do a ministerial makan sutra...dats just condescending and an insult to our intelligence bcos i'd like to think we're serious pple trying to have serious discussions.

wang and others were ok insofar as they were trying to caution him early on dat this format is a futile exercise and not one dat is gonna keep the audience in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Some of u folks here should start realising that ministers or govt officials are ordinary human beings and sporeans just like us. They are not some supermen or ultra-sensitive fragile bags that need to be handled with undue care. Stop bending backwards or having this fawning attitude when it comes to communicating with them. I had a conversation with a minister once. When it didn't go the way he would have liked to, he snapped and started lecturing the group in an authoritative voice. Needless to say the discussion ended right there. PAP ministers will get away with it in the real world. But in the cyberspace, the playing field is 'level'. So we should stop self-censoring ourselves or behave like eunuchs towards them.

Respect needs to be earned. A backdoor MP or minister have not earned their dues and cannot demand respect to come from those they purportedly serve. They have not earned their 'face', so no need to give them face.

blog reader said...

Interesting to see that Mr Wang's comment on Yeo's post has led to a lot of discussion and attracted about three times more comments than Yeo's post itself. :)

This despite the fact that Yeo is a VVIP and his posts has been Tomorrow'd, Intelligent Singaporean'd, reported in the MSM etc.

Maybe this is a sign of Mr Wang's influence in blogosphere.

Or maybe it's a sign that Yeo's post is daaaaaaaamn boring.

Kuey paiti, anyone?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang

I really suspect that some of our PAP ministers would like to start their own blogs, but it is very difficult for them to separate their official persona as ministers from their own individual persons.

I think some of the younger ministers like Lim Swee Say and perhaps Vivian are techno-savvy who would do well on the blogosphere if given 'free' rein to roam and touch on any topic.

But the fact is, just as the 'whip' is applied in Parliament, the 'whip' is also subconsciously applied (or self-applied) in cyberspace.

What George Yeo could contemplate doing is to start his own personal blog, may be called "George Yeo The Singapore Citizen", in which he talks about his personal life and thoughts as a Singaporean (who just happens to earn $2 million a year).

But then, would anyone read it?

Anonymous said...

Like that hor, might as well ask the source of all PAP opinions to blog ... Old Lee and young Lee can start a normal singaporean father and son blog to talk about their fishing trips and jaunts to the local hawker centre.

I might read to find out what he eats ...

sei-ji rakugaki said...

i felt that george yeo or any ministers/MP that decide to blog shoud ask themselves why do they choose to do it? to connect with the public...?to share their views on certain issues? or simply to blog..well..
http://seijieiga.blogspot.com/2006/09/httpcommentarysingapore.html

Mr Wang Says So said...

Haha, that is funny ... Everyone, do check out seiji's cartoons on his blog ... and not just the BG Yeo one.

Anonymous said...

To InSpir3d,

I'm not sure if age is an issue here. I suspect it's more of who they are that they aren't taking to blogging. If you were one of them, would you blog? I suspect you wouldn't because:

1) There's the risk of saying the wrong things.

2) There's the risk of sounding foolish.

3) There's the risk of making obvious mistakes in the language.

And so forth.

Anonymous said...

I think the most pitiful one could be GY's press secretary ...

Besides writing his boring ministerial speeches, he now has to do research for his boss's blogs so that he looks intelligent.

I mean, who we kidding ... AOs and press secs are paid to do such boring stuff.

Chinese Newspaper Reader said...

George Yeo will not take Mr. Wang's advice because:

1. govt does not want to channel eyeballs to blogs -- "if you want to know about our policies and thoughts, pls read it via the interviews we give to the straits times (where we have professional editors to help us invent, edit and massage our words)".

2. govt does not want to debate back and forth with citizens openly -- On the one hand, disallowing blog comments or not replying to comments both do not look nice politically. On the other hand, if the blog is successful, the worst scenario is this: scores of readers writing very critical comments that disagree with whatever George Yeo says, tons of readers reading such comments and govt has to debate back and forth with citizens... and such a robust. uncensored, open debate is difficult for pap to win! :)

Worst outcome: Blogosphere no longer a fringe media - it replaces Straits Times as the source to visit if any citizen want to know what govt ministers think about govt policies. No good. ST has a moderated forum - very good :)

For these 2 reasons, George Yeo will not do as Mr. wang advised.

In fact, George Yeo has responded to Mr. Wang, in the Chinese press thus:

新闻:新加坡
2006-09-05

杨荣文也写博客
  但不认为是论政最好方法

● 周殊钦

  虽然透过博客收集反馈是一个不错的沟通渠道,但它却不一定是讨论政策的最好方法。

  最近开始在网上撰写博客的外交部长杨荣文,昨天透过电邮回答本报询问时说,能收到网民针对他的贴子作出的反应是一件好事,然而他却对人们透过博客讨论政策的作法有所保留。

  “我在撰写每则博客时,一般上不花超过15分钟。它们传达的是感想而非细致的分析文章,否则博客将会变成是一项工作。我从没打算让它变成工作。”

  他在前天发表的博客就引来一些网民以犀利的语言指出,他不该只是抒发个人情怀,而该以个人的角度谈论更多政治社会课题,这才符合他的身份。

  实际上,杨荣文至今已发表了三则博客,内容主要是谈他参加社区活动后的感想,性质属于私人记事,并未和政治课题扯上关系。

  他是在上月30日在人民行动党青年团成员黎传志(24岁)的博客网(ephraim.blogspot.com)上写下第一则博客,当时甚至还引起网民质疑那则博客是否真的是由我国外交部长所撰写,也有人发贴子欢迎他加入这个现在极为流行的网上抒情虚拟世界。

  尽管在短短的一星期内便撰写了三则博客,但是杨荣文并没有注册个人博客网站的打算。他认为,要拥有个人的博客网站将会非常耗时,所以宁愿以不定期的形式在两三个博客网站上发表一些贴子。

  他透露,他下来将分别到古巴参加不结盟运动及到纽约出席联合国大会,一旦有时间,他就会考虑撰写一两则关于出席会议的感想的博客。

Source: http://zaobao.com/sp/sp060905_514.html

Chinese newspaper reader said...

"..透过电邮回答本报询问时说,能收到网民针对他的贴子作出的反应是一件好事,然而他却对人们透过博客讨论政策的作法有所保留".

Translation:
"Upon(lianhe zaobao)'s query, (George Yeo) replied via email that it is a good thing to receive bloggers' feedback to his posts, however he has reservation regarding (citizens') use of blogs as a media for discussion on govt policies."

Chinese newspaper reader said...

Actually, the purpose of George Yeo's blog is simple:

To help boost the readership of a pro-pap blogger -- let the pro-pap blogger writes regularly about how much good pap has done for him (and his generation). Ocassionally, minister pens an article to help boost readership :)

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, see what you done. You scared him. :)

Mandy said...

One would like to agree that "govt officials are ordinary human beings and sporeans just like us" except for the little fact they have arranged to pay themselves the highest salaries in the land, while Singaporeans have to contend with roller coaster ride of the economy's ups and downs. Some more, the elections are rigged so that they can't loose. Not convinced? LKY himself said: "You can't change out the government with an election."

En & Hou said...

Prophecy! :D

Even a minister has to start somewhere.

Cheers,
Hou

Lesley said...

Reading through the comments, I would have thought that all BG Yeo blogs about are inconsequentials, yet read these recent posts :

http://ephraim.blogspot.com/2006/09/goal-setting-you-raise-interesting.html

http://beyondsg.typepad.com/beyondsg/2006/09/global_connecti.html

Mr Wang Says So said...

Thanks Lesley. I will proceed to highlight these.

Joey said...

I can't help but agree with Cherie. While I understand that you might not have been intentionally "belittling", "patronising" or showing "mock courtesy" as the first commentor alleged, I think we should all cut him some slack. He may just be blogging as a normal person. Surely that much freedom can be accorded to him. And not everyone would like to blog about their work.

Besides, I think foreign affairs is a very sensitive issue. The implications are huge because we're talking about bilateral relations here. So I'm not so sure about the "what [he] as FM [has] to say about Singapore's foreign affairs".

Before we crucify him, perhaps we should just (like someone suggested) hold our horses and see what else he blogs about beyond his initial few personal posts. I'm sure many of us have blogs that started out with one purpose and changed our focus as we became more mature bloggers.

So chill everybody! We can be thankful at least that he's not feeding us govt propaganda.

Lesley said...

Hi Mr Wang,

you're more than welcome.

Thank YOU! for all your effort in this most informative blog.