16 October 2006

More on P65

Gayle Goh, writing for The New Paper, seems to share my views on the MPs' blog, P65. Gayle quotes me in her article and makes me sound a little harsh - I say "harsh" because in the days since I posted my article, the P65 MPs have improved and tried to focus a little more on serious issues.
MPs' blogs a good move, but dare they go further?
By Gayle Goh

The New Paper, 13 October 2006
SINCE Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned in his National Day Rally speech that, perhaps, the PAP should be on the networking website MySpace, I have waited with bated breath to see the next move on the evolving chessboard of the Internet.

The ministers have sallied forth boldly. Minister of Foreign Affairs George Yeo made ripples in the blogosphere when, in September, he began publishing entries on the blog of undergraduate and Young PAP member Ephraim Loy.

The post-65 Members of Parliament have been busy over at www.p65.sg, their glitzy new site launched just last week.

Is this something to be excited about? Should we gather round as spectators to watch the MPs take on 'alternative' and often politically incorrect blogs by the horns?

Unfortunately, as commendable an effort as it is, I am disappointed with two things in particular.

The first is that the entries on the blogs revolve mainly around the everyday lives of the bloggers - BG Yeo's morning run or MPs' duties such as visits to ITE students and charity fund-raisers or running up HDB blocks, as Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher de Souza did.

The most pressing issues which many other bloggers have previously raised remain untouched - topics like upgrading policies seem to be out of bounds.

Secondly, I am surprised that for a blog that has been well-publicised, there are relatively few comments from the public.

Are comments moderated before they are displayed on the site?

It seems that while the MPs are willing to engage with the online generation, they are less sure about leaving themselves open to irresponsible comments and attacks that accompany every Internet experience.

These two things limit the potential of the blogs to really excite readers who are attracted to political content and are interested in local issues.

Responses from the online community have been lukewarm at best. A well-known blogger who uses the pseudonym Mr Wang said it was 'embarrassing' and that 'P65 is failing to engage Singaporeans'.

An anonymous commenter wonders 'if they have appointed official commenters', noting the limited number of comments and the generally positive tone of the feedback.

Of course, there's also good reason for the MPs' reticence to engage in political topics.

The Internet is cast in murky waters and commenting on political issues would not only raise the risk of blurring their official and personal capacities, but could also open them up to more attacks.

In trying to 'connect' with the younger generation, the MPs have set themselves up as very human figures.

They have brought down some of the barriers that previously separated them from the man in the street. They have become people with thoughts, pasts, dreams and even possible weaknesses.

Should they then not be wary of what they say at risk of being dragged into the mire of public opinion?

After all, the Internet, unlike television or newspapers, allows infinite no-holds-barred views to proliferate.

A debate, once opened, would likely not reach any real conclusion and may end up undermining the position of the MPs.

So the verdict is still out on whether the MPs will choose to tackle tougher topics or keep pushing feel-good buttons like celebrating mid-autumn festivals.

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21 comments:

Mark said...

"Are comments moderated before they are displayed on the site?" - actually you get to see your comments at p65.sg before the moderator quickly erases it! Try it - nothing rude, of course - just an honest question like "Do you really deserve your MP allowance?"

Anonymous said...

If u dun have it, dun try to be it. MTV retrenchment seems to be telling. MTV may be a passe generation, now that there's YouTube n blogs tat r more happening. So who noes? hip hop may not be so happening shortly. Thus, the world is now so full of experimentation tat emulating is just not going to cut it, especially if u dun have it.

Anonymous said...

By the same token, opening more free access to the Internet in public places, n not coming from the private sector, is oso rather telling.

1. It is not free enterprise which should be the ones throwing free access n bandwidth to the public.
2. Opening more pipes is not the issue as it is the content n the substance tat ppl want n where new models of business may come about.
3. It seems our telcos may have become rather jaded of late. anybody for fighting for 2 cellphones per individual as a new new business battlefront?

Anonymous said...

p65 started with very lofty ambitions to engage the youths/ public. but were clueless as to the level that the blog should be pitched. so it ended up looking like a very patronising blog space.

mr wang started the ball rolling in the right direction by addressing practical issues. it remains to be seen if the MPs pick up from that level and realise that there is a section of the public sincerely interested in addressing practical issues. that said, the MPs will have to wade through the cynicism, some mud-slinging and some "boh liao" comments to get to the crux of it.

but hey! they've got to earn their MP allowance.

Anonymous said...

it worries me that the only other prominent international statesmen i know who blog include...mahmoud ahmedinajad.

Mr Wang Says So said...

??? No it's not at all uncommon for politicians to blog. Examples:

http://www.tom-watson.co.uk/ (Tom Watson, Labour MP, UK).

http://www.boris-johnson.com/ (Boris Johnson, Conservative MP)

http://news.com.com/2100-1028_3-6031314.html (even John Kerry blogs, or at least he comments on blogs).

long list of US legislators who blog: http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/NALIT/blogs.htm

closer to home, Indonesian defence minister Juwono Sardarsono:
http://commentarysingapore.blogspot.com/2006/07/politicians-blogs.html

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think the problem is that either these MPs have no independent views on many special matters - they were recruited to 'connect' with the young voters, not to offer alternative viewpoints. Or they are not allowed to or dare not air their independent views publicly because that could be suicidal for their career progression within the PAP. So what can we expect from their blog?

kritias said...

I agree with anonymous above me.

In addition, the article says:
"A debate, once opened, would likely not reach any real conclusion and may end up undermining the position of the MPs."

I'm wondering if this is really bad. If the PAP has an idea that is really really awful (but they don't realise it, for all sorts of reasons), won't is be better to have people undermine it before they've spent millions of dollars on it?

Of course there's the risk of a good idea being undermined too, but still... if they consider feedback a bad thing, there is no need for a blog at all.

Anonymous said...

kiritas, the reason is simple. PAP is more concerned about their own "infallible" image being undermined. They would rather waste millions then own up to their own shortcomings. S'poreans should realise by now PAP puts party interests before all else.

Anonymous said...

Ah...must you remind me of the Shin Corp deal?

Anonymous said...

A more damning article:-

http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/news/story/0,4136,115723,00.html?

Anonymous said...

The page cannot be found. Subscription needed?

Anonymous said...

cant agree more with mark. they would just censor anything that questions their authority. try doing it and see it for yourself.
lets post comments that they refused to publish. the below was addressed to lawyerr hri kumar on oct 12 and was banned:

being your first attempt at blogging, i would like to know your view, as a lawyer, on the defamation suits brought against the political opponents.
singapore has clearly created a less-than-favourable impression internationally where our government is alleged to use defamation suits to suppress freedom of speech here.
as a politician and lawyer, you seem the best person in the p65 group to answer this question. we hope to have this posting and your reply published.

Anonymous said...

here's my posting to teo ser luck on 21 oct. see whether they would publish:

ser luck, if you are the leader of the p65 and serious about engaging the young, my suggestion is that you do away with heavy censorship of less-than-favourable comments that were posted by readers and also get your bunch to write about political issues that concern the electorate. for christ sakes, you guys were being elected into POLITICAL office! so stop dishing out feel-good postings that are neither inspiring or simply inconsequential. learn from penny low and dr teo ho pin where blogs had failed misearably. the young are more discerning than you thought. so the more you publish comments from hardcore supporter like el (who is really ephraim loy, a young pap member), your blog would only receive no credibility.
show us the beef, if you are the mettle that lee hsien loong would like us to believe. sadly so far, i derive more satisfaction from gayle goh's postings, incidentally a jc2 student, than of those of the p65 combined!

Anonymous said...

from one Anonymous to another Anonymous, hey I just read your comments and reply from the MP. After reading MP Teo's reply, I thought he was pretty open and receptive. At least he bothered to explain. Maybe that is a good start.

Anonymous said...

hmm...the p65 is more style than substance after 1 entire month. its still mindless postings about nothing. they probably forgotten that they are politicians because they dont talk politics AT ALL, despite repeated requests. something is strange here. so the feeling is somewhat like visiting a doctor when one is ill. instead of giving a diagnosis, they actually wax lyrical about their school days, the art events they attended, how they lost weight and why hip hop is fun. DUH.
ps: anonymous (26 oct), your comment smacks of someone from the party. just a wild conjecture...keke

p80 said...

my turn now...just sent to teo ser luck and hoping for a honest reply:

i read your reply (posting: project vibrant colours, dated 13 oct) to azmodeus and ihiphop2 with interest.
however i am not quite sure if you guys are 'everyday persons' as much as i would hope to believe. anyway, i wish the p65 would be a different bunch compared to your earlier generations. but i was appalled by a recent comment from michael palmer that he didnt realise there are poor people in this 'developed country' until he joined politics.
as to the issue of censorship, you mentioned that you do not block any posting unless it is of a personal attack. i knew of comment that was addressed to hri kumar. there is nothing controversial and i wonder why it was blocked. i shall reproduce it here and hope to hear from you:
being your first attempt at blogging, i would like to know your view, as a lawyer, on the defamation suits brought against the political opponents.
singapore has clearly created a less-than-favourable impression internationally where our government is alleged to use defamation suits to suppress freedom of speech here.
as a politician and lawyer, you seem the best person in the p65 group to answer this question. we hope to have this posting and your reply published.

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