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.
Technorati: Singapore; politics; media.