22 March 2006

Faceless Bloggers vs Mainstream Media .... Again

In the on-&-off-&-on-again debate about bloggers vs mainstream media, Mr Wang always finds people like Mr Brown and Miyagi such interesting curiosities. Each is a prominent blogger, yet each is also a newspaper columnist, so what are the implications? If a newspaper makes rude remarks about bloggers as a class, does it not also insult its very own newspaper writers?

Anyway, here is Mr Miyagi's latest column in TODAY:

The 'faceless' up in arms
Bloggers riled about assertions that they are ignorant and lack creativity

Wednesday • March 22, 2006

OVER the weekend, some local newspapers took to highlighting blogs and the elections.

The Weekend Today ran a front page story about bloggers and whether "they know the rules" regarding the elections — complete with a cover photograph depicting bloggers as faceless people with paper bags over their heads.
The MSM's favourite attack on bloggers' credibility is to point to the bloggers' supposed anonymity. Anonymity, the MSM would have you believe, necessarily leads to irresponsibility, and irresponsibility means that bloggers shouldn't be trusted. A tiresome, flawed point, but let me offer you a new angle for looking at it.

The world has so many blogs that the vast majority of them must necessarily be obscure. Most will attract only a small audience, if they have an audience at all. In other words, whether the blogger goes by his real name - eg Tan Ah Beng - or by some funny moniker - eg Mugster - it really doesn't matter. No one cares anyway. Except maybe Ah Beng or Mugster himself.

What about the famous bloggers? The local MSM loves to harp on the anonymity issue, but it's a red herring if you ask me. The true identities of Singapore's prominent bloggers are hardly ever a secret anyway. Take for example the Big Three of the Singapore blogosphere - Mr Brown, Mr Miyagi and Xiaxue.

Each of them states their real names on their blogs. Mr Brown is Lee Kin Mun. Mr Miyagi is Benjamin Lee. Xiaxue is Wendy Cheng. Errr, so what? Mr Brown and Mr Miyagi are much more interesting than Kin Mun & Benjamin. "Xiaxue" definitely has more advertising and marketing value than "Wendy".

Think also about Agagooga, Yawning Bread, Legal Janitor, Cowboy Caleb, Popagandhi and Mr Wang, to name a few. Some of us mention our real names on our blogs, and some of us don't (others, like Mr Wang, get their real names mentioned on their blogs by their fan club members). The truth is that Singapore is such a small place that if you're really a prominent blogger, it's quite easy for people to put two and two together and find out who you really are. Cowboy Caleb apparently keeps his true identity a secret. But he also organises big parties and invites 100 bloggers for drinks. How secret do you think his identity is?

Interestingly, the MSM has interviewed (and sought to interview) Mr Wang on several occasions. In most of these dealings, Mr Wang has been quite open about his real name (It's a bit awkward to do a telephone interview and have the person keep addressing you as "Mr Wang Says So"). In other words, even the Straits Times itself knows who Mr Wang is. A few of these ST journalists have also been highly amused by Mr Wang's blog articles about their other colleagues.

Some time ago, the Institute of Policy Studies even invited Mr Wang to attend a meeting about blogging. The Singapore government wished, through IPS, to gain feedback from prominent bloggers so that it could understand this blogging phenomenon a bit better. Now, how can any blogger attend this meeting and still really keep his identity a secret from the government? That's a bit farfetched. (Oh and if you do not believe that this meeting was held, please ask Yawning Bread, Mr Brown and Mr Miyagi, who attended).

So I don't think it's fair at all for the MSM to keep harping on the point that bloggers are anonymous. They're not - at least, the prominent ones usually are not. Even if they do not use their real names on their blogs, it's relatively easy to find out. One common way is to ask them.

The rest of the article doesn't interest me much, but I reproduce it below for the sake of completeness.
And The Straits Times declared last week that only 1 per cent of the population found blogs "credible", as opposed to 60 per cent who found newspapers credible.

As you can imagine, this riled some bloggers. Blogger "Jeff Yen" (jeffyen.blogspot.com) pounced on this report, even suggesting his own headline.

"Even the survey commissioned by the newspaper found that 40 per cent of respondents don't find newspapers to be credible … I mean, wow! The title of this article shouldn't be about bloggers; it should really be: 'Almost Half Of This Newspaper's Readers Don't Find It Credible!'," he writes.

The blog "Brand New Malaysia" (brandmalaysia.com) commiserated with its Singaporean counterparts, disagreeing with the finding that people didn't find blogs credible.

"In my trips to the city-state, I see people reading blogs in shopping complexes, on mobile phones and over food and drinks. As I pass people in offices, I see them taking 'short-breaks' by surfing popular blogs — both for entertainment and news.

"I know a whole set of people — professionals and highly-placed corporate citizens — who sneer at the newspapers, and instead rely on news source from BBC and other online news organisations," writes its author, Mack Zuklifi.

He adds: "I know propaganda when I see it. Stay strong, Singapore bloggers. We know the truth of the matter."

The Void Deck (www.thevoiddeck.org) comments: "The Today report also makes it seem that bloggers are out of sync with the legalities going on … 'welcome to the real world, bloggers' is a cold-water rude wake-up call for us to accept that we'd better shut up and fade away."

Seksi Matashutyrmouf (sieteocho7-8.blogspot.com) says of traditional media: "They do not understand that the internet is like a city full of snipers, or an ant's nest. They used to have it their way. They used to be the police state, and used to watch our every move. Now the tables are turned … It is our turn to be Big Brother now.

He adds: "We will continue to ask questions, disseminate ideas, raise issues. We will still be able to influence public opinion, and at the end of the day that is the only thing that matters."

But to whether or not bloggers will actually get to do that, the Parliamentary Elections Act notwithstanding, this is something the pundits will be looking forward to observing come election time.

As Mr Wang Bakes Good Karma (commentarysingapore. blogspot.com) puts it, it isn't a matter of how bloggers talk about the elections — it may be a case of whether bloggers bother to do it in the first place.

"It would surprise many of my regular readers, but frankly I am not particularly interested in the upcoming elections. As far as I'm concerned, it will be an event with lots of excitement and fanfare, but even before the dust settles we all know who will win and does it really make any difference whether they have 77, 79 or 81 seats in Parliament?" he wrote in response to an email from a newspaper journalist.

Louise Veronica Ciccone.
Sometimes known as Madonna.


darrnot said...

I respect Mr Wang for his courage in speaking out without the need to hide behind "Mr Wang Says So"!

Although it is very disapppointing for me to see Mr Miyagi conclude the article with Mr Wang's quote that I disagree with..

Bernard Leong said...

On the credibility, I thought that there are a couple of people who are involved in entrepreneurship, business and public issues:

1. Loy Hui Chieh, academic, singaporeangle.blogspot.com

2. Tan Kin Lian, CEO of NTUC income,

Or you can check it out some business blog people in the article published in Singapore Business Visitor Magazine? One of the team members of Sgentrepreneurs, Gwen, my student is featured.

Well, if you go and check my profile, you will also know that I am also currently an academic working on life sciences research and teaching entrepreneurship, and in fact, most of NUS students come to me when they see me in conferences, "Are you BL from sgentrepreneurs.com?"

Anonymous said...

If the mainstream media had been doing its job, i.e. informing the reading public of the facts, bloggers will have less appeal. The reality is that the propaganda machine has been worked to death, churning out blatant lies and cooked statistics ad nauseam, until we have to scrounge the Net for real information, including bloggers of all shapes, size and colors. Once a while we come across a real gem, and the enlightenment is unbeatable. The local paper is only fit for one use when you are sitting in the smallest room of your house, one moment it's in front of you, the next moment it's behind you.

Anthony said...

The converse is also true. The mere fact that you use your real name isn't going to be a bar to irresponsibility.

Bad logic both ways.

Anonymous said...

It defies logic how some people understand the word "credible". Tan Kin Lian's "blog" is nothing but a shameless plug for his company's products. Do you know who is the unnamed insurer referred to in the report entitled "Only 11 insurers left on Idac accident scheme" (Straits Times, 18 March)? It is no coincidence that NTUC is an anagram for a rude word.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

For the record, I didn't read the 18 March article and I don't know what it's about. So I express no view. (TKL, dun sue me ok).

As for plugging products, actually I think TKL's actions are ok. He already says openly on his blog that he's from NTUC Income, not as if he was hiding that facr from his readers.

Han said...

I used to get worked up and annoyed by silly pieces in the mainstream media.

Nowadays, I couldn't be bothered. I think the results and money pouring into new media should speak for itself.

The mainstream media in SG never had to face competition so it can just do mediocre work, but the likes of News Corp, Viacom, AOL Time Warner etc etc are beginning to see the value that people-created media can provide.

And the anonymous at Wednesday, March 22, 2006 3:25:17 PM is the sort of character that the mainstream media are writing about: Quick to write but slow to think.

Anonymous said...

NTUC is an anagram for a rude word? Can someone anglicise the syllables?

Anonymous said...

Here's what I see.

1. The publish media has rules, and in the case of our media here, a certain amount of self censorship.

2. The prominent bloggers you mention (the big 3) does not really engage in political or nation issues on their blog.

3. Anonymity of the blogges are not the issue here. Bloggers are still legally liable for what they write and can be sued here. Even considering that, did we see the protest in Thailand with the burning of our PM's photo in Today or the Straits Times? No, we see it in the blog. That is some very powerful that we did not have before.

4. Some local blog (not mine, that's a tech tabloid), like the election blog has becomes the online speaker corner. No need to get permission to speak at Hong Lim. That is so last century...

5. More and more people are going to get part of their news from blogs.

6. The government here really only wants the opposition to be the check and balance. Now the blogs are also becoming part of that check and balance, even if they are not politically motivated.

7. And finally don't forget to give a big hand to our own Mr. Wang, whose commentaries is doing the exact check and balance to the local mainstream media.

Cobalt Paladin said...

From "V for Vendetta":

Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. There is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.

. said...

the way i see it: it's more like mainstream media going all out to taunt bloggers to reveal their identities.

this will allow them to sue the pants off the next person who writes anything that they (or the incumbent govt) feel to be defamatory (which is easier than to engage the services of the c.i.d. to nail the blogger).

there is also a possibility that some of the journalists are getting a bit pissed 'cos they suddenly found out there are people who write and think much better then them (& not to mention that some bloggers have been criticizing the journalists' "inaccurate" writings). aiya, it's plain jealousy lah. in order to take revenge, the journalists now wanna gang up and eliminate bloggers.

Anonymous said...

The funny thing about bad logic is how easy it is to twist it to say anything. If anonymity is bad, then I, who is not a blogger and only read blogs for fun must be the worst villian of the lot. Ditto the rest of the people out there who read blogs for fun.

Doesn't that egg on the face taste good?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Heheh. That is not how the mainstream media would put it. According to MSM, you anonymous readers are the hapless, helpless victims of Mr Wang's irresponsibility.

Anonymous said...

The funny thing about bad logic is how easy it is to twist to say anything. If MSM says we are hapless victims, then they are the worst victims for they have gone on public record to disavow bloggers while most of us don't take bloggers seriously anyway. In their righteous rhetoric, they give credibility to the very people they don't like. Bloggers (excluding those of Xiaxue's ilk) don't seem to mind not having this "credibility".

The egg on the face was thrown by MSM in paying too much attention to those who in their estimation, don't deserve it. It is wholly their fault. Those who defend credibility are the first to lose it. Those who don't haven't lost anything which wasn't theirs.