23 July 2006

The MSM Grows Nervous

So the debate about blogs versus mainstream media (MSM) just goes on and on. The Straits Times yesterday published a long article on this topic - so lengthy that I'm reproducing it on a separate page. Blogger Bernard Leong had an insider's view on this article and he shares further thoughts here.

Mr Brown's recent saga sparked this latest article, which subtly injects a new angle. Reading the article carefully, we seem to discover that the local MSM is quite concerned about the Mr Brown saga too. Not so much for the man himself, but about the implications of this episode, for the future of MSM. Note the opening lines of the article:

If it's Internet chatter, it's okay. But because it was published in a mainstream newspaper, it's not. So said Minister Lee Boon Yang, explaining the Government's stiff response to a newspaper column by blogger mr brown.
Did you detect anything there? A weak cry of "Oh please, MICA .... you're not being fair to us journalists!", perhaps? Read the article for more sounds of faint protest. Some degree of mutedness is required because Bhavani has already forbidden local MSM from "championing issues" - and that surely includes the issue of MSM's own journalistic scope and freedom.

But of course the MSM is concerned. Singapore is already ranked 140th in the world for press freedom. SPH journalists must be regularly feeling embarrassed when they travel to international press events. Furthermore their coverage of GE 2006 did nothing to regain the trust of thinking Singaporeans. Retaining what credibility they still have is already an uphill struggle.

And now MICA has slapped them with the Bhavani commandments. So their scope for critical journalistic work is even further reduced.

Even worse for MSM, MICA has announced that while local MSM must obey the Bhavani commandments, bloggers need not. So effectively, the "alternative media" has advantages in the exact areas where local MSM is crippled.

Suppose for example that the PAP comes up with a new government policy which is seriously flawed. Bloggers such as Mr Wang, Molly Meek or Yawning Bread will be free to do research, study the policy, point out the problems and say, "Goodness, why is the PAP making such a terrible mistake?"

The MSM, however, cannot do that. Bhavani has spoken, and she has made it clear that journalists must not "undermine the Government's standing with the electorate". In other words, journalists cannot say that the PAP has gone wrong - even when the PAP has gone wrong.

And how long do you expect Singaporeans to trust newspapers like that? Far safer, and far more intelligent, to turn to "alternative media" to get an informed, reasoned view.

And that's why the local MSM is worried.

Technorati: ; ; .

Further Thoughts: Recently, Yawning Bread also overheard the MSM making some other strange noises to the Singapore government.


Anonymous said...

If they are worried about their job and their bonuses, then no issue. PAP will always pay their propaganda machinery well.

Journalistic integrity? hmm, never see them fight furiously for it in the first place. They kowtow at the slightest sign of trouble leh.

To conclude, they don't have my sympathy nor attention.

They can rot for all I care as long as I have my alternative reading :)

wert said...

The job of the mainstream media in Singapore is to propagate proper and correct "nation buliding" views. It should be already stated clearly in the employment contracts so that they should be under no illusion.

I don't think the government is seriously worried over the blogsphere. Mainstream media still has great advantages with the mainstream availability. Even if blogs developed into a genuine popular alternative media, using the much practiced tactic of "Kill One, Warn Hundreds" should quiet things down and keep things inline.

Jackson Tan said...


I think that is a very unfair statement to the journalists. I invite you to read Cherian George's blog entry on mainstream media, in particular point number 10, since you choose to post anonymously.

Anonymous said...

The MSM is worried?? Oh please!

They are worried indeed... over their paycheck! Licking scraps from their master's table like the poor prostitutes and running dogs that they are.

Anonymous said...

"Often, journalists deserve it, and can learn from it. But journalists who know they've done their best needn't take it personally. "

Yes, I have read point 10. But seriously, how much have really done their best??? Unfortunately, even dear George is now just an academic in some institution.

I am Jennifer Chan. Does it make you any wiser that I am now less anonymous? Or that my comments sting you less ....

Anonymous said...

Penny Low's comments really challenge LKY's boast that the best has been co-opted into the PAP. How she managed to twist the Bak Chor Mee podcast into a alleged closing down of a hawker stall over number of fishballs staggers the imagination. And there's her claim that her "experience as a lecturer" proves Singaporeans are not mature enough to discern truth from fiction. Maybe she should ask her fellow MIW Vivian how is it the same Singaporeans are mature enough to accept the casino. The reality is that the blogs have proved the contrary, Singaporeans know where the real information can be found, and it's not in the morning papers.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

In the end, MSM is a business. If readership numbers decline, so does advertising revenue. Declining newspaper readership is a worldwide trend (google and you will see) and also in Singapore - see here, for example:

"Selling some 390,000 copies to a population of 4.25m people gives the Straits Times a penetration rate of only 35 per cent.

For the national paper, which enjoys a captive market, the ratio is pretty dismal.

One example: in Serangoon Gardens, a relatively well-off private estate, distributors told me they are delivering Straits Times only to 40% of the households.

Global trends don’t entirely explain its present strait. The major reason lies in the restrictive press laws and the editors’ excessive compliance to them.

Since independence, a whole new generation – more demanding, independent-minded and worldly-wise – has grown up wanting a freer press.

Many of them are cynical, demanding more serious choices while others want a more credible voice to air opposing views.

At a time of historical transformation, many aspects of life in Singapore are changing.

But the newspapers have hardly altered beyond improving journalistic design and writing style all these years.

It is frankly a trend which should worry the PAP government as well (if they were sufficiently forward-looking). Why? Because:

"The media cannot help the government if more youths turn away from newspapers or disbelieve what they say.

Worse still if more and more turn to the Internet, weblogs, e-lists and online forums that post news and information on virtually every subject a reader would want."

It may not be anything to worry about today, next week or next year. It is something to worry about if you have a longer time frame - 3, 4, 5 years? - in mind.

Jackson Tan said...

anonymous/Jennifer Chan:

Of course your comments don't sting me. All I'm questioning is the validity of your accusations. I mean, put yourself in their shoes.

To some (if not many) of them, journalism is a mean of putting food on the table for the family. How many of them will be willing to sacrifice their jobs to stand for what they believe in. For that matter, how many Singaporeans are willing to let go of their jobs to fight for their stand?

It may even be fine if they can get an article or two that is critical of the government out before they get fired, but because of the presence of editors, they may even be removed from their job without anything published (of course I'm making a speculation here).

I am an undergraduate in NUS (if you want to find out who I am, just follow the link in my profile to my website). I voted for the WP party. But am I willing to sacrifice my studies or even my future job to battle for my political stand? No, I won't...

Anonymous said...

Sigh ... that's exactly why Singaporeans will forever be pathetic.

Because they will not stand up to their beliefs and their principles.

Because we have to put food on our tables!

Singaporeans, in the spirit of being compassionate, condones many injustices around them.

We all have to put food on our tables. There are many ways of doing it. Doing what some of the PDMM did, is definitely not one of them. You can be compassionate and let them continue but nobody gains in the long run. This is just one example.

Not many Ghandis around, of course. But to have an easy excuse for selling one's integrity is another.

We are all entitled to our opinions. Mine has not changed.

Dr Oz bloke said...

We need money to buy food, pay for lodging, to live....

Money doesn't buy happiness and neither does poverty.

But one of the things people want is meaningful work. They want to feel that they are doing something worthwhile. To be proud of their work.

I am quite sure many Singapore journalists don't feel very satisfied with what they produce. It's just a job to them.

But it's probably the same for many other people in Singapore. We're a society that doesn't seem very passionate about anything except doing our jobs and making a living.

Reality check 101.

Anonymous said...


Singapore is a free and fair society. You will not risk your journalism job if you write about WP and criticise the PAP.

The only time you will lose your job is bad performance and never do your work which are universal reasons in the whole world.

You are making a serious charge that PAP is politicisng our everyday life right up into our offices.

If you feel you are dismiss unfairly from your job because of stupid reasons like different political leanings, you can challenge the dismissal in court.We have laws to protect workers from unfair dismissal.

If every Singaporean have your cowardice, then Singapore will have a huge social problem.

I do not think you are suitable to be a journalist. Yes , you can write but you have no spirit and cannot think. We do not need another journalist who regurgitates.

Please go and join the civil service. You are more suited to be one.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Anonymous said:

"You will not risk your journalism job if you write about WP and criticise the PAP."

K Bhavani, MICA Press Secretary said:

"It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to ... campaign ... against the Government. If a columnist ... undermine[s] the Government's standing with the electorate, then he is .... a partisan player in politics."

I have edited Bhavani's comment to make the point stand out more clearly. For exact quote, click here.

wert said...

Didn't mr brown lost his job because he writes about the not so pleasant facts of Singapore life?

Short term memory?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

It's the Matrix .... our realities are different. You're not really here.

Anonymous said...

Mr Brown can challenge in court his dismissal/suspension as unlawful and illogical but he did not which is his own fault.

But again, he may think twice given that in Singapore,the functions of laws and courts are too expensive to be use by an average Singaporean. Whats the point of having laws and avenues of justice when it is too expensive to use?

What I did not like about Pandemonium is his pragmatic approach to a job like journalism. He lacks certain traits to be a successful journalist.

I mean he voted WP, if his fears are right, NUS/NTU should have found a reason to sack him from university by now.Nothing happen right?

Just like I will never vote in a PAP MP who utter these words " I wish to give back to society by serving it". Sure, but why do it with PAP ? If that bloody PAP MP cannot jolly explain which they usually do not, I will not vote for him.

Most new PAP MPs so far are disappointing, they lack the spirit and care needed to be a good MP.Most are just that for better resumes and directorships. I am totally disgusted.

Anonymous said...

"To some (if not many) of them, journalism is a mean of putting food on the table for the family. How many of them will be willing to sacrifice their jobs to stand for what they believe in. For that matter, how many Singaporeans are willing to let go of their jobs to fight for their stand?"

Pandemonium, if one is willing to work for a shameless organisation that does despicable and ethically questionable things in the name of putting food on the table, what kind of characters do u think they have? It is not even about asking them to fight for anything, it is merely asking them to stop being accomplices in the deceit and lies to s'poreans.

I say find another job if the person has any moral backbone and values. But obviously they value their pay over all else, therefore they deserve to be slammed. Its a hot seat, and they should get out of the kitchen if they cannot stand the heat, otherwise you cannot blame the poor opinions on the lousy dishes they serve up.

wert said...

"I mean he voted WP, if his fears are right, NUS/NTU should have found a reason to sack him from university by now.Nothing happen right?"

That is because he hasn't passed any OB marker. The government isn't paranoid enough to go after ordinary voters (which almost certainly to be counter productive). They are not against individuals voting against them but they have zero tolerence for people who tried to influence other people to vote against them.

If he tried setting up anything like "NUS WP Society", I would say his chances of surviving in NUS isn't good at all.

I can even cite a prominent case : Dr Chee.

Jackson Tan said...

Jennifer Chan:

I think that is a fact of life everywhere, not just in Singapore. Between standing up for one's beliefs and having a decent life, I believe most would choose the latter. The question is, where do we draw the "decent" line?

Having one's basic needs fulfilled? Having a secured future? Having a comfortable life? I think that differs from person to person, but I don't think you'll deny that "decent" is at least having one's basic needs and responsibilities (such as feeding the family) fulfilled.

And if the journalists need their jobs to achieve this, can you blame them? They cannot fight with an empty stomach...

I'm not saying that we should not criticise. We should criticise, but at the correct target: (self-)censorship. And that arises from the powers that the government has over the media (see the Yawning Bread link below).


I'm not saying PAP is in control of everyone's job. But it is a reality that PAP can control a journalist's job. In Yawning Bread's article Flat-footed and worse, it was pointed out that

... the government can direct who gets to own those management shares. With such voting rights the government has a veto over staff appointments.

And unless I'm mistakened, there is at least one PAP big shot each in MediaCorp and SPH.

To fight against unfair dismissal in the courts? I'm not sure how much effect that will be. If a journalist is dismissed from his job because he wrote something critical of the government, then it can be said that he champions issues and undermines nation-building efforts of the government. Will that then be a charge serious enough for a dismissal? Keep in mind how the government defines how a journalist should behave.

Oh, and I becoming a journalist? Haha... that's no way! You're wrong in saying that I can write but has no spirit and cannot think. On the contrary, I have spirit and I do think (or at least that's what I believe), but I cannot write well, and hence journalism is definitely not the route for me. For example, it took me a good half hour to write this entire reply! My passion is in physics; whether it'll take me into civil service or not, I'll let time decide.

But I agree with you that most new PAP MPs are rather disappointing.

Recruit Ong:

Finding another job is easier said than done. Let me ask you this: where else can a journalist writing about current affairs find a job in Singapore? The two main outlets are controlled by the government.

To all:

Sorry if I sounded a bit lame to you, but I've tried my best to put my thoughts across. Like I said, my mastery over words is not good.

Anonymous said...

"the government can direct who gets to own those management shares. With such voting rights the government has a veto over staff appointments"

Shit...if that is real then no matter how hard WP works, it is useless. They will always lose out to the odd percentage.

I mean PAP can keep on opening government-linked companies and Singaporeans pays for it.The staff in these government companies will forever vote PAP due to false fears and and to protect their jobs which we know have no relevance.

We should include civil service, statutory boards etc

This cycle has no end. It is vicious cycle and system to keep PAP in power eternally.

Anonymous said...

"To some (if not many) of them, journalism is a mean of putting food on the table for the family."


Boo Hoo.... I studied for 4 years for a journalism degree and I am FORCED to work in ST and I have to compromise on my integrity....Boo Hoo

Come on. It's not that with a journalism degree, ppl will starve to death unless they work in ST.

They are not minimum wage workers that have to accept that low paying hawker assitant/flipping burgers job to survive.

Anonymous said...

I hope you can understand why many Singaporeans are doubtful or cynical who is really right and wrong in these kind of scenarios.You cannot really blame them. I am not saying that you did but just giving a reason for the cynicism towards Singapore Media as a whole.

This is because of Singapore's long history of biased and one sided news reporting by the local media in favourable of PAP.

It also includes the culture of little transparency, inequality, long years of subservience towards the government and past historical examples like Chee Soon Juan, Mr Brown, Tang Liang Hong etc.

I only remember media reports of one complaint by a customer when he refuse to allow wet seafood into his cab which was why Comfort terminated his license. Should MRT's license be terminated too for refusing durians in their trains?

I do not agree Seng Han Thong purposely went Shanghai to help The Old Man. He could have went Kuala Lumpur if it was only to help The Old Man.

Sen Han Thong went Shanghai for genuine business reasons would have been more acceptable. It just coincide with the incident.

What I did not like is that Parliament and Town Council work requires plenty of commitment and attention, yet these greedy PAP MPs still refuse to give up their regular day work and instead add to them by becoming directors of many companies because of MP status.

PAP says as long as work is done, it is ok for them to be part time but I see plenty of work undone. Some laws inherited from colonial times are never revised or deleted. So as long as I do my work, I can tell my boss that I will arrive a few hours later everyday?

Singapore is the only nation whereby politicians are part time. I realise later the reason for this was that these part time MPs are just there to keep the core group of Ministers and family in power as they are part of the majority in Parliament.

It is a win-win situation for those core group who wants to remain in power and be Ministers and for those who just want to be MP to add to their job resume and social status.

I find this system ridiculous and not productive and will sooner or later return to haunt Singapore in the long run

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Hahahaa! Check this out - someone even more cynical than me. here.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang's analysis about MSM is interesting.(the comment before the spirited exchanges on why the journalists should keep their low-paying jobs).

The rate of declining readership will affect how the government places importance on the integrity of our 140th media?

Then, can I conclude that by not reading the MSM, we will be helping all of us?

1 the Government will allow more independent views from the journalists so that the papers will still make some profits to cover the costs

2 the journalists can finally get some satisfaction from their low-pay and thankless jobs because the government finally allows them to occasionally speak some truths, not spewing Bhavani's commandments alike.

3 Hopefully, more will return to the MSM and BUY newspapers

So, why argue! Just stop buying MSM and help the journalists along the way to salvage their reputation and still put food on the table for the family.

Win-win for all.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Wang,

While I hardly consider myself a supporter of the ruling party, I'd like to get your and my fellow readers' comments on the following thought:

"Is Singapore ready for a relaxation of censorship of the MSM?"

Several issues I'd like to raise for discussion:

1) By and large, from my visits to several blogs maintained by Singaporeans, I've noticed intelligent discussions of important issues. What I'm curious to know is what is the estimated proportion of Singaporeans who are intellectually ready for such discussions?

2) Following from 1), if the bloggers/readers are not a large proportion of Singaporeans, and if (possibly a large if), the 'typical' Singaporean is insufficiently educated (I think the bak chor mee case is extreme, but the point is made), ignorant, or plain doesn't care (suffers from "Too Long, Didn't Read" syndrome), what is the risk that issues will be misintepreted and the (larger population) confused?

3) Could it be (pure speculation here) that the government is comfortable with such discussions in cyberspace (as opposed to in the MSM) partly because by self-selection, those on-line are by and large able to argue issues soundly and coherently, and not be easily confused?

4) Or is there a case to be made that this is a chicken and egg situation? The government coddles/protects the population-at-large, and so they don't develop intellectually? Do we need some sort of big-bang here?

My thinking is that the opening up will have to happen - Singapore's government has no choice on this due to external pressures, but this will have to happen as the younger and presumably more-educated younger generation slowly become a large proportion of the population.

I recognise the above may be somewhat inflammatory, but I offered it in the spirit of encouraging a helpful discussion. Contribute light, not heat please.


Anonymous said...

My goodness, just visited the twostepsfromtwilight chap's website. This guy is an impressive writer. Thanks for the link - is he really only 18?


Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Actually, IMHO, one of the main reasons why the government has drawn such a sharp distinction between MSM and bloggers is that bloggers are very difficult to monitor and control. See my old comment on this.

MSM organisations, however, are sitting ducks even if they decide not to be running dogs. To operate legally in Singapore, they need a licence, onto which the PAP government can attach more or less just about any conditions it pleases - such as the Bhavani commandments.

And if the MSM organisation does not comply? Well, in the first place, this is most improbable in modern times considering the history of the people who sit in their top positions - Tony Tan; Lim Kim San; Yong Pung How. But if they really did not comply, well, you can take a look further back in the pages of history and you'll see what happened to THOSE kinds of newspapers.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who felt really uncomfortable with the cartoon on the MSM ST editorial pages today. To draw Iran with such a broad paint brush and the look on the face - was it seditious. Does it help in our relationships with countries in Middle East, South East Asia? As a Singaporean, I felt uncomfortable reading it. Should MICA investigate?

wert said...

Did the blogsphere affect the mainstream media?

Short answer: NO.
Long answer: Many will say that is it is grossly unfairly to say that the blogging did not affect the mainstream media given their newfound interest on blogs such as this and this. The readership of the mainstream media would not drastically change overnight. Yes, many Singaporeans are cynical of the local media, but ......

more at

/blalant self advertising and manual trackback/

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"Am I the only one who felt really uncomfortable with the cartoon on the MSM ST editorial pages today. To draw Iran with such a broad paint brush and the look on the face - was it seditious."


Well, ex-SPH editor Seah Chiang Nee has observed that the local MSM is only restrained, censored, restricted & muted when talking about matters relating to the Singapore government.

When it is talking about other countries, the local MSM has plenty of freedom to say what it likes.

For example, if you read the Bhavani Commandments, you can see that Bhavani's references are to Singapore and its government. Local MSM is quite free to criticise or make fun of other countries' governments or policies.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Oh, this is the hyperlink, and this is the part I was referring to:

"One frequent complaint is that it plays up the good and downplays the bad (and opposition parties) to please the government.

Another is that they become outspoken and hard-hitting only when covering foreign news, shrinking back when it comes to similar domestic issues."

Bernard Leong said...

Dear Mr Wang,

For your information, thought you might want to add in the main article, is an afterword written by Dr Gan Su-lin on her thoughts about the roundtable.

Hope that all are well. :)

yours sincerely,

le radical galoisien said...

Some people fail to recognise the subliminal messaging. I think the journalists are doing quite a good job in their position - now if they only consciously became organised they could perhaps throw off the yoke.

For one, the establishment is not homogeneous, the government is not homogenous (this is why it's a bad idea to refer to it with a capital G). There are many people inside the government and civil service who help implement policies they do not necessarily agree with.

I don't know if most of you have noticed this, but if you read some articles carefully the propaganda almost seems too obvious, as though it was intentionally ironic or sarcastic. Perhaps in protest. There are little bits of information that seem out of character for a propaganda newspaper.

Heavenly Sword said...

Hi Mr Wang, interesting discussion :]

The book Manufacturing Consent, by Herman & Chomsky, describes the interesting dynamics that account for the biases in the mainstream media in many countries. Link

Anonymous said...

Riemann Soong, i think you give the journalists too much credit, and risk burdening yourself with unnecessary analaysis and counter-analysis of their poor and biased writings. They do not, and it is not their intention, to produce subtle or layered articles if that is what you mean. Sometimes what one sees is what one gets. Reading too much into things can get oneself side-tracked and playing in their hands, giving them undue credit.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, regarding the ST cartoon on 24 July 2006, I think MICA, if they are reading this, should rein the semi Government editorial board in. It does not help relations with our Muslim brothers at home and in the neighbours. I am a Chinese, and I feel really really uncomfortable reading it - unless it prints an equally disgusting one deriding Israel to 'balance' the picture :)

Anonymous said...

Your post is simply ingenius!

Anonymous said...

"Even worse for MSM, MICA has announced that while local MSM must obey the Bhavani commandments, bloggers need not."

Mr Wang, hush hush, if you have spotted a loop hole, please do not highlight it.

Singapore is well known for its efficiency and before you know it, a new legislation shall be passed as follows:

Singapore Bloggers Act (Chapter
No. 143 - Part II)

Anonymous said...


An Act to provide for the internal security of Singapore, preventive detention, the prevention of subversion, the prevention of any likelihood of undermining the Government’s standing with the electorate, the prevention of all constructive criticisms not supported by constructive solutions or alternatives even though it falls squarely within the purview and functions of the Government, the elimination of any political observer, the suppression of partisan player in politics in Singapore, and for any matters incidental thereto arising from blogging activities.

Short title.
1. This Act may be cited as the Singapore Bloggers Act.

2. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires —

“blogger” means Singapore citizen, permanent resident, or any holder of a work permit, employment pass and S pass;

“blog” means a website set up or applied for through any of the blogs developer including without limitation a developer located at www.blogger.com.

Chapter I — Prohibition of bloggers of a political character etc.
Prohibition of engagement in political affairs and discussions of any form via internet.
3. The Minister may from time to time by order prohibit any blogger from the following activities: -

(a) posting of pictures, cartoons, photos of any politician, members of Parliament, ministers on their blog and commenting thereon;

(b) posting any comments on their blog that may embarrass or undermine the authority of the Government of Singapore or its standing with the electorate;

(c) abusing the usage of a blog by making any political criticism without stating a solution which shall deemed constructive in the sole opinion of the Government of Singapore;

(d) where a blogger is also a journalist, championing issues or campaign against the Government of Singapore in his blog;

(e) acting like a partisan player in politics which shall not include any courtesan player in favour of the Government of Singapore (?? – drafting needs to be refined);

(f) posting any political posts without first obtaining the prior written approval of the relevant governmental body;

4. Every person who breaches the provisions of Section 3 shall be guilty of an offence under this Part and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or to both and shall be forbidden from being employed by any media or press companies and any government body for the remaining period of his life.

(…. and so on … and there should be provision for more serious offences punishable be the following section

PART V - General

Application of section 94 of the Penal Code.
70. Section 94 of the Penal Code (which relates to an act to which a person is compelled by threats) shall have effect as if offences punishable with death under this Part were offences included in Chapter VI of the Penal Code punishable with death.


All comments for improving the provisions herein are welcomed!


"Good Bye Political Bloggers!!"

wert said...

You missed out of the caning.

A few strokes of the ratan will carry the message louder than just free "hotel" room in changi.

Anonymous said...

Gosh political bloggers shall now be equated with rapists - kanna caned for being bitchy!!

Anonymous said...

This is an intended flame. Be warned.

No offense, you do realize, LittleSpeck never cited WHERE or HOW it came up with the 35% figure? Cite a relevant source and I maybe inclined to believe.

It says readership is drawn towards Internet, digital entertainment etc, now really, drawn to Internet blogging doesn't mean they read the smarty-pants blog by yours truly. Remember Xiaxue obnoxious blog? Anyone? That blog makes 0 sense half the time but its getting hits. Pretty girl and teenage testerones? Hello?

Is there statistics on how internet blogging is changing people's life? ST has them, fabricated or not, I don't care but they can convince you that its true. Convince me blogging counts and is not internet chatter with hard facts.

Finally, so what if its 35%? If of the 35%, all are well-paying adults with oodles of money to spend to support the ST, as a business, do you think ST should care about alternative media like yours?

And bashing pandemonium here just shows that bloggers are inclined to mouth off detractors rather than being tolerant. Doing it in an eloquent way is just packaging. You are still mouthing off a person. Given the openess of our community, we should respect his views and not just insult him - albeit politely.

Well, I guess it's better to insult someone than being condescending and hypocritical (sarcasm) like trying to present OUR views nicely to pandemonium. Really, if you have the balls, go to City Hall and protest or something. I will respect you.

At least Malaysians staged a fiery protest in KL over oil prices - Singaporeans?

Please. Oh, we are blogging for the better good of the world, the pen is mightier then the sword.


I do not know who is more self-congratulatory.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

That wasn't much of a flame, really. Some valid points, but here's my two cents' worth.

Firstly, as I think I've said before, there are people who read MSM and not alternative media; people who read alternative media but not MSM; people who read both; and people who read neither.

When MSM behaves in a way that causes readers to lose trust, they may simply be inclined to stop reading MSM regularly. This is quite regardless of whether they turn to alternative media or not.

(In fact I had already ceased reading the ST for a few years before I even knew what a blog was).

The fact that MSM can lose readers in such a way is cause for concern for MSM, since MSM is, after all, a business. Therefore the Bhavani commandments are a cause of concern for MSM - especially if you take into account the funding filter concept (see link supplied by Heavenly Sword above).

So I hope it's clear now that the Bhavani commandments would make MSM nervous even if blogs did not exist. Then the fact that blogs can (at least potentially) be "competitors" only makes the problem worse.

If you do not believe that blogs can possibly provide at least some kind of indirect competition, consider the possibility that 20 or 30 ex-SPH journalists (for example, people like Seah Chiang Nee; Cherian George; Tan Tarn How - who ARE really blogging) all start blogging regularly; and then consider the possibility that another 10 or 20 SPH journalists also start blogging anonymously (I know two who do so, actually) and regularly. How could this possibly NOT constitute at least some competition for MSM?

The existence of Xiaxue does not, to me, show anything either way. In case you do not realise, she is now as much MSM as she is an individual blogger. After all, she writes for the most heavily-promoted SPH publication in recent years - STOMP, and previously she also wrote regularly for The New Paper (IIRC). If the existence of Xiaxue means that the blogosphere is therefore collectively stupid, then the existence of Xiaxue must also mean that MSM is just as stupid (which can't be an attractive proposition for MSM either).

Pandemonium, btw, is one of my most faithful readers. If you don't believe me, click on his name, go to his blog and count the number of times he has made reference to my blog. In this discussion, he is merely expressing certain views about SPH journalists (which, btw, I agree with; I think this would probably surprise you).

Does blogging count? Perhaps you're right. Perhaps it is stupid to believe that blogging has any influence on society at all. Then all these people and organisations -

MSM; IPS; MICA; Lee Boon Yang; Bhavani; Dr Vivian; the police officers and prosecutors who took action against the seditious bloggers; MDA and their political website rules; Balaji Sadasivan; Ministry of Education; Philip Yeo of A*STAR; etc

must all be very stupid, since they have spent quite a lot of time, in one way or another, worrying about such an inconsequential thing as blogging; or trying to use it for their own purposes.

And you are cleverer than all of them. Wow, I congratulate you.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

By the way, about the 35% figure, well, that was a 2004 article by Little Speck. He had written:

"Selling some 390,000 copies to a population of 4.25m people gives the Straits Times a penetration rate of only 35 per cent."

If you would like more up-to-date figures, you can visit the Straits Times' own website:


which says:

"First published on July 15, 1845, The Straits Times is the most widely read newspaper in Singapore. The Sunday Times, which is produced by the same team of journalists, has a circulation of nearly 400,000 and a readership of 1.23 million.

I think Little Speck is quite accurate - what do you say?

Anonymous said...

If Hermes vs Mr Wang were a boxing match, I say Mr Wang has just KO'd Hermes, no sweat, haha.

Anonymous said...

MSM; IPS; MICA; Lee Boon Yang; Bhavani; Dr Vivian; the police officers and prosecutors who took action against the seditious bloggers; MDA and their political website rules; Balaji Sadasivan; Ministry of Education; Philip Yeo of A*STAR; etc

They may yet be intelligent individuals, but they are also very out of touch and hampered by the rigid system and the control freaks they all serve. And if their collective actions to date make them look stupid, we should congratulate no one but themselves. Let's not forget there are also many within the system who are just bidding their time. Ours is a unique system in that only the system can remake itself, and this will remain so for a long time to come.

Anonymous said...

"Riemann Soong, i think you give the journalists too much credit, and risk burdening yourself with unnecessary analaysis and counter-analysis of their poor and biased writings."

I completely agree.

Whenwe have an elite,high flyer,the best that Spore can find,Ms Low who was seem to be very sincre in my eyes,believed that if Spore wree to elect more than 2 AP members into parliament,the economy would collapse,and the likes of Shell,IBM would pack up immediately and leave,you just cann't believe how stupid some of these elites can be.

So I am saying that some articles in 140th may seem to be ridiculous in our eyes,but I would not rule out the high possibility that the journalists really do believe in them.after all,these are meant for the consumption of the 66.6%,the masses who have the voting power,what can you expect.

Do not expect the 66.6% who have been suject to a whole life of propoganda to become wise any time soon,ever seem the masses from North Korea,singing praises to the great and dear leaders,the Kims while eating grass.

You should

Anonymous said...

For a lawyer, I'm actually quite surprised you missed the points (and sarcasm) in the flame, quite a bit in fact. But great work on twisting words or putting words into my mouth. That's your job.

I'm not saying all bloggers are stupid. I'm saying bloggers are a mix of people - some intelligent and some well, retarded. My point is blogging is just ONE of the many alternative media. It is NOT the sum of alternative media. Also, given blogging's inherent mix of nonsense with great stuff, please do not take a holistic approach and start preaching that it is all "informed views". That just reeks of self-congratulations. There are people who read blogs for tabloids and gossip - which ST does not and will never be able to provide and we are seeing an increase in Singaporeans who like reading just that. Do they constitute to the fall in readership? Yes, I have no figures to substantiate that so I leave that answer for the reader to find out on his or her own.

I brought up pandemonium for the reason that I'm irritated by some of the comments here (not your blog) that slam him outright. I'm championing him for actually showing what it means to be an open-minded individual - you can hold YOUR views but do not IMPOSE unto others what YOU think, or in this case resort to barely-concealed insults. That's like the outgoing charismatics in that religion that fashions a cross. Why you are bothering to explain since this applies not to you?

Statistics. Thanks for the citations. It just highlights my point on how much we trust those figures that originate from ST, yes? How credible are statistics that come from the same paper about that paper's readership, really? In case, it's not clear, I'm not a big fan of some of the numbers given in ST from time to time. Isn't there just that bit of fear that these figures are reported to achieve another motive or are in fact manipulated? Give me a neutral source - which was what I was hoping for when you referred to LittleSpeck and my subsequent outburst. As to the police or minister reacting that way in the City Hall 'protest', let's see, we deploy hundreds (or thousands) of trained army personnel to track down a small group of bandits at Pulau Ubin, was it? We should take bandits seriously. Really. Not kill one to warn a hundred but use a hundred to kill one. I'm impressed.

Sarcasm aside, I see a trend in bloggers to harp on that same issue like mrbrown yadda yadda over and over and over again, and seemingly wanting to link every damn thing back to it. Please STOP doing that and BELIEVING that blogging is going to count. Right now, it's not in Singapore but it HAS the potential and the people that counts recognize that. Hence that derogatory term, 'internet chatter'.

As to the other subsequent comments on propaganda, over the last 6 years, I have not stayed more than 1 month in Singapore but instead lived in Hongkong, US, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan, for months on end usually. You guys haven't seen what real propaganda is. What is done in Singapore is relatively mild and ST is still a respectable and newsworthy paper despite its many flaws, so stop condemning it or its journalists like you know a thing or two about propaganda. This is not a witch hunt.

Oh, and yes, I don't really care about Bhavani or whatever. I don't even know why the heck you are linking it back to my comments. But since its brought up, I cannot help being devil's advocate since I remember one blogger mentioning this theory - that article by brown was allowed to be published because Today wanted to increase circulation through provocation? So her boss decided it's time to put a stop to it otherwise the other papers are going to try that same tactic. It's been done everywhere else.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I think you are not really interested in discussing and are veering into personal attacks and insults. So I will leave you with just two thoughts:

1. No one can know better than the Straits Times how many readers the Straits Times has. So if you do not trust the Straits Times to give you the right numbers on that, then contrary to what you suggest, there is no point going to another source, or "neutral source", as you call it. Where would the neutral source get its numbers from?

2. You seem to have lots of preconceived ideas about what I think about MSM. Look at my post again with a clear mind - which part tells you that I'm doing a "witch hunt" on ST or "condemning it"?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Maybe just a third thought:

where in the world did you get the idea that I am saying that blogs are all "informed views"?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Actually, the more I read your comment, the less I see how it's connected to anything I wrote. I'm really interested to know what on earth you're thinking about (no sarcasm intended). What is your point here?:

"As to the police or minister reacting that way in the City Hall 'protest', let's see, we deploy hundreds (or thousands) of trained army personnel to track down a small group of bandits at Pulau Ubin, was it?"

... are you assuming that I hold certain opinions about this "protest"? Because I haven't written anything about it so far.

And I don't really understand what you mean here:

"Oh, and yes, I don't really care about Bhavani or whatever. I don't even know why the heck you are linking it back to my comments."

... my post, and this entire discussion, is really about how the Brown/Bhavani incident has affected MSM, is it not? That's why the post is entitled "The MSM Grows Nervous". If you're not interested in Bhavani's comments and your wish is to talk about some other matters relating to the press, maybe you should find the appropriate post to comment on ... instead of going off-tangent here and saying that I am the one going off-tangent?

Anonymous said...

Actually, the part about Hermes' post that I'm interested in is where he says that apart from blogs, there are other "alternative media" available (in Singapore?). I'd love to know what they are and check them out.

I hope he's not just referring to online foreign newspapers, Reuters etc (who doesn't know that they exist). Yes, good stuff, but lots of local things that matter to Singaporeans will never be reported or discussed there (eg taxi fare increase, the way English is taught in our schools, our overcrowded Tan Tock Seng Hospital - for some recent examples) and actually I would be interested to read views/opinions on those sorts of things (whether from blogs or the other "alternative media" which Hermes mentioned). I live in Singapore, after all.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I got Mr Wang all riled up. Okay, dude, sorry and chill.

Since we are doing the quotes game,

"Even worse for MSM, MICA has announced that while local MSM must obey the Bhavani commandments, bloggers need not. So effectively, the "alternative media" has advantages in the exact areas where local MSM is crippled."

"Far safer, and far more intelligent, to turn to "alternative media" to get an informed, reasoned view."

That came off as blogging = alternative media = informed, reasoned view. I was using "smarty-pants" as a compliment, guess that doesn't sit well. Sorry.

Off-tangent: That last comment was in response to yours to mine so we weren't really discussing your blog per say.

The protest: Please re-read your last comment about whether you have an opinion or not. You were suggesting that I look at those items and comment since you obviously have something to say about them. The sarcasm (I think it's funny actually) in the Pulau Ubin thing - do you really need to deploy so many people? Isn't that an exaggeration? I do believe one should not really put that much emphasis on that City Hall "protest" because of our habit of "exaggerating". Yes, it's a pat on the shoulder for those who went but let's just leave it at that instead of stroking our ego so very often.

"Alternative" media: Heh, I was thinking more of gossip forums, chatrooms (word of mouth) and yes, Xiaxue's blog on STOMP (and countless mutations of it)

Bhavani: Read my comments again. There are 3 main things essentially:

- people attacking others who try to give comments that is different.

- people condemning reporters/ST. that's not fair to them.

- there's generalizations and that's not right nor fair.

I will shut up now.

Anonymous said...

I liked the blogosphere because I can say all I want. Every opinion counts, whether well-researched or otherwise. Nobody holds the authority on what is well-researched. In fact, nobody can hold any authority on anything nowadays. Everything is manipulated for a reason.

The free-for-all atmosphere promotes reader maturity to seive out the good from the bad. While I read blogs like The Singapore Angle and Mr Wang's, I still visit Xiaxue's blog because I want to know what the young and frivolous in Singapore amuse themselves with currently. Nothing wrong with that.

When my opinions suck, people will shut me down. No problem, then maybe it's time for me to re-visit my thoughts. Why is it that so many others think I suck! Not my fault too, if my opinion was wrongly based on some wrong facts. Hopefully, there is still time to re-think.

Unfortunately, there are some who prefer to behave like an wounded animal, cry father cry mother about not being given a chance to put forth an alternative view.

The point is, they had. Just that many more disagreed with them. I think that's the crux of it. People are not happy that others don't agree with them (or those sharing the same views).

If they are MIW, they will probably do what MICA did.

Just my 2 cents worth. No research done on my piece, just search within my heart for some answers.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Did something happen on Pulau Ubin? I wasn't aware - I must have missed that. As for my items:

"MSM; IPS; MICA; Lee Boon Yang; Bhavani; Dr Vivian; the police officers and prosecutors who took action against the seditious bloggers; MDA and their political website rules; Balaji Sadasivan; Ministry of Education; Philip Yeo of A*STAR; etc"

I wasn't thinking of any City Hall protest etc. If you were referring to this:

"the police officers and prosecutors who took action against the seditious bloggers",

I was thinking of the three bloggers who were convicted under the Sedition Act last year.

Anonymous said...


I think you missed out a fair bit being out of the country the last six year. Do you think it's fair to make rather comments based on your six year old impression?

You can still without a doubt, keep an eye on the local issues while overseas. However, you would certainly missed out on the local sentiment because you are not the man on the ground for any consistent period of time.

Anonymous said...

All I can comment is that there is a very good reason why our MSM are ranked 140th in the world,

And no, how the west had misunderstood freedom in the uniquely unique little red dot sound more like a good excuse rather than a good reason.