The Evolution of the PAP’s Strategy to the New Media

In Political governance on 21/02/2012 at 5:49 am

Trumpets please. I am quite a prophet, ain’t I. Recently I wrote, “… many more ordinary S’poreans will realise that the internet is not a “cowboy” town or injun territory where one can get away with anything. It is a place where if the authorities are determined, they can identify users … What next? A minister suing someone for defamatory comments made on the internet by the latter, comments he tot was “safe” because his identity was “hidden”?  You heard it here first …”.

Since then, Yawning Bread and then TRE each got a letter from the lawyers of the Foreign Minister and the PM respectively, telling them to remove defamatory articles. I could become a fortune teller, couldn’t I?

Seriously, the letters from the ministers’ lawyers show the fifth phase of the still in progress evolution of the governing PAP’s attitude towards the New Media (internet 2.0 and the social media).

Phase 1 was to ignore the New Media. It didn’t exist, and wouldn’t affect public opinion, unlike the traditional media. Well it existed, and it did affect public opinion (for example in the 2006 general election when a photo of a WP’ rally showed S’poreans that it was true the constructive, nation-building local media were “fixing” the Opposition).

Phase 2 was to pretend to ignore the New Media while actually reading what appeared there. On the surface, the government and the PAP ignored the New Media. Examples:  

— There were no official replies to queries that appeared on the ST’s Online Forum. Official replies were made only to queries published in ST’s Forum pages.

— TOC’s stories on the homeless were referred to by VivianB as “noise”, even after he led raids on the camps of the homeless.  

Well this didn’t work. So Phase 3 was to continue pretending to ignore the New Media while trying to seduce the leading players by making them feel important. Example: Injun Chief bloggers were invited to have tea and biscuits in “secret” with second tier PAPpies (the NCOs) like Zaqy and Baey. Sometimes, a less important first tier PAPpie like George Yeo would grant an audience in secret. Again this tactic didn’t work. If anything, the leading New Media players were annoyed by the hypocrisy of it all, and by being courted by “lesser PAPpies”, not the ones that mattered like the PM, DPM Teo or Tharman.

Then came a phase where the New Media’s existence was acknowledged and where the likes of Zaqy, Baey and Yeo continued in private vainly to seduce the leading players to see things the PAP way.

Well, we are now in Phase 5, which I analyse to be “threatening them lightly”. In both recent cases, my understanding is that the ministers’ lawyers are not asking for damages or costs, juz for removal of the offending article and some form of acknowledgement that the piece shouldn’t have published. 

What’s next? Who knows? The PAP could feel so threatened that it resorts to bankrupting bloggers that defame ministers, or it could organise a counter-insurgency campaign to try to retake lost territory (I’m available to be a hired gun if the pay is good). The Malaysian government has its sheriffs to try to tame cowboy towns. Or it could try a combination of the two.

Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications & the Arts Grace Fu said on Saturday that the challenge of increasing social diversity is likely to become greater as the society evolves and that Singapore must adapt and learn to manage greater diversity in perspectives, value systems and aspirations.

I hope that she is giving the PM and the other PAP leaders the same message and emphasising that the PAP must adapt and learn to manage greater diversity in perspectives, value systems and aspirations. I suspect not. But I’m sure she is telling them that there are emerging trends that “tug” at Singapore’s social fabric. One of these trends is the emergence of social media which has amplified voices beyond what was achievable by the traditional media.

  1. I am pretty sure the whole strategy has backfired on them. The name of the phenomena is the Streisland Effect. By sending said letter to the bloggers, the only thing they have done is to draw attention to the rumours and given it more publicity when previously these things were just confined to a certain forum and its limited audience.

    BTW, one should note whether the rumours are true or not is peripheral to the whole issue.

    • The point is to warn bloggers to toe the line. So from now on, even cynical will think thrice before posting any anti-PAP comments. If the warning fails to work, they will sue and return to the dark 80’s. What can you do? NOTHING. You will either lose in the court or be haul into some cells without trials. And both tactics are still “LEEGAL” in Singapore.

  2. Not in these two cases. Both sets of allegations appeared pretty widely. Anyway thks for yr points, as it has given me ideas for my next posting on this issue.

  3. ‘Pretending to ignore the new media’ is exactly the precise word to describe their hypocrisy.

    In fact it has been widely speculated that many young puppies were masquerading as cyber “cowboys” even in political forums like TOC, TR, etc., to defend their secretive bosses. Why then participate in such political forums if you now allege that they lack credibility ?

    It is a joke that our leaders have to resort to legal means to bully its critics. For example, can any US President claim there is no nepotism involved if the person appointing the US President’s wife as the CEO of a Govt investment corp also happens to report to the US President as Head of the State ?

    The very least he can and should do to avoid any controversy is to understand what is meant by a public conflict of interest, perceived or otherwise ? By failing to even understand this and yet take legal action, is it not a real joke by any international standards of public accountability ?

  4. […] is Singapore. There is no free Press – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: The Evolution of the PAP’s Strategy to the New Media – Under The Willow Tree: PM Lee’s Lawsuit Threat is a Serious Strategic Mistake – New Nation: […]


  6. You forgot the phase where even President Tony Tan was pretending to engage the new media bloggers..had lunch and all that. But once he got elected, the twitter account is promptly removed, and his engagement terminated.

    I think the next phase is to go the CCP route. Hiring massive Wu-Bao (the 50cts bloggers) to counter the negativity and ‘harmonize’ the social fabric.

    Catherine Lim is right. The PAP is incapable of reinventing.

    • Legally, Tony Tan was no longer part of the PAP, so I couldn’t use what he did as example. But you right, abt what he did and the subsequent “defriending” of his new-found friends. I’m sure some of them are smarting from the loss of face when their “friends’ as them about whether friend Tony invited them for yee sheng, or tea.

  7. Point to note, YawningBread’s was a comment he made and not the article.

  8. Re TRE, govt “pretend” to ignore becoz it couldn’t pinpoint any material individual(s) from the website. Until the silly TRE vs TOC forum with the local “rep” of TRE making himself known. This local rep supposedly the only one based in S’pore, and is new characteristic of TRE. TR during 2010-2011 claimed not to have any local editors, and all editors were based overseas, and all anonymous.

    Even then, PAP trying to show a more tolerant side by not going straight for the jugular first. Which is a big indication of them staying their hand mightily. Luckily already after GE.

    During GE period in 2011, newspapers had free rein to run riot on a Dr Whatshisname who was supposedly from the old-old-school-TR and not part of the new TR or TRE. He also kena lawyer letter, but he reply bark up the wrong tree. Not just wrong goal, but wrong stadium and wrong city somemore. Sue also no use.

  9. I guess it’s about time I paid a return visit to this site. I have noticed myself being referred to a few times here, and I’d like to thank you for the good attention.

    By the way, calling yourself a ‘prophet’ over one prediction (as tongue in cheek as it may) is pretty much the kind of thing which riles me. Still, this is a courtesy visit so…… good writing!

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