(Or “Doc’s cure Part I: a purgative)
PAP’s Heaven that is. Hell to us netizens. OK, let’s not exaggerate, more like Purgatory.
Sorry, Back to the headline. There are three steps that Yaacob wants taken to tame “cowboy towns”:
Step 1: “The Internet community creates a code of conduct for responsible online behaviour”
Step 2: “Citizens set up websites that offer constructive viewpoint” i.e. he said that the best way to go is to encourage other sites to emerge, “that can continue to offer constructive ideas and useful suggestions”.
Step 3: “Major media cos could help set the right tone online”
Step 1 has been well covered by netizens since he articulated it many moons ago. All I will add to the noise is this analysis
— If the government tries to regulate us bloggers, it’ll do more harm than good, for the government itself, the PAP and for S’pore. The government and PAP are no good in designing social systems: even the CCP in China acknowledges it cannot be the only social architect, it is only one of the players, albeit the one that can throw other players into jail. The PAP government has a further problem given government’s desire for a knowledge-based economy, but with knowledge and the economy increasingly dependent on access and the use of the internet, it can no longer control the information S’poreans get. The internet and, in particular, social media have created a level of transparency never ever seen before in S’pore. Even taking into account the lack of publicly available government data, people can still research complicated issues with a few clicks of a mouse. The PAP government can no longer control the agenda or the framework within which discussions take place.
Even manufacturing is becoming social: read the Economist, the magazine where the government got its ideas for COEs, and CBD charges, among other “screw the poor” ideas.
— In the context of the other two steps, it is totally irrelevant. It has nothing to do with getting citizens to set up websites “that offer constructive viewpoints” or” with the local media helping readers to “separate the wheat from the chaff”.
— And even after asserting that the internet should grow as a platform for “serious discussion”, Dr Yaacob said a site cannot be stopped “just because we disagree with it”. There’s “nothing wrong” with “more sites available that offer alternative views, but as long as they are constructive … based on proper analysis”.
On Step 2, “Citizens set up websites that offer constructive viewpoint”, my first tot was, “Err whatever happened to FTs, that ministers so treasure? They don’t do “constructive” websites? Or are they banned from doing “constructive websites” but allowed to do “unconstructive” websites (citizens are discouraged from doing these sites)? Or are FTs banned totally from setting up websites on S’pore? Or all websites?”. If the last “wah lan” what kind of FTs do we want? Only goodie-two shoes (as defined by the PAP) like “No NS for me” from Msian-born Puthu or “Food is gd is M’sia” from Msian-born Ms Foo”. Incidentally, both became PAP MPs.
And he is talking rubbish, “If there are no good online sites or platforms that offer good views, people will naturally gravitate toward those that are popular and available.” Well people will always gravitate to sites that support their point of view. Ask the watchers of Fox TV in the US. And to “yellow culture” websites that promote decadent lifestyles.
But my biggest grouse with him on Step 2, is that what are “good” and “constructive” websites with “proper analysis” to enable “serious discussion” and “useful ideas”, are defined by the PAP government. It’s the usual “setting the agenda”, framing the issue game that the government is always playing.
And it’s clear that by saying the local media can help readers to “separate the wheat from the chaff … our major companies, which have an established presence, can set the right tone online as well, with good practices of information sharing and moderation on the various online platforms”, his definitions of “good”, “constructive”, “proper analysis”, “useful ideas” and “serious discussion” are the same definitions used by the PAP government to describe its ideal mainstream media, and the local media when it describes itself. He only left out “nation-building”*.
As this post is getting too long, I leave for next week examples of what I speculate are the practices he wants our “citizen”, “constructive” websites to learn from the local media: publishing misleading photos or rewriting letters-to-the-editor to misrepresent the views of the writers?
For now, I’ll leave you with some light relief, “[T]o disagree with the Government is not a crime, but let’s put it on a rational objective footing. The Government has never shied away from that and that is something we look forward to, so that the Internet community can add to the discourse.” Wonder if the late JBK, Dr Chee or TOC would agree?
* Actually he didn’t The Jakarta Post reported that he “noted that Singapore’s media model is one based on forging consensus and facilitating nation-building, in which social cohesion is preserved while empowering people to make informed decisions as a society.”