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Sun Tzu & the PAP’s non-use of new media, & the PM

In Internet, Media on 30/09/2013 at 6:36 am

(If you want to read about SunT left out about the Finnish education system scroll to the end)

This extract from a CNA report last Friday reminded me of an email exchange I had with a new media big cat (not ‘fat” cat) sometime back: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has addressed some key themes arising from the “Ask the PM” live forum on Channel NewsAsia which took place on Tuesday.

In a posting on his Facebook page on Thursday, he thanked viewers for their questions and comments, but said there were too many questions for him to answer individually.

He addressed key themes including education and housing.

I had suggested how the PAP should have reacted to P Ravi: Instead of using his skin to beat the RAVII DRUMS, it should have used Facebook, the medium he was accused of playing the DRUMS on.

A new media big cat (not “fat cat”) pointed out (his comments slighly edited)

MIW cannot stoop to the same level as the others by responding on fb. It’s typical for anyone to bring the battle to their own familiar turf or battleground. u dun fight in “enemy” territory which limits yr own exposure and not forgetting that the “enemy” territory r flanked by “enemy’s” supporters and so u won’t be able to have the last say.

He quoted Sun Tzu’s “The art of War”, a book that the Chinese generals still swear by and quote. I will not be surprised if the PAP too refers to Sun Tzu when in doubt (PM was from Catholic High and the book is a classic alongside the Analects and the Tao). I too used to be a fan of Sun Tzu (How to win without fighting sounds pretty attractive) until an ang moh by the name of Edward Luttwak (he would have been a strategist during the period of the Three Kingdoms or the Warring States) wrote recently a book on Chinese strategy, and pointed out waz wrong with Sun Tzu’s precepts.

Coming in for criticism by name is Sun Tzu, whose writings of 2,500 years ago, including “The Art of War“, are the main source of what Mr Luttwak calls “the flawed principles of ancient unwisdom”. He grants that the cunning statecraft, stratagems for deception and diplomatic finesse advocated by Sun Tzu may have worked when used by one warring Chinese state against another. But he argues that these doctrines have served China poorly in fending off other adversaries.

With a quick pass through the history of China’s engagement with Jurchens, Khitans, Mongols, Manchus and other Asiatic nomads, he notes that China has been ruled by Hans, its ethnic majority, for only about a third of the past millennium. “While Han generals in charge of large armies were busy quoting Sun Tzu to each other, relatively small numbers of mounted warriors schooled in the rudely effective strategy and tactics of the steppe outmanoeuvred and defeated their forces,” he writes.

The bit about being thrashed regularly by the nomads is a fact, not a Hard Truth.

So if the PAP continues to ignore new media because it is unfamiliar terrain that Sun Tzu says one shld not fight on, it will continue making unnecessary, avoidable PR fiascoes. But maybe it’s beginning to plan abandoning this Sun Tzu precept by recceing the new media terrain. The people behind the Breakfast Network (highly commended by me) and Independent (it sucks), are retired Imperial Stormtroop generals from the Keyboard corps. They could be juz like the German generals who turned on Hitler when Germany was losing, or be like Benedict Arnold (an American rebel hero who offered to surrender a fortress to the British). Or they could be what Sun Tzu recommends using. Only time will tell.

Onto serious matters. The PAP’s brand and message need to be recast for the age of social media (and. new media) in general) and the PM needs to show boldness and political artistry in grabbing his (and that of the PAP’s) share of attention. He can’t rely on the traditional media to help him grab attention. For starters, traditional media is no longer trusted here, especially  by the young. Then, too, the traditional media’s market share has diminished. And then there are all the competing celebrities on social media like all those cats’ pixs. And then there is vigilantism of websites like Stomp which have large audiences.

The PM has plenty of competition, be it in the mainstream media or new media.

And besides his style sucks in PR terms. As a double first in Maths from Cambridge, he is familiar with the scientific method: specificity, objectivity, and accountability. These are elements lacking in politics, anywhere in the world, let alone in S’pore, a de-facto one party state. They are lacking because politicians don’t need these skills to win elections. But Angela Merkel has shown that one can have the “scientific method” and be personally popular. And are we not the Prussians of the East? (The Prussians were the Germans’ Germans. Now most of what is now Prussia is in Poland.)

And as I will show on Wednesday, he has problems with the substance of hie messages too.

All in all, the PM and the PAP have a long way to go in the use of new media even with the help of BN and the Independent. Us, injuns and outlaws rule the comboy towns and the territory outside the MSM, govt forts.

Finally on a totally different topic, here’s sumething SunT didn’t tell us about the Finnish education system: Angry Birds creator Rovio has brought Angry Birds Playground, a schools initiative devised with the University of Helsinki in Finland, into the kindergarten classroom of children, aimed at six-year-olds.

With the initiative already in use in Finland, Rovio has now entered into an agreement with schools in China.

“With small children, the Finnish approach to education is very much play-orientated,” says Sanna Lukander, vice president of book publishing at Rovio Entertainment.

“These characters and their world seemed to inspire children. You can’t not think about how you might motivate children to do more than play.”

Games have a larger effect on learning than traditional materials”

Prof Constance Steinkuehler Games scholar

BTW, didn’t read the SunT stuff. Friend who read it told me that it didn’t talk about games. I had earlier sent him the above link given his interest in the Finnish way.

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  1. Go read the NYC piece on Merkel.

    Ms. Merkel has never been good on the stump. She was elected chancellor twice, but for her, elections evoke a sense of trauma. She almost lost to Gerhard Schröder in 2005 despite a comfortable lead in the polls. Four years later, despite strong poll numbers, she again did worse than expected on Election Day, though her position was secured by her strong coalition partner, the Free Democrats.

    When it comes to elections, Ms. Merkel really is a bad politician. She has never managed to relax and show confidence on the campaign trail. In her only TV debate with her main challenger, Peer Steinbrück of the left-leaning Social Democrats, she seemed distant and passive. On the stump she only recently went into attack mode — and shied back again immediately.

  2. This was taken from the PAP’s page:

    What do you think of this?

    • To my mind confirms the allegations that Ravi is out to “fix” the govt. In the old days, Ravi would be disbarred for being bi-polar, and repeatedly failing to take his medication (two serious lapses since 2008. But PM does things differently but sadly he doesn’t get any credit. Divine justice? remember the quote about “sins of the fathers visited” onto a few generations.

      • I did wonder is M Ravi keeping mum over client confidentiality issues. But if that is the case, M Ravi would have stated so.

        Foreign barristers seems eager to assist M Ravi and he paraded them around brazenly. Hangover of the colonial mindset, Ang Moh Tua Ki?

        Can’t comment whether is LHL getting soft. But in the unrestricted digital age, the G do not enjoy the monopoly of setting narratives. The hard methods of the past can’t be applied.

      • Let’s face it, without the ang mohs Ravi would get nowhere. So he needs them. They need him as a local running dog for their very humane activities. Well China is doing pretty well with its methods. )))) Will work if prepared to upset the ang mohs. But S’pore can’t get away with it, China can. not that I’m complaining. ))))

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