Activists (anti-PAP, Oppo, alternative views or social) must realise or be aware that
— The 70% (especially the swing voter, 35% of the voters ) know what they are doing when they vote for the PAP; and
— that some anti-PAP, alternative etc views are more equal than others i.e. the cybernuts must not be given the space to talk cock, sing song. They must not be given publicity, and rebutted.
WP knows these Hard Truths and have used this knowledge to win and hold Aljunied GRC. Trouble is that others don’t. Yes, I thinking particularly of Mad Dog. (And sadly, retaining Aljunied was all the WP was interested in until recently.)
Voters know what they are doing
Those who think the decisions voters make are ignorant or even irrational do them a disservice. The judgments rendered by the electorate are sometimes misinformed, and often harsh, but rarely irrational …
Many experts on the issue despair at the ignorance voters display: they seem hopelessly wrong about the numbers coming, the reasons they come and the impact they have on the economy. Yet although they are muddled on the details, voters are remarkably responsive on the big picture. Concern about the issue tracks numbers closely: when migrant numbers go up, more voters cite it as a concern. Voters noticed the pledges by successive governments to bring numbers down, they noticed when these pledges failed, and they noticed that one important reason for that failure was rising immigration from the EU. The growing number of voters who wanted immigration reduced drew the logical conclusions from all of this: the old parties had failed on the issue, so they turned to a new one (Ukip); controlling migration looked close to impossible within the EU, so they voted to leave.
This pattern of behaviour – ignorant about the details, but responsive on the big picture – is one we see quite often. It has a lot to recommend it. When a room gets too cold, we respond by turning up the heating. When the room gets too hot, we turn it off. We usually manage to do this without knowing the precise temperature. Voters often display a similar thermostatic logic. Of course, voters aren’t consistently rational even on the big picture stuff. But usually when they apparently go off the rails, there is an interesting logic underlying what they do, throwing light on the strengths and weaknesses of how we reason more generally.
In the S’pore context this translates into as Chris K commented in response to this post
Slightly less the oppo but the social activists and their non nutty cyberspace allies are framing the free and liberal society in terms of ideals of human rights, civil society and democratic process. IMHO this don’t work in the peculiarly utilitarian mindset of the voters, shaped by one party rule. The free and liberal society needs to be framed in terms of access to public goods and redistribution, the nuts n bolts or bread n butter of that kind of society. Singapore is no totalitarian state, the social activists n their non nutty cyberspace allies take the easier route of wearing their hearts on their sleeves but this is putting the cart in front of the horse.
The SDP has a set of policy proposals that tries to frame its arguments for a “free and liberal society” in “terms of access to public goods and redistribution, the nuts n bolts or bread n butter of that kind of society.”. The problem is that 60- 70% of S’poreans have problems with Dr Chee’s history and character. Sad really that Dr Chee refuses to retire.
Why not publicising the cybernuts is a must
Not all anti-PAP, alternate views are equal. Some are more equal than others. The editors of alternative media and activists who are influencers must curate wisely. Allow the likes of Chris K, Donald Low and Yeoh Lum Keong free rein, but don’t spread the views of nutters like Roy Ngerng, Philip Ang and M Ravi.
The nutters taint those rational S’poreans who want change, making it easier for the PAP to persuade the swing voters that anyone who wants change must be as nuts as M Ravi.
And rebut them or get others to rebut them, even though the time spent on this activity can be seen like doing NS, the time can ne better used to inform and persuade the swing voters, a difficult task which I will post on next week. One way to look at rebutting is that it helps built up cred with the swing voter.
once a solid consensus has been reached through thorough testing, this must take precedence in responsible media discussion: as he says, “it would not be impartial, but irresponsible to give a smoking enthusiast equal time with the Chief Medical Officer or Surgeon General”.
The media’s dysfunctionality is structural. They must get audiences — public service broadcasters are increasingly exposed to that imperative — and they seek them, like politicians, in the privileging of emotion and personal experience. During the MMR vaccine debate, in which one rogue and inaccurate article on the dangers of the vaccine led to an insistent press campaign, interventions of “I’m just a mom and I want to keep my baby safe” could have more force than the arguments of the scientific establishment, especially if the latter were obscurely framed or contemptuously delivered.
In one of his many dissections of an anti-scientific consensus position, Thompson takes a statement from the social anthropologist Benny Peiser, director of Global Warming Policy Foundation, a sceptical climate change think-tank. In 2011 Peiser had argued: “Fundamentally these are social, ethical and economic questions that cannot be answered by science alone but require careful consideration by economists and social commentators.” It sounds broad-minded until you realise what the word “fundamentally” implies: as Thompson puts it, “that the layer of policy consideration which addresses social, ethical and economical questions is somehow weightier or more critical than the scientific layer”.
The former director-general criticises those of his former BBC colleagues who insist on absolute balance, even if it goes to the point where a sage must be countered by an idiot. The issue has moved some of those who voted Remain in the June referendum on the UK’s European Union membership, who argue that distinguished economists were given equal time with undistinguished shopkeepers: a complaint that might not have surfaced had the close result been reversed. Thompson wrote too early for that debate, but does argue that once a solid consensus has been reached through thorough testing, this must take precedence in responsible media discussion: as he says, “it would not be impartial, but irresponsible to give a smoking enthusiast equal time with the Chief Medical Officer or Surgeon General”.
Extract from FT review of Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong With the Language of Politics?, by Mark Thompson, Bodley Head, RRP£25 / St Martin’s Press, RRP$27.95, 384 pages
The author of the extract is John Lloyd. He is an FT contributing editor and a co-founder of Oxford university’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism