By Aaron Ng

If PM Lee’s National Day message is any indicator of what is coming up on the National Day Rally speech for this year, it is perhaps not surprising that new media has been thrown off the radar, despite having occupied a relatively prominent place in last year’s Rally speech.

In the message (full text available here ) the main focus is on the economy and Singapore’s attempt to transform itself into a vibrant city comparable to the likes of London and New York.

In my opinion, one key element of a vibrant city is an active and vociferous citizenry and the new media scene in Singapore clearly provides this.

Over the past year, the Singaporean new media scene, in particular, the blogosphere, has taken the lead in setting the news agenda. The Wee Shu-min affair in October 2006 and the more recent Lee Hong-yi affair both started online and moved on to capture the attention of both Singaporean netizens and non-netizens.

These two incidents clearly illustrate the potential of new media in creating a more active citizenry that’s required for a vibrant city state. Last year, PM Lee mentioned Mr Brown’s “bak chor mee” podcast in his National Day Rally speech, which is a clear sign that cyberspace has become important enough to warrant a mention in a speech as important as the National Day Rally speech.

It remains unclear as to whether PM Lee will continue to comment on the new media scene this year, considering that one of the most important events on Singaporean cyberspace this year involved his son. Perhaps PM Lee might reaffirm what the Minister for Community, Youth and Sports, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said recently about how it is much harder these days for politicians (and almost anyone for that matter) to get away with lying because cyberspace will eventually expose the truth.

However, I think that it is very likely new media will probably not be given any mention at this year’s Rally Speech. It is not that cyberspace has diminished in importance but rather, other issues have come to the forefront, such as the widening income gap, the bullish economy, and fears of a property bubble. These issues are perhaps more pressing than the misdemeanors of two young kids.

Expect the Singaporean cyberspace to be buzzing with activity before and after the Rally speech, though. We should be expecting, as usual, both extreme ends of the spectrum to be cheerleading their cause.

The Young PAP blog is likely to lead the online cheerleading of the Rally speech while blogs like Singapore Election Watch (and probably the guys over at Sammyboy forums as well) are probably going to take the lead in offering fiercely critical perspectives on the Rally speech.

Aside from the relatively predictable extreme cyberspace camps, it would be interesting to note what others netizens have to say about the Rally speech.

Within the centrist camp, there are those leaning towards the left, such as Molly Meek and Lucky Tan, as well as those who lean more to the right, such as the Kway Teow Man.

The diversity of views from all three online camps, which Bernard Leong has compared to the geopolitical situation chronicled in the “Romance of the three Kingdoms”, will probably result in a well-balanced post mortem of National Day Rally Speech 2007.

Aaron is currently a teaching assistant and a masters student at the National University of Singapore. He is also the owner of the blog Hear Ye Hear Ye.


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