Andrew Loh

With so many shenanigans and so much bad press, is it any wonder that bloggers here are gaining a reputation as irresponsible netizens?

The above quote is from Clarence Chang of The New Paper in an article titled, “Why are S’pore bloggers clueless and careless?” (2005).

Also in that article, Chang says:

They slime, ‘flame’ and take potshots at others. The more outrageous the comments, it seems, the better. In Singapore, bloggers appear to think that anything goes.

Three years on, it seems that the attacks by the mainstream media (MSM) on the Internet, and bloggers in particular, haven’t let up.

In the past month or so, these have taken the form of outright disparagement of bloggers – most of them at how bloggers have reacted to Mas Selamat Kastari’s escape from the Whitley Road Detention Center and the aftermath.

In a Straits Times article titled, “Mas Selamat wins in blame game”, on March 15 2008, Paul Jacob described blog postings as being full of “sarcastic comments”, “speculation, innuendo and finger-pointing”, and bloggers as “detractors” who are “baying for blood”, and engaging in a “blame game”.

Jacob goes on further:

The rants in cyberspace take pleasure in knocking Singapore‘s firm and nononsense (sic) reputation.

And, oblivious to his own complicity in doing exactly the same, Jacob ends his piece with:

This is not a time when others should be given room to take potshots and sow seeds that, in some cases, appear designed to cause discord and to cast doubt on and undermine the work and reputation of individuals and institutions.

Phew! That’s a lot of accusations to hurl, eh?

Jacob is the Deputy Political Editor of the ST, mind you.

And he talks about ranting. Rather funny, isn’t it? Ironic, for sure.

I guess “the more outrageous the comments, it seems, the better”, as Chang said.

In that same spirit of trying to better one another in demonizing bloggers, in steps the Chuas – Chua Mui Hoong and Chua Lee Hoong.

Chua MH subtly lumps “anonymous bloggers” together with “grandstanding kopitiam rabble rousers” in a piece titled “Beyond witch-hunts to sanctions for lapses” (ST, April 23 2008). In dissing some bloggers’ calls for Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng to resign, Chua MH says:

There is a difference between comments made to ventilate emotions and hard-headed comments meant to be acted upon. The ‘heads should roll’ and ‘minister must go’ comments belonged more to the former than to the latter category.

Bloggers are “emotional”, and “emotional” equals “irrational”. That’s what she’s saying.

The next day, April 24, the Straits Times Forum Page published a letter by a certain Colin Ong Tau Shien. Referring to what is being posted on the Internet about the escape, he said:

There are many unfounded snide comments and even YouTube videos about government inadequacy. Many of these biased views are left unanswered.

Unfounded. Snide. Biased. Did you catch that?

But of course, that is nothing compared to what came next – Political Editor of the ST, Chua Lee Hoong’s piece of emotional ranting directed at those whom she says “seem to feed on one another’s vitriol, and try to outdo themselves”. (“That escape: Crucial issues aplenty, so let’s move on”, ST April 26 2008.)

I am sure Chua LH has Jacob in mind when she was writing that piece – “the more outrageous the comments, it seems, the better”.

She begins:

Reading Internet postings often makes my blood boil.

Uh oh.

Then she goes on:

[Too many netizens] Have no sense of perspective, seeming to think the escape of one detainee is sufficient cause for an entire government to be thrown into flux by sacking a minister.

Netizens have no sense of perspective. I recall MM Lee using those very same words not too long ago about Singaporeans in general, did he not?

[Too many netizens] Obviously have not read the full account of what Mr Wong said, yet think they are in a position to pass judgment.

Netizens are lazy or ill-informed and are not qualified enough to pass judgment.

[Too many netizens] Seem to feed on one another’s vitriol, and try to outdo themselves in calling for punishment.

Feed on one another’s vitriol. Wow. I really don’t know what to say to that, honestly.

(Empty Vessels has a rather good rebuttal, word for word, to Chua LH’s rants. I highly recommend reading it for therapy.)

What actually made me wonder if Chua LH knew what she was writing even as she typed on her keyboard was this paragraph – about the “commando death”:

Not only was there a death, but the ministry initially did not state exactly how he died. It was only two months later – after newspaper reports and Internet postings by friends of the commando – that the minister appeared before Parliament to answer questions on the death.

The crucial part is this:

… after newspaper reports and Internet postings by friends of the commando…

Ahh… it was only after some “Internet postings” that the minister appeared before Parliament to answer questions about his death.

No wonder reading Internet postings makes Chua LH’s blood boil. They make ministers appear before Parliament!

And as if to convince everyone that the escape is not such a big issue, Chua LH says:

I concur fully with unionist G. Muthu Kumar, who said there are far more important concerns for workers, like rising food costs. ‘People don’t bother about this Mas Selamat… they’ve got no time to think about this.’

Yet her ST colleague Chua MH had said just the day before, in the article, “Ministerial responsibility: The UK example”:

SINGAPOREANS this week are seized over the issue of ministerial responsibility when things go wrong on their watch.

Hmm… either one of the Chuas must be out of touch. You cannot say Singaporeans “got no time to think about this” while being “seized over the issue” at the same time, right?

Anyway, back to discrediting bloggers and netizens. What has the man at the top got to say about new media? TODAY reported Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as saying:

Mr Lee expressed concern on how Singaporeans are using the new media to disseminate news and information without sufficient understanding of the political motivation of the sources.

“PM Lee on Internet lessons”, TODAY, April 14 2008.

‘Political motivation of the sources’? Hmm. One wonders if that includes George Yeo and the P65 gang.

What should one make of all these unkind words about bloggers, blogs, netizens and the new media? Are the accusations true? Or is the MSM on a mission to disembowel those of us who inhabit cyberspace?

One aspect of all the reports, articles and write-ups in the local press may give us a clue. In all those publications, virtually none mentioned any particular blog or blogger whom the reporters seem to find distasteful.

I think that says something. Perhaps the strategy is to paint – or taint – everyone with the same soiled brush.

I cannot speak for all or even most bloggers but I will say this about theonlinecitizen. Most of us here, in fact, the majority of us here on TOC, use our real names and are ready to defend what we say in our articles.

There are also other socio-political bloggers who do the same – Siew Kum Hong, Catherine Lim, Goh Meng Seng, Alex Au, Chia Ti Lik, Ng E-Jay, Melvin Tan, Yaw Shin Leong, Perry Tong, Chee Soon Juan, Chee Siok Chin, Gandhi Ambalam, Tan Kin Lian, the folks over at Singapore Angle, etc.

We all know the real name of Mr Brown too – Lee Kin Mun.

Many have and are using their real names to blog, and are not anonymous “rabble-rousers” with no credibility.

Funny thing is, when you paint all with the same brush, does that not also include those like Minister George Yeo, PAP MPs like Baey Yam Keng, Lam Pin Min and their P65 colleagues?

That the mainstream media has a vendetta against the Internet, and bloggers in particular, is regrettable. How does this help the Government’s oft-repeated claims of wanting to engage younger Singaporeans, who increasingly surf the Net and use it for self-expression?

Isn’t the mainstream media suppose to be “nation-building”? Why be tearing down instead?

But I guess if you’re going on a crusade to disembowel and discredit netizens, the more outrageous the comments, it seems, the better.

Read also: “Of angry journalists, anger and the evil Internet again” by Xeno Boy Sg.


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