A political sickness is spreading among the nations, across First World parliaments and First World governments.
In America, we see Democrats and Republicans fighting over the US debt crisis. Voices of moderation drowned by polarizing, aggressive rhetoric. And while partisans fiddle around and pass the blame to each other, America’s economy burns. It would be just a domestic political tragedy, except that if America fails, all the world will suffer – from China to Chile, from Stockholm to Singapore.
In Norway and other parts of Europe, we see the voices of hate spreading. An extreme right-wing subculture has grown online, where diversity is a dirty word, where the world is divided into stark duality: “myself” and “the alien others”.
In Britain, we see toxic media. Telephones hacked into, lives destroyed, elections influenced – all in the name of “news” and viewership. Did Britain’s The News Of The World make the world a better place? Perhaps it did, for the editors who could – in the space of a headline – decide who would become Prime Minister of the UK. Editors who never found the courage to walk the ground, touch the people or seek a mandate at the ballot box.
And I worry for Singapore, because in the heat of recent months, I feel the beginnings of a fever: not the fever of inspiration, but the fever that heralds sickness. And this fever is spread by websites like Temasek Review and The Online Citizen.
TOC has published an article, “Statements like these do not help” (26 July 2011). It made certain accusations about our Prime Minister’s recent speech at a dinner in Parliament House.
I believe in finding the facts out for myself – no matter who is publishing the news. I have watched the speech on RazorTV, where a full recording is available to the public. It would have been available to TOC too.
Yet I do not know which speech TOC was reporting on, because their article bears no resemblance to the actual speech – unless you count 6 words lifted out of context from:
“We are looking for a diverse group. Varied backgrounds, grassroots, public sector, private sector, people with thinking skills, people with leadership skills, people with mobilisation aptitudes. People who fit the standard mould and people who break the mould but make a special contribution to the team. We are especially seeking party activists with proven dedication and skills in working the ground and reaching out to residents. We want people with different mindsets and experiences who can look at problems from different perspectives, and therefore come up with ideas from different directions. And they can complement one another’s strengths and weaknesses and represent collectively a broad range of Singaporeans. And it’s not just different races and religions but different segments, different interest groups, different age groups and different views on political and policy matters.”
Click on this link and watch from 01:38 for the actual footage.
If you take the time to listen to the speech, it is clear the PM is looking beyond any standard mould, because he wants diversity and change. Taking the underlined words out of context is at best negligent, at worst dishonest.
So what exactly was TOC’s purpose in publishing a contrived, inaccurate story? (I guess derivative fiction might be called a story too!)
- Was it to drive traffic to their website, whose advertisements generate revenue for TOC’s owners?
- Was it to score political points for themselves with their politician friends?
- Or did they style themselves as latter-day crusading “journalists”, hoping to be the unelected kingmaker in national elections – like certain UK tabloids have been suspected of doing?
Whatever TOC’s reasons, all I ask is that they report accurately rather than being economical with the truth. That they provide something more than cynicism and the poisons of envy, anger and hatred.
Singapore deserves better than what TOC has been giving us. It is not too late for TOC to change. All it takes is honesty, accuracy, facts and the truth.
List of RazorTV clips of PM’s speech. There are more clips there too. You might disagree, you might agree. But please see for yourself what exactly PM said, in the context of his speech.
A response from TOC will be published soon.