by Foong Swee Fong
An article by the Straits Times on Tuesday (6 Dec), “3 in 4 Singaporeans say social media boosts democracy in country: Poll“, reported that Singaporeans among 19 countries surveyed in a poll had the most positive opinion of social media’s ability to raise awareness of issues, change people’s minds and influence policy decisions.
The fact that many people here believe that “social media boost democracy” and that social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc, are very prevalent here does not mean that democracy is alive and kicking.
On the contrary, it is close to dying.
One characteristic thing about democracy is that power is diffused among the people rather than concentrated in the hands of a few.
Ask yourself, do the people’s voices matter?
Ordinary Singaporeans have zero power in getting the government to craft policies consistent with their wishes because all the avenues that lead to democracy are closed.
They cannot gather and protest that their wages are too low and that the cost of living is getting of hand; they do not have labour unions that are independent and therefore truly represent their desires; they do not have independent newspapers that report from all perspectives but only the state papers that slant news and opinions in favour of big business and the government; opposition MPs, whenever they seek pertinent information that the people need to know like the size of our reserves and the breakdown of resident workers into Singaporeans and PRs, get stonewalled, and the list goes on.
Instead, what Singaporeans get are the “wayangs” like the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), a President who was from the ruling party, big businesses that are competitors in name but are linked together by a thick web of cross-shareholdings and associations including in the government, the Singapore Conversation that pretends to listen to the ordinary people, etc.
That Singaporeans find social media as a boost to democracy, is because it is about the only medium they can use to fight for democracy, albeit at the risk of being POFMAed, given that all other levers of democracy are shut.
But it is just a tool, and anti-democratic forces, which are organized, strong and working 24/7, are just as likely to use it to con the masses into believing that they have democracy when they have almost none, as the Straits Times is trying to, with this article.
This piece was first published on Mr Foong’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.