18 Feb 2005

Singapore and a Genuine Civil Society

For about 5 years now I have been reading the work of another ang moh living outside Singapore. Thought I should introduce my readers to him.

How dare he be interested in Singapore. The nerve of some people, I am sure you are suitably outraged.


Professor Garry Rodan


Embracing electronic media but suppressing civil society: authoritarian consolidation in Singapore


Professor Garry Rodan

Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch, Australia


In contrast with some other parts of Southeast Asia, challenges to media controls in Singapore have been limited and ineffectual. Lately the government has been refining legislation to try and keep it that way. But this strategy is not principally based on the unrealistic objective of direct information control. Rather, preventing the emergence of organized social and political forces that could lead to a genuine civil society lies at the heart of the strategy. One of the factors that serves to reinforce the government's agenda here is the high degree of direct and indirect dependence on the state by Singaporeans for social and economic resources. This translates into vulnerability to political persecution and caution by social and ­political actors. Meanwhile, the promotion of Singapore as an 'infocommunication hub' has met with a positive response from global media organizations. New ­electronic media businesses appear just as capable of being reconciled with the authoritarian regime as more established media have proven to be.

http://journalsonline.tandf.co.uk/openurl.asp?genre=article&issn=0951-2748&volume=16&issue=4&spage=503

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

More than 10 years ago, another American Ang Mo also said about Singapore:

"They're good at this stuff. Really good. But now they propose to become something else as well; a coherent city of information, its architecture planned from the ground up. And they expect that whole highways of data will flow into and through their city. Yet they also seem to expect that this won't affect them. And that baffles us, and perhaps it baffles the Singaporeans that it does.

Myself, I'm inclined to think that if they prove to be right, what will really be proven will be something very sad; and not about Singapore, but about our species. They will have proven it possible to flourish through the active repression of free expression. They will have proven that information does not necessarily want to be free."

a.x+(1-a).y \in S; for all x, y \in S; a \in [0,1] said...

you know what they say in political theory.... if you study something like "local government" you must be somewhat... boring.... =)

True Flight said...

In Singapore, there is a rather common type of debate / discussion which often runs like this.

One side says: "There is very little freedom of expression in Singapore. The media is government-controlled. There is the Internal Security Act. There are various laws that restrict political websites. The government regularly sues people who criticise it. The government always wins in court." Etc.

The other side then responds: "But Internet access is easily available to Singaporeans. They can also easily subscribe to Newsweek or Time or other magazines. Singaporeans travel a lot and they have easy access to foreign media."

I have tended to feel that one particular point generally gets glossed over in this kind of debate:-

It is true that Singaporeans have easy access to foreign media. Therefore Singaporeans are able to know:

(a) what is happening in other countries; and

(b) what foreign media says about Singapore.

On the other hand, foreign media does not operate easily in Singapore. Also, foreign media would generally be quite disinterested in issues that are highly specific to, and localised in, Singapore.

For example, if SBS bus fares and MRT fares and NUS / NTU fees and ERP and COE and conservancy fees all go up in Singapore -

now, these matters are of no real interest to foreigners outside Singapore, and hence of no real interest to foreign media.

So you would not find the Far Eastern Economic Review or the New York Times or the International Herald Tribune providing any reports or commentary on these topics, or any op-ed views on whether these raises are justified or not.

These matters, however, are highly relevant to the Singapore public. On the other hand, practically the only reports and commentary they'll get on these sorts of matters would be from the local media like the Straightjacket.

And well, you know the shortcomings of that.

Over time, we get a large pool of Singaporeans who are starved of alternative views about their local mattters. And who are instead constantly inundated and bombarded with news, views and comments from government-owned media organisations.

Ah, an almost-perfect set of conditions for brainwashing.

McbloodyDermott! said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
McbloodyDermott! said...

You think that people call you an asshole (pardon the expletive) because you're ang moh? The nerve of some people, no wonder you're outraged

soci said...

Some comments refer to me not actually being a Singaporean and they ask what right I have to hold an opinion on Singaporean matters.

Foreign journalists and foreign media are regularly told to keep their nose out of Singapore's domestic issues. Some Singaporeans agree.

Hannah Arendt argued that in order to maintain domination or hegemony of a country, you need to be able to ensure that every member of that nation has the same world view. With the internet this is becoming a very difficult task for the state apparatus of Singapore.

the Professor feels otherwise and argues "New ­electronic media businesses appear just as capable of being reconciled with the authoritarian regime as more established media have proven to be." But international media like blogger have yet to be reconciled with the "authoritarian regime".

So the state is fully in control of local media which is the major source for news for the majority of Singaporeans. Around 2 million of 4 million Singaporeans have access to the internet. But only a small fraction of those would read blogger or blog for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you spend your time persuading your fellow brits not to re-elect your lap dog of a PM, Tony Blair instead !!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm referring to the specific rude singaporean (blog at 1.41am) that you can still convey any messages or unhappiness with the owner of the blog in a good manner of speech. Pls be sensitive enough to at least recognise his kindness in maintaining this website for all of you to blog and view your opionions about the current affairs around you. If you're still very unhappy and dissatisfied with him, I'd strongly urge that you stop visiting this website for the benefit of all parties.

Princess

Anonymous said...

I'm referring to the specific rude singaporean (blog at 1.41am) that you can still convey any messages or unhappiness with the owner of the blog in a good manner of speech. Pls be sensitive enough to at least recognise his kindness in maintaining this website for all of you to blog and view your opionions about the current affairs around you. If you're still very unhappy and dissatisfied with him, I'd strongly urge that you stop visiting this website for the benefit of all parties.

Princess

Anonymous said...

To princess:
I'm a different anon. The aim of Steve's website is to promote peaceful disagreement, so I think it's in the spirit of this blog to point out what one may feel are other issues pertinent to the issues raised here. I disagree that the failings of the systems in other countries have absolutely no relevance to Singapore's failings. We need to see what problems other countries encounter in trying to implement a thoroughly fair system, to better assess our progress. And internet penetration is, I think decently high. 50% is surely not a small amount? After counting out the babies and senior citizens, what is the proportion?

McbloodyDermott! said...

I'm referring to the specific Princess 12.33pm and again at 12.33pm. I don't think the owner of this website is an asshole.pardon the expletive again. I'm just conveying what other people say and that is what the owner of this blog was referring to when he wrote. I actually meant to add "that is just racist" before "the nerve of some people, no wonder you're outraged!" I should have added that because it would have changed the tone of the comment.

If you think I should leave because I'm "still very unhappy and dissatisfied with him" then you are making the same call as those Singaporeans who ask him to leave if he is not happy with Singapore. Are you a hypocrite or something?

The owner of this blog says that he is allowed to care for fellow human beings regardless of nationality. Now, can't I care about the content of websites by others? The owner of this blog doesn't seem to be as sensitive as you are. He invites me to comment even with my blog profile and my "unsensitive" comments. He can take care of himself. If you can't, I don't you won't be able to handle the real-world. As the owner of this blog would say "Somebody is hurt by words"

McbloodyDermott! said...

To Mc Dermott:
2 million is more than good enough to me. You just said blogger is a powerful political tool a few posts ago. What do you believe?

Anonymous said...

Hi blogger 1.28pm

Thanks for agreeing with me that you "should have added that because it would have changed the tone of the comment." Exactly, good message can still be conveyed in good manner like this!!

Quote from Dhammapada, "Mind is the forerunner of everything." From the mind, the speech and action comes. One of the chinese idiom says "whor chong col chu pin chong col lu". Sharp and hurting words once said can't be taken back tho you might regret it later. So, pls maintain your calmness and integrity and be open-minded (i reiterate). Perhaps, you might have the same virtuous motivation like steve, however, the way the message is conveyed could have distorted everything. Pls be reminded that it truly reflects on oneself and not the other party! Can we always try to see the positive side and the kindness of others? It is indeed a good way to helps us to calm down when we are angry and unhappy with others.

Thanks for your blogging and airing your valuable comments, which i believe it also helps us to see things in various perspectives, if put it in a nice way.

Best regards
princess

McbloodyDermott! said...

No, I don't agree with you.

you should read what I wrote after that line. Let me say it clearly for you.

I said Steven is not as sensitive as you are because he can take strongly worded criticism. I also said that asking me to leave because you (princess) cannot take it puts you on the same level as those Singaporeans who ask Mc Dermott to leave Singapore because he cannot take it.

Thank you for blogging and sharing the wisdom of sages. I believe in open discussion so that our views are clarified not running away everytime there is a difference in opinion.

Anonymous said...

well, i think you're not getting my meanings right too. i agree with steve tho not all the issues. but even if i don't agree i'll still give a thought and see it in another perspective and not insisting that my view is right all the time.

pls don't be so petty and argue for the sake of arguing, that's all i can say. it's purely a waste of your precious time and

princess

McbloodyDermott! said...

Why don't you tell me what your "meanings" are?
What do you mean when you say "i'll still give a thought and see it in another perspective and not insisting that my view is right all the time." How have I insisted on my view?

I am not angry over anything that has been said. Why do you think that I'm petty. I admire Gary Rodan's work. I think you're petty and angry because I pointed out that your asking me to leave is similar to what Mc Dermott's critics ask him to do. The reason why I point it out is because I see you do the same thing quite a numeber of times and it seems to run counter to the "Equality...Autonomy...Respect... Communication...Non-violent" that is on the top of this page. The fourth word in particular.

I don't think arguing is a waste of time. Isn't it ironic for someone who endorses Mc Dermott's views to think that arguing is a waste of time?

McbloodyDermott!