14 Mar 2005

Political Bloggers in Singapore

I was recently asked a few questions regarding political blogs in Singapore. Thought I should share my answers.

How do you feel about young political bloggers in Singapore?

My own personal feeling, (not based on Empirical evidence), is that there is a very small increase in the number of political blogs. But it is an increase. Political bloggers of all ages do seem to avoid the difficult questions. They are more than happy to write and comment about the 'casino debate' , but very rarely do issues such as the death penalty, sex trafficking, or Dr Chee appear in their writings. The articles tend to be largely reactionary to issues raised in the main stream media in Singapore.

Do you think their views affect a lot of people?

If you look at a few of the more popular blogs like Mr Brown and look at the number of visitors it receives per week, it is a very small percentage of the Singaporean population. Singapore has a high rate of internet users, something like 50% of the population, but blogs are not a big draw at the moment. So in terms of influencing other's opinions it's a very limited circle of influence. It can only increase, but the rate of that increase is difficult to predict.

Do you think it is a good thing more young people are voicing their political views?

I think any open society requires, and benefits from an open exchange of opinions. The young political bloggers are able to express their opinions in a non-confrontational manner. There has yet to be any physical gathering or campaign leading to politically active individuals taking to the street in demonstrations. It's akin to armchair whinging and complaining, safe and requiring a small amount
of commitment.

How do you think young political bloggers impact Singapore's society?

Depends on what you mean by society. If you mean the ideas or culture of Singaporean society then it looks like the beginning of a vocal minority. But if society means having an affect on institutions or organisations then the impact is very limited. I feel that the mass media in Singapore is still the biggest influence on Singaporean society. This is not unique to Singapore.

Do you foresee changes to the political scene in Singapore in the future?

Well as I do not have a crystal ball, my answer would be one of not being able to predict. Garry Rodan argues that government policies are attempting to bring the internet, and possibly blogs under the umbrella of control that has been applied to the mass media. The internet may actually result in a further reinforcement of control by the Peoples Action Party. It may not be that this new technology will result in greater freedom, but a further erosion of that freedom.

Does the increasing number of young political blog change your opinion of young Singaporeans?

Singaporeans are interested in political matters, always have been. The mass media in Singapore argues that Singaporeans are more interested in the 5c's but surely access to the 5c's is a political question. Talking about the price of HDB flats, a casino, COE's, MRT prices are political issues. If you don't "do"[talk about] politics then what do you do?

Having taught Singaporeans and discussed issues such as the birth rate in tutorials and lectures I have always been of the opinion that the majority of young Singaporeans are interested in these matters. Some feel that there is no point in voicing your opinion, that it won't change anything, others feel that it might undermine their career or academic aspirations. But to argue that this means they are not interested, seems to be ignoring a sense of fear. Many feel that expressing their opinion may be detrimental to their future, it is not the same as not having an opinion.

The question I have is, "Is the fear of expressing your opinion based on a 'real' threat or merely a 'perceived' threat?" A passion for politics, will result in some taking a chance and expressing their opinions, how those in power react will determine whether the threat is 'perceived' or 'real'.

4 comments:

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