Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Small Victory for Bloggers: Why the Counter Insurgency is an Admission of the Power of New Media

Recently, there has been a big hooha over a recent article in the Straits Times that said that the government was going to launch a "counter-insurgency" by sending anonymous pro-PAP cyber commandos into the internet to counter critics of the government.

Since many have said their piece, I will not give my opinion on whether I think their plan will work. Rather, I wish to declare this a small victory for bloggers, and explain why I think the balance of media power is shifting, slowly but surely, from the hands of a dominant PAP towards a landscape where there is freedom of speech and equal opportunity for all.

1. The PAP now has to play on the internet on fair and equal terms. They no longer exert the monopoly of publishing on the web that they do in print media. On the internet, the PAP, WP, SDP and any other tom, dick or harry who wants to make a political comment has an equal opportunity to be heard.

2. In fact, the PAP is now at a distinct disadvantage. Because they cannot depend on their control of the medium, they now have to depend on the quality of the message. In the press, the lack of a competitive voice means that the PAP can skew and manipulate their messages in any way they like, without fear of reprisal and behing criticised on the spot. The internet, however is different:
  • Any blog post that is put up by a PAP member can be instantly replied to on another blog by another blogger.
  • Any comment left on a blog by a PAP member can be instantly replied to by other commenters.
  • The internet is dominated by independent bloggers who are far ahead in experience, skill and prominence compared to PAP 'counter-insurgents'.
  • Opposition parties have already been using this medium for many years, and will at least have an equal opportunity of expression. This is a far cry from broadcast TV and newspapers where the opposition has little say, if any.
3. The internet is rapidly growing in influence, and has already established itself as the dominant media for the young - in the not too distant future, it will have the ability to challenge the mainstream press and broadcast media as an equally powerful, if not more powerful, voice.

And because the PAP is playing catch-up, as highlighted in point 2, it stands to lose out in the race to claim ground on the new battlefield that is the world wide web. Instead, this is a great opportunity for bloggers and 'insurgents' to race ahead and to further cement their lead.

For too long already, the media have been dominated by the political machine that is the PAP. It is time for media in Singapore to be a much fairer playing field where different political voices, both partisan and independent, can have their say.

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