Go with a smile!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Role and impact of social media on politics in Singapore

The 2006 and 2011 elections were different from the previous ones. The 2006 election was the election of the blog. The 2011 elections was the one of the social media. In fact, one of the major developments was that it was now possible to find out which of your friends is like-minded, whether you are in the pro-PAP or pro-opposition camp. People who are pro-opposition views known in public, so you know that a few people you've known all your life are sold on the idea and not merely some weird cracko. There were a lot of people writing lengthy Facebook notes about how exciting it was that we're having a real democratic election at last, instead of just a showpiece.

So this round of elections is also about the social media, and that perennial question: to what extent is social media an agent of political change? 2011 was the year that the optimism about this was at its zenith. There was Occupy Wall Street. There was Arab Spring and also GE 2011.

But very soon the backlash began. Occupy Wall Street could not go on forever, even if it did permanently make an impression that wealth inequality was a real issue. Arab Spring failed to take off in Egypt. There were big Muslim countries like Indonesia which managed to modernise, but Egypt - well too bad they only have either the army or the Muslim Brotherhood. And we didn't have a real democracy sprouting up immediately. Then again, the revolution in France was only the beginning of a long and complex road to nationhood, so why should we expect instant results in Egypt?

Very soon, the dark side of social media made itself known. First there were the Snowden revelations, which made it clear that the US was collecting data and intruding the privacy of their own citizens. Then the ISIS became one of the most powerful forces in the Middle East. Islamist terrorism was starting to disrupt nascent governments in Libya and Algeria And the recruiting campaigns on the internet,were brutal and effective. Most disturbingly, governments in China and Russia and to a smaller extent Singapore were starting to understand how internet and the social media can be used to shape the public opinion. In sum, there are some real and tangible effects of social media. The gay rights civil movement happened, although this has been seized upon by Russia as a symbol of western decadence. There is growing awareness of climate change and this has been in part the internet creating growing awareness, and in part the business community being effectively mobilised to create a new wave of green technologies.

Most recently, the camera phones has highlighted the brutal treatment of black people at the hands of the police. America being a police state is the third injustice being committed against the blacks ( the first two are slavery and Jim Crow) When you put the pieces together the system is rigged against blacks. you can't take away the legal rights of black people, but you can put many of them in jail and make life hell for them.

I want to give credit where credit is due. The PAP have improved a lot from 2011. Their social media management is much better. They appear to have a more plausible claim to be a party of the people, not a couple of elitist fuckers going from point to point in their bulletproof limousines and hiding behind their minders. They have learnt to talk the language of the common people. Most likely the most successful candidates of the opposition party in 2011 have shown us how to tell the world that you are Singaporean, and how to come across as a genuine person, and a genuine Singaporean. But the problem with this is that maybe more than a few of them are truly believing that it is really an issue of communicating their policies better, and not that their policies are fucked up. Well many of their policies are fucked up, otherwise you won't have so many people voting against them.

The irony of it all is this: Singaporeans know that their lives are not going to get better. The opposition getting 7 seats in parliament is not tangibly going to make their lives better in a short amount of time. Fucked up policies take a long time to reverse (ironically it was the PAP themselves who were always harping on this.) If the cost of living spirals out of control, then there's not that much you can do to unfuck the situation. Because of that, I think they will still be punished at the polls. My projection is that the best that the PAP can hope for is to match the results of GE2011.


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