The Prime Minister Still Don't Get it

While unhappy citizens use the internet and social media to vent their frustrations, the government must learn and understand these views and interpret them objectively, said PM Lee on Friday. Speaking on Friday evening at Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao's 90th anniversary celebrations, he said new media users in any country are likely to be anti-establishment, and the government "cannot always be looking to see if the Internet approves or disapproves" of its policies. [extracted from this article]

I hope PM Lee does not pass down directives in the same manner during meetings. He must have left thousands under his charge confused on what to do next with the level of vagueness in his new intent. It is surprising to hear that our government, which operates on a strict bureaucratic framework, cannot decide between listening to citizens' opinion via social media or not. PM Lee's "Cannot be always" standard is a good bearing that the government will continue to select their battles, status quo with their current seek-wisdom-from-the-grassroot (hear only the good things) set up. It is either you do or you don't. No "not always", "sometimes" or "depends".

His reasoning for his selectivity went like this.

"People who are content don't have time to go online, those who are unhappy will complain online. I am not saying all contrarian views are complaints, but this seems to be a worldwide trend. Therefore, we need to understand these views, and interpret it objectively" 
- PM Lee

The PM, spending an unusual unhappy
moment in his life
Interpretation of data is a basic fundamental of surveys. Different interpretation frameworks used can produce completely different results from the same data. What PM Lee should be concerned with is not the interpretation level - that will come later - but collecting data from a right sample. Without the right data, interpretation serves no purpose. PM Lee hinted that he will only look into contrarian views which are "not complains". Miners here will say that's trying to refine gold from copper ore. The PM felt that only unhappy people will complain online and displayed his usual unwillingness to work with unhappy people. That actually aligns to their electoral style of rewarding their voters and alienating the dissidents. (Remember upgrading?) So nothing will change, if you expect any.

"We can't wish for new media not to exist, but we can try our best to use it."

Such a statement revealed how uncomfortable the government is with new media. What the PM really meant was, "We wish new media does not exist but we can't seem to eliminate it." It is obvious that the government still view new media negatively, which betrays their level of understanding of the online environment and probably unaware this will impair his team to use the internet to their advantage. For example, the PM was quoted recently,

"We must fight back against trolling, and provide a safe, responsible online environment which promotes constructive participation."

The PM should consider asking 10 primary school pupils during one of his walkabouts on how to "fight trolling".  If you want to understand the mentality of a group, you have to enter their world and learn how they see and think. Consulting his PAP war band is next to useless. Having a narcissistic MP who loves to post selfies online among their ranks doesn't even count. That explains why the PM does not know no one fight trolls or "fight against trolling". The golden rule has always been, don't feed the troll.  In any case, PM Lee has identified the wrong enemy. A troll isn't anything he should be concerned with at this stage. 

Requiring people to log in to various platforms to comment on articles is a method that has proved instrumental to improving the quality of discussion, said Lee, who cited TODAY as an example for requiring commenters to log in with their Facebook accounts to post their views. 
Yahoo Singapore, in turn, requires users to sign into their Yahoo, Facebook or Google accounts before being able to comment on its articles, and Lee announced at the same time that the government's feedback portal REACH will from mid-December require commenters to log in first before posting.

To be honest, I don't know whether I should be amused or dismayed reading the above. If the PM would have his way, he will make every Singaporean log in to all their online accounts using Sing Pass, with NRIC numbers and all. The MDA will probably name it Integrated Account or something. If the complete removal of anonymity is the only basis of construction participation, in the PM's view, does this mean that a General Election result is not meaningful? Does the barring of bitter hearts online not reflect true sentiments that the government claims to be seeking? Let's see how Singaporeans will decide in 2016, since a General Election may be the only safe channel left to voice their opinions in anonymity in the near future. I wish the PAP team, good game.


  1. > People who are content don't have time to go online

    Ok, according to the PM, they have been hiring a bunch of discontented folks -- otherwise known as the PAP Internet Brigade. Self-pwn!

  2. "One of the most encouraging findings of this year's web index is how the web and social media are increasingly spurring people to organise, take action and try to expose wrongdoing in every region of the world," said Sir Tim.

    "But some governments are threatened by this, and a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy.

    Bold steps are needed now to protect our fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and association online," he added.

    1. Democracy is just another governance framework that will be abused by men in power.

  3. Wah

    PM Lee has unofficially considered most new media users as complainers. If that is the directive then all email comments to Government may be considered as low priority....