Make political parties, messages more accessible to the real world

Posted on 16 January 2011

The Reform Party pre-election rally taught me one thing: There is a large offline population yet to be reached.

By Belmont Lay

The heavy rain did not stop the Reform Party from carrying out with its activities (more photos at the bottom).

EVERYONE inside the interweb appears to be easily riled. Either that, or they look like they have an agenda, a bone to pick and/or an axe to grind.

And it appears being loud and boisterous is the only way to get any sort of attention and the force of the argument usually lies in how many sentences you can type to make a point (or until you die) and HOW MANY OF IT ARE IN CAPS.

That is why I am hell bent on bucking the trend and insist on others doing likewise, come elections.

This is something I learnt from yesterday’s pre-election rally at Hong Lim Park organised by the Reform Party.

Amidst the speeches and the pitter-patter of the downpour, there was a woman who was handing out palm-sized handwritten notes with URLs of The Online Citizen and The Temasek Review.

She said, “We all know how Singapore media is all censored and these are the only places you can find the truth.”

Before I could politely tell her that a lot of the content found on TR are paraphrased articles from The Straits Times, she scurried away possessed by her belief that she was, er, I don’t know what she believed in, but she had a stack of handwritten URLs to pass on.

And before I left the rally, I bumped into an astute middle-aged uncle who was there because he heard about the event from the mainstream press.

We had a 20-minute conversation despite my broken Mandarin and his halting English. But the gist of it was this: How many middle-aged aunties are in the audience at the rally? How many belong online? How many speak English?

For those who weren’t at the rally, the answer to that is… none.

Here’s the point of this missive: If any political party wants to better achieve a sizeable chunk of votes this election, turn your party into a symbol that can be distributed as a car decal, fridge magnet or poster. Also, don’t forget to summarise your key policies into cartoons and speak Hokkien.

Make your party logo as ubiquitous as Nike, or even better, a “Stop” sign, and you’ll stand a better chance of winning.

Reach out to the heartlanders inside the HDBs and banish the false sense of security an online presence tricks you into having.

Because the interweb might be good for words but the real people you want to reach out to don’t go inside there, don’t know and don’t care just what the hell you’re trying to tell them.

Not even in Hong Lim Park.

  • Reform party members and spectators whip out their umbrellas and put on their raincoats as it starts to pour. The sky is unforgiving throughout most of the event, lightening up only towards the end. Photo: TERENCE LEE
  • While some spectators braved the rain, others watch from an unused amphitheatre sitting at the opposite end of Hong Lim Park. According to some Reform Party members, they are forbidden by the police from using the theatre since it is not part of the Speaker's Corner. Photo: TERENCE LEE
  • Alec Tok gives a fiery speech from the podium, while a volunteer shelters him with an umbrella. 45-year-old Alec has worked on films like 12 Storeys and A Big Road, and was a former director of the SAF Music and Drama Company. Photo: TERENCE LEE
  • RP secretary general Kenneth Jeyaretnam looks pensive as he awaits his turn to speak. He seems at home and comfortable at the rally, making enormous strides since his first political event. Photo: TERENCE LEE
  • Kenneth seeks to leave his imprint on the Reform Party, and he has done so with an academic approach towards tackling economic issues. Photo: TERENCE LEE
  • Like many others, Kenneth has gotten down and dirty with them, and his shoes are proof of it. Photo: TERENCE LEE
  • Soaked tee-shirts, rolled up jeans, and muddied shoes are the order of the day. Photo: TERENCE LEE
  • Kenneth has made a point to engage all who were present at the rally. He is seen walking around the field and the amphitheatre engaging the audience. Photo: TERENCE LEE
  • Ditching her shoes, Jeanette Aruldoss fires off a passionate speech against the mandatory death penalty. Photo: TERENCE LEE
  • The British journalist listens intently to Jeanette's speech about the mandatory death penalty. He is a keen follower of public affairs in Singapore. Photo: TERENCE LEE
  • Towards the end of the rally, the crowd becomes sparser. Their enthusiasm seems muted, perhaps because of the gloomy weather. Photo: TERENCE LEE
  • Gestures of opposition unity have become routine at almost every political event in Singapore. At the end of the rally, Kenneth reveals that the party will be organising a football competition for opposition parties and NGOs. They better hope it won't be declared a political event. Photo: TERENCE LEE

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  • Justin

    Yes, it’s true. Nowadays, we hear so much about how the political parties have gone online, have FB pages, and all web-savvy, but we forget that there are people who are offline. And even amongst the many who are online, they spend their time shopping, chatting, and doing anything but bother about politics.

  • kirsten

    So… what ACTUALLY happened at the rally?

    • terence

      well you guys are already doing a fine job of reporting on that :)

    • Belmont Lay

      I had mud in my toes, wet flies in my eyes and was trying to talk to 15 different people while standing under the pissing rain.

      When I was actually concentrating, RP opposed the death penalty (which I agree) and Kenneth said something about a football challenge.