Tag Archive | "Barack Obama"

Ministerial pay review: Why our political leaders are dooming us all

Ministerial pay review: Why our political leaders are dooming us all

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Clearly, something is missing in our society: The notion of public service, sacrifice, and the relentless pursuit of ideals.

By Terence Lee

Sacrifice? What sacrifice? More memes at MemeNationsg.tumblr.com

After observing the debates centering around the ministerial pay cuts, I came to some conclusions about our political leaders — those whiter-than-white, elite of the elitist, thoroughly incorruptible members of the PAP.

Many of them are opportunistic corporate types who don’t see political office as public service, but merely a stepping stone to further enhance their burgeoning careers. To them, political representation not a calling, but simply a job that draws a pay.

You may think I sound harsh, even unfair.

But how else am I supposed to think? Read the full story

Don’t be hoodwinked: Social media will have limited impact on GE

Don’t be hoodwinked: Social media will have limited impact on GE

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Trust me, the only version of Windows the computer illiterate folk operate regularly is on hinges: Their kitchen window.

By Belmont Lay

WITH the General Election due, I have a pronouncement to make: My sincere belief is that social media will have a limited impact on the outcome of the voting results this time round.

Simply put, social media being influential is overrated.

And I’m terribly afraid I might be the only person who actually realises this.

You and I have heard about the oft-cited example about how powerful social media such as Facebook and Twitter are as tools to galvanise support from the constituents.

We are often reminded that Barack Obama used social networking to win his 2008 presidency because he connected with the younger voters and encouraged a larger turnout using a medium that translated online participation into offline action.

(You can read the latest example of this argument laid out by 16-year-old uber tech blogger, Xavier Lur, here.)

In Singapore, it is true that we see a lot of people compulsively molesting their iPhones in the spirit of navigating a Facebook page even when they are on the go.

And yes, you can discharge your democratic duty these days by dispensing dissenting views while moving your bowels, if you so happen to have access to 3G while on the throne.

Happily, of course, when you’re done, you can use Twitter to conveniently declare to your universe of 15 followers that a so-and-so minister as well as your toilet are so full of shit.

For social media users with some clout, any kind of declaration such as these can be influential. Indeed.

However, just by thinking a little deeper, I can name you just two counterarguments to ruin Xavier’s point about the powerful effects of social media that really has nothing to do with social media at all but more to do with context: 1) Voting in US is not compulsory 2) Singaporean voters don’t just have to deal with two choices.

In the US presidential elections in 2008, it is the whole country voting by choice for either the optimistic black man with a vision and no policy or a very old man who can barely comb his own hair.

That’s it.

In Singapore, matters are vastly differently.

For one, we are not in the business of electing presidents this GE. We are electing individual candidates.

I am thankful that non-users of social media are not subjected to the tyranny of this sort of free flowing rubbish that comes out from the Internet and so-called influential social media.

Hence, there are so many bloody constituencies cut up in so many ways.

There are as many candidates from the incumbent and opposition as there are brothels in Joo Chiat.

And there are more political parties than I have cousins.

True, Singapore might have 2.35 million Facebook users at last count. But that also just means that there are another 2.35 million, at least, who don’t use FB.

And when you think all that funky 2.35 million FB users form a critical mass, you realise one thing: 50% are apathetic (because that’s who they really are offline), 25% are simply pathetic and sexually frustrated, 20% are stalkers and the remaining 5% are wholeheartedly, politically-minded.

Plus, based on the fact that voting in the US is not compulsory, they have a self-selection bias. The Americans who care about the vote will show up. The Americans who don’t, won’t, and they can’t spoil the winning chances of those who turned up.

But in Singapore, when voting is made compulsory, shit happens.

Because Singaporeans can be paranoid, they will still vote for the incumbent just because there is a serial number on the voting slip and since voting is compulsory, it means someone somewhere is keeping count (according to the Singaporean logic), and hence, losing their jobs and their house and their dog is a real possibility for anyone who tried anything funny like put an “X” next to the non-PAP candidate’s name.

Therefore, people harnassing the power of social media will have their efforts thwarted just because anyone who can vote will show up and this causes votes to go all over the place, including being spoilt.

Oh wait. Did I mention that because the other 2.35 million non-users of FB cannot be influenced by FB, this election is as much about non-social media users as it is about social media users?

So here’s the point of today’s missive: When you remove the context from the argument, you are left with a narrative that resembles a myth.

And people who buy the myth subscribe to the lie and regurgitate the same kind of rubbish in all their naivety and foolhardiness.

They usually end up doing it over social media.

And I am thankful that non-users of social media are not subjected to the tyranny of this sort of free flowing rubbish that comes out from the Internet and so-called influential social media.

If you actually made it this far reading this, my suggestion is to turn off your computer and spend some time with your children, parents and real friends who are offline and find some real people (not avatars) to talk to by having a rational proper discussion about politics or why your vote is indeed secret.

But as always, feel free to share this over Facebook or retweeting it.

Thank you.

Yes, we (look like we) can

Yes, we (look like we) can

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Will the image of a Singapore politician change in the next General Elections?

By Justin Zhuang

A WEEK after a bear was sighted at Ulu Pandan, another bear was out on the loose at Bukit Panjang. This time around, no one panicked when they saw it – some stopped to take pictures, while children even went up to touch this brown bear.

Unlike the earlier sighting that turned out to be a publicity stunt for Philips Electronics gone wrong, this one got the right attention and seemingly done the impossible: getting Singaporeans to openly embrace the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) – in the form of their new mascot, Danny the Democracy Bear.

Photos: SINGAPORE DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Two years ago, in the place of Danny would have been the political party’s secretary-general Dr Chee Soon Juan, who instead of wearing a cute red t-shirt printed with ‘I ♥ SDP’ would have had one hand painted in angst with ‘Democracy Now’.

But like the Ulu Pandan ‘bear sighting’, this old image of SDP only attracted the attention of the authorities to hunt them down, and made Singaporeans hysterical.

Danny the mascot marks a change in strategy for SDP.

Once notorious in the eyes of the public for being a nuisance through its campaign of civil disobedience in the last decade, it seems the SDP now wants to win over the electorate by replacing its fiery brand of politics with something more friendly and fuzzy instead.

Such ‘branding’ of politics is hardly a recent phenomenon, but it’s something less talked about in public as most politician would rather stick to their policies and programs.

In the 2008 US presidential elections, however, it came to the forefront with Barack Obama’s successful campaign that showed how branding, graphic design, and popular culture could propel a relative newcomer like him to victory.

Since then, much has been written about how Obama successfully cultivated his branding and projecting an image down to the right font that sold himself to becoming the President of America.

In Singapore, the tight laws and regulations governing political expression have restricted the marketing efforts of political parties, which have been rudimentary at best.

One of the most successful ones is the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) white-on-white uniform that became iconic when a recent history book about the party was titled, “Men In White”.

Men in White, 1988. Picture: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE

This uniform with a party pin instantly bestows any wearer the status of a PAP member and its associated symbols of purity and integrity. In recent years, other parties have also put in similar efforts to cloth themselves in their party brand.

The Workers’ Party (WP) goes with light blue shirts in line with its history of standing up for blue-collared workers, while members of one of the newest parties, The Reform Party, are often seen wearing yellow shirts.

Other efforts to brand a party have turned up in pins, newsletters and posters, though its quality varies vastly.

For instance, when one looks through the archival collection of election posters over the last four decades, one can see why the PAP has been so successful in elections.

Most parties have been contented with plastering their posters with their candidate’s photo and name, the party’s logo and name (often in all four official languages), and even a plea to ‘Vote for…’.

People's Action Party, 1980. Pictures: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE

Worker's Party, 1980.

In contrast, the PAP’s posters look disciplined, clear, and distinct. The party has also consciously designed its campaign posters, juxtaposing images and text to visually communicate its slogan and messages.

One reason for such professionally designed materials is probably how much resources the PAP has access to, although one also has to take into account that election rules limit the budget for each candidate.

PAP, 1980.

PAP, 2006

PAP, 1988. Pictures: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE

But, of course, a poster alone cannot win you an election. If it did, the 1980s election posters of then WP’s J.B. Jeyaretnam were not deserving graphically to break the PAP’s monopoly of Parliament.

Neither were the SDP’s posters of 1991; the year when the party helped the opposition win the most number of seats since 1963. It wasn’t visually attractive materials that helped these two politicians win a seat in Parliament, but it certainly mattered how the public saw them.

The late Jeyaretnam with his fiery rhetoric was seen by many as a symbol of the ordinary man’s rage against the PAP machine, winning him two successful election victories.

A much more lasting image appeared in the 1991 elections in the form of then SDP’s secretary-general Chiam See Tong.

His party won three seats that year as Chiam had successfully sold himself in the previous elections and won it for the first time. His character and style showed how politics could be quiet and gentle, in contrast to the fiery battles between Jeyaretnam and PAP’s Lee Kuan Yew, winning over a new generation of voters.

SDP, 1984. Picture: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE.

This heralded the arrival of the new image of a Singapore politician, including the likes of WP’s Low Thia Khiang and PAP’s new leader Goh Chok Tong.

In the 1991 elections, Goh tried unsuccessfully to re-brand the party, promising a ‘open and consultative style of government’, but they still lost an unprecedented number of seats.

Perhaps, the no-nonsense politics of Goh’s predecessor was still synonymous with the PAP in the voters’ eyes. Proof that this new image of the Singapore politician was established can be seen in the fortunes of SDP since the 1997 elections.

By then, Chiam had left the party after falling out with his protege, Dr Chee. While Chiam went on to start the Singapore Peoples’ Party and continued his reign in Potong Pasir in the last decade, SDP went down the route of civil disobedience under Chee and has yet to receive popular support.

But it can be argued that the SDP has been the most innovative political party under Dr Chee. Beside cuddly bears and demonstrations, it was the first party to put up Internet podcasts before it was found to contravene elections rules. Now it publishes regularly on its website, Facebook and even produce its own videos.

The SDP has successfully caught the attention of the public, but translating it into votes and projecting the ‘right’ image of itself has been more difficult.

So what will be the image of a winning politician in the next general elections? With a Singapore electorate that is more cosmopolitan and sophisticated, it is no longer enough for a party to do nothing to take care of its ‘image’ but to build upon it.

As compared to Obama’s campaign, the political parties in Singapore have taken a very conservative view of branding and marketing themselves, if they even bothered at all.

They’ve stuck to the politics and kept it straight, and perhaps rightly so. After the 2006 elections, the PAP tried to engage the new generation of voters with its ‘P65’ Members of Parliament.

Born after independence, this new slate of MPs were supposed to be cooler, and they tried to hip-hop and blog their way to the hearts of Singaporean youths. Probably because it was an establishment project, it was an ‘epic fail’. The P65 blog has since been revamped and the P65 tag is less used now.

So will SDP and its Danny the Democracy Bear tank too? Will the electorate see it as a gimmick and even a joke? And can the image of a raging Dr Chee ever be replaced by a fuzzy bear?

Photo: M LEE

After the last two decades, the quiet and gentle politician may no longer be enough to engage an increasingly apathetic electorate.

Obama’s win has shown that a new generation is waiting to be roused, entertained, and even educated – if you’ve got the style. This is something that is missing in our politics here today.

It’s no longer just about substance, but in our image world today, you have to look like you have it too.

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