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Vote for the opposition: PAP will not lose

Vote for the opposition: PAP will not lose

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong needs to have more faith in the political system his dad built.

By Fang Shihan

Like it or not, PM Lee has plenty of supporters. Photo: SINGAPORE YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES / Creative Commons

IN HIS dialogue with 12 Singaporeans who supposedly represent various sections of the population, PM Lee remarked, as a reply to a question about having a level political playing field, that it cannot be equal.

He also noted: “If you ask the people in Potong Pasir, whom do they want to make the government of Singapore? I think they’ll say they want a PAP government, so too in Hougang. But then you ask them who do they want to vote for, they’ll say Mr Chiam or Mr Low. In other words, they’re counting on someone else to vote for the PAP, so they can get the luxury to vote for Mr Chiam or Mr Low….”

Replying to a question of why opposition wards get bumped down the upgrading queue even though opposition voters are Singaporeans too, he replied that this is to incentivise residents in opposition-held wards to vote for the PAP.

Quite frankly, PM Lee has nothing to worry about. Wearing a pink shirt as a lucky charm all the time is actually quite unnecessary.

While there are plenty of keyboard warriors and TV critics out there who will make a song and dance about voting the opposition (and some have their minds made up, judging by the comments posted online), the PAP is in no serious danger of losing just yet.

Opposition supporters, go ahead. Enjoy your luxury of ticking the box under “Worker’s Party” or “Singapore People’s Party” because MM Lee has put in place a robust system to ensure the continued longevity of his son’s party.

We have the lazy voter to thank. Not just your usual ‘politically apathetic youth’, but also the contented Malay welfare recipients, the uncles and aunties who’ve lived in walkover wards their whole life and couldn’t give two hoots about the new opposition candidates, and the white-collar baby boomers who’re too busy keeping their salary in step with rising COE prices. People who wouldn’t bother reading political information, and consider the elections only marginally more important than the season finale of a soap opera.

But one has to applaud PM Lee for his honesty. He does not resist taking jibes at the opposition and their inability to provide upgrading services, simply by being the opposition. This time, at least, he has more tact and no longer claims to ‘fix’ the opposition, unlike 2006.

Political constructs built with the purpose of keeping the incumbent authoritarian party in power do not disappear overnight. Lazy voters especially, only take the path of least mental resistance, towards the only party they’ve been familiar with their whole lives.

If you’re the biggest bully in the playground, and your father happens to be the contractor who built the playground, there’s no point pretending to be humble.

Each and every fixture in the playground has a purpose, and this is for the good of all who have a stake in it. Non-Constituency Member-of-Parliament schemes? A good transition for opposition politicians to break into ‘real’ politics. Nominated Member-of-Parliament provide more substantive debate than NCMPs?

But of course! That was by design. Using public infrastructure as incentives for the public to vote for the incumbent? Ah-bor-den? Without the PAP, you wouldn’t even have public infrastructure because politicians would be too busy tearing each other apart to take care of you.

The PAP system was built so well that the best losing and nominated opposition MPs can speak but not vote on budget and constitutional matters. This results in a wayang for public entertainment, without the government policies being actually affected. Lacklustre entertainment as it may be, with MPs falling asleep in parliament, this wayang provides fodder for political conversation yet spares the lazy voter from thinking too much, or taking time off from more important matters.

Why? Because it’s only talk, no action. Don’t need to worry.

Unlike our neighbours up north, so frequently cited as an example of freedom gone wrong, Singapore has little chance of becoming an actual democracy even though PM Lee might actually have a chance of losing. Political constructs built with the purpose of keeping the incumbent authoritarian party in power do not disappear overnight. Lazy voters especially, only take the path of least mental resistance, towards the only party they’ve been familiar with their whole lives.

So why fret? Root for the quiet kid building his sandcastle in the corner. He doesn’t have that many friends, and the bully doesn’t need you anyway.

Want to have the blogosphere in your pocket? New Nation has an app for that. Available on the Android Marketplace.

Making disaster porn

Making disaster porn

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Much of the media’s coverage of Japan’s nuclear crisis is overblown, a direct result of the media’s mission to entertain, and not just report news. The writer wishes to remain anonymous.

Losing hope: A woman cries while sitting on a road amid the destroyed city of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture. Photo: REUTERS

STORIES sell. Stories based on a true event that read even better than fiction, even more so. But a story’s still a story: narrative is king and facts are a necessary embellishment.

Facts: Death toll rises above 3,000 after Japan quake, 100,000 presumed dead in 2010 Haiti quake, libya death toll rises to 84 as Gaddafi battles rebels, China quake leaves 25 dead in Southwest China… We could go on playing with the numbers all day though this meaningless data serve little purpose than to legitimize the factuality of the stories.

While compadres in the western online media have started bashing their establishment again, calling the American news networks distributors of disaster porn, us here in Asia have less of a problem with sensationalizing disasters. But the media’s still milking it for all it’s worth.

Take Channel NewsAsia for example. I’m watching their coverage of the radiation leak in Japan as I write this. It’s interesting how they picked that one specific soundbite from Yukio Edano (Japanese chief cabinet secretary) mentioning that radiation will have an effect on human beings, conveniently forgetting the later part when he mentions that radiation outside the safety zone is harmless.

There’s little room to argue that media coverage of any disaster DOESN’T amount to disaster porn. However, this critique, unleashed with good reason during the coverage of the 2010 Haiti quake and most recently, the Middle East uprising, may be a tad unfair on an industry that survives on advertising dollars and/or the number of eyeballs glued on their content.

A wise, and sometimes wisecracking professor of mine said recently in an email:

“My view is that media corporations see themselves as being in the entertainment business and news is considered one form of entertainment. Beyond the stock market round-ups and oil price charts, they really have little interest in what gets sent out by way of “news” so long as it does not interfere with their bottom line. War, chaos human pathos and tragedy sell, so they will always be a feature of the news, as will celebrity scandal, but beyond that very few outlets delve deep into their subject matter or question the logics of the corporate masters.”

Is it always the fault of the big corporate man though? When even self-proclaimed, government subsidized (read: NOT capitalist-driven) MediaCorp chooses to hawk the coverage of Japan’s worst earthquake in recorded history through a mass mailer, it makes you wonder if it’s just the profit incentive that’s driving media organizations to whore their depiction of human tragedy.

Consumer news is never about giving you what you need to know. It’s about giving you what the media thinks you want to know, or what they think you will respond to.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, MediaCorp’s not alone on this. Microsoft came under fire from online vigilantes after bing.com tweeted:

“How you can #SupportJapan – http://binged.it/fEh7iT. For every retweet @bing will give $1 to Japan quake victims up to $100k.”

As the good ol’ capitalist critique goes: it’s all about supply and demand. Everyone loves a scandal. Now when it’s technologically possible to broadcast your opinions worldwide in the comment box below the article, it’s the most controversial stories that get the clicks, tweets, comments and eyeballs. Not the dry factual stuff that gives you what you need to know to form an educated opinion. That’s wikipedia man which , by the way, still asks for donations every now and then. They’re not the ones that are going to send reporters down to war torn countries to give you the facts straight from the fight zone.

Revenue generating news will always be the quotes or stories controversial enough to get you fired up and talking. “ZOMG! Look at how Larry Kudlow debased human life by comparing the death toll with the economic impact! The asshole!”

Hey, but it got you thinking beyond the body count right? If anything, it may have made him a more sought after economic pundit.

Consumer news is never about giving you what you need to know. It’s about giving you what the media thinks you want to know, or what they think you will respond to. Moralists in particular get a field day with each controversy that gives them a chance to evangelize conservatism substantiated with nothing more than horrific pathos.

For instance, nuclear energy opponents the world over, having been ignored the past decade, are now under the spotlight again. “Nuclear energy should never be considered because of what happened at Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island” so they say. The partial reactor meltdown at Three Mile caused no casualties but cost slightly less than $1 billion USD and 12 years to clean up. Analysts are now saying the cost of rebuilding Japan could amount to $228 billion SGD.

Still, a risk is a risk is a risk. This article gives some context to the current nuclear overreaction.

“Every energy source has risks and economic externalities, whether they are noise and bird kills (wind), huge land requirements (solar), rig explosions and tanker spills (oil), or mining accidents (coal).”

Hypothetically, a nuclear fallout could be devastating and will affect many generations to come. Yet compare the number of casualties from nuclear plant-related accidents to say, deaths from coal mining per year and you get a sense of how disproportionate nuclear fear mongering has become. Yes, there could be devastation from nuclear energy but there already is calculable harm done in terms of worker injuries and environmental costs from coal or oil generated energy.

Speaking of oil, does anyone still remember Gaddafi in Libya? What about Saudi Arabia sending in troops to Bahrain this morning to protect the Sunni monarchy? Nah, not so exciting there. The quake provides more drama.

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