Of Angry Journalists, Anger & the Evil Internet Again
Board games like Monopoly live through the ages because it make-believes very human emotions like greed, ability to handle failure, the embarrassment of failure, the fear of defeat/failure and of course, the thrill of winning, the satisfaction of monopoly.
Reading Chua Lee Hoong's latest ST article on the Internet reactions to the Mas Selamat debacle strikes an immediate sense of deja vu. If I am not wrong, not that many years back, her fellow journalist, Sumiko Tan, opened her diatribe against the Internet with exactly the same angry descriptive barrage of the evils in cyberspace, crawling with bad people, filled with nasty brutish demons and poisonous commentaries. Years later, another fellow journalist repeats the same diatribe on this lawless space known as cyberspace.
We have to engage Lee Hoong's article precisely. She has dissected and isolated this Mas Selamat debacle and ends wondering why the reactions of the Net and of the mob are so incommensurate to the issue at hand? Why are Singaporeans over-reacting? Why this much anger? This much hate, this much scorn, this much disdain? To be fair to Lee Hoong, this is not so bad a form of analysis. Isolate the issue, study it, than assess the implications and measure the reaction/response. Incidentally, this is a method of journalism which ST excels in. Isolate, measure, assess and respond. Indeed, the entire article by Lee Hoong has a narrative structure not unlike how PM Lee dissected the Mas Selamat debacle in Parliament. Clinical, efficient, laying bare the facts, laying bare the skeleton with skeletal facts. When Lee Hoong removes her surgical mask, she cries out in boiling anger: What for this anger? Why this anger?
The answer is simple. This anger is not only about Mas Selamat. This anger is inextricably entwined with how the Ministers gave themselves a huge pay rise on the reasoning that they have to benchmark themselves to the private sector. This anger is intertwined with how the Government pursues accountability in every action, every utterance, every behavior of an Opposition politician. This anger is tied deeply with how the Government removed a columnist from his job at the newspaper because of his accountability for one column mocking the rising costs of living. This anger is about the unfairness of political accountability in Singapore. This anger is about the shifting meaning of accountability in the political landscape of Singapore. So Lee Hoong, the answer is simple, this anger, this “hysterical” mob manifesting in the Internet, is precisely the product of the actions of this Government.
Perhaps, to be fair, we also have to measure, assess the reasons why Lee Hoong’s blood is boiling. Why her anger? Is it a commensurate anger? Somewhere along the commentary, she assures Singaporeans that her past articles have shown she has been critical of Government if it warrants. This is her licence to ask the thinking Singaporean why we are behaving irrationally, disproportionately. Perhaps she has to ask herself why, even if she has “rebelled”, inserted subliminal messages of protest, why does it never find resonance with Singaporeans? Perhaps, she and other journalists should reflect whether their exercises in this measured dissent are more to salve, satiate their own egos, soothe that little hidden rebel deep in their consciousness rather than real, sopisticated messages with true resonance among their readers?
Lee Hoong’s anger is ultimately an incommensurate anger. The Net moves on. The world moves on. The people whom Lee Hoong is trying desperately to connect with have moved on. Perhaps, this is the reason for her anger. No one cares what she writes anymore. No one bothers. It is incommensurate anger because the thinking Singaporean now has choice, has the ability to choose, to respond, to voice. Look at Catherine Lim's blog, old school writer, new media advocate. Whereas for Lee Hoong, what recourse is there but incommensurate anger if her choice is staying in an institution like the Straits Times whose excellence is only in its ability to isolate incidents/issues rather than extrapolate from incidents/issues. Her subliminal messages of “protest”, of “change from within” will ultimately remain at best as exercises in intellectual self-gratification, disconnected from the pulse and reflexes of the real world, the connected world as the Mas Selamat episode clearly shows.
Occasionally I still play Monopoly with the children. The nephew who threw the tantrum is fine now because he understands that throwing tantrums is poor behavior indeed because then, no one will play with him anymore. And this is his greatest fear.
Quote of the Day –
“Dr Judson, you were against the Super Collider, were you not?”
“And you testified in favor of cutting off its funds?”
“I did indeed”
“Please tell this committee why you did it.”
“Quite simple. I made an idiotic mistake.” …
“Dr Judson, I’m afraid you have to explain that”
“No problem, There’s only so much money for science in the Federal budget. Back in 1993, I thought the Collider was soaking up far too much money … I never anticipated the Chinese would come up with the Higgsie”
“The Higgsie? Do you mean the Higgs boson?”
“Sorry, around the institute we call it the Higgsie and regard it as fairly trivial … Nevertheless, there was a world race on to find the Higgsie … I mean by 1993, the Higgs boson has become a sort of Holy Grail of physics, hadn’t it? So it was politically important. We’re all here today because the Chinese have aced us, aren’t we? …”