The following article ‘ The Myth of the Online Bypass ‘ by Cherian George perhaps sums up the state of citizen journalism in Singapore, the flaws, air of arrogance and an oxymoronic version of what we would like to call democracy.
True enough, the mainstream media probably has not done enough to quell our disdain for obviously bias reporting, yet I find myself being shameful but perhaps more fearful of what is being written online and deemed by ‘netizens’ as ‘critical alternative thinking’.
The many sites that were once the catalyst of my exploration into the alternate state of Singapore’s political landscape like TOC, Temasek Review (TREmeritus) & co. have not just degenerated in terms of sustainable and quality content, but have also produced a slew of similar websites like Sgpolitics, TheRealSingapore and shamefully NewNation. All of which started out as being refreshing initially before turning into a place of irrational rants that sit down well with the disgruntled public.
Status updates, Facebook Notes & the trend of the year ‘ An Open Letter to the (insert name) minister ‘ have also become increasingly visible thanks to Singapore having close to 3 million registered Facebook Users. These have also allowed not just the empowered writers, but the conveniently logged on keyboard warrior to puff his chest out, and comprehend for all of 2 seconds before posting an irrational comment that sparks what I see as nothing but childish playground debates.
Unlike mainstream media and the profession that is journalism, the worrying thing about citizen journalism is not only the lack of research involved, but the fact that their comments & articles often turn into nothing more than emotionally defensive pieces, with the following phrases often appearing in the midst of articles.
1. ‘ I think you’re missing the point ‘
2. ‘ I’m not trying to suggest that ______ … ‘
3. ‘ Well you sound really (insert irrational word) ‘
4. (Insert sarcastic laughter followed by more mockery of commentor)
This arrogance of the amateur writer is no better than then people who slam Justin Bieber in just about any music video on youtube. Their anti-governtment rants will no doubt sit well with the disgruntled netiziens, and all it takes is a like or comment to fuel the fire of their burning arrogant desire.
Which brings me to my point of our supposed democracy in Singapore.
Democracy differs in each and every country that adopts it, from landmark elections in Egypt, to our more accustomed style of Western democracy centered on the freedom of speech. Yet while democracy is often seen as a constitutional right, many forget that the practice of democracy itself is also about listening to other views that differ from our own, and to try as best to compromise and make a rational judgement together. This works whether it is from one citizen to another or from the Government to the citizen and vice-versa.
‘Democracy requires the right to speak, and this is where the internet has come to the fore. But democracy also expects of citizens that we listen, to hear views different from our own, to negotiate and, if necessary, compromise. We need spaces for such deliberation and social conciliation. ‘ – Cherian George
Personally there are a lot of matters about our nation that I discuss with friends and family, whether it’s with one who shrugs off with a simple ‘ like that lor, what can we do ‘ or more encouraging debates that leave me questioning my own views of the situation.
Often I try to write about these issues, but find myself being sorely misinformed at one point or another, guilty of doing minimal research or being overtly bias at some point. Indeed it is good to make a stand and have an opinion about politics, but it is also important to listen to the views of others and know the limits of the knowledge that you have.
While I agree that citizen journalism has no doubt opened and encouraged more Singaporeans to be involved in politics, the question that remains is how we can turn this into a reasonable and mature discourse, encouraging healthy debate and objective writing that betters the community. I really can’t offer the answers to this except encouraging people to think twice about the stuff they read, make an effort to do their own research or read more objective articles by people like Cherian George,even if there are few of them out there.