“What you see is not what you get. Media manipulation is found in all outlets. Either be freed or be fooled. Read in-between the lines. Do not let propaganda control your minds.”
Some may feel we are a state-controlled media. Based on my observations, I feel the positive image of the government is maintained through tactful media portrayal. The ugly sides are hidden, given less focus, or kept toned down, while publicity for pro-government matters strategically use mainstream media as a promotional tool. From my viewpoint, they aim to appear neutral but close one eye to information which may look bad on the government’s reputation. They may also in their own subtly ways, adapt the undertone of the information to align to the G interest.
- The non-mainstream sites I’m talking about here are referring to those with strong one-sided stands, without a balanced perspective.
From what I observed, they tend to criticize the government very swiftly. Promoting an alternative voice is good but when a matter or content is or dramatize to “sensationalize” the matter, it may evoke strong emotions from the readers, and align readers to the site’s subjective goals, which could be unethical. They also strategically adapt information to meet their own agenda – which is to make the government look bad at every chance they get. This undermines the accuracy and credibility of information posted, as some may just be unfounded or exaggerated claims.
# Example 1 – Amos Yee Saga
Mainstream media was not comprehensive and well-balanced as they did not report on the full details of Amos Yee claims, and on how he was treated e.g. Jail, Institute Of Mental Health (IMH) (*All details may not have been true but still, they should have been addressed if mainstream media aims to be a neutral and unbiased media platform). They also interviewed his family members and lawyer to dig out opinions that will look bad on him for the public to learn more about his their perspectives. Information that would look bad on the government would either be toned down or kept out of focus.
Non-mainstream media embodied the mindset of “Amos Yee is not wrong. He is entitled to express what he wants.” Yes, I agree that the way the government handled the whole matter was disproportionate any may have political undertones, but one cannot deny his comments on LKY at a critical period was not respectful, and he did make insensitive religious comments which may be viewed as insensitive. They also played on the mothers’ helplessness to garner sympathy empathy from readers, which can be liken to adding salt to the already salty sea water.
# Example 2 – Content Credibility
Non-mainstream Media – The Real Singapore was ordered to shut down in early may this year as they were found to have contravened the Internet Code of Practice (ICOP), by publishing prohibited material as defined by the Code to be objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public order and national harmony. e.g. One story that appeared on its website allegedly “falsely asserted” a Filipino family had caused an incident between the police and participants of the procession during Thaipusam on February 3rd this year.
Mainstream Media – They had framed the article in a way to make it show that Mary Toh had reported on Amos as he was beyond her control when in fact, apology made to police made was in hopes for police to be more lenient in handling of her son’s case. They also wrongly accused Amos of being kicked out of church when he left his church on his own accord.
# Example 3 – Validity of Sources
Non-mainstream Media – Mr Singh’s old speeches were taken and reposted with a headline that he had left the PAP. This was not true as he remains as a PAP member, and will be assisting PM in his election campaign in Ang Mo Kio.
# Example 4 – Propaganda and Publicity
Mainstream Media – The recent video of the daughter hitting the mother was investigated by MSF. I was wondering why Ministry of Family Social Development (MSF) – a big organization had to sensationalize bring such “big” attention to this personal family matter by intentionally going the extra mile to e.g. Post through MSF Facebook page (which usually posts on major or community matters) on updates of how the case will be handled, and TODAYOnline even interviewed the person who shot the video.
The incident had came up at the very right time for the government to tap on it as an opportunity to reiterate on The Vulnerable Adults Act – meant to help protect vulnerable adults suffering from third-party abuse and neglect. Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social and Family Development also elaborated the Act will be introduced at the end of this year. People will as a result, feel that the newly introduced government policies implemented are relevant to, and meeting the needs of its people.
# Example 5 – Adding Fuel to the Fire
As much as PAP likes to reinforce the fact that they can handle their finances well to take a direct dig at Worker’s Party, when talking to the media about GE, Non-mainstream media sites also equally enjoy taunting PAP nominated ministers e.g. Son of Punggol and Tin Pei Ling over trivial matters.
# Example 6 – Objectivity and Balanced Perspectives
I believe all political systems; news organizations and governments around the world encompass good and ugly sides. We adapt the information to fit our intentions, create a perception we want readers or audiences to have, or feel towards a matter, be it subjective or objective. This in simpler terms, is also known as – propaganda, which helps inculcate an ideology into the minds of the people.
If you want to say politics is dirty, I would say ideology is dirtier. We manipulate adapt information to our own biased agendas.
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Written by: Cass
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Article for reading: 1994 – 2015: A Chronology of Authoritarian Rule in Singapore