GE 2015 [Comparison Essay/Investigative Journalism]: If you want to say Politics is dirty, I would say Ideology is dirtier.

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“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.”

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Mainstream Media

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.

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Non-mainstream Media

  • 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.

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# 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.

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# 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.

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# 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.

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# 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.

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# 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.

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# 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.

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If you want to say politics is dirty, I would say ideology is dirtier. We manipulate adapt information to our own biased agendas.

To check out more of our posts on Singapore’s media landscape and censorship, click HERE

Written by: Cass

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Article for reading: 1994 – 2015: A Chronology of Authoritarian Rule in Singapore

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27 thoughts on “GE 2015 [Comparison Essay/Investigative Journalism]: If you want to say Politics is dirty, I would say Ideology is dirtier.

  1. That’s because the overriding objective of independent sites like TOC and TRE is to dilute the dominance of PAP. They seem to think that the way to counterbalance the bias of mainstream media is to fight it with the opposite bias, rather than to offer the balanced reporting that is fundamentally missing in said media. As if the two sides, mainstream and independent, when combined constitutes a balance. But, somehow, it’s not even about that. They are fighting a war. A war where if one side somehow gives a voice to the other under the name of balanced reporting, it will lose its thrust and fire power, and its supporters will lose their sense of direction.

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      1. I’m not sure if i understand what you say correctly but assuming i do, there’s unconscious bias and there’s the conscious one. And then there’s pitching, where the conscious bias known to those internally has to be pitched in a certain way to the public. I think there can be a sincerity toward recognizing biases in view of balanced reporting. An apt question in this case would be , Which is more balanced? Or is there even a balanced way to measure ‘more’? I think there is.

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  2. I’m not in any position to compare. Because I hardly read mainstream media nowadays. As to why, I would have to ponder a bit longer, but it probably has more to do with the fact that I’m more interested in alternative voices, being an ‘alternative’ type myself. I mean, I enjoy reading letters from the ground.

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  3. No, I’m not a writer. I was just thinking aloud. If you want me to expand on it, cursory reading of wiki entries of ‘ Journalistic objectivity’ and ‘ Propaganda model’ suggests that a lot of reading and pondering awaits.

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  4. In any case, it’s some sort of a respect to the topic at hand, and also a way to get the juices churning. But I do appreciate your clarification. At this time, my fingers are not pulsating, therefore, externalization awaits. I’m going to watch Birds of America first.

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  5. Here is something i borrowed from a media bias survey done in the US. Instead of a liberal- conservative spectrum, we can have a pro-PAP – anti- PAP spectrum, so the middle scorer will be deemed to be relatively free of political bias. First we take stock of descriptives of notable local issues over a number of years- Amos, AHPETC,AWARE, etc.- mouthed off by government officials. Then we take all the words published by the various media entities over those years, and do a statistical analysis of frequency of matches. The one who scores the highest is the most pro, so on and so forth. Thanks for the question. It’s been a joy.

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      1. If we apply it to Singapore’s context – the higher frequency the media frame it to suit the government agenda, the more bias they are? But how do we measure if the media is biased towards the other spectrum e.g. anti-govt? When the media frame their content which happens to be unaligned to the govt’s interest, there could be 3 possibilities 1) they are bias 2) theres a possibility that some just happen to have a view which is unalign to the govt 3) the middle, balanced side. How do we then differentiate or measure if a media is balanced or anti-govt when it’s grey area be it in a local or global context? Where do we categorize those media with independent views who do not take a middle stand, and are neither anti nor pro govt? 🙂

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    1. (Can’t seem to find e reply button under yr last one.) for e US case easier. If one writes war on terror without quotes you can be sure it’s pro republican.

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  6. First, a bias in this case means political bias. In the US survey, it could either be conservative leaning or liberal. But in dominant party Sg, whether pro- govt or anti, i consider them to be both bias. High frequency means full on compliance, how the govt frames issues, like the way they perceive Amos, they report in kind, no change. This shows, relatively speaking, super pro govt. It’s important to remember we are measuring in relative terms, not absolute. From a certain angle, one can list examples where a match might not mean compliance, but taken over a period of time and comparing many entities a certain picture can emerge. In the US case, it’s simpler. Each side has its own take. War on Iraq. War on terror. In sg case, a bit not clear cut.

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  7. Or we can do a complementary survey to ascertain the soundness of methodology of the previous. We gather a good sample of readers of various leanings. Questionaire them to determine their leanings. Let them read, maybe for a start, those low frequency cases. If it’s clear cut anti, pro readers would rate it as bias, anti as reasonable, middle as bias or something. Or instead, maybe a hate like scale. Let’s say we get a 70 percent soundness. Then we calibrate, however we do it, the original until we get a good, whatever that means, soundness.

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