The last of GE2015 [Immersion Journalism]: Silent Majority, Vocal Minority and Afterthoughts

 

The silent majority has spoken” headlined various news sources after the GE2015 results were announced. Some of these sources then went on to elaborate the hypothetical sentiments of the silent majority’s votes resulting to a landslide victory for PAP. Based on what’s observed both online and offline, the extent of the victory secured by PAP came as unexpected among the people and for the Opposition supporters and parties themselves, they had been hopeful for change in this supposed “watershed election”.

The term, silent majority, is used to describe people who do not openly express their political opinion, including those who don’t play their active citizenry role in the politics. Whether or not the silent majority makes up of apathetic citizens, we can discuss the question another day. The “Silent Majority, Vocal Minority” phenomenon is a hot discussion topic during and usually after the elections in any other country out there.

In recent times, I guess we could say that a large proportion of the vocal minority are behind their screens instead of having them on ground actively partaking in political events. Unless, just unless they have to cover the event on some platform or another on the Web. There was an interesting study conducted (you can read it here) to compare the content generated by the vocal minority and the silent majority, that the former is more dominating than the other and their content purposed at reaching out to the largest possible audience out there rather than to simply express one’s not-so-personal opinion.

What did we learn from GE2015? Are we really yielding to this convenient and popular, yet unjustified opinion that Singaporeans too afraid to vote out the PAP?

That is, we assume that the majority is discontented with PAP based on what we’re seeing online. We all know that anomalous and perhaps tyranny comments are often more resounding than conventional ones. Both attempts to bring across some sort of a rationale to the readers. But how can we really quantify these opinions to thinking that we’re seeing the true majority here expressing their discontentment? Because it is “loud” and “resounding”, does it mean that a bulk number of individual citizens actually contributed to the noise effect?

The online platform has provided us aplenty of ease and anonymity (by this, I don’t mean directly having a complete anonymous identity. People still do take ownership of what they say online and defend it sometimes, at least more often now. The beauty of expressing oneself on the keyboard over open conversations is the avoidance of direct confrontation) to post our political opinions. We make excellent moderators of the things we share in every different platform. Then, does the radicalism of our opinion vary across these platforms?

How often do we hear political opinions being shared in the conversations we’ve engaged in within our social circles? In the classroom? In my personal experience, I am so used to the silence in all the other realms of my life that politics have been particularly loud online. But is it really the majority we’re seeing on our Facebook timelines? The articles and the comments on alternative news sources (they’re online and big on Social Media) and forums – though these could be written by any one – have we normalized them to represent the consensus of all?

Here, we share an interesting excerpt from The Midnight Review’s post, The Spiral Of Silence And The Tea Party Minority, dated May 26, 2010:

... members of a society can sense when certain minority views gain in popularity.  The majority in turn becomes reluctant to express opinions critical of the minority-held view while the minority become emboldened and more vocal about their positions.  This cycle creates the illusion that the view of the minority is held by the majority of the populace, pushing the majority view further into the background of the imaginary popular position, creating an artificial majority. The cycle breaks when general consensus is met.

Also, our opinions aren’t as willed as we think they are. More especially today with Captureinformation overload and the subconscious influence of the content we see on Social Media. Controversial content seldom escapes us when we are online. The Web is a double-edged sword. On one side, the things we read online give us new insights to the predisposed, orthodox beliefs we have. They provide you with statistics and facts – though they’re usually contradicted by new studies done – that makes you question whether the system is really the way as you see it.

Nevertheless, it still remains difficult to reconcile the statistics to the observations and the experiences you’ve seen with the system. For instance, the diverging income inequality and Singapore’s social spending relative to other developed nations. On the ground, social assistance schemes are evidently in place and I’d have think that the problem is that the schemes aren’t maximally utilized by the poor – (1) either they’re not known to the poor or/and (2) some of the application processes are too bureaucratic and tedious to follow up. Most definitely there’re other reasons as well.

On the issue of income inequality, to cope with the problem lies in the fairer distribution of resources in society. The first thing that comes to the mind is taxation. Some academics argue that we shouldn’t question society’s willingness to fork out more in taxes and that theoretically, most people will happier and more satisfied to do so in exchange for a more equal society, meaning less disparity in the wealth/income of each class. The other argument is that our nation’s reserves are fertile (although not transparent to us) and that could be used to fund social spending for quite sometime but to sustain a fairer society depends on both the State and the society as a whole. This still remains questionable.

CaptureOn the flip side, we’re getting so much content online every day that it could turn be manipulating and over time, you don’t know where you stand anymore or that you realized that you’re now turned to the other side. We may find ourselves to lose a stand now but it is never a bad thing to find out answers, new answers that contradict the previous ones. To question is not to find yourself rebelling against the government and overthrowing the party in place. Only through questioning one will better understand the Government’s position amidst coping with these social issues and emerging ones in the future.

Occasionally, we doubt the practicality of theoretical implications to not implement a particular policy while some others are more skeptical of such “excuses” and might say something like, “You wouldn’t know the benefits until you have pilot-tested it isn’t it?“. Societies evolve. Some of these issues have become more visible and hard to ignore in the people’s lives. Hopefully even after the elections, citizens still pursue to be informed on these issues. So, can policies afford to still remain stagnant?

Would you say that GE2015 has heightened the government’s awareness of the people’s sentiments?

Written by: SY

To check out more of our posts on GE2015, click HERE

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Featured images credits:  Paris Chia Photography (website), @Instagram@Facebook

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