Right after the results were announced on 6 May 2006, one reporter asked me to describe the whole election campaign in one sentence and I gave him just a phrase: “Political Awakening”.
Ironically, we should thank the local media for such massive political awakening process for Singaporeans at large. As I have explained in my post “Why I join WP?”, my own political awakening happened back in 1991 whereby what I have read on NUS BBS with regards to the political rallies held by the alternative parties was so different from what local mass media reports that I decided to visit the Potong Pasir rally held by Chiam See Tong. I was awed by what I saw and politically awaken by my experience. The gross disparity between the reports on local mass media as compared to what actually happened on the ground has convinced me that the local mass media cannot be trusted when it comes to political reporting. The political reality of the biasness sets in. From then on, I volunteer myself to be independent ground reporter of political rallies during the 1997 as well as 2001 GE. I believe that nobody should be deprived of the truth.
While back in 1991, there was hardly any “solid evidence” to be presented on BBS which was basically text based. But in 2006, a digital photo speaks a thousand words. I would like to express my special thanks to Yawning Bread ( http://www.yawningbread.org ) for putting up very good photos and coverage of the rallies. When the following digital photo first appeared on Yawning Bread, there was a massive instant awe in the internet community. The local mass media has avoided reporting on the massive crowd attending our rallies until this photo appears. They knew that they are fighting a losing battle over control of information. Their credibility is at stake if they carry on their old mode of reporting. Thus, interesting enough, we witness a slight change in the print media thereafter.
However, I suspect that massive damage has been done on local mass media and that is basically why more and more people are interested in attending our rallies, to witness for themselves the true happenings instead of relying on the bias reporting on local mass media. One interesting point is that more young people were attending our rallies, even students who are supposed to prepare for their examinations, took the trouble to come to our rallies. They are the internet savvy generations who have experienced early political awakening. One 17 or 18 years old student came to my shop two days after polling day to give me moral support. He has tied our WP wrist band on his backpack, come forward to shake my hand and say, “Well done! Please don't give up!” I was truly touched because when it signifies HOPE for our future as a nation, a HOPE based on more balanced views and sources of information.
I have actually written about the important role of bloggers in this digital age. Bloggers could change the society's information structure and indeed, they are a “threat” to a place where political power is being prolonged by the control of mass media. The local mass media's biggest threat is to have alternative competitive sources of media that could provide reliable information that could be verified independently. In this GE, bloggers at large have successfully contributed to a more open society by challenging local media's credibility, in which, forced them to react accordingly.
On a broader perspective, independent bloggers, with the contrast to local mass media's skewed reporting, have brought upon a massive political awakening process to many people, in particular, the younger Singaporeans. I have been through such awakening process and I understand the disgust one feels when the truth reveals.
The more interesting point of this political awakening process is that it has negated most of the negative impact of James Gomez Saga. Independent views as well as satirical postings or podcasts (like those in Mr. Brown's blog http://www.mrbrown.com ) have somehow derailed PAP's predictable election strategy. So much so that PAP has openly said that the role of internet in this election should be reviewed.
Though there is a massive political awakening in my view, but I must say there are still many people out there who only depend on local mass media as their main source of information. I have noticed that some of those forum letters writing about this GE have a very skewed view. Some have admitted that they form their views only through the TV or newspapers they read. Some claim that opposition parties have not raised any important bread and butter issues or any good suggestions! If they have attended our rallies, they will realize that many of the main hard hitting points of the bread and butter issues (including retirement financing, healthcare cost etc) have been omitted by local mass media reports!
It would mean that there is still much to be done in terms of political awakening; i.e. There aren't enough people awaken.
Goh Meng Seng