Straits Times’ Leslie Koh wrote a piece in today’s rag entitled “Online voices = vox populi?” (link from Visa’s blog) which I assume was penned while under duress, or on the hope of some vaguely promised salary raise or promotion. In it he 1) dismisses online voices as not necessarily representative of the “silent majority” and 2) asks the silent majority to speak up.
Now he is completely correct on point 1. What you hear online may or may not be the opinion of the majority. Online voices (bloggers, news sites, Facebok pages) are actually aware of this. The veiled implication, though, is what really stinks – “don’t trust what you read online – trust what you read in this newspaper“. Now that is dripping with irony. For decades, the ST has enjoyed a monopoly on opinion but now sees its authority being challenged by the likes of bloggers and political sites and even excellent neutral news channels like yahoo. Like some drunken ah beng gang leader cornered in a street fight, ST hits back, no holds barred, with the crude proverbial broken beer bottle. Careful, boy – that glass cuts both ways.
Now having taken a pot shot at how unrepresentative social media is, Leslie proceeds to ask citizens to speak up (read: rally to my cause). Here’s where he shoots himself in the foot.
People from the silent majority who speak up need a channel. Guess what that channel is most likely to be?
Look, Leslie, we didn’t all go to journalism school or major in English Lit or whatever it takes to become the Assistant Editor of the Straits Times’ political desk. We mostly have full-time jobs (thanks, gahmen, for low unemployment) and spend too much time working at them (thanks, gahmen, for work-life balance). If I’m not going to write a political column in the monopolised, state-owned mainstream media then surprise, surprise, I’m online.
So Leslie is telling us to speak up, but when we leave the ranks of the silent majority and do speak up, he will brand us as not being part of the silent majority.
In the end, all this article really proves is that mainstream media in its current form is getting less and less relevant to the average Singaporean, and a loosening of the NPPA is overdue. Fail to do that and the silent majority will forever and only be expressing itself online.