Monday, May 29, 2006

Two stories | speculation

Disclaimer: I am a political observer novice. I have never denied it, except when I was explaining to my friends rather vehemently about why having an Alternative Party is good, and I may have made up shit to persuade them. For which I apologise, but would like to add in mitigation that I didn't do any harm since none of them were in a position to vote anyway.

(They are still talking to me. Thank goodness elections is every 5 years or so.)

Something I observed over the last couple of weeks that I'm blogging about because I want to remember it, is about what makes an event blogworthy. Two things sparked it off - the Bilahari Kausikan versus Gayle Goh, and Denise Phua versus everyone that the money-grubbing-nouveau-riche-eugenics-program aka NUSS could get to come down.

Bilahari, Second Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Gave a talk to JC students, caused Gayle Goh to be "flabbergasted" at his apparent harshness of words, especially with regards to the acknowlegment that elderly employment is a perennial problem, since his generation wasn't about to "conveniently die". Other things that caused disgruntlement included the basic self-interest and "siege mentality" that governed Singapore foreign policy. Ms Goh later blogged about it and her feelings articulately, and her blog was picked up by Things snowballed, and Bilahari later wrote a letter of apology to her.

(On a personal note, said letter of apology was an excellent example of why Bilahari earned his stripes as a diplomat, since he managed to, well, not apologise while giving the impression that he had.

Denise Phua speaks at a forum thatIwasnotatbecauseNUSSisfucked - anyway, in the process she explained that she was shocked when she went online that 80% of the content was anti-PAP. She also suggested that the PAP should look into correcting this imbalance, and "managing" the Internet. Singapore bloggers howled hysterically with laughter, and proceed to complain about idiocies of walkover newbie MPs, censorship, and also change her name to Desiree in one case

(Desiree is an excellent name, but if you say it fast, it becomes Disarray. Freudian?)

One thing that struck me is this - well, two. Firstly, the ST picked up the story about Gayle Goh, and Ignatius Low turned it into a David-versus Goliath piece. Denise Phua's incident was reported but not commented on, with the reporter choosing to leave the quote intact and letting Singapore decide on what to think.

Secondly, Yawning Bread and Mr Wang picked up the Denise Phua piece, but not the Gayle Goh one. A quick survey of the more prominent political blogs suggested that none of them had picked it up. (Correct me if I'm wrong, I'm underpaid and I owe the university 46k. Toss me the requisite 12.90 per hour, and I'll research it better)

Stream of concious reasoning here: The Bilahari one was never about Bilahari. It's about Gayle Goh, the narrative is the one of "spunky fearless youth" tells it to "the Man". And you know that David wins, because of the apology. Never mind that the letter never apologised, but did the equivalent of patting David on the head. The David-Goliath story fit what people like to hear, it made the ruling party look good, it was heart-warming, and it was PR served to them on a plate.

Bilahari didn't get picked up by the more prominent political blogs, except in the Gayle Goh context. The reason - he never dropped the ball. He'd done his job, and done it well, and by all accounts, was well-versed in his area of expertise. (This is from what I read, for all I know my MFA friends are going to start screaming about how he steals the office donuts.)

Denise Phua didn't get picked up by MSM because she had dropped the ball. I won't go into detail about how abyssmally the ball had dropped, because Yawning Bread and Mr Wang have done so excellently. It got carefully ignored by MSM, and that's where bloggers come in - to fill in the gaps and use their position to say what MSM can't or won't.

The doyennes of the political blogs picked it up because it was blogworthy. Ms Phua's mistake was worthy of comment, because it was representative of many issues that people have with the PAP, and because it was potentially indicative of party views, the quality of new MPs, and much more. It was political.

Bilahari's didn't get picked up by the political bloggers because it was fluff, and got picked up by MSM because it was human interest. Ms Phua's got picked up by the bloggers and was ignored by MSM because there was blood on the floor.


Disclaimer Part 2: I'm fully prepared to also believe that the reason why it didn't get picked up is because Alex Au had a flu. This is ultimately speculation.

Then again, there's a reason why the university paid out 46k to hear people speculate away.


At 11:02 am, Anonymous recruit ong said...

Good point about why the MSM pick up one thing and don't pick up another. Another possibility is that of OB marker. Disarray Phua is in political office, a PAP MP, while Bilaharah is not. PAP and anyone associated with it must always be painted in the best possible light. This seems to be a maxim that all MSM follow.

At 1:49 pm, Blogger Mezzo said...

eek! You're right, and I should have made that point clearer. Thanks!

Disarray Phua...hehehehe. I feel bad, she's supposed to be quite decent, but damn, that was clueless of her.


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