I was flabbergasted when I read a commentary today by the Sunday Times which was also carried on ST’s political website Singapolitics. Not because the writer took cheap swipes at critics of the G but by the very shoddy arguments that she used to attack those who criticised the govt’s handling of the haze problem. This is a commentary which would be graded F by any credible journalism lecturer for arguments which defy logic and worse, for skewing the facts and misleading the readers. And the irony is, the headline of this article contains the words Red Herring!
Firstly, the writer equated criticisms of how our government handled the haze crisis as “anti-government rhetoric” which “was expected” in her opening para (Get it right Rachel – speaking up is not being anti-government). Then she attempted to make a poor defense of the government by wrongly accusing us of blaming the govt for the haze. She then went on to say we shouldn’t criticise the govt as the haze was not caused by them and that by criticising, we are failing to take responsibility for ourselves!
To quote the writer:”It is true that some people cannot differentiate between when something is the Govt’s fault and when it is not…And the only possible response for ordinary Singaporeans was to look out for one another – and hunker down and wait till it all passed.”
Rachel , who is SPH’s Young Journalist of the Year 2013, also asked “Why do the same people who criticise the Government for over-regulation and an obsession with control, now charge that it is not doing enough?” How very devious of her to try and mangle the people’s call against oppression with the haze issues! How could she even think of conflating the issue of suppression of our civil liberties with the government’s failure to do a good job in managing a national crisis? These are two totally different issues altogether!
I am sick of the MSM and the govt using fallacious arguments to twist the facts and to attack well-reasoned criticism made by concerned Singaporeans. First of all, NO ONE, especially not the bloggers, blamed the government for the haze. We all know it was caused by the fires in Indonesia, so that argument made by Rachel was untrue and shot to shreds.
What the people were upset with was the lack of a proper crisis haze plan despite the haze occurring annually since the early ’90s. And we were questioning why the G was so slow in putting together some coordinated ground plans to help ease the suffering of the people – for example the delayed dissemination of the G’s stock of N95 masks which was in short supply, and the NEA alert that N95 masks were not suitable for children and some adults, both of which took place only about a week after the haze started.
Rachel also tried to skew her argument to downplay the criticisms by implying with much scorn that it was only the usual suspects of 1% of the population who criticised the G over the haze management and that everyone should ignore the “loud minority in lieu of noticing the reasoned majority stoically and quietly going about their lives.”
For emphasis she added in her ending: “It is perhaps borne of a biased assumption that a large swathe of Singaporeans are infantilised, and will react only impetuously and with impunity if not taken in hand by a nannyesque state. There is no doubt that there are UGLY Singaporeans out there who are doing their best to make themselves heard. But let’s not let them be a red herring argument for political stagnation.”
With her disingenuous comments, she has insulted numerous well-meaning Singaporeans who spoke up by asking pertinent questions and who made good suggestions to the G on dealing with the haze. The haze at its worst last week was one of national proportion and a national crisis as it affected everyone living on this island which explained why so many people spoke up on the matter both on and offline.
Rachel’s comments have trivialised the suffering of the people and the good intentions of Singaporeans some of whom even organised self-help groups such as Sg Haze. Her comments were biasedly critical of Singaporeans and came across as being deliberately divisive.
She also attempted to make an unclear point with convoluted writing, that the “backlash against the backlash” has punctured an argument put forth by the conservative fringe -“This is that our new-found openness – encapsulated in the thriving online sphere – will be the country’s ruin because of an inability to self-regulate and the way it blinds itself to its own bile.” Read it twice and the rest of her article to understand that she is saying, in her view, the “reasoned majority” will rise and regulate comments by the “Ugly Singaporeans”. And who is this “Ugly Singaporean” she is referring to? She didn’t define them but presumably they would include those who dare criticise the government based on what she has written.
For a young journalist, it is disturbing to see her throwing unjustifiable vile insults at Singaporeans in her socio-political commentaries which often sound condescending and patronisingly disdainful of locals. Earlier in May, she wrote in an article: “Driving is a lot like going onto an Internet forum. Metal and glass – car or computer screen – wrap around us and bestow an anonymity which allows us to expose our inner selves. For 80 per cent of Singaporeans, that self is a raging, competitive, a**hole.” Eighty percent are assholes? Seriously? How long has this 20-something youngster been driving here when she actually spent several years studying abroad? But then again, maybe she was trying to use the driver analogy to whack netizens, in a backstab kind of way.
Insults aside, we are also increasingly seeing the use of more fallacious arguments by the MSM especially in the ST. Is this the standard of commentaries we can expect from them these days? Just anyhow whack Singaporeans to show their support of the G? They do the G and the people no favours with such shoddy writings that are littered with fallacies, insinuations and insults to Singaporeans.
The fact that ST, the leading daily here, would endorse such a mischievous commentary, leads one to question its intention. Yes we know ST is 100% pro PAP but its editors and journalists all need to search their conscience before they start running red herring commentaries that are clearly misleading and which fan conflicts and divide Singaporeans.
One of Singapore’s MSM’s key missions is to help maintain harmony in this country. The MSM will do well to remember this mission and that its loyalty is not and should not be to the Party, any party, but to the people and the country. Divide and conquer may be a good war strategy but it should never be wilfully used by any government nor the MSM to turn citizen against citizen.