04 February 2007

Minilee's keyboard kommandos

A few months after last year's General Elections, I had a private conversation with a few friends about the state of the local blogosphere. Despite its vaunted, almost mythical and most certainly mythologised role in provoking interest in politics and the elections, it was really in a vulnerable state. Without the election-fueled controversies, the blogosphere had no strong common focus. With comments on blog posts written increasingly by anonymouses interested in one-liners and non sequiturs, the blogosphere's power to serve as a clearing house for ideas and a broker for honest, sustained and serious discussion was diminished. (This would be partly why I stopped blogging for a time)

We concurred that it was high time for a power grab, with both major political parties establishing easy beachheads in the blogosphere. It's not that there's anything wrong with cabinet ministers and opposition members blogging, but we expected both parties to operate through proxies instead this time round. Perhaps they would set up a groupblog or an online magazine, then solicit members or guest contributors to nurture talents - without announcing in public about who is behind the blog/magazine. Actually it's an open secret amongst members of the Young Republic that a certain opposition party has done exactly that. Comparing it to the public efforts of the P65 blog, we thought the PAP had the cleaner hands...

Until now.

Li Xueying puts it this way in today's Straits Times:
PAP moves to counter criticism of party, Govt in cyberspace
The People's Action Party (PAP) is mounting a quiet counter-insurgency against its online critics. It has members going into Internet forums and blogs to rebut anti-establishment views and putting up postings anonymously.

Sources told The Straits Times the initiative is driven by two sub-committees of the PAP's "new media" committee chaired by Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen. One sub-committee, co-headed by Minister of State (Education) Lui Tuck Yew and Hong Kah GRC MP Zaqu Mohamad, strategises the campaign. The other is led by Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Baey Yam Keng and Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Josephine Teo. Called the "new media capabilities group", it executes the campaign.

Both were set up after last year's General Election. Aside from politicians, some 20 IT-savvy party activists are also involved

We're flabbergasted. Surely they don't mean to say that all bloggers are insurgents?

Insurgent, according to the Webster
1. Person who rebels against civil authority or established government
2. One who acts contrary to policies and decisions of their own political party.

Onelook has it even better:
3. a member of an irregular armed force that fights a stronger force by sabotage and harassment

But there's only one meaning of insurgent that is implied when you use "counter-insurgent", really. The member of an irregular armed force one... And how one takes action against insurgents (i.e. guerillas) is simple: you dispense with all rules of war and adopt a black ops manual. Adopting unconventional warfare is a must. Against the Vietcong, napalm their forests. Execute them. Against local bloggers, take on anonymous identities and destroy the blogosphere through disinformation and ghostwritten propaganda.

Black Ops

There is thus no less suitable phrase to describe the PAP counter-insurgency campaign. Party operatives posting anonymously in forums to advance the views of their party is every bit as covert and ethically questionable as a black op.

Elsewhere in the world, the revelation of party operatives infiltrating forums and blogs would be cause for the expulsion of several party leaders. One remembers the fury that was barely averted when Atrios disclosed his connection to the Democratic Party's campaign in 2005. One remembers the furore that resulted in the expulsion of one Jeff Gannon from the White House press room when it was revealed the journalist was hired by Republican Party operatives to ask easy questions for the administration. Closer to home, one remembers that a certain NKF trial alleges a whole slew of major ethical problems at the charity - including the practice of getting NKF staff to rebut anti-NKF views through ghostwritten letters in newspaper forum pages.

We wonder if Ng Eng Hen is so unaware of world affairs and the biggest trial to occur in Singapore that he happily authorises a campaign that essentially has PAP's party operatives masquerade as the ordinary blogging public, in order to propagate their party's views. Of course, that IS the intent of the counter-insurgency campaign, no?
One activist who is involved said that when posting comments on online forums and the feedback boxes of blogs, he does not identify himself as a PAP member.
We call upon Ng Eng Hen to come clean with this dishonest campaign; to identify all MPs, Ministers, and PAP party operatives involved. We want to know if they were paid by the State to masquerade as ordinary people to post anonymous comments on blogs during working hours. For their role in this fraudulent campaign, impeach Ng Eng Hen, Lui Tuck Yew, Zaqy Mohamad, Baey Yam Keng, and Josephine Teo! Impeach them now!

No comments: