Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A feeling of political ambivalence

Ambiguity & AnonymityWhy do I feel ambivalent when Minister Balaji Sadasivan said that blogging about one's political opinions is ok but persistently promoting political views is a no no? When does expression of one's political opinions become viewed as persistent promotion of that same opinion? When anyone expresses an opinion, that person is promoting a point of view. If that person repeats that opinion once, will it be viewed as one too many times? Or is persistence quantified in the 10s or 100s? Only the powers that be knows, and that's ambiguity for you. And that's why many people would still rather not express a political opinion or openly take sides.

Granted, the simple interpretation will be that if I blog about political happenings in Singapore in a disinterested manner, I need fear no reprisals. But once I show interest and take a political stand, I need to register with the government. Once that is done, you know that you are monitored by people who have an agenda quite different from your intended audience - the man in the street. This is no different from muzzling people, really.

I appreciate the point that there should be no anonymity in the exercise of one's political views, but to imply that one cannot defend oneself effectively when subject to negative, misleading or libelous comments from such anonymous sources is nonsence. Manipulation of public opinion can be done just as effectively by both anonymous and named sources, and even by the incumbents. Yes, the particular danger posed by anonymous sources is their more brazen and irresponsible behaviour but if you have right on your side, I don't see why you should be too concerned. Give people more credit to see right from wrong. You can't control extremists because they are irrational anyway. But they tend to be in the minority, so why micro-manage?

I suppose what you cannot, or would find it more difficult, to do, really, is slap the defamation laws on that anonymous person - a practice that has many precedents on known persons in the relatively short political history of Singapore.

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