The political battle goes online

 

It has been an interesting week in the political arena.

The Prime Minister, speaking as the Secretary General of the PAP lobbed sharp criticisms clearly aimed at the Worker’s Party, mostly about their lack of solution and stand.

Minister Lawrence Wong then went on to write an article which was published by Straits Times about WP and its mismanagement of AHPETC, calling to question its ability to manage a town council and suggesting that further problems could be looming.

It was only then did WP finally break their silence with WP Chairman Sylvia Lim wrote a reply to defend AHPETC in an article which was published in the Straits Times. What’s more intriguing though, are the reactions online.

Both the PAP and some opposition parties have been criticised for a troop of people called the “internet brigade”, a small group of people whom use fake accounts to create chatter on the internet, trying to swing opinions either way.

Let’s have a look at Channel News Asia on Facebook for example. There were 5 posts made about the AHPETC saga yesterday (10th of December). There were five posts about the issue, each on gathered no less than 80 comments, with the highest one grossing 261 comments.

Compare these with average daily news. Your typical ChannelNewsAsia post usually only get between 0 to about 25+ comments.

But then again, the top grossing posts were no average posts. It was about the Worker’s Party. It was about politics. Suddenly it attracted so many more comments than usual – mostly with hastily thought out comments such as this:

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It is not normal that comments fly out like this. In any conversation, especially when it turns political, most people usually keep quiet. Or if they don’t they actually have something critical to say. Most of these comments are clearly set and orchestrated.

After a closer look at the comments, especially the top ones, it seemed as though there was a pattern. The same few people were commenting and set a general negative tone. They don’t usually talk about the issue at hand… the modus operandi is usually around the tones of “PAP go to hell’.

Some accounts which made the most negative and cynical were clearly fake accounts which were then used to push these comments up by merely “liking” them.

Oddly enough, these fake accounts did not coincide with those usually on TRS/TOC/TRE – perhaps this brigade is different from the TRS/TRE brigade? TOC is run by editors and writers who have gone on to be card carrying members of the Worker’s Party, and the site is visibly friendlier to them.

Here’s the big question. Is there some kind of coordinated effort here? Both sides have accused each other of having Internet Brigades (IBs), of course none will come forward to admit resorting to such politicking.

As a citizen, I think this type of action is not useful. Setting an overly pro/anti voice sounds just like a baby crying for attention. The comments do not help critical thinking, nor do they encourage of the actual parties involved to show their cards and their opinions: precisely the kind of thing that the Prime Minister is accusing the Worker’s Party of.

The overtly pro-PAP messages give rise to the opinion of voting blindly, the thing that the Opposition has been accusing citizens of.

As the nation starts to mature politically, I would certainly welcome more critical voices and more intelligent minds make their appearance on the social media. Not just blind mudslinging from unknown avatars.

 

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About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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