Saturday, August 26, 2006

Post No. 82: A Short Review of the National Day Rally'2006

Last Sunday (20/8/2006), PM Lee made his annual National Day Rally speech which was broadcasted live on almost every local TV channel (so you all couldn’t really miss it unless you all don’t have a TV set at home or were watching SCV).

On the overall, the speech by the PM, which covered a whole gamut of issues, was insightful, intelligent and confidence-inspiring. Yet, though perhaps I am nitpicking here, it seems to me, in contrast with the speeches of previous years, there was a significant lack of concrete policy proposals in this year’s speech. This means that while PM Lee said much about what the Government would want to do, he did not say much about how exactly the Government is going to achieve those things he mentioned in his speech. Of course, in recent days, the relevant ministries and agencies have been, at least with regards to the issue of attracting more foreigners to come & settle down in Singapore and the strengthening of Singapore’s links with overseas Singaporeans and the revamping of the National Education programme, coming out with policies aimed at achieving the things that the PM mentioned in his speech. Hopefully, more announcements of new policies and/or policy changes will follow.

Besides the lack of concrete policy proposals, it seems to me that the PM has put forth several fallacies in his speech, specifically in the part of his speech that talked about “The Digital Age”.

One example of this would be PM Lee’s remark about how while we will be able to obtain more information faster through the Internet, the information which we get from the Internet need not necessarily be information that is more accurate. He went on to add that “there will be half-truths and untruths which will circulate” on the Internet.

Well, while I concede that there are indeed websites out there which offer false & unconfirmed information, I think that it should also be noted that, when it comes to providing accurate information, the track record of the traditional mainstream media has not been exactly blemish free either. Just try doing a search on Google for “journalistic fraud” and you all would see that there is no lack of cases in which the traditional mainstream media has provided inaccurate information. And I’m not talking about the tabloids, I’m talking about reputable newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post. The most recent example of inaccurate information in the traditional mainstream media will be the case of doctored photos in Reuters of the recent conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah. Thus, I think that it is quite unfair to attribute the flaw of inaccurate information to the Internet when inaccuracies also appear in the traditional mainstream media.

In addition, comparing The Straits Times & CNA with the local satirical website “”, PM Lee commented that while the latter is for fun, the other two are the “serious places”. By making such a remark, PM Lee is, in effect, telling people that while people can refer to websites on the Internet for their dose of humour, they should refer back to the traditional mainstream media for serious information and reporting on important issues. Well, it seems to me that PM Lee has apparently overlooked websites, specifically blogs, which do offer serious and well-considered reporting & commentaries on various important issues (though perhaps such sites are in the minority). For the sake of brevity, I will just refer you all to these 2 websites: & Not all websites out there are like “” (no offence, of course, to those running it).

Anyway, though I may be wrong about this, sometimes, it helps to inject a little bit of humour and light-heartedness into things as this would help to make things easier to understand and for people to better accept the message we are trying to provide them with. And sometimes, a serious message may adopt the guise of humour.

Also, in my opinion, PM Lee may have unwittingly advanced a “slippery slope” fallacy when he remarked that if the Government loosened the restraints on the media, it won’t “stop with fun & games” but it will reach the stage in which “distortions”, “half-truths” and “untruths” will circulate. This, as he pointed out, “the tone of the debate will go down” and it will be a “race to the bottom”.

Yes, I concede that the scenario painted by PM Lee may indeed happen but it will be too much to suppose it will and must happen once the Government takes the first step in loosening the restraints on the media. Just think about it. If we agree with this point of PM Lee, it will be tantamount to us agreeing with the notion that if a person takes a first step onto a 100m track, that person will definitely proceed on to finish the whole 100m. For all we know, that person may just only take that first step and no more and/or only proceed on to the 25m or 50m mark. There is no reason why after taking the first step, that person will and must reach the end point of the 100m track. Yes, that person may indeed reach the end point but that doesn’t mean that he/she will and must do so. Hopefully, you all understand what I’m trying to point out to you all here.

Moving on, PM Lee also remarked that Singaporeans, especially those younger in age, need to be sceptical, that we shouldn’t believe everything we all see as not everything which is published is true; that we need to know what is right or wrong and be restrained. This is good advice, but seeing that PM Lee was talking about the information found on the Internet when he said this, I think that it will be better that if we extend the scope of his advice to also include the information provided by the traditional mainstream media. As I have said many times before, while the “new media” may still have its limitations, the traditional mainstream media is not exactly totally objective, impartial and accurate either.
Okay now, that’s all I have to say for now. I really need to get back to preparing for my lectures, tutorials and my extracurricular readings.

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