This is not going to be a proper blog post in that I’d put too much thought into it. I am just going to write what is in my head regarding this. So, here goes.
I was just pondering on the 7 years or so which I have been blogging. And I observe how even back then – in 2006 – bloggers were already being criticised and smeared, both by the government and the government-controlled mainstream media. This is by now a well-known fact.
What is also interesting to note is how expectations of bloggers have changed throughout these years. Well, some expectations have changed while others haven’t. And by ‘expectations’, I mean those from the government.
I remember back in 2005/2006, the main criticism was that bloggers were anonymous. And indeed, many and most were. This gave the government and the mainstream media the opportunity to try and discredit bloggers based on this. Oh, you’re anonymous, and thus you’re not credible.
To be sure, online anonymity is still a big concern for the government – unless that anonymity is of people or online users who are supportive of the government. Just take a cursory walk around cyberspace (especially on Facebook) and see for yourself the many anonymous so-called Internet Brigade of the government or the PAP.
It is telling that no minister or PAP MP has spoken out or complained about this.
And from complaining about bloggers’ anonymity, we went on to scolding them for being irresponsible. And from there, we graduated to calling them all sorts of names, such as “keyboard warriors”, troublemakers, playing politics, and what not.
Keep in mind that these are directed squarely and only at bloggers who are also government critics. Pro-government bloggers/online users are spared these, of course. Have you seen any MP criticise the crap that has been coming out of a particular pro-PAP Facebook page which claims to defend fabrications about the PAP?
And so here we are today – with bloggers expected to be some sort of superhuman. They are expected to not be anonymous, to be responsible, factual, to not just say but to also do, to get involved and help out in real life, to fact check, to get both sides of the story when doing one.
As one minister recently asked:
“When public anxiety was highest during the days when the haze was at its worst, where were these prominent members of the online community who believed that the Internet should be left alone? Were they helping to clarify and reject online rumours, or were they helping to spread them or even create them?”
See? We’re also expected to regulate what is spoken online by others – in effect, we are expected to be the Internet police. Otherwise, we are blamed.
And these bloggers are also expected to navigate the minefield of defamation suits, and even jail time, while blogging.
In short, bloggers are – really – expected to do more and be more than virtually anyone else. We do not see mainstream media reporters being expected to do all of these things. I mean, did any minister chide mainstream media reporters for not helping out during the recent haze? Were any reporters chided for being “keyboard warriors”?
But to the immense credit of bloggers (or at least those I personally know), they have taken all these expectations in their strides, and indeed have lived up to them. They have put their money where their mouths are and stepped out and do and continue to do their part.
And the proudest I am of them is that they take up causes which few would. And they devote their time, effort and sacrifices to these – selflessly and voluntarily.
So, when some ignorant minister makes snide remarks about these bloggers or netizens, it only shows how ignorant such a minister is. And he should really open his eyes bigger.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember just one thing about bloggers: before the Internet came along, they were just ordinary Singaporeans who did not perhaps have a voice, or a platform they could express themselves on.
The only difference now is that they do have such a platform – and they have made good use of it, even if the government does not think so. But we do not live for validation or approval from the government.
Expectations of bloggers will continue – some are fair, others are not. Whatever they are, these bloggers – if I may say on their behalf – will continue to do what they do. And even if there is no more platform to do so, they will continue to do their part in whatever ways they can – as many had, before the Internet came along, and they will, even if the Internet were no longer around.