When PAP Millionaire Minister Yaacob Ibrahim first called for a code of conduct in July, nobody gave a hoot about him. But when the PAP government stepped in and created a Media Literacy Council under the state censorship board Media Development Authority(MDA) to “spearhead public education on media literacy and wellness” in August. A few “prominent” bloggers like Andrew Loh and Ravi Philemon answered the call and created a group called Online/Offline. Professors and “special media advisers” from the universities would often also spruce up out of nowhere, basically echoing common not-so-special perceptions. The Amy Cheong saga is a good case study how these “experts” react in-line with the PAP government’s aim to control the internet. What constitutes an expert? Is it the Phd they are holding or their open-identity presence and VIP treatments in publicly-organized social media talks that qualify them so? If it is, wouldn’t that make college drop-outs like Mark Zukerberg, Lady Gaga, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs look like social media novices who just got lucky making millions from internet publicity.
1) Content creation
How good are your experts at creating content? How good are they a writer/artist/podcaster/video maker/forum moderator/programmer/developer/advertiser? The real social media experts are those who can create content that attracts readership and impresses positively on people. The latter requirement is essential because otherwise porn sites and attention seekers the likes of Xiaxue would qualify being as “experts”. Good content creators are often specialists who already have counter-arguments at their finger tips and know what content triggers a reader’s interest or emotions.
The real experts: Dr Joseph Ong’s Temasek Review, Leslie Chew Democratic Singapore Series, Mr Brown’s podcast, DiarySingapore’s youtubes, Wing Cheong Lee’s cartoons, 9Gag Singapore, Choo Zheng Xi’s TOC, Hardwarezone, Sgforums, Sammyboy, Flowerpod, Sgexpats and a few writers like Lucky Tan, Molly Meek, Rockson Tan and Alex Tan Zhixiang.
An expert positions himself uniquely all the time and people are always interested what he thinks. Being predictable and a repeater is not an expert. Singapore’s mainstream media likes to quote “social media experts” from educational institutions to parrot common sense analysis easily arrived from the usual person. In social media, to be normal means to relegate into mediocrity. It is no surprising why most successful media experts are anti-government because being pro-government is mainstream and not many dare openly declare their stances without repercussions from the authoritarian state. People who are silent think the loudest and experts gain popularity because they speak the unspoken minds. They talk to people on the ground, monitor sentiments both online and in the real world, and make sense of it all to explain how and why they arrive to their positions. Then these positions got people thinking and talking and that is the social part delivered.
3) Basic technical stuffs
Does your social media expert knows anything about internet security or simply how to share their content? These are some of the very basic stuffs that social media experts need to know before they could deliver a message, otherwise they will be very busy managing their sites without spam-filters and IP-bans. They will need to know where and who to share their content with in order to generate recurrent readership.
It is already hard to believe what the government-controlled mainstream media are saying these days and even harder to believe their experts especially when they self-professes to be one. The Amy Cheong saga, and many more similar cases to come in the future, are opportunity windows for the PAP to control the internet. For a power-obsessed political party bent on parliamentary domination, it is very likely the PAP will introduce more regulations to control the internet community through the use of the state censorship board MDA. An effective counter-measure would be anonymity, to protect yourself from the government’s wide-range of laws they deem fit to silence you. Until Singapore shakes off the PAP’s economical and political control, Singaporeans have to play by their rules and more importantly remain alive to fight another day.