The Internet is a very messy place: different people saying different things about different events; different people saying the different things about the same events; different people saying the same things about the same events (albeit in different ways).These developments can be unsettling for many who might be used to having information and perspectives arranged in a prim and proper fashion (though even in traditional media, competing opinions were the order of the day), and it comes as no surprise that calls for “objectivity” and “neutrality” have emerged. The articles produced are biased and not representative, they say.
Not going to happen.
I am not going to comment on the recent controversy surrounding the beleaguered Media Development Authority (MDA), for the backlash has resonated strongly – and deservedly so – throughout cyberspace. This scepticism has been met with unclear and warbled responses from the agency, and most have labelled the regressive policy as being one of the worst in recent history (though the Population White Paper, here, could be hard to top).
What I’m alluding to is a consistent message that has been articulated by our politicians and bureaucrats, that online articles are often subjective and partisan. They wish for such content to be more balanced, so that readers can be properly informed amidst a diverse and messy landscape. Everything has to be structured, because there are worries that misinformation will unfairly mislead and distract from the “right” issues, maybe?
But such mess – while disorganised – can be strangely constructive. The Internet is a curious beast, which allows individuals to debate and discourse spontaneously. The plurality, which sometimes can be undermined by camps or cliques of thought, is unprecedented. Here, one has to make the distinction between news and commentaries, though the bottom-line for both remains the same: truth and accuracy. I was once told this, that “facts are sacred, opinions are cheap”. Past incidents, of online news site spreading false information (here), show that the levels of gate-keeping need to be reinforced, for the peddling of falsehoods cannot be tolerated.
In that sense, online and print media are highly complementary, and the former – particularly in Singapore – provides a variety of dissimilar viewpoints that enriches discourse (that is arguably absent in the latter medium, which at the present moment does a better job in the reporting of events and developments, here). Without veering into insults or unnecessary ad hominems, certain writings can be overwhelming or unsettling (I rant about how there are a million things going at once, and how difficult it is to keep up and make sense of stuff), but now I have a predilection for listening and being involved in conservations.
Really, stop dictating what we should be reading (here). The onus is ultimately on the readers to read, process, and evaluate. And most Singaporeans have the ability to, don’t worry.