I see there’s at least one person who’s thinking along the same lines as myself. Criticalist wrote in a comment to Effect on election advertising amendments on non-party netizens:
I can’t help but wonder why the rules have been relaxed, specifically what advantages would accrue the dominant political party? In the past, alternative media was largely the domain of opposition parties and discourse critical of the government, hence the need to impose restrictions on them.
My default belief (until proven otherwise) is that the liberalisation — incomplete though it is — is designed to serve the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) interest, and that it is not altruistic. And I can see quite easily how that may be so.
If I were the People’s Action Party (PAP), I wouldn’t even bother to hold a single rally this time around. Does one seriously believe that their poorly-attended rallies ever gained them more than a handful of extra votes?
After my iconic photo from 2006 (above) broke the convention of mainstream media never to publish wide-angle pictures of rally crowds, the PAP will obviously have reconsidered the merits of holding rallies in future unless they can ensure sizeable crowds for themselves. In the old days, mainstream editors could be relied upon to block publication of any photos (of small audiences) that would embarrass the PAP, but netizens are only too eager to publish such pictures. The paradigm has shifted.
A smart response, in my view, would be for the PAP to shift the paradigm again: No more rallies. Don’t create opportunities to be embarrassed.
Once such a decision is taken, the subsequent question will naturally be: How else to campaign for votes? Clearly the answer will have to lie with new media. Perhaps a blitz of cool videos, catchy phrases that can be spread by mobile media and other tools which even I myself, not being state of the art in many ways, cannot anticipate.
If indeed they took such a decision some time back, they would have spent maybe 18 months conceptualising and putting together such a campaign.
Meanwhile the opposition parties have been stuck in their old ways (the Singapore Democratic party excepted) thinking in terms of market walkabouts and rallies in muddy fields, assuming that there will be little liberalisation of media rules.
Then, with the election around the corner, wham bang, the rules are liberalised enough to allow the PAP’s digital campaign to run, and catching the opposition parties on the wrong foot since they have not prepared much by way of digital media.
Well, at least that’s what I think the PAP should have done. But I have absolutely no idea if they thought the way I think, and even if they did, whether their execution of a digital campaign will be any good. You only have to think back at the first Chingay parade after the 2006 election when the youngest PAP members of parliament, by then past age 30 and getting to 40, were commanded to do hip hop dancing on the back of a truck. You only have to recall — apologies for giving you goose-pimples all over again — the corporate video put out by the Media Development Authority in which executives in suits made monkeys of themselves trying to rap.
1. Did they have the ability and guts to think out of the box to abandon rallies and go exclusively onto digital media?
2. If they did, is the execution any good?
It’s going to be really fun seeing what unfolds.