What a Tangled Web they Wove


The anti-The Online Citizen movement is again trying to gain momentum. Accusations that they are actually Establishment-sanctioned bloggers were thrown about before but now the web is more tangled with the latest revelation that at least one TOC blogger is actually paid by the MIW to write. Is there smoke without fire? Last year, the MIW had a so-called “leak” that they were mounting a counter-insurgency in the Internet to win hearts and minds. For us bloggers, it has become harder to separate fact from fiction with MIW, WP and SDP fans hurling accusations and making insinuations at each other. I believe that this forces us to be more discerning about what we read in the Internet, just like we are by-now conditioned to sieve through what we read in the local or foreign press. This pressure to make us critical of whatever we read can only be good and the “trust nobody” principle is a sensible one.

” so the great saviour, REMY CHOO comes in to restore toc’s credibility but actually, he is the greatest con. guess what? this toc chief is paid by a pap mp out in the west of singapore to write. PAID BY PAP TO WRITE. and paid quite well so its said. with all the pay increases in gahmen, he probably got a pay rise too.”

The whistle-blowing accusation in Singabloodypore.

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12 responses

  1. Any sort of disunity online can only be seen as a victory to the PAP’s counter-insurgency moves. I would rather have a situation where everyone is free to air their own unique views than a bloodbath to clear the supposed spies.

    February 11, 2008 at 2:17 pm

  2. the ghost of ah meng

    First, TOC, then NLB attempt to highlight top bloggers (was TOC included in the list of 11? Please go and find out) – what I see here is an ochestrated effort at dividing and ruling. From the looks of it they seem to be doing a good job, if you notice carefully, TOC only aggregates those sites which are frothy. The really serious and incisive ones they past and that of course leads me to wonder why….now I know lah, good work!

    February 11, 2008 at 3:44 pm

  3. JL

    We get so uptight whenever we hear the government and PAP coming into play. I would think that if Remy really gets paid, that will be great. Think of it as an journalist getting his fair share of money. Remy has always been quite balanced with his essays, and I don’t really see an obvious political slant as mentioned by this ‘jasper’ dude.
    Amazing how much noise there is over the blogosphere just because someone is paid for writing essays. What PAP does with their money is really none of our business. If they used this pay to force Remy to put bias into their article, that’s another matter.

    February 11, 2008 at 5:01 pm

  4. the ghost of ah meng

    “Amazing how much noise there is over the blogosphere just because someone is paid for writing essays. What PAP does with their money is really none of our business.”

    I tell you what – will you hire dracula to manage the blood bank? No fire without smoke. The real issue is many in blogland have been deliberately misled and taken advantage off, they should have come clean within the first 24 hours. As it is, the damage has already been done.

    February 11, 2008 at 5:11 pm

  5. “The real issue is many in blogland have been deliberately misled and taken advantage off, they should have come clean within the first 24 hours. As it is, the damage has already been done.”

    Taken advantage of? Damage being done? Pah!

    So you’re saying that in order for you to accurately judge the sensibility of any essay or article, you’ve got to know the personal background of the writer? That you can’t assess an argument on its own merits, on your own independent judgment?

    Are you saying that you need a label, a pigeon-hole (like “pro-PAP”) to put a writer into, in order to figure out whether you agree or disagree with him or her?

    Or that a paid writer is necessarily worse than a writer who writes for writing’s sake?

    If you’re not saying all this, then I don’t see who has been taken advantage, or what damage done. Do tell!

    February 12, 2008 at 12:28 am

  6. I’m late to the party, but let’s summarise.

    I don’t think any side is acting stupid, and everyone has their justifications for supporting or distrusting the TOC operation.

    Two strains of arguments here:
    1. SUBSTANCE. This issue is judging them on what they’re saying. What they write and the arguments they present is most important – it doesn’t matter who they are and who they’re ultimately working for.

    If we look at the substance, it’s clear that TOC has a track record of moderate, reasoned criticism of public policy by anchor writers who through their connections to the establishment, can get the statistics and analytical tools/know-how to critique public policy.

    2. AUTHENTICITY. This is an issue of working under false pretences and misrepresentation. It does matter if bloggers are paid to mislead the online public on their neutrality, allegiance and identity – while writing articles that shape and moderate online discourse and online opinion. Astroturfing is seen as a dishonest thing that discredits both online and offline media.

    If we look at their pattern of truthiness, it’s clear that TOC has a track record of holding cards very close to its chest, only revealing information about itself only when other bloggers begin asking questions. For example, last year after it was revealed that the TOC server was registered under two WP members and leaders, the website added its writer bios section, but refused to divulge how TOC is funded.

    February 12, 2008 at 12:17 pm

  7. chemgen

    Thank you all for your comments.

    Abao – I understand your point about a witch-hunt and that if it can happen to TOC, it can happen to any of us. But if we see the whole event as one akin to whistle-blowing, then the whole affair might not be as nasty as it seems in the long term.

    Ah Meng’s ghost – Spinning it the other way around, if you see it that way, then TOC performs a useful function doesn’t it? Just read what TOC did not highlight?

    JL – I agree but once the MIW pays someone to write, then the writer potentially will write what the MIW wants him to write and impartiality becomes less clear sometimes.

    la nausee – Good point that the message and the messenger should be seen as separate entities. However, in all fairness, sometimes understanding the messenger gives context to the message, the pragmatics of political rhetoric in a way.

    Akikonomu – It is not too late and the party has just started. “Astroturfing” Thanks for sharing that! Your observation about TOC disclosing only enough so that they don’t get into “trouble” and have to explain their way out too much is a sharp one. This Choo Zheng Xi controversy might just be that kind of repeat telecast.

    February 12, 2008 at 1:45 pm

  8. Basically the disagreement between the 2 strains of arguments lie in how their proponents would answer and justify their responses to these questions:

    Do we want or need to know who’s paying for TOC’s operating expenses (server costs, writer costs, etc if any real costs are incurred)?

    Do we want or need to know how TOC operates instead of taking at face value their info here?

    Do we want or need to know the party memberships of all TOC’s editors and writers – if any?

    By default, does the online public need to know, or deserve to know? By default, should TOC have disclosed these?

    February 12, 2008 at 4:28 pm

  9. Mould

    Zheng Xi himself said he researches and writes for a Boon Lay PAP MP! But yet insist that he is not paid to write PAP views in TOC. Like standing in a no-smoking room with a lit hoonki and say, “since I did not put hoonki in mouth, it means I am not smoking so I cannot be fined for smoking”

    February 13, 2008 at 10:16 am

  10. 1. Choo is apparently a political intern for MP Ho Geok Choo – I can’t imagine a freelance writer being asked to research and prepare Parliamentary speeches.
    2. Choo is the owner and co-editor of TOC.

    That’s 2 separate issues, unless you want to suggest – and explain – that there’s an inherent conflict of interest between the 2; and that such situations automatically require TOC and him to declare it upfront.

    February 13, 2008 at 11:30 am

  11. TACL

    Mould: You are like Wayangparty, going all around to paste the same comment. So, I will do the same. Let me ask you.. If I am paid by MacDonalds or KFC to work for them and also write in TOC, does it mean MacDonalds or KFC paid me to write for TOC?

    February 14, 2008 at 12:35 am

  12. sarek_home

    Counter insurgent theory full of holes.

    The NewSintercom (http://www.newsintercom.org/index.php?itemid=571) said:

    “Whatever we might think about the PAP, they are politically cunning at least. …….. The PAP in its Internet offensive have probably dropped its P65 blog as its Internet flagship and moved to something else that the public wants to read – a moderate blog.”

    The BIG HOLE Number 1:

    Why is the politically cunning PAP, as NewSintercom said, would act in such foolish manner like:

    Having Ephraim Loy. a Young PAP, as provisional co-editor of TOC.
    Having Choo Zheng Xi paid to assists a PAP MP to gathering material for Parliamentary speeches and helps to write for the constituency newsletter,

    Does it make sense?

    The BIG HOLE Number 2:

    Jaspers said:

    “this toc chief is paid by a pap mp out in the west of singapore to write. PAID BY PAP TO WRITE. and paid quite well so its said”

    First, Jaspers mixed the fact that Remy is paid for gathering material for Parliamentary speeches and helps to write for the constituency newsletter, not his work with TOC.
    Second, don’t you think the politically cunning PAP will have better secretive ways to pay anyone to do their dirty work?

    These two big HOLES are more than enough to sink this whole conspiracy theory.

    It is said that some people are blinded from these big holes in plain sight because of their deep seated anger with PAP. They failed to think rationally to see these holes and misguided by people with flawed reasoning to spin an unjust attack against a group of caring, concerning young people who serve TOC and the general public with their objective and informative articles.

    February 17, 2008 at 11:11 am

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