I wrote this post as:
1) Some people are still unaware of the “PAP IB” ;
2) A FB friend recently commented that the “PAP IB is now out in full force” re: the upcoming elections; and
3) Another friend recently got into an online argument on FB with a stranger on conservative vs. liberal politics, which got very bad until said friend deleted the entire thread.
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From a 2007 article in The Straits Times:
The People’s Action Party (PAP) is mounting a quiet counter-insurgency against its online critics.
It has members going into Internet forums and blogs to rebut anti-establishment views and putting up postings anonymously.
According to The Online Citizen:
The 50 Cent Party are the Internet commentators employed by the government of the People’s Republic of China or the Communist Party.
Their key function was to post comments on various Internet message boards, expressing a favourable opinion towards party policies, in an attempt to shape and sway public opinion.
[In Singapore], the counter-insurgency group is popularly known as the “Internet Brigade” or “IB” for short.
Some other excerpts from TOC’s excellent 3-part series on PAP Internet Brigade:
You will notice a group of individuals throwing attacks at the opposition party within minutes of the posting and with clear signs of an organised angle of attack. These are also people commonly found frequenting anti-opposition/pro-PAP fanpages such as Fabrications About The PAP (FAP) and Fabrications Led By Opposition Parties (FLOP).
This is clearly not the behaviour of common citizens who are expressing their opinions, but a deliberate attempt to mud-sling the political opposition and sway the opinion of the common folks online. By flooding a forum with comments as soon as possible, IBs aim to command the conversation through sheer number of posts.
To be fair, no one is stopping supporters of the PAP from expressing their views in public forums. Decisive and deliberate astro-turfing by IBs, on the other hand, prevents the public and policy makers alike from understanding ground sentiments. The PAP is actually not doing the government any favours by allowing this to happen.
More importantly, members of the public need to be aware of the presence of such entities so that they would not be misled on issues and matters in Singapore. Being aware of the Internet Brigade would allow us to take a step back from their vitriol and focus on the social discussions that can help shape Singapore the way it should be.
You can read all three articles in the series here:
- Part 1: Evolution of PAP Internet Brigade
- Part 2: How to Spot PAP IB’s
- Part 3: Cause and Effect of PAP IB
While the PAP Internet Brigade responds quickly to opportunities to denigrate the opposition, PM Lee Hsien Loong has been known to block less-than-glowing comments from being posted on his Facebook page (which, incidentally, brings to mind PM Lee talking at length about “Batman, Superman, Tarzan, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” during an #AskPMLee QnA, instead of providing “solid answers” to hard questions).
PM Lee once said that he stays positive online by being “flame-proof.” Perhaps it is this same quality which allows him to ignore the severity of the Singapore government’s long history of authoritarian rule.
If the PM can block or ignore less-than-savoury comments, there’s no reason why the rest of us shouldn’t feel free to block and/or ignore aggressive cyber-bullying types of online comments, whether they’re written by PAP IB’s or members of the public who have a different view.
I only came to know of the PAP IB’s existence earlier this year. I’ve rarely gotten into online arguments which centre around politics, because I prefer to allocate my time and energy to more sane, relaxing, and constructive matters (like research, reading, or socio-political blogging…).
Occasionally I do respond to a seemingly aggressive or hostile comment left on a Facebook post. I usually keep my responses short, around 1-2 sentences at maximum. Sometimes I add a link to an article that objectively backs up whatever it is I’d like to express, so that other people who happen to read the comment later can click on the link for more info if they so desire.
When it comes to reasoning and clarity of thought, perhaps Tan Wah Piow said it best:
Read carefully, and think slowly.
I am also reminded of this Tarot card, which is an interesting symbol to think about when you’re considering whether it’s worth it to engage in a debate/argument.
Joan Bunning explains the meaning of this card as follows:
- Showing moderation
- Mitigating a harsh position
- Reaching a compromise
- Achieving equilibrium
- Recognizing all sides
- Feeling centered and secure
- Renewing energy and vigor
- Enjoying well-being
- Joining with others
- Creating synthesis
- Getting it all together