PM Lee: Happy people don’t have time for the Internet

From ‘Facing new media’s challenges‘, 23 Nov 2013, article by Cai Haoxiang, Business Times

SOME new media users in any country are likely to be anti-establishment, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a forum last night. He said that to get the support of the people, the government must continue to do its work, try its best to communicate and involve people in its initiatives to give them a stronger sense of satisfaction.

“We can’t wish for new media not to exist, but we can try our best to use it,” Mr Lee said in Mandarin, in response to a question from a member of the audience, who asked how the government regards online views about how it is disconnected from the people.

“People who are content don’t have time to go online,  those who are unhappy will complain online,” Mr Lee said. “I am not saying all contrarian views are complaints, but this seems to be a worldwide trend. Therefore, we need to understand these views, and interpret it objectively,” he said.

In another version of the same report, our PM is quoted as such:

“Satisfied people don’t have time to go onto the Internet. Unhappy people often go there,”

There’s a key difference here. In the first version of the statement, our PM says unhappy people will COMPLAIN online, which is generally true. In the second, he suggests that the Internet is a place for miserable souls who troll the government because their lives are devoid of fulfillment or meaning. So is it a case of careless reporting, or a gaffe being hastily covered up?

But let’s ignore the second part of the quote and argue whether it makes sense that people who are ‘content’ or ‘happy’ with the way things are going ‘don’t have time’ to go online. By ‘online’, our PM probably meant a portal to grumble, or spread malicious rumours, and that by ‘content’, he means people who’re too busy with day to day activities to find stuff to moan about. I can only think of monks and old people in senior citizen corners as examples of such shiny, happy (and oblivious) people.

PM Lee himself held a tea party for prominent bloggers and Internet sensations last August,  inviting people like Dr JiaJia and Mr Brown who are well versed in the art of political parody, and even unabashed, often angry political critic Andrew Loh.  I mean why not, bloggers and netizens have PLENTY of time on their hands, right? Maybe it was all a tactical ploy to lace these ‘unhappy’ lot of Internet vigilantes with anti-depressives. Or do away with the happy pills and simply showcase a barn owl instead.

Shiny unhappy people

If I were completely satisfied with my life and deeply involved in fruitful toil that keeps me off the Internet, it also makes me blissfully ignorant of current affairs, a modern-day Luddite if you will; in other words, the ideal citizen. But PM Lee’s forgetting about those who don’t go online to vent about the PAP, but are in a state of volatile discontent nonetheless. Some would bypass the forums altogether and launch a direct summons against the PM for taking his time to hold the Hougang by-election, like part-time cleaner Vellama Marie Muthu. Those of a more extreme bent would set MPs on fire, literally ‘flaming’ them. One may hypothesise that without an online channel for unhappy people to express their disappointment or anger at the government as a form of release, you’d have a riotous million man march on your hands, or at the very minimum protestors throwing not just pie, but kueh lapis, in our politicians’ faces.

The nation needs unhappy people to keep the government on their toes, while a ‘content’ population will only breed complacency. I’m not even sure why this surge of discontents bothers our PM anyway, after all he did brag about being ‘flame-proof’ didn’t he?

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