By: B. Goode
Who was the one who said : Knowledge Is Power?
I think practically everyone.
And who was the one who said : War is not won on the battlefields but in the minds of the people?
I think it was Beyonce….
Anyway if knowledge is power, the wielder of the source of knowledge that is the information, will be one heck of an influential man. That’s why the internet is now so powerful and at the same time so feared because it contains within it, vast amount of information never seen before in the history of mankind. If you could somehow plug your brain to the internet, people will call you GOD.
Throughout history, the quest to control information had been the mainstay of governments whether they being feudal lords, kings, queens, despots or democratically elected representatives. Who controls information, how it is being manipulated, disseminated, managed and in the case of laws, enforced will determine who controls the masses. It is the basis that provides the legitimacy for that government. We can talk about legal (secular government), moral (Monarchy) or religious (Papal, Caliphate) authority but that authority in itself is bestowed upon the executors via some form of information control.
I saw the movie Saving Private Ryan the other day. It was about the invasion of Normandy during WWII.
What struck me the most was what drove thousands upon thousands of young men to participate in clearly a suicidal mission? How did they get the full conviction within their hearts to die for their country? Who convinced them?
And these questions hold true for practically all the wars in the history of humankind.
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind….
No seriously. The answer were the narratives formed in their hearts and minds as a result of the knowledge and information given to them. Whether it was pure propaganda, nationalistic fervor, half-truths or blatant lies wouldn’t matter. The narrative was set that caused the young men willing to die for whatever causes told to them.
So in this age thanks to the internet and social media, where information practically has a life of its own, governments’ attempts to control the flow information or the narrative couldn’t be more urgent.
POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act) is basically that. An attempt by the government to take control; to seize the narrative from let’s face it, a generally misinformed populace. At least according to the government.
The Singapore government, rightly so, was afraid that if they failed to seize the national narrative, misinformation, disinformation, sensationalized half-truths and blatant lies would mix together with boring truths and unbelievable realities resulting in a government overwhelmed by opposing views and opinions and thus encumbering their job at governing the country.
Case in point is the popular `PAP’s fault’ memes.
In short, the PAP government after almost 60 years of information monopoly, suddenly find themselves at risk of losing that monopoly and with it the ability to form the national narrative.
After almost 60 years of paternalistic policies of shoving things down our throats, they suddenly find their broods unwilling to swallow, preferring to take in other things instead. So what’s the solution? Take away the other things thus leaving only the things that they wanted us to consume to be available.
From the government perspective POFMA is good. It will at least prevent them from indulging too much of their time arguing and counter-arguing their case and so they could concentrate on the policies that matters.
From our point of view, well at least from mine, POFMA takes away the joy of debate; the joy of finding out for ourselves what’s true and what’s not. For some, it takes away the joy of trolling the government….
But let’s face it, we love to be spoon-fed. Singaporeans in general have grown accustomed to be told what’s good to eat, drink, dress, drive, live, go, queue, screw. Our Muslim brothers and sisters for instance are so dependent on MUIS to tell them what’s halal or haram instead of finding it for themselves.
The problem is, for many of us, we are not too discerning regarding the nature of the spoons that are feeding us. We simply don’t care about the veracity of the source of the information. The victims of internet scams are simply that; they don’t care and they fall prey.
So POFMA is basically like the government putting a halal certificate on the information package. Anything in a halal information package is okay.
But for the sale, distribution and consumption of non-halal information you will be answerable to God Gov.