Book Review: An Engaging Read

Engaging the Target, a party memoir authored collectively by PAP politicians who share a single mind, tells the success story of the party’s quest to gain popularity and details its strategies of engaging the people after a General Election that saw their vote share fall to a historic low despite remaining at a high envied by politicians world-wide.

The book is illuminating in its no-holds-barred honesty. It starts with a poetically confessional account of the party’s realization of what people have always taken for granted: the fact that the party of not very well-liked—even amongst the 60.1% of the population that voted in its favor in May 2011. The authors reveal that it took them 215 hours of meetings, during which the party’s performance was intensively analyzed, to arrive at the conclusion that there was an urgent need for the PAP to make Singaporeans believe that the PAP cares for them and that its policies are right and rational, even if the benighted electorate thinks otherwise.

In the first chapter, the reader is treated to the ideas generated by the SWOT analysis performed during the 215 hours. The electorate will be engrossed in the 27-page section in the chapter, “Strengths”. Written in vivid, evocative prose, the descriptions of the impassioned pledge to maintain the party’s strengths, including its nonpareil wisdom and irrefutable rationality in decisive policymaking, are clearly the main attraction of the chapter. Nevertheless, the chapter was in no way stingy in the details regarding Weakness, Opportunities and Threats as these are captured in 3 sections of prose, exemplary for its sublime succinctness, in 4 full pages. New media, new media, and new media were the focuses of these 3 sections.

The strategies of engagement are the highlight of the second chapter, which shows the determination of the PAP to improve in its areas of weakness. For instance, it is revealed that certain MPs are set a monthly quota of posts that will appeal to the people’s concerns. Their performance will be evaluated according to how well they show through social media platforms like Facebook that they are able to identify and identify with the people’s disagreements with the government’s policies, and inform the public of the questions they have regarding the government’s current policies. It is further revealed that the party leadership had rationalized that since Facebook is Facebook, the in-your-faceness of MPs’ Facebook posts will be rigorously evaluated as an indicator of quality. The chapter is particularly effective in eliciting the reader’s empathy for the PAP—quite clearly, being an MP is no longer simply a matter of meeting woeful people begging for help and turning up in Parliament to speak up on behalf of policies already decided on.

The rest of the book highlights the evidence of the fundamental reform that has taken place in the party. The prose is by turns candidly confessional and coyly titillating. Examples include how ministers have, by arrangement, insinuated that some Singaporeans are left behind while the assumption that that the country is in general progressing goes unquestioned. The rhetorical ingenuity showcased in these chapters will certainly convince the casual reader to vote for the PAP in 2016.

Verdict: A+

Disclaimer: The book was banned from publication before the reviewer had a chance to read it.


A very, very belated plug for the book, Singapore Sucks, as requested by Singa Crew:

[Write such a book also neber jio. Tsk Tsk.]

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