Anonymity

A producer from Channel NewsAsia sent me an email about BlogTV.Sg, a live program:

On the evening of 2nd of Nov (next Tues), we would be discussing on the recent Temasek Review happenings. We want to discuss the influence that political websites and blogs have on Singaporeans. Should these writers remain anonymous?

The programme runs LIVE from 8.15pm to 9.15pm and so, you don’t have to worry about turning up after 7pm. You are a prominent blogger and hence, the production team felt that you are definitely a good representative for the blogosphere.

It sounds like a joke that Molly can be considered a prominent blogger these days, but Molly certainly doesn’t mind the label.

In any case, I replied saying that I was not inclined to participate in a live program but gave a someone unsolicited reply on the issues. My slightly edited reply

[With regard to] the anonymity of the Temasek Review writers, I believe it is up to them to decide for themselves whether they want to be anonymous. A reader should judge the writing based on its inherent worth and not whether the writer has chosen to leave a name and other information that a political regime can use to seek out its opponents.

There is, of course, the claim that anonymous writers are lacking in credibility because they are refusing to be (held) accountable for their writing. To me, anonymity and credibility are not related. There are writers who are brazenly biased in their writing even though they disclose their identities and this is partly because they are biased towards people who have the power to exact vengeance for any negative comment against them. On the other hand, there are those who voice out conscientious criticisms in good faith, but feel the need to protect themselves from vindictive parties who have the power to destroy them, sometimes ironically in the name of justice. Of course, there are also those who go against the establishment without maintaining their anonymity. Such behavior, while perhaps commendable, does not [necessarily] make them more credible.

If my intuition serves me well, the issue of anonymity is not so much a matter of whether the identity of commentators are divulged or even one of credibility. The worry is really Big Brother’s and it is a question of whether people should readily avail themselves to backlash that they do not necessarily deserve.

In my view, Singaporeans are currently much more influenced by the policies of the government than by political websites. If the government’s policies successfully take care of Singaporeans, Singaporeans will appreciate the political party in power and political websites can do little to sway public sentiments. Websites may enlighten the public and show them that the rosy vision that they may have always taken as reality despite their innermost grievances may not be reality at all. But I would not go as far as to say that websites have exerted a huge influence for they merely concretize what is already existent. People may identify with what is written in political websites, but it does not mean that these websites have a lot of influence in changing people’s views. [Otherwise, the PAP can easily ensure its dominance by setting up thousands of political websites.] The PAP government perhaps has the most influence over Singaporeans even if it is not in full control over how the people are influenced.

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