Recently, one of the largest news topics in Singapore has been the 30% hike in water prices. Water prices have not increased in the past 17 years, but will do so this July.
Apologies for the poor audio quality! The area was very windy, and I only realised it post-broadcast. As some of my questions can’t be heard clearly, here they are:
Q: Do you know about the recent 30% increase in water prices?
Q: What have you and your family been doing to save water?
Q: The government has just announced a bathe-less campaign to help people to conserve water. They will be providing residents with a government-issued deodorant which can be collected at community centres. Will you be collecting your government-issued deodorant?
Q: The tagline for this new campaign is ‘One People, One Nation, One Scent’. Do you think this is effective? (This is a pun on a national slogan ‘One People, One Nation, One Singapore’)
Some Post-broadcast Thoughts
Although the interviewees were uncertain and slightly taken aback by the fake news, they responded to the questions sincerely and thoughtfully. They were really nice about it and perhaps this was due to their awareness of being filmed.
This week’s broadcast has made me more aware of the limitations of a phone camera when broadcasting. I’ll also have to project my voice more in the future, especially when the camera is further away!
Trump shows blatant affirmation of media outlets that agree with him. In contrast, he labels critics as “fake news”, thereby casting doubt on their credibility. Furthermore, Trump brushes off reported facts as “conspiracy theories” fuelled by prejudice and “blind hatred”. He repositions these media outlets (i.e. the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN) as unjustly plotting against him, reframing factual criticism as victimisation.
Two days after, Trump goes further by proclaiming that the “FAKE NEWS media” (sic) is the “enemy of the American people”. This not only discredits the opposition, but indirectly suggests that Trump is, conversely, the ‘ally’ of the people.
Breitbart, Online Media & the Spread of Alternative Facts
Similarly, the Breitbart article uses caustic writing, coupled with a potent but rather partisan word choice. Breitbart’s wide following makes it all the more dangerous as it propagates ‘alternative facts’ and worrying conspiracy theories such as the powerful hidden hand of the Deep State. This irresponsibly sows seeds of anxiety and
distrust among people. The article also presents interpretations and biased projections as infallible truth. It references sources at its own convenience, only bringing in that which supports their views.
The spread of such fake news has been accelerated by online and social media, which has become a go-to access point for many (be it for food recommendations, news or entertainment). An unfortunately apt illustration of the proverbial ‘empty vessels make the most noise’, it spreads news information through content virality — attention-grabbing thumbnails and headlines generate more interests and views. This coupled with our friends’ approvals through a ‘share’ or ‘like’ affirms its credibility.
What is worrying about platforms like Breitbart is how believable it sounds. To navigate current murky information waters, users need more than passive reading and instead require an investigative spirit to search for verification and source reliability.
I believe humour can be a great entry point to these divisive issues. Satire and parodies like the SNL sketch comment on recent events with fresh perspective. Ironically, their use of exaggeration creates clarity — it probes dialogue by revealing and magnifying behaviour and subtleties that may have gone unnoticed. It also looks for the humour in an otherwise tense political climate.
A Singaporean Aspiration
In a short 50 years, Singapore has become a unique and
unprecedented phenomenon of economic success. However, this came at a cost; for one, there’s a clear monopoly in our news media. Many of us look up to the United States as the pinnacle of free speech, and an aspiration for young nations. However, with the
recent (mis)use of online media and President Trump’s views on press platforms, this Singaporean can’t help but wonder if the
longstanding edifice of the free press is crumbling, or perhaps was it only ever an idealistic facade?