Two impressionable young men taking funding and instructions from a dodgy white man in Eastern Europe, wrote fake news creating violent riots and mass protests against the government.
The above scenario was played out in a government propaganda episode aired on Singapore’s state media Channel 5, some time around January this year. The Singapore dictatorship want Singaporeans to believe that there is a “third party” funding and coordinating disinformation campaigns in Singapore to create social mayhem and eroding their trust in the government.
As an editor of States Times Review, I find the video insulting. Henceforth, I would like to dispel a few inaccuracies in the propaganda video that is clearly itself a disinformation campaign to discredit States Times Review.
1) Big money news website
Writers of independent news websites are usually dirt poor, and the website infrastructure are severely underfunded. Speaking for STR alone, the STR website is susceptible to cyber attacks and I rely on freeware like CloudFlare to keep the site running. There is no dodgy white man in Eastern Europe (or Australia) funding STR. There is no funding or sponsorship. STR is a hobby, and it’s every single cent is forked out from my full-time income as an engineer in Australia. What about Google Adsense revenue then? Oh please, the return is pathetic considering the number of hours I put in setting up, maintaining and writing on this website. If I were to total the Google Adsense revenue in the past 3 years over the number of hours put in, the actual income I’m getting after overhead costs is about -A$5.50/hr. Yes I am bleeding losses. Big money? What a hogwash, I hereby invite anyone to try it and you will know.
2) Readership through sensationalised headlines
A sensationalised headline is a half-truth, this is never the operating principle of STR. There is one thing proud about STR is that none of the thousands of articles published so far have half-truth as headlines. Take for example an article in 2015 that received complaints from the PAP government, the title goes: “Tan Chuan Jin: Old people who collect cardboard are just exercising“. The title is attention-grabbing but it is not sensationalism. This is not even an inference, it is an actual statement in the quote made by the Minister himself. If the Minister is actually being stupid, what is wrong making him look stupid? You could say I provided the noose, but Tan Chuan Jin hanged himself. To interpret otherwise is absolute dishonesty, as exactly what the 151st-ranking state media is doing.
3) Readership is all fake news websites are after
STR is not interested in readership, likes and shares or some useless pompous title calling itself “the alternative news site of Singapore”. STR was created as a fact checker to counter propaganda fake news. Singapore’s state media and the government are the sole distributor of fake news in Singapore, often publishing outward lies like “GST helps the poor” or “Million dollar ministerial salaries guarantees corruption-free”. STR provides a relevant context that either, though rarely, lend support or, most of the time, discredit propaganda fake news or misleading statements by the politicians. There is no money to be made from the website and there is certainly no incentive for STR articles to go viral. Regular STR readers and commentators are actually very responsible and judicious in their comments. Sometimes, when a STR article does not sound right to them, they have always voiced out to express their differing take on the issues. STR welcomes criticisms and never once banned anyone for expressing a different opinion. STR today is the top news site in Singapore because Singaporeans value quality content, in-depth analysis and no-holds-barred honesty in journalism. Lee Hsien Loong does not like to be called a corrupted dictator, even though he is one. This is STR.
4) News that disagree with government policies are fake news
Only in Singapore probably. There are heaps of independent news sites in Australia covering current affairs, but the Australian government has never once considered them “illegal”. In fact, the Australian media environment is vibrant and free, and it is not uncommon an incumbent Minister is taken to task and questioned by various media publishers. Sensationalised articles from established mainstream news sources also do not gain traction because the people are well-informed. In Singapore, the government does the opposite. Singaporeans are kept as “least-informed” as possible and everyone has to subscribe to the government’s published “truth”. Aside from keeping Singaporeans ignorant and incapable of critical thinking, the government discourage anyone having an opinion by imposing a S$50,000 bond on any personal blog writing on current affairs topics. The Select Committee on Online Falsehoods is a very good recent example, where historical records that contradict the government’s version of history are also labelled as “fake news”.
The Singapore government wants to ban dissent and criticisms because these views are resonating with more Singaporeans. Instead of working on legalised corruptions and rooting out cronyism, the ruling party PAP wants people to stop talking about it. The government wants to give a narrative to defend it’s corruptions, but refuse to let anyone challenges it’s narratives. In fact, they actively send people to jail or make them bankrupts. This is exactly the form of corruption that gave birth to STR in Australia. As an Australian website, STR is not going to comply with Singapore’s censorship laws as much as North Korea’s media regulations.
P.S. As for the propaganda video, the two teenagers were eventually caught by the police at the end of the scene. Every propaganda needs a Disney ending after all I guess.