Friday, April 29, 2011

The Chicken Little Election Strategy

Dark Clouds Predicted On Horizon
The PAP candidates started off their battle for the people's heart and minds with their predictable weapon of choice - their supposedly impeccable track record. Unfortunately, in the context of today, that is looking more like a laundry list of systemic defects. Higher costs of living, suffocating housing repayments, congestion in transport systems, crowding out by foreigners, erosion of social mores, complacency of governance, etc - the checklist length is matched only by the number of zeros in a minister's paycheck.

Hence the switch to the "dark clouds" strategy. No less than 5 ministers, including PM Lee and DPM Teo Chee Hean, are suddenly portending a future of political and economic upheavals. Not too long ago, George Yeo dismissed the Middle East turmoil, smug with his own assessment that "it is less likely that the changes in these countries will be disruptive." Suddenly, Teo Chee Hean is scared of his own shadow, "All these could impact our growth, stability and security." Problems with the radioactive fallout in Japan, debt headache in Europe, government finances in the US, are miraculously washed ashore our little island. They are now yapping away like Chicken Little, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

Half a century of research has shown that fear is one of the most politically powerful emotions a candidate can tap, especially when the fears have a basis in reality, e.g. Mas Selamat embarrasses Wong Kan Seng again and does a reprise of the toilet break to really blow up something spectacular. The politicians who have exploited voters' fears and anxieties figure they can grab attention in a way that other appeals, such as those to experience, competence, vision or even anger do not. Balakrishnan's attempt to toy with the fundamentalist and homophobic hot buttons fizzled out in a hurry.

"In politics, the emotions that really sway voters are hate, hope and fear or anxiety," says political psychologist Drew Westen of Emory University, author of "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation." "But the skillful use of fear is unmatched in leading to enthusiasm for one candidate and causing voters to turn away from another."

Stay the course, stand by the incumbents, we will steer you clear of the hidden dangers as before, is the new mantra of the ruling party. The hiccup here is that when Charlie Rose asked Lee Hsien Loong why Singapore was not sunk by the 2008 crisis, Lee said, "“I think firstly we were lucky.  The world picked up better than we expected.  I think the American team, Paulson and Bernanke, Geithner did a good job and we are beneficiaries." See, nothing to do with skill, knowledge or experience, it was pure dumb luck.


  1. Good article as always. But isn't the phrase "the sky is falling!" originally from Asterisk and Obelisk? :)

  2. Tattler, nice one!
    i really wish sporeans were more proactive, organizing themselves in large groups to welcome the PAP and their entourage of stooges when they come around to solicit for votes... nothing like a large group of citizens flapping their arms in unison with chicken soundbites to match, to illustrate a point.

    come to think of it, a large turnout of OPP supporters can also do the same at PAP rallies.
    in fact, some can even don Mas Selamat masks with Wong KS in attendance.
    i don't see anything vulgar about this. LOL

  3. I read somewhere that PAP kindergarten workers have been told to dress in white and attend at least 2 PAP rallies. It is unbelievable!

    Well, you know where their supporters came from. Conscripted personnel! Anyway, with free transport, drinks and maybe overtime pay, who will complain.

  4. PAP always resorts to fear politics. Whether it is communists in previous decades, or no estate upgrading, and now the extraordinary forecasting of "dark clouds".

    As for the rebound from recession in late 2008 to 2009, many countries also did just as well if not better --- Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines(!!), China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong. All these countries with much cheaper politicians and even some with disruptive democratic events also were able to recover very quickly and strongly.

    The REAL reason why all these countries, including Singapore, were able to escape a severe recession is simple --- the huge money printing (quantitative easing) by countries like US, China, Japan and Europe. All the massive liquidity served to prop up major MNCs and organisations and the money flows all went into emerging countries and Asian countries. This massive money printing has NEVER been done before on such a huge scale and worldwide in scope. Absolutely nothing at all to do with PAP or any other politician.

    Now we are seeing the flip side effects of all this money printing --- accelerating inflation. The question now is, how is the govt going to approach it to help ordinary people? With pro-business and pro-GDP PAP, don't expect too much if you're not a CEO of some MNC, or a multi-billion dollar hedge fund manager.

  5. Why does our PAP leaders always need to cry wolf come every Election and in the process belittle everyone of us by making us fear this and fear that ? And then follow up with threaten this and threaten that ?

    Have they never even once given thought to the fact that we will eventually grow tired and get immuned of their constant lies ?

    If PAP want us to really believe that they are really that good, why still need to bribe us with the Progress Package cheques sent to us just a few days before the Polling Day ?

    It's all so fake you know, I mean PAP's honour ?

  6. I don't technically think that there is honour in politics here and the way it has been carried out by the main party in charge over the last decade. The cases of defamation charges pressed against those politicians who begged to differ, alongside certain mudslinging cases at them, such as the case of CSJ being accused of misappropriation of funds from his own research to aid in his wife's, Francis Seow's arrest by the ISD and charges of tax evasion (pressed against him while he was overseas in the USA) alongside the "tapping of [his} phone line", as he claims, often do seem targetted in a certain way towards those who have some degree of possible clout against the incumbent in words or attitude. Until politics here evolve beyond this model, I am sure that gutter politics will continue in a form of vicious cycle, whoever practises it, whether those who hate the incumbent, or the incumbent towards opposition parties and their candidates.

    Well, they always have this theory that when you tell someone something long enough, even if it is only partially true or even totally untrue, he or she will believe it EVENTUALLY in time to come and perhaps not even question it at all until he or she gets out of the physical situation he or she is in(which also accounts for why some Singaporeans outside the country itself tend to be especially anti-establishment because of a state in which they see things from outside without any tainted lens from inside). In the same way, when political power is endowed in the hands of a restricted and privileged few without any visible ones who even outrightly question them or fight against them, then that is what these people would do, ie. justify everything they do, or steam-roll every oppositional voice and personality under the carpet in the name of advancing.

  7. Sir,I salute your writing! The last paragraph of your article should be posted on EVERY available site for all to read. All this talk about losing some of our so-called "indispensable" ministers should any of the GRCs fall to the Opposition! Even the President of the USA, arguably THE most important political appointment in this world is dispensable. President Kennedy's assassination and President Nixon's resignation are examples of how life goes on even when the most important political office in the world is vacated!

  8. Fear permeates the psyche of the nation. People are afraid of criticizing government policies publicly. Most criticisms online are anonymous. They have witnessed people who dared to challenge authorities lost their livelihoods, made bankrupt and jailed. Even international newspapers and magazines (TIME, WSJ, IHT) toe the line today to protect their bottom line.

  9. Fear is disappearing


    change is coming

    History will be made.