Controlling the media by any political party or ruler is a strategic move to control a country. Control of the media means controlling what the people see and hear, controlling the agenda, saying all the good things on the right people and all the wrong things on the wrong people. The masses are easily swayed and manipulated in their thoughts and views. That is why advertising is such a powerful tool. Controlling the media the controls the minds of the people.
Most govts of the day have more or less a monopoly of the main media to do as they pleased. And their opponents were often denied such access, may be persecuted or rubbished repeatedly in the media with no ways of replying. It was a very comfortable position to be in, to be able to take potshots at political opponents at will and the other party unable to hit back.
Cyberspace is a free for all zone, and no govt is able to control much of it other than blocking it off from its citizens. This requires big machinery and an army of keyboard soldiers hammering at the buttons full time. It is a costly affair and a misuse of public fund. The nature of how the internet works makes surveillance that much more tedious and often unenforceable.
In the last few days there seemed to be a big battle going on in cyberspace. Many popular forums and blogs were subjected to unexplained down time or difficulties in access. Many links and videos that were provided were blocked and getting through them is a tough act. Even the NLB was down with some old news not retrieveable. But that was due to some internal updating issue. The popular political forum of TRE was purportedly under heavy attacks and was down most of the time. So were some other blogs and sites. Even my little blog is facing difficulties and many bloggers have complained that it is moving exceptionally slow and can be very irritating. There are many strange things happening in cyberspace lately.
Competition for the attention of readers is hotting up especially with the run up to the Presidential election. With the main media becoming a has been, when local news are no longer exciting but a regurgitation or rerun, they have lost the grip for readership. Who wants to read stale news that is no better than listening to an old tape recorder?
On the other hand cyberspace is fresh and exciting. And reporters/bloggers are given a free hand to post whatever they want, free from any restraints or editing. Investigative journalism is taking on a fervor that is hardly known in the main media. And these people are doing it without being paid. And the material is informative, controversial and thought provoking. It is an act that the main media finds difficult to replicate to the extent that they look like boy scouts. Or maybe they are all busy covering the National Day Parade.
While the main media are busy or on vacation, the internet is driving and firing all its engines. All systems are running at full speed. And the readership is flocking into cyberspace in increasing numbers. A small outfit like The Temasek Review Emeritus operated by a few volunteers are garnering more readership than many professional media with a huge budget. It has in a way becomes the primary alternative media here.
Who is winning this battle for readership, for the people’s mind? The battle of cyberspace has begun, and the winner will determine how the people think and look at things. The Presidential Election is likely to be the first test case of the power of alternative media to influence how the people will vote. Control of cyberspace is like control of the sky in military terms.