Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Flash Floods and Spin Doctoring

First, we had "Once in 50 years..."(21 November 2009)

Then we had the "choked drains". (17 June 2010)

The PM broke his silence and pronounced in sonorous tones that "Singapore can't be flood-free." (28 June 2010). You've got to hand it to the man. Such gravitas.

Finally, fresh off the press today, we have "More rain, less haze?", on the first page of the Home section. Sorry, no link here, it's too recent, so subscription is needed. I won't bother summarizing that article as the title is self-explanatory. Heck, I couldn't even summarize it if I wanted to, since I didn't read the article. Just like I didn't read the 3 articles I linked to above. No need to, since the intent behind the articles is transparent. I don't read crap, much less spin-doctored crap from the Straits Times.

Let's see...the first article was an excuse, but one which required no action on the part of the government. Invoking force majeure. Whocouldhaveknown? Nothing could have stopped the flooding. Cheap and easy. 

The second was a passing-the-buck kind of excuse, implicitly implicating say, the cleaners, the heavy construction around the Orchard area resulting in massive amounts of debris, and a myriad of other factors. Everything except poor planning and forethought. It's the 'we did everything right, but other factors were beyond our control' equivalent.

Everyone together now, cue roll eyes.

With the third article, the media shifts into the damage control phase. No question why. After all, this is the second major flooding incident in as many weeks.

The third article cited above was a classic managing-your-expectations spiel. I can spot this a mile away. It was the very first lesson I learnt in the corporate world when I was fresh out of university. The strange thing is, for whatever reason, people who like exhorting others to manage their expectations are always consternated when they realize that whatever they say applies both ways. To get, you must give, so if you don't give, you also don't get. Good thing to keep in mind the next time elections roll around. Expectations should be managed all round

The fourth article is the silver-lining argument, useful for mollifying the occasional petulant child. It has to strike just the right balance between being patronizing, remonstrating and yet count-your-blessings uplifting all at the same time. Otherwise it just comes across as patronizing. Which is the case here. It's too obvious, coming just the day after the third article.

If our nation-building press is hewing to the formula that it has set down in the past, the next slew of articles will probably involve Singaporeans 'doing our part'. You know, like when Mas Selamat escaped and we were all rebuked for being too "complacent".

Some possibilities (in case our ever imaginative press hits a mental block and feels the need to crib ideas from my humble blog):

  1. Recast these flooding incidents into a renewed anti-littering campaign. After all, litter could be what caused those culverts to get clogged. Right, PUB?
  2. Plea for public vigilance and appeal to the communitarian sense. Singaporeans should be proactive and call the NEA/PUB everytime they see clogged drains and culverts! How about a local variation of the "If you see something, say something" campaign in NYC? You could pay somebody $400000 and reuse the same tagline.
  3. Turn this into a platform promoting increased use of public transportation. There wouldn't be quite so many complaints if there weren't so many cars affected on the roads. After all, the MRT trains are immune to flooding. Never mind that our public transportation system is already bursting at the seams.

PS: To our press, if you do end up using any of my ideas, please do credit my blog. That is the professional thing to do, y'know?


testtube said...

"doing our part" already made its appearance. It's from the same speech as the "can't be flood free" comment:

We all have parts to play to keep public places and our waterways clean. We must prevent the litter from choking up our drains, otherwise the litter will find its way into the drains, into the canals, into the reservoirs and pollute our water supply.

mjuse said...

oh silly me. i guess you could chalk it up to me not actually reading the whole article. still, thanks for the tip.

testtube said...

No, it's from a different news article, reporting on the same speech.

Agagooga said...

Never judge a newspaper article by its title