Written by Dr Wong Wee Nam
18 Jan 2009
He who knows his own side of the case, knows little of that.
– John Stuart Mill
In April 2006, just before the Singapore General Election, the PAP government decreed a ban on political podcasts. The reason given by the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts was that “the Internet is ubiquitous, fast and anonymous”. He was concerned that rumours could be spread on the Internet and “once a false story or rumour is started on the Internet, it is almost impossible to put it right”.
In my response to the ban, I wrote a letter to the forum page of the Straits Times. In it I said:
“Firstly, how can something that is so chaotic and disorganised ever be an effective mill for a credulous rumour? Secondly, anyone who has read an Internet political discussion would know that any posting of half-truths and untruths will be met by responses from many other netizens to put the facts right. There is no need even for the Government to try and counter them with rational arguments.
An old Chinese adage says: The more one debates, the stronger the truth will be. We should, therefore, allow more freedom for debate rather than try to control it, if we want to arrive at the truth.