Thursday, May 04, 2006

Fear – the PAP's most powerful weapon

The secret to the PAP's success is fear.

That's the simple truth, and although only a brave few will ever say so publicly, everyone knows it.

The PAP actively works to make Singaporeans fearful, and there are basically two types of fear that we use.

The first is fear of the PAP itself. This is the fear that anyone who stands up to the PAP or the government will be punished and be made to suffer. Standing up to the PAP might mean voting for or joining an opposition party, or speaking out about something that the PAP or government is doing. The ways that someone might suffer for that could include being sacked from their job, having family members lose their jobs, not being able to find another job, or being sued and bankrupted.

The second type of fear that we use is the fear of the alternatives to a PAP government. We create exaggerated scenarios for what might happen if Singapore had more opposition MPs, or a government formed by non-PAP parties. These scenarios are many and varied, but they all involve either the economy taking a turn for the worse, or political instability.

Fear is the cornerstone of the PAP's strategy in this election , just as it has been in past elections. It has served us well for 40 plus years, and is as effective today as it ever was.

Here are the first two examples which I found in the media today of PAP public figures playing the "fear card" in the election campaign.

Jalan Besar GRC candidate Denise Phua said on Tuesday that if more opposition members were elected to parliament "the analysts will rate our political risk very high, it'll be negative; the stock market will tumble; potential investors will hold back their investments; current business will seriously think about moving business out of Singapore."

On Monday, SM Goh said "Be careful of planting seeds of Opposition in the Parliament as a tree may grow out of it. What kind of tree? No one knows."

Of course we know that the real danger of strong opposition parties in Singapore is not to Singapore itself, but only to the PAP's chances of reelection. All democracies in the developed world have strong opposition parties and political and financial instability are no more likely to occur in those countries than they are in Singapore. Even though the dangers that we speak of for Singapore don't really exist, if we can keep Singaporeans believing that they do, we will remain in government.

It might seem strange to think about fear in Singapore, because the PAP spends a lot of time telling everyone what a safe country we live in. Does it ever occur to you that you are afraid? Maybe not. Singaporeans are so used to living in fear that that most of the time we don't even notice it. Others notice though. When foreigners come to Singapore, they comment that Singaporeans are a repressed people, tense and afraid to speak our minds. They can see what we cannot see because we are surrounded by it every day and for us it is "normal".

So as the election draws to a close, keep the fear tactic in mind and see how subtly and how often it is used, not just in the election but every day of the year.

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