In 1987, the state media prevented any alternative analyses of Operation Spectrum and, particularly, those which early and easily dismantled the government case – and I assure you there was a huge amount – from reaching the ears of Singaporeans.
The SBC doctored the sequence of Vincent Cheng’s television interview to make him sound like he was giving the answers they wished him to give. And the print media, day after day, reported verbatim the government statements which we now know to have been untrue.
Research in general tends to try, as far as possible to keep other factors constant so that the results of the survey are trustworthy and can be replicated with a different sample of interviewees.
For example, surveys done in the heat of the action are to be avoided. Surveys conducted when people have had no access to alternative information with which to shape their conclusions are equally to be shunned. Surveys done in a constrained discursive climate are also shaky.
All of these factors were present when Reach carried out its survey. But perhaps most importantly, it committed the worst sin in the surveying world, that of the ‘leading question’. It is a well-established fact that you can elicit a desired answer by asking the question in a certain way. The setting of the interview, the inflection of the voice, the framing of the question can all impact upon the answer.
Take a look at the questions that were asked.
Question 1: Are you aware that a group of SMRT drivers from China staged an illegal strike on the 26th and 27th of November?
Question 2: The Government has done the right thing by taking time to ascertain the facts before labelling the action as an illegal strike on the second day.
Question 3: The Government has reacted swiftly to ensure that the situation is under control and there is minimum disruption to the public transport system.
Question 4: The bus drivers from China should have gone through the proper channels to air their grievances instead of staging a strike.
Question 5: If the bus drivers from China are found to have breached Singapore’s law, they should be punished to the full extent of the law, as Singapore has zero tolerance for illegal strikes.
Question 6: The bus drivers from China were wrong to have held a strike, but SMRT also bears some responsibility for the situation as it did not manage the grievances of the Chinese well.
Over the course of these last five decades, the government has sought to co-opt all national entities such that they serve the government’s behest. In each decade it carried out at least one major swoop on its perceived detractors to impart a salutary lesson. In 1987 we saw the last major, wholesale attempt to do so. Last week it used Reach, again, I remind you, at taxpayers’ expense, to lead public opinion in a cynical and devious attempt to obtain, through covert means, antagonism towards the strikers.
In 1987, the state media prevented any alternative analyses of Operation Spectrum and, particularly, those which early and easily dismantled the government case – and I assure you there was a huge amount – from reaching the ears of Singaporeans. In 2012, we should not let this happen to us. Allow me to plead with you to form your own judgment of the bus drivers strike based on all the available information and not only on what the government determines is safe to publish. You may arrive at a very different conclusion than the one the government is so desirous of propagating.
Do avail yourself of attending the forum on 8 Dec (Saturday), 2-5pm at #04-01 Bras Basah Complex of 321 Bain Street. Bring your friends and family. You would have started the process which, in time, will help you to grow up from under Big Brother’s dark shade.
Public Forum: The SMRT strike: Why should we care?
Date: 8 Dec 2012, Saturday
Venue: #04-01 Bras Basah Complex, 321 Bain Street
Via Jin Go