There has been some buzz surrounding Singanews, a news portal.
It had a soft launch on September 9, at a forum event organised by ATRIA in Kum Yam Methodist Church, following a talk by Dr Thio Li-Ann discussing the involvement of Christian Singaporeans in public space.
More can be found at the following links (will be updated; please do the proper attributions/citations):
The Void Deck:
The Secret Political Blog:
The Kent Ridge Common:
The Temasek Review:
The New Paper:
The Online Citizen:
Sex sells, so does politics:
Silent Assasin's Archive:
Where Bears Roam Free:
Sam's Alfresco Heaven:
My Car Forum:
There seems to be some growing degree of sensitivity towards certain Christian movements in Singapore and of course towards the movements of specific individuals. Most Christians, if not all, will see it as their duty to make "right" and do "right", but this unfortunately does not go down well with those of non-Christian subjectivity.
It is thus inevitable that one will develop a healthy dose of suspicion when Singanews was presented at a seemingly Christian forum. So what is "wrong" with this?
In an interview with The New Paper, Singanews CEO Matthew Yap had explained, "repeatedly stress(ing) that the news portal does not have a Christian agenda", but "will be written from the perspective of mainstream family values, which he defines as 'a generational, natural family which focuses on procreation'."
It is commendable for a news source to identify its position with respect to news reporting and journalism. It shows that it is open as to through which lens of journalistic objectivity it will be reporting. So what if this is a conservative stance?
People who subscribe to "mainstream family values", whether or not a discursive camouflage for Christian doctrine, deserve to participate and be represented in the public domain.
For those skeptical, critical and suspicious of some of our Christian fellow Singaporeans, they will be able to understand better and more clearly such (conservative and/or perhaps Christian) perspectives and definitions of "secular" and "mainstream family values". To be it crudely, and in view of what I think is growing animosity and suspicion, you will know the "beast" a little better.
I mean, we are already well indoctrinated by a Chinese elite definition of "secular", why not get better acquainted with an allegedly conservative Christian definition of "secular"? What matters more is that people get to participate in the discourse of "secular", and not let it be dominated by a single ideology or ideological institution.
Subconsciously, I think about "objective" (as in objectivity) when the idea of news is brought up. The word "objective" poses a paradox in this instance. There is "objective" as in objective news reporting, and then there is "objective" as in a goal, a target, with respect to an outcome you personally deem ideal.
There is an objective in every attempt to be objective. Beautiful isn't it? A single word and/or idea has such tensions and paradoxes.
Matthew has already cleared the air on the stance Singanews will be adopting. Furthermore, the presence of ex-journalists (or ex-reporters) will provide the news portal the experience and credibility any portal/paper needs. Journalists look for news, reporters wait for news by the way.
Of course, there is always the skepticism that a religiously informed or Christian ideological core underpins a rhetoric that contends with vague stuff such as "mainstream family values" and "secular" and what is "good". For instance, I myself can claim to support and endorse "mainstream family values", but I do harbour ideas similar to my social and institution associations, which inform my mindset. In the end, I support an idea that has its exclusions, limitations, advantages, sanctions, that makes certain groups more visible, more equal, more legitimate than others.
But what matters, philosophically, is that when I articulate my view or my organisation's view of certain concepts, an equal right is bestowed upon my critics to articulate their own view of the very same concepts. A rejection of either side is indicative of a desire to silence, overpower and ideologically cripple.
The conservative folks in Singapore are to some extent victimised, by liberal journalism and bloggers. Of course, their victimisation has been played down in our specific climate of political correctness.
This is why it does not really matter much to me whether Singanews has a Christian agenda or not, for it ultimately creates yet another platform for the seemingly voiceless and perhaps victimised folks to participate in the public domain. They get to express and articulate their views. Fair enough.
At the same time, such an expression will inevitably be accompanied by criticism and challenges, all of which, put together, create dialogue. Dialogue is important, in my opinion. One side will take another side's idea/concept of X and show to what extent it is exclusive and what implications there may be. Theoretically, it's great, but the practical world of power-hunger, fear-mongering and good old fashioned assholism make everything a little spicier and complicated.
I believe whatever information we have right now on Singanews are a combination of information and speculation. We are drawing the lines connecting the dots that we are only able to see. As we want to interrogate such a "Christian" movement, we need to interrogate ourselves. We need not develop a sympathy towards what we want to criticise, but we need to know our individual biases and demands first before we enter the public domain and entangle ourselves in specific discourses and rhetoric.
Like the people we want to challenge, we see what we want to see. In a society where people see what they want to see, we create differences. It becomes more problematic when there are claims that certain perspectives are more authentic and legitimate than others.
We criticise the Straits Times, and come up with online content/blog aggregators. But then again, aggregators also have the same strategic (but different tactic and objective) of framing as the party we first criticised. So, it is very natural that spaces are created for specific people and organisations to participate.
It is very much similar to why there are many LGBTQ interest and advocacy groups in the States. Everyone probably has the same goal, but prefer to take different routes and positions.
This is why, based on the (limited) information I have right now, I believe that Singanews should be supported. Of course, questions still linger, like the Christian connection, the source of funding and all that. We can deal with those in time. We should also lend some attention to the fact and principle that Singanews wants to provide a space for certain demographies to participate and be represented.
I am also interested in finding out to what extent it will be "secular" and to what extent "mainstream family values" is articulated. There are a lot of good people I know who may fall within or outside "mainstream family values", so I'd like to find out more. But to hinder and silence Singanews, while being indicative of the intolerance most of us seek to battle, will be bad for dialogue.
My main contention is only when Christian (or religious) folks try to pass off their ideology, doctrine and values as universal, which has severe implications. Some get left out of the picture, while the presence and ideas of others become invalidated, delegitimised. When you pass something universal, it indicates your intention of ideological and political hegemony. What makes it less innocent is that we think of it as innocent.
In the mean time, I look forward to Singanews and its reporting from the perspective of "mainstream family values". There are many types of families in Singapore, different strategies of love, care and creating safe environments for our loved ones. And even within circles who subscribe to "mainstream family values", there will be different opinions.
I may post another piece when I can get more information to clear out the speculation.
I look forward not with suspicion, but with curiosity and interest.