Good intent, bad impact
Young PAP member in viral video says public should focus on the intention behind it rather than its quality
He didn't know the video he was in had gone viral.
Youth counsellor Isaac Lee only suspected something had gone awry on Vesak Day, after friends bombarded him with messages.
When the Young People's Action Party (YP) member checked online, he discovered - to his surprise - that the clip had received a lot of negative feedback on public sites like YouTube.
"I realised how strong the backlash was when I scrolled through the comments," he told The New Paper. "People were saying we're robotic, that we had no emotions and lacked passion."
The video was screened at last year's People's Action Party's (PAP) Convention and was uploaded to YouTube late last month.
Though he said the execution was wanting, the 35-year-old defended the "good intentions behind the video".
"The person who suggested it thought it'll be a good idea to talk about some of the initiatives and causes that (youth wing members) wanted to explore," he said.
"The message is there - and the passion to serve cannot be faulted."
Mr Lee was part of the Pasir Ris-Punggol team that spoke about the need to balance Singapore's development needs with having green lungs and spaces.(See report on facing page.)
Filming took place last September to October and the clip - over four minutes long - was aired at the Party's convention later last year.
While he expected to get some flak from those who had grievances against the party, the negativity that followed still stunned Mr Lee.
"Yes, people have different viewpoints but (detractors) should look at the work that others put in, rather than just criticise and make a blanket judgment (on the perceived lack of passion)."
Among the feedback: His segment was almost inaudible, thanks to crickets chirping loudly in the background. And members could also have been more spontaneous and casual, rather than sticking to a script.
"Some (of us) could not remember the lines because the script was too long," he added.
As a solution, some of the youth activists had cues during filming, creating the impression they were reading from off-camera.
But the episode is unlikely to deter him.
He said: "I will still do this (appear in a video) if it's for a cause I believe in."
A statement posted yesterday on the PAP Facebook pagesaid: "We did not expect that our humble (raw and unpolished) in-house production would go viral like this."
It added that the party was proud of what the YP has been doing on the ground and of "their spirit of activism" in serving the nation and caring for Singaporeans.
The YP chairman is Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing. Mr Vivian Balakrishnan, who was YP chairman for two terms, called the video "an unvarnished expression of a sincere commitment to serve all Singaporeans".
Mr Balakrishnan, who is Environment and Water Resources Minister, said on Facebook: "More important than words is the fact that our members have toiled quietly and thanklessly on the ground for so long to make life better for our fellow citizens. Actions speak louder than words, especially in the People's ACTION Party."
PAP member Baey Yam Keng said the episode was unlikely to deter young people from stepping forward.
"As long as they accept that negative comments will surface no matter what they do and are passionate about (their cause), they'll take such things in their stride," said Mr Baey, who is deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Communications and Information.
Sociologist Tan Ern Ser, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore, said the episode highlighted the challenges politicians and would-be politicians face in convincing people about their sincerity.
"Cynical and snide remarks (are) part and parcel of the sacrifice required in politics," he added. "Young people who are truly sincere about wanting to serve the people should still step up... and press on."
The message is there - and the passion to serve cannot be faulted.
- Youth counsellor Isaac Lee
Thoughts on the street
The New Paper asked 50 young people what they thought of the video yesterday.
Here's what they said:
"It's commendable that they're making an effort to use new media to reach out while attempting to make it modern to connect to youth today. The acting and video production only dilutes the impact of the message."
- Rong Feng Ng, 24, SIM student
"They maintained the squeaky clean, goody-two-shoes image. It's a sensible move, but nothing amazing to inspire the people either."
- Arts student Ling Yu You, 22
"Horrible sound editing with inconsistent volume and bad video editing. And the robotic acting! The video is so awkward."
- Mr Gideon Goh, 20, tech database manager
"A ridiculously bad effort. It feels like a school project done grudgingly by students who don't really care about their grades."
- Student Chao Xiu Lin, 20
These are the initiatives YP members said they would want to explore in the video:
Support vigour of youth in entrepreneurship
Empower members to make a positive impact, inspire hope, faith and trust in the future of our country
Continue to search for people with a love for Singapore
ANG MO KIO
Balance economic development with the soul of the country
Continue to be responsive to the ever-changing social, political and economic environment and help Singaporeans better cope with living expenses
Be proactive in reaching out to local communities - which includes presenting policies in a format that's simple and easy to understand
Not to lose sight of our roots and languages, which are key in forging national identity
Continue pursuing excellence
Create more diverse opportunities for youth to realise their aspirations
Maintain good ratio of green lungs while developing nation
CHUA CHU KANG
Targeted communications that resonate better
Provide more assistance for the needy elderly
Party leadership to maintain highest integrity and values-driven governance
Community-driven efforts to identify, assist and fulfil potential of disadvantaged members
VIDEO'S HITS & MISSES
Public speaking executive coach Gary Guwe said the video may have given the impression that youth activists cannot connect.
The managing director of Speak! Ventures, 29, has about 10 years' experience as a trainer. He outlined what worked and what didn't.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
Robotic reading = Perceived lack of sincerity
"People value authenticity. So there is less patience when someone is simply reciting from a script as you're unable to feel their sincerity.
"Limited hand gestures and body language add to the impersonal impression.
"There's the saying: People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
"Speaking in a more natural tone and individually (rather than as a group) suggests spontaneity.
"Phrases like "balancing market forces and government intervention" sound rehearsed.
"Ordinary folks don't speak this way."
"The young activists in the video are seen as representative of the ruling party and also of Singapore's future.
"So people expect more in terms of how the message is conveyed, rather than what is delivered."
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
Concept of servant leadership comes across
"The desire to be of service to the people of Singapore is clear."
Alignment within party
"Everyone is focused on common goals, which is a big plus for the leadership.
"It points to strong discipline and consistency within."