Perspective Unlimited

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ninjas and Samurais on the Internet

It was in feudal Japan where the samurai was elevated to the status of the most esteemed warrior. It was also feudal Japan that gave the modern world the stereotype of the ninja, the dark, masked, silent assassin. Where the Samurai fought under the strict warrior code, the ninja was effective but only by stealth and trickery.

With a broad brush stroke, one can classify Singaporean bloggers into samurais and ninjas. Mr Brown (Lee Kin Mun) is clearly a samurai. He has made his views and identity known, battered but unbowed. You can disagree with the man’s views, but you cannot question his honour. There are unfortunately too many ninjas out in cyberspace - anonymous bloggers with views that can be attributed to nobody. Almost stranger than fiction, the mainstream media even reported that PAP was also employing ninja tactics in cyberspace to counter the anti-establishment views. Since Mr Brown has already identified himself, he is certainly standing on solid moral grounds to protest at the double standards.

Xenoboy, probably a ninja himself, recently posted his reaction Deep Throat. His theory was that PAP was using anonymous bloggers to infiltrate the internet community, to plant doubts and prevent dissenters from coalescing around a single view. And more to the point, coalescing around his pessimistic view that Singaporeans were miserable, and that their misery was compounded by a system that failed them. Rather ironically, here we have a ninja complaining about the other side using ninja tactics. More importantly, just exactly how the public could find a focal point in the Singaporean cyberspace of bloggers without names is beyond me. One couldn't even ascertain if the person behind the pseudonym was a Singaporean, a foreigner, a real blogger or a spy. Or it could well be one man writing on twenty different blogs to fan anti-establishment views. Who is out there, how many exactly are there, all unknown unknowns. Ninjas.

Just as I wonder how society can properly interact with a population behind veils, I also find it difficult to imagine how proper discourse can take place when every one takes on a hidden identity. The content and message of the blog are obviously important, but the identity of the blogger is no less so, for with it frames the entire context - background, history, credibility, vested interest.

Signing your name to your views is like making a small investment into social trust, a bona fide token that shows you believe others will match you in openly stating their views, honest people speaking honestly, nailing the colours to the mast if you like. It is therefore a pity that even as bloggers claim they are pushing for a more open society, they are doing so behind hidden identities. A proper democratic discourse needs faces, real views attached to real people, not the Mr Pseudonym vs Miss Anonymous variety. More ninjas cannot be good for debate or civil society.


  • That depends on whether some people want debate in the first place.

    Or, if they even want civil society.


    By Blogger Bogan (Apprentice), at 9:13 am  

  • I bet to deffer.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:32 pm  

  • I find it troubling that one can only debate or discourse this tactic employed by the PAP if one has been victimised. Must one be victimised before one can earn solid moral grounds? Am I allowed to protest NKF only if I donated money?

    By Anonymous Jeffrey, at 1:44 pm  

  • Hi Jef,

    This is not what I mean at all. I simply said that bloggers who write behind hidden identities, victimised or not, have no moral grounds to complain if the establishment uses their advocates to write anonymously too. Ninjas vs Ninjas, fair game.

    But what I do say is that I don't think this development is healthy.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 1:49 pm  

  • I think of pseudonyms as the online analogue of pen names. Noms de plume have a long tradition of usage in literary circles, why should the Internet be any different?

    Writing anonymously and writing under a penname are qualitatively different. A pseudonym, once used long enough, can still build up a trustworthy reputation. Just because few people on eBay use their real names doesn't mean that they are inherently scammers looking for suckers. There are other metrics you can use to determine trust and credibility online.

    Writing anonymously means that you are giving up even on developing an online persona of any repute whatsoever.

    By Blogger Elia Diodati, at 3:45 pm  

  • Hi Elia,

    My view is that a pseudonym is still a mask. You may become familiar with a mask, but it is still a mask.

    It is fine if you use a pseudonym for poetry, novels, or work of literature.

    But some bloggers have some ideas that cyberspace should be used as a medium to forment some kind of 'collective resistence', to quote from Xenoboy, towards the establishment, all this while hiding behind fake identities.

    I do not think it is a good development, but I accept it as part and parcel of the internet. But what moral objections can one have when PAP activists blog anonymously or behind fake names?

    There is no honour in championing a cause loudly when you do not dare to put your face to it. By the time the cock crows, you would have denied your cause three times.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 4:11 pm  

  • Bart,

    While there are ninjas, there are also Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. :-)

    Like Elia Diodati, the KTM believes that there's a distinct difference between run-of-the-mill ninjas and TMNTs. :-P

    Perhaps you can elaborate on why you think that "the identity of the blogger is no less (important), for with it frames the entire context - background, history, credibility, vested interest"? How does this help the reader again?

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 4:20 pm  

  • KTM,

    This post is written as a friendly jibe to you. I am tired of seeing a plate of kway teow.

    For one, who are these well read, articulate bloggers who always claim to speak for the masses of Singaporeans in misery? Let not the elite blogger hide in non elite clothing, I said this before.

    Second, flush out those with political agenda. How do you know if the blogger is not SDP/PAP/WP in disguise? With clear incentive to drive public opinion one way or another?

    Third, readers can have a higher level of confidence that a blog reflects the views of one person. Not one man with twenty blogs, running an insurgency against the establishment.

    Is this enough?

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 4:48 pm  

  • Bart,

    This post is written as a friendly jibe to you.

    Ah but then. :-) Otherwise, why do you think the KTM is responding to you? The KTM could have ignored you lah, but decided he would be nice. :-P

    One, the KTM does not speak for the masses (or the PAP, or WP, for that matter). The KTM speaks for himself.

    Two, what's wrong with a political agenda? Why does it matter? Even if a blogger is non-anonymous, would that mean that he has less of a political agenda. Suppose a blogger does have a political agenda, wouldn't it be clear what the political agenda is from reading his blog? Tell people that one is from a political party makes him easier to understand huh?

    Three, and so what if there's a one-man Rambo running this "insurgency against the establishment"? If this one-man Rambo can spout twenty versions of equally coherent propaganda, then you must give it to him lah. You think so easy to be a blogger huh? Do you think it would work if he simply cut and paste his blog twenty times?

    You got more good reasons up your sleeve? :-P The KTM must say that he quite enjoys playing TMNT. :o)

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 5:13 pm  

  • Sorry, I am not in big words and theories.

    We are worrying about having names or no names here. We are thinking about who is old ninja and who is new ninja.

    Why don't we think about what the new ninja is doing?

    The reaction has started. Please do not let ourselves hurt ourselves. It is as simple as that. You are falling into the trap. You are doing exactly what they want to do. It is not about who can write the biggest words, it is about how to stand firm against the enemy.

    Think harder. Who want to gain the most in this game?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:48 pm  

  • I would recommend to focus on the message, not the person since you can't identify the anons. If relevant to the topic, engage. If they are troll-like just bent on creating confusion and trouble, just ignore. Assume all trolls are PAP ninjas.

    That way, at least there is engagement of substance.

    By Anonymous shoestring, at 8:04 pm  

  • I think you mistake the sequence of events. It was the "establishment" which complained about "ninja" tactics first and then in an about-face started to use them (allegedly, of course).

    I think Elia summed it up quite nicely on his blog- they are not wrong in trying to shore up opinion by using "ninja" tactics. Rather it's their inconsistent position (which some may (mis)construe as hypocrisy) that is the problem.

    By Anonymous gaussito, at 10:56 pm  

  • Ninja and samurai, this is one of the dumbest post I have read on finding differences just to divide ppl for the sake of division sake.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:01 am  

  • I did know the LSE and LBS lowered their standards so much that they are now admitting in narrow minded myopic bigots.

    The truth is many ppl wish to remain anon for a hundred and one reasons, we all work for others, we want our privacy, or we are just shy, not everyone is an extrovert and to suggest everyone should conform to your concept of what is noble is just plain dumb.

    I am for example a single parent so trust me, I know the value of being "anon." We still live in a world that judges ppl who are different from us.

    And I read the brotherhood press, look at them, they are certainly very different, till today, I dont even know what to make of them. I only know one thing, they write very well and they talk sense.

    That I think is really ALL that really counts, the rest is just ninjas and samurais.

    Sarah Ng Lee Fook

    (Sorry it is my first time posting, so I wish to remain anan)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:07 am  

  • Hi Anonymous Sarah

    You misunderstand Bart. Can't you see that he is comparing us with Feudal Japan with its alleged God Emperor, rigid class structure and voiceless peons?

    Even XenoBoy is in awe of his superior intellectual. No wonder Secret Agent KTM rates him as Singapore's Brad Delong :-)

    Yo Bart, I know you have the best of intentions but as you can clearly see from the comments, not many Singaporeans is as smart as you.

    Interesting Trivia:
    During the attempted Mongol invasion of Japan, legend goes that the bulk of the invaders were swept away but some managed to land. Brave Samurais sally forth and sang out their proud lineage while challenging the Mongols in battle. They were feathered for their efforts :-p

    Moral of the Story:
    The righteous will always triumph but do consider that anonymous Peter survived and went on to co-author the greatest best seller ever.

    NoName Ninja

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:09 am  

  • Actually, I would love to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

    Though being masterless samurai like Ogami Ittō the Lone Wolf would be cool too.


    By Blogger mb, at 4:21 am  

  • bart, to quote ur tagline, u will have to go out to the edge of the universe and push it a little. an entry like this is disappointing from an economist. i have little doubt that mb himself would disagree with your flippant dichotomisation with xb.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:45 am  

  • Who would dare to come forth and speak up against those who are in authority, and under no guarantee that you won't be "crucified" for it? And well, if their main (and perhaps hidden) objective of sowing discord in the Singaporean blogosphere, I'd say, they're doing a pretty convincing job so far. However the effects of this shake-up has yet again caused us to exercise our judgement and to cause us to think, then I believe this effect is positive for the community at large.

    By Blogger Kevin, at 5:19 am  

  • Gaussito:

    Indeed, it was the establishment who first raised objected about anonymous blogs. Which is why I agree Mr Brown has every right to raise a moral protest. But others who snipe at the establishment from behind fake identities can continue to do so, but is walking on filmsy moral ground with their loud protest.

    Sarah: I don't seek to divide. I simply hope for some consistency on part of bloggers who are seeking for 'collective resistance' against the establishment. I dislike this 'us' and 'them' mentality on blogoshere. I don't claim to be intellectual superior, I just want consistency and rationality.

    Kevin: I think coming into the open is the best. See my earlier post on 11 Nov 2006.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 6:28 am  

  • Did someone mention b'hood press? You got to give it to those gamers, they do write well after all despite being in the anon genre. Besides they have been making news in the international gaming forums recently.

    I tend to agree with the prevailing sentiment here and else where, who really cares abt identity. We are not real estate agents here.

    I for one happen to know a few public figured bloggers who keep trumpeting themselves as the best thing since sliced bread, but they still typically write stuff and produce podcast that no for one would not even consider reading or downloading, bc they are just boring.

    I think it is the message that is important only because it says so much abt the person.

    By Anonymous mushahi, at 6:33 am  

  • Indeed. But are people unhappy about the alleged act of posting anonymous pro-establishment comments or are they unhappy with the hypocrisy (which you rightly point out, goes both ways)?

    Somehow I'm quite fine with anonymous reviewers on Amazon but would be rather uncomfortable if I found out that some of the anonymous reviews were posted by the author. But to each his own.

    By Anonymous gaussito, at 12:46 pm  

  • "Somehow I'm quite fine with anonymous reviewers on Amazon but would be rather uncomfortable if I found out that some of the anonymous reviews were posted by the author. But to each his own."

    Then you need to check the stat counter and consider whether it is possible for the author to have single handedly made all those anonymous reviews.

    Its a no brainer.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:11 pm  

  • You have to consider, however, that the old ninjas, as you put it, see themselves as being the underdog who are opposing an oppressive regime.

    Thus, having established the moral high ground, they are allowed to do things that the regime is not, because when the regime does it, it's being oppressive, while when they do it, it's because they are glorious freedom fighters.

    So it's ok for the weak and oppressed people who represent us (although somehow reeking of a self-imposed superiority over us with their talk of "narrative" and "Other" and moral and ethical quotes from sources that support them) to use ninja tactics, but the government they fight.

    It's something we imported wholesale from the west: the love and support for the underdog and munchkin.

    By Anonymous XH, at 8:53 am  

  • anon, I have no idea what you're saying.

    By Anonymous gaussito, at 10:26 am  

  • but we have a good idea a very good idea.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:35 am  

  • Bart,

    The whole issue of anonymity and pseudonymity in the internet is a matter of choice. It is up to the individual whether he or she wants to use their real name. There are real problems in being a public blogger and sometimes, using a pseudonym is not a bad idea. As for the credibility gap, it really depends on the content which you put on the website.

    If you write rubbish even with a public id, does it mean that people will read what you say? If you write sense with a pseudonym like Mr Wang and KTM, does it attach credibility to what they say as well?

    By Blogger BL, at 11:04 pm  

  • Can someone tell XiaXue to be is embarassing.

    By Anonymous Expert Blogger, at 2:55 am  

  • What i really think on this is simple they say that the ninja is a trickster but you must remember that the ninja also started out when the samurai tried to take over them and they also fought in daylight not just night because i mean come on you can't exspect them only fight at night because if they knew they would win they would fight thats not sneeky thats smarts thats stratigy just because the samurai did the whole oh if i lose i kill myself thing is retarted the ninja had one code of conduct and that was to win

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:38 am  

  • The ninja to me is one of the greatiest worriors of all time they had skill agility stealth and they also had to kill during day or night so scrue all that says that samurai is better then ninja because look who won that fight in fudal japan oh thats right NINJA suck it

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:40 am  

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