The rise of Mr. Brown

Negative Influences of New Media: Blogs, Vodcast, Podcast

• The rise of Mr. Brown

Mr Brown, Singapore’s most well-known blogger, shot to fame during the 2006 elections with his riotously funny “Tur kwa” podcast. This podcast recorded an argument between a bak chor mee man (a food vendor) and his customer over a botched order. It implicitly poked fun at the PAP’s demonising of WP candidate, James Gomez, for his blunder of not submitting his election forms properly and initially blaming it on an Elections Department official.

During the National Day Rally speech, PM Lee Hsien Loong misquoted the character in Mr Brown’s “Tur kwa” podcast as saying “mee siam mai hum”. Many Singaporeans caught the error immediately, as the popular Malay dish mee siam never contains “hum” (cockles). PM Lee’s press secretary later clarified that he had meant to say, “laksa mai hum”. This however didn’t stop Mr Brown from recording another funny podcast titled, “A hum-less podcast”, which contained a catchy jingle of PM Lee’s blunder. The jingle was widely downloaded and circulated, with some people even converting it into a mobile phone ring tone. In keeping with their “light touch” commitment to the new media, there was no response from the government, even though some officials were said to have taken offence at that irreverent mockery.

Another podcast of his has illustrated two schoolchildren who were comparing exam grades and debating whether one student’s score of 66.6 per cent was “a very good score”. The mainstream media had trumpeted the PAP’s 66.6 per cent win as a resounding mandate. The clip went on to ridicule other politicians both from the PAP and the Opposition.

Unfortunately, despite Mr Brown’s popularity, he found himself targeted for crossing the proverbial “out-of-bounds” markers. In a column he wrote for TODAY newspaper on 30 June 2006, Mr Brown criticised the government for its price increases following the Elections. The article, “S’poreans are fed, up with progress“, drew a sarcastic response from MICA (Ministry of Information, Communications & the Arts), which it said “distorted the truth” and accused Mr Brown of being a “partisan player” in politics and declared that “it is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government“.

TODAY promptly sacked Mr Brown. However, his podcasts continued to become an entertainment podcast for Singaporeans, documenting on the dysfunctional side of Singapore’s life.

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