Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Psychological Warfare Tactic

Like clockwork, the mainstream media rushes in to defend / justify / rationalize (whichever stance is required) any potentially controversial move by the Government (which is in itself a form of psychological warfare).

The latest controversial move in question is the issuance of a million dollar bounty on the head of Mas Selamat. Although the cash reward is supposedly put forward by 2 businessmen who wish to remain anonymous, the contention lies in the fact that the ministry of home affairs will be operationalizing the bounty on their behalf.

Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge the merits of this form of psychological warfare. Such actions indeed have the potential to play on the minds of the fugitive, his collaborators, his sympathizers and neutrals; to varying degrees.

Will it suddenly lead to new ground breaking information? Probably not, but the mistrust, suspicions and opportunism that is can generate might in time lead to some form of success in tracking him down.

Recognizing these benefits, one must then wonder why the authorities, as clarified by Wong Kan Seng, as a policy do not offer cash rewards for information on fugitives and unsolved crimes.

Naturally there are the moral hazard issues with incentivising public spiritedness and vigilance. Do we really want the first reaction of Singaporeans – upon hearing the news of lets say an unsolved murder case – to be… “reward how much ar?”.

Furthermore, if the Government makes a habit of operationalizing independent offers of rewards for information, we would see the ‘white horsing’ (army euphemism for unequal treatment for a certain elite class) of justice. Surviving relatives of for example murder victims from elite circles could offer rewards in the millions while the lower classes would have to rely on altruistic freebies. These are the kinds ethical issues that the Government does not want to burden themselves with.

But of course, nothing operates in a vacuum. So I feel the million dollar reward would complement other efforts nicely. My only beef is with this flip-flopping rational that goes something like this: we don’t approve of such actions….. but if you want to do it we wont stop you…actually it is a very good action….. many Singaporeans think it is a good idea…..

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