Friday, 29 April 2011

Hougang Workers Party Rally - observations

28 April.

At 7.30, there were already perhaps 2000 people on the field. The crowd continued to stream in until I estimate that there were perhaps 8,000 to 10,000 people. This was my ground estimate as I was not able to get to high ground to get a bird's eye view. So I could be off.

I couldn't see the stage because of the crowd, the stage was not very high, and the damn lights were on the crowd. Perhaps the candidates wanted to see the crowd's reaction.

Perhaps ISD wanted nice pictures for their photo album.

I missed the First speaker's introduction. He spoke in English. I think he's Indian. Some words on First World Parliament. He spoke in Chinese (I think) at the end just asking the people to vote Worker's Party.

The next speaker was a veteran (didn't catch his name either), and he spoke in Hokkien and was well-received by the middle-aged and older men in the crowd.

Next was Lim Li Lian, she spoke in English and she sounded like she was selling insurance, comparing the opposition to an insurance policy. I think if the PAP could use this imagery of insurance, they might turn a few people off the opposition.

Gerald Giam spouted standard platitudes, cliches, and had nothing really original to say. Dull.

Yaw Shin Leong spoke in Teochew, Mandarin and English. I think his Teochew sounded less than fluent, and his "I am Teochew" in Teochew and later in Mandarin was just so contrived. But the crowd cheered. That said, his speech in English was much better.

Low then spoke in English and cleverly responded to the PAP's charge that the WP wanted to be co-drivers and attempt to wrest control of the car from the PAP. Low cleverly pointed out that they were all in the same car and causing the car to careen out of control was in no one's interest, then he pointed out that co-driver's job could be as simple as talking to the driver to keep him awake, or if necessary giving him a slap if he was falling asleep. That got huge laughs from the crowd. And finally he pointed out that the WP did not have a driver's licence.

He was masterful.

Chen Show Mao then arrived and Low handed over the stage to him. Chen surprised by first speaking in Malay - just a bit as he said his Malay was not very good. Then he spoke in Mandarin, and somehow, I don't know why but Mandarin seems so well suited to the language of revolution. Perhaps it's because of shows like "Lust, Caution". Anyway, he connected well with the crowd in Mandarin and they responded to him.

Then he surprised the crowd by speaking in Tamil (I think). He got a few laughs.

For his English speech, he started to lose the audience. Or the audience was less responsive.  But I thought the speech was not inspired.

I left when he ended.

Rally speeches work best by latching onto shared values and shared beliefs. There is very little room for long complicated explanations, or for changing minds. It takes a very skilled orator and a very finely crafted speech to explain a problem, build a case, propose a solution, sell the idea and win the audience over, especially if the audience is skeptical in the first place.

But rallies are for preaching to the converted. So you just need to know what are the key hooks, and shared values and beliefs, and latch onto them.

So if the audience believe Ministers are overpaid, that is a launch point for a talking point. If the audience feels left behind by rising flat prices, use that shared knowledge.

I doubt if rallies really changes anybody's minds.

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