5 Apr 2006

The Danger of Discourse

An excellant article by Trowa Evans of The Police State

It's not a matter of "dangerous discourse", as Senior Minister of State Balaji Sadasivan says, but a matter of danger that discourse itself should ever show itself in the political climate, where ruling elites may have to escape from academic rhetoric and fancy language, but have to contend with serious debate.

An authentic discussion on serious issues of the day is not a laboratory experiment; that is, there are no such things as a controlled environment, or the removal of certain factors nor would we even expect a higher imposing authority figure dictating how the rules should follow. But that's how intimidating dialogues and debates are supposed to be for us. That is, we shouldn't be engaging with the voices of the many, rather it is much easier to follow the 'rules of discourse' dictated by the few.

Politically-conscious citizens, actually normal decent human beings who want to participate in society without eternally wearing the lens of any one ruling group, will need to be persistent in seeking, questioning, debating, answering and challenging fundamental assumptions that arises in social issues. Only a figure who has either distaste of democratic participation or wish to create conditions of minimal opposition to his/her power would chase after those who "persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues". The end goals are quite obvious: rhetoric about promoting active citizenry and facilitating open dialogue is quite meaningless if people are not allowed to take part in the social, economic and political realms of their own society.

Furthermore, it is particularly striking that this issue arises at a crucial period where their power is at risk, even if only marginally. Given the arbitrary nature of what constitutes out-of-bounds dialogue, not to mention the many issues that Singaporeans need to educate themselves about, such as trade agreements, labor conditions and human rights, it would come as no doubt that these political issues are bound to apply pressure, which is extremely unneccessary, for the governing class to surrender their power to. To be worried about the spreading of propaganda on the internet is correct, but it is not propaganda about racial and religious extrememism, or Marxist conspiracies or class discrimination. For those things, you can either choose to apply grossly extreme legal coercion such as Sedition Acts or choose to call them entertaining, such as when pop blogger XiaXue justifies outright racial discrimination. Rather, the type of "propaganda" that warrants serious regulation are those that are critical about the fundamental premises behind corporate or governmental policies, values and ideologies.

Remember, the few individual blogs, such as those outlined in the article, such as Singabloodypore or YawningBread or Talkingcock, pose only minimal danger to the powers that be. There is some critical analysis, some newsworthy articles and good writings, but these blogs can't "propagate, promote or circulate political issues" as strongly nor widely as grassroots organizations. But those who could stir up public support, that could undermine the credibility of those they criticize, are quickly subjugated to the bureaucratic and sanitizing effects of "registing at the MDA", police monitoring such as Martyr See and other surveillance mechanisms.

I fully agree with the Senior Minister's response that "it is better and more responsible to engage in political debates in a factual and objective manner". Indeed, nothing would please me more than to see active debates held by citizen panels, discussing about facts that are not concealed by the subservient obedient media and objective enough that it is not one-sided Q&A monologue.


Anonymous said...

I want to cry reading this article. It's excellent!

Anonymous said...

PAP is not afraid of opposition, but is merely unable to take disrespect; criticism is welcome only if it comes from someone important, like a harvard professor, since it shows that the important person take singapore seriously