6 Jul 2006

The Government Took a Blogger to Task for "Sarcasm"

From Yawning Bread of course...

Once again, the government is telling the newspapers not to give space to any talking point that the government has not approved; they must not "champion issues". No one can claim to be non-political if he criticises the government, Bhavani wrote. The equation that she insisted upon was, effectively, this: if you criticise, it must mean that you are out to undermine the government. If you're out to undermine, then you are no longer neutral, but a partisan player. If you're partisan, the government reserves the right to destroy you.

This is an old, old streetfighter's challenge from the Lee Kuan Yew days.

But meanwhile, there is censorship. Mr Brown's column has been suspended by the editors of Today. All of us saw that coming, didn't we?

to read on.


Anonymous said...


Political Singlish
One of the very unique terms of Singapore's political lexicon is "OB Markers" - OB being short for "Out of Bound". While the meaning of this is very clear in Singapore, what would a foreign journalist make of this? Is this about soccer? (World Cup Round 1 is going on right now) Is it related to Outward Bound (an organization to promote youth travel to gain experience and exposure)? A brand of whiteboard pen?

To explain using, again, unique Singaporean expressions, OB Markers draw the line where "sensitive" ends and "insensitive" begins; in other words, where you get into trouble. You are allowed to talk about "sensitive" issues, as long as you do not become so "insenstive" that you begin to say things you should not say. How do you know when you have strayed across the OB Markers by talking insenstively about sensitive issues? When someone in power gets upset at you of course. But if you mean before that... It is up to your own judgement not to become insensitive when talking about sensitive matters... If you are unable to judge that, you should not be talking about sensitive matters.

Now foreigners might say "someone gets upset; what's the big deal?" Well, Singapore is a company town, the headquarters of Singapore Inc, and everyone is working for the same employer; so people are anxious about being "insensitive" and would like to see all the OB Markers; unfortunately, people who determine where the markers are might prefer not to lay all their sensitivities out for others to see.

"Civic Society" was once a frequently heard expression; I even vaguely remember people organizing public seminars to discuss how to promote it. Obviously, a civic society exists and consists of many aspects; by doing something to improve a particular aspect, say public facilities for disable people, art museums, or antique car restoration, you have in some way made a contribution to "civic society", but what exactly does "promoting the concept of civic society" mean?

It is first necessary to explain that "civic society" is generally speaking not "sensitive" and does not give rise to the need for "OB Markers". If people are involved in those aspects that interest them, they cease to be apathetic; if they are involved in organizational activities, they get experience in following democratic procedures and public rules of conduct. Hence. promoting "civic society" gives people scope to learn to be good citizens without risking the crossing of OB Markers and upsetting someone with power.

I can cite two incidents to show how naive this idea was. First is the case of National Kidney Foundation. Second is the Singapore Roundtable (Now does anyone still remember it?) The first has already generated a series of lawsuits, including a current criminal case involving its former CEO and Management Board. The second simply disappeared. The first involved large sums of money from the public; its experience shows that ultimately the government has to exercise authority to manage public money. The second thought that there are meaningful things which they can discuss and organize besides power and money, and soon found that nobody, themselves included, was interested.

Since Hegel and Marx are long dead, people forget that ideas progress through thesis, antithesis and synthesis. You need antithesis to fully understand thesis and to progress through synthesis, whether you are talking about civic society or politics and money. I already forgot which Greek philosopher said "Give me pivot and I shall move the earth"; I say "give me marker and I shall show where theses end and antitheses begin".

Anonymous said...

This would not have happen if PAP did not politicise everything deem to their advantage.

PAP should not politicise the media.

I mean it is like PAP have politicise everything including NDP.

But why the need to politicise?

Is controlling Singaporeans right down to the bone that important and advantageous to PAP? Nothing more is important to them?

This would not have happen if the media was not politicise. The determination by PAP to control all things is scary.

They want to control but refuse to be responsible or apologetic when things go wrong is even scarier.

All we ordinary people can do is vote Opposition in every election even if the Opposition loses. I cannot think of any other way to make PAP eat humble pie.

Then no one would have the need to feel fear,tension and paranoid in their own homeland.

PAP has to be Opposition for some time for Singapore's culture and climate to change, that is the only way.

My vote is nothing but many votes is something.Please do not forget today's lesson even if PAP loosen control come GE 2011.

Anonymous said...

I guess only PAP is right and citizens are wrong in these KIND of situation. These KIND of situation have repeated many times over the years.

What is more scarier is that PAP took the most popular blogger in Singapore to put on chopping block and use it to show as an example to everyone who wants to blog about politics. (Kai Dao: Open Knife)

It is a very good political move by PAP.It has increased the fear factor by many notches. We are back to the 70s & 80s again.

Most probably after this episode, there will be less activity on political blogs and Singaporeans will be apathetic again which PAP always 'advocates'.

Maybe Mr Brown might even fizzle out.

Anonymous said...

Isnt TODAY guilty of politicization of the issue and being partisan by dropping Mr Brown?

I mean Mr Brown gave some private opinions and PAP replied. End of story.

Let the people decide who is right and who is wrong.
Not PAP or Mediacorp.

There is no need to drop Mr Brown and make this issue a political fight between PAP and Anti-PAP.

In fact, it is Mediacorp who is politicising the whole issue. It is Mediacorp who is partisan.

Matilah_Singapura said...

Are Singaporeans fed up with progress?

I doubt very much.

Sorry mr Brown, you shot yourself in the foot here.

Anonymous said...

Balls, matilah, in a democratic country, mr brown's message would have receieved full support from all the newspapers.

The problem remains, singapore is a dictatorship, and the law of the land warns death to anybody criticising the PAP.

Mr. Brown took a calculated chance, and has lost out.

Still when the world's money gentlemen arrive in singapore in september this topic will be raised.