SAF getting first female Brigadier General

From ‘SAF promotes first female to Brigadier General’, 26 June 2015, article by Chan Luo Er, CNA

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) now has their first female Brigadier-General (BG). Col Gan Siow Huang was one of seven Colonels promoted to the rank of BG and RADM (One -Star) at the annual SAF promotion ceremony on Friday (Jun 26). She will assume her rank on Jul 1.

She was among the first four women to receive the SAF merit scholarship in 1993, and she now heads the Joint Manpower Department. In recent years, she has been making calls for more women to choose the SAF as a career. Currently, close to 1,500 women hold combat jobs in the SAF, less than 10 per cent of SAF regular personnel. Every year, about 60 women join the army.

As women make progress in the armed forces, Singapore continues to lag in terms of female presence in boardroom positions (9% of board seats). This despite instances of negative gender stereotypes in army recruitment ads, such as the ‘Shades of Green‘ campaign that suggested that there’s still a little vain princess in every woman looking at a career in SAF, rather than a GI Jane. It’s probably a matter of time before we get a female Chief of Army, and this is likely to be even before we get our first female Prime Minister.

Here’s a timeline of achievements by women in uniform in an organisation that is traditionally helmed by men with moustaches. As expected, those in the honour roll who are also mothers are lauded for their ability to ‘balance work and family commitments’, and talk about how their husbands are always ‘supportive’ and OK with the fact that their spouses have more balls than they do.

1967: First deployed doing clerical and logistics work.
1971: First military car drivers.
1987: First Senior Warrant Officer (SWO).
1987: First combat instructors. In this article, the now derogratory phrase ‘fairer sex’ was used.
1999: First Lieutenant Colonels (LTC) (High-flying women, 30 June 1999, ST)
2000: First Commanding Officer (CO) of an an army combat unit
2005: First colonel. Like BG Gan, Karen Tan (now retired from SAF) is a working mother.
2006: First Regimental Sergeant Major
2007 (?): First F-16 fighter pilot
2014: First Apache helicopter pilot. Captain Joyce Xie was formally trained in molecular and cell biology.
2015: First BG.

As you can see, women in uniform have achieved more in 15 years than their counterparts in Parliament. Our Cabinet is still predominantly male. Maybe Jack Neo, currently bleeding the Ah Boys franchise dry, may want to consider an ‘Ah Girls to Generals’ movie trilogy.

Butler service making NSmen bad soldiers

From ‘Butler service for NSmen reflects wrong mindset’, 30 April 15, ST Forum

(Mrs Elisa Choo): HOW can a national serviceman fight and die for his country when he does not learn how to be faithful in taking care of his duffel bag, no matter how inconvenient it is and how much space it takes up (“Start-up offers ‘butler service’ for NSmen”; Monday)? This reflects the wrong mindset that some Singaporean soldiers have.

We are the sons and daughters of this land. We defend our country because this is our home. A mother with an asthmatic child will always ensure the child has a nebuliser close by, because it is what may save the child’s life during an asthmatic attack. It is burdensome, but the mother will do it out of love.

This is what being an operationally ready NSman means – being always ready to respond to any emergency and doing it in the right spirit if we truly love our nation. I discussed the article with my teenage sons, to ensure that they understood the importance of personal responsibility and their responsibility towards their nation.

It is not just the Defence Ministry’s job to educate soldiers; such values must first be inculcated at home by parents. Many parents wait for the army to train their sons. However, parents should also train their sons for the army.

Today’s NSmen have the luxury of stylish duffel bags with wheels so they can double up as vacation luggage for cheapskates, yet despite such cool features there apparently is a market for army storage solutions, courtesy of Spaceship.sg’s ‘Kaki’ service. My army junk is tucked away in the dark recesses of my storeroom, and in the unlikely event that I do need to put on a helmet or wear green socks, rest assured I will be reporting to camp in a jiffy, duffel bag or no bag, ready to kick some enemy ass. Nevermind if my mess tin for combat rations has streaks of lizard shit all over it. It’s my sacrifice to the nation.

To call the Kaki service some kind of ‘butlerly’ is misleading. No one is going to turn up in a tux with white gloves and a complimentary pot of Earl Grey tea before attending to your army crap, or crack dry English jokes at your expense like Jeffrey from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Chances are it’ll be a sweaty guy in a cap doing the stuff you used to ask your poor maid to do, except folding in the sleeves for your smart four.

Your number 4 is ready, sire

Here we have a concerned mother with a typical misconception of what the primary purpose of NS is; building ‘character': It’s your shit, you take care of it. Leaving your duffel bag to professionals is like depriving a wheezing child of life-saving medication. If you pay someone else to look after your stuff, you’ll do the same to your parents when they’re old, put them in some cold storage nursing home in JB. You’ll become an amoral psychopath if you dump your precious kit offsite, not to mention a terrible soldier with not an iota of patriotism in your bones.

No, the army is not a school for saints. It’s designed to make you a killing machine to die vaingloriously for your country, and if you could hire air-con buses to ferry NSmen to and from ferry terminals, issue iPads, or outsource toilet cleaning so that our soldiers can focus on, well, shooting at and killing people, then what more a duffel bag delivery service? I mean, aren’t NSmen all already having some kind of home laundry service for their soiled attire? It’s called ‘Mommy’. I wouldn’t mind having a boot polishing service either; all those minutes putting a sparkle on my boots for show during some shitty parade could have been better spent doing push-ups, or practising my rifle assembly drills. In the near future, I could send drones to fetch my ammo so I don’t have to be bogged down like Rambo when I assault trenches on a hill. Would that make me a sissy soldier too?

If you think a butler service is worth the money, by all means go for it. But you know who are the ones who REALLY need storage solutions? Hoarders, that’s who. And YOU think you have space issues?

You need Super Kaki for this

Singapore swimmers dropping the name ‘Red Lions’

From ‘MINDEF welcomes SSA’s decision to drop Red Lions name’, 18 March 2015, article in CNA

The Ministry of Defence said it welcomes the Singapore Swimming Association’s decision to not use the name ‘Red Lions’. This comes just days after Manpower Minister and Singapore National Olympic Council President Tan Chuan-Jin announced that Singapore’s aquatic athletes will be collectively known as “The Red Lions”, in a bid to provide a common identity for the sport.

The Red Lions tag was meant to unite the five disciplines – diving, swimming, synchronised swimming, waterpolo and open water swimming. However, the name is already used for the Singapore Armed Forces’ parachute team.

In response to media queries, Chief Commando Officer COL Simon Lim said: “We welcome Singapore Swimming Association’s move to drop the use of ‘Red Lions’. The SAF Red Lions and our national aquatic teams are sources of national pride for Singaporeans. We are supportive of our aquatic athletes and are cheering them on as they fly the Singapore flag high at the upcoming Southeast Asian Games.”

SAF came up with the ‘Red Lions’ in 1995, and when the SSA decided to adopt the tag for our swimming team, commandos cried foul. Granted, it’s awkward to name a swim team after a land mammal, likewise an elite group of flying commandos, but this ruckus over a name supposedly synonymous with the NDP parachuters smacks of poor, well, sportsmanship. These are our own countrymen fighting tooth and nail for national glory for goodness sake.

MINDEF itself has been accused of stealing other people’s ideas, namely a mobile medical station. ‘Lions’, in fact, has been used to identify sport teams way before the commandos decided to add a national colour to it and claim ownership. Here’s a rundown:

1) The Singapore Lions, polo (1920’s). I suppose the one with horses.

2) Our national soccer team (1970’s till now), with the developmental ‘Young Lions’ under their wing.

3) The Dunearn Lions, rugby (1970’s)

4) The ‘Police Lions‘, a squash team (1980)

5) Amazingly, a tennis squad called the Brylcreem Lions (1970s). I’m sure they gel very well as a team.

6) TaeKwanDo Lions(1980s), which in my opinion, is the most befitting of the king of the jungle, a sport which involves you striking and mauling your opponent. Sometimes you also roar.

Of course these days we have teams adopting the ‘Singapore Lions’ tag without our football team making a hissy fit about it, like this cheerleading squad for example. I could form a competitive chess team and call ourselves Singapore Lions without anyone accusing me of identity theft. Like the sky-jumpers, our footballers also deserve to be called ‘a group who have dedicated their lives and put themselves through HIGH RISKS to capture people’s imagination’. But that doesn’t necessarily grant you exclusivity to the name, especially one that pays tribute to a national symbol. 

If there’s any good out of this, it gives the SSA a chance to choose a far superior name, something closer to the aquatic nature of the sport. The ST reported that other choices included the Red Singas, Red Merlions or, strangely enough, Aquamen, the latter possibly getting you in trouble with DC comics. Or AWARE since there are women in the team.  How about the Red Tomans perhaps, unless MINDEF decides to shoot the SSA down again for choosing the same colour.

Malays excluded from Navy due to lack of halal kitchens

From ‘Malays deployed in the SAF as sailors: Ng Eng Hen’, 16 Feb 2015, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

A person is deployed in a sensitive unit in the Singapore Armed Forces based on his ability and beliefs to ensure that he is not a security risk, not on his race, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday night. He also revealed that the SAF has started to deploy Malay servicemen onboard ships as sailors who will go out to sea. Previously, Malays in the navy were only deployed as “sea soldiers”, who primarily patrolled naval bases.

…Responding to a question on a perceived bias against Malays in the SAF and why they have been excluded from the Navy until now, Dr Ng said it was a “practical issue” of having halal-certified kitchens onboard ships. “(This is) because in a confined space, it is hard to have a halal kitchen. If you spend months out at sea, it is difficult.”

But provisions have been made for Malay Muslims who are willing to serve, said Dr Ng. “So we made and found some accommodation and started to have Malays in the navy as well, if the person is willing.” He also reiterated that Malays now serve in the army, navy and air force, adding that with Singapore’s small population, the SAF does not discriminate against anyone and promotes its servicemen based on their ability.

“We want to get the maximum out of each person in the SAF…we are putting the best people in the best positions.”

But for sensitive positions in the military, the SAF is not blind to the fact that “people can be blackmailed“, said Dr Ng. “We ask ourselves, can we trust this person in that position to make sure he will not be made use of, that he will not be vulnerable.”

In 1987, then Trade and Industry Minister BG Lee was bashed by critics across the Causeway for remarks which reinforced this ‘perceived bias’ against Malays in the armed forces, that the Government did not want to ‘put its soldiers in a difficult position where their emotions for the nation may be in conflict with their emotions for their religion’. In response, Chiam See Tong accused the practice as discriminatory towards the Malays and not being in the spirit of regional harmony, that the best way to build a nation was to ‘trust everybody’ to have that trust reciprocated. He was swiftly slammed by Malay MPs for trying to be a ‘hero’ for the Malay community when he was in no such position to do so.

Some observers suggest that this ‘cautious approach’ is due to an initial fear of Malay ‘Trojan Horses’ within the military, or in plainspeaking terms, ultimately a question of ‘loyalty’ amongst our own countrymen given our geopolitical ‘situation’. Lee Hsien Loong back then added that this was the ‘reality that we cannot run away from’, and the Malay situation would improve over time as the nation became ‘more integrated’. By ‘integration’, in the case of the Navy, surely we mean that a Malay soldier by now would have no qualms about firing a torpedo at someone else of the same ethnicity/religion in actual war, rather than the SAF accommodating extra space for halal kitchens on board ships, which begs the question of why these weren’t considered in the first place. How does the SAF decide which unit is more ‘sensitive’ than another as they gradually phase Malay soldiers in anyway?

What we do know is that we have Gurkhas tasked to guard the very lives of some important politicians, which I would consider a highly ‘sensitive’ deployment. Unlike our own born and bred Singaporeans, the fierce loyalty of these foreigners has never been in doubt. In Chiam’s own words, ‘We trust all kinds of foreigners but we do not trust our own Malay citizens’. In 2013, PAP MP Zaqy Mohamed raised a valid point about our eagerness in enlisting new citizens or children of foreign spouses into the army, and whether SAF was playing fair if it continues to maintain this ‘national security narrative’ affecting the military prospects of own Malay Sons of Singapore (MP asks how position of Malays in SAF compares to those of new citizens, Feb 6 2013, ST)

The ‘practical’ matter of dietary requirements aside, Ng Eng Hen also mentioned, rather strangely, about the SAF needing to screen out ‘people who can be blackmailed’, which I would infer as someone trained to be a soldier, but forced under circumstances to turn his weapon on his own people, or run away to join a mercenary brigand. Under what circumstances exactly isn’t clear. We have heard of NSmen turning their weapons on themselves though. To date, more tragedies have occurred due to suicide or accidents rather than an ’emotionally conflicted’ soldier going ‘Trojan Horse’ on the military, or someone forced to steal SAR 21s for a terrorist cell group otherwise their sex videos may get leaked on the internet. Maybe we should focus more on soldiers with undiagnosed mental disorders posing a danger to us all in peacetime , rather than being fixated on the notion that men of a certain demographic are a higher ‘security risk’ in sensitive units compared to others during actual war.

So, as Chiam has pointed out,  it appears that there still remains, especially in a time when we have our own people joining armies to wage war against Syria, a lingering trust issue in the military despite our integration efforts. At the same time, as the Defence Minister has stated himself, we don’t want to put Malays in high-ranking positions just to meet certain expected racial quotas, which would amount to ‘tokenism’. What we need is an honest, open discussion about the actual place of Malays in the armed forces, what exactly constitutes a ‘security risk’, whether this concern is still relevant today, and not, to put it in army vernacular, a ‘smoke-out’.

In the late nineties, LKY was more specific as to what a Malay soldier shouldn’t be commanding, namely a ‘machine gun unit’, that it would be ‘tricky business’ if such a soldier had family or religious ties to our immediate neighbours and that ‘he and his family’ would have a tragedy on their hands if we did not think this through. He did not say if it was OK for them to pilot fighter jets, drive tanks or even help design weapons in a research lab for that matter. PAP Malay MPs were quick to shrug off the senior Lee’s comment as an ‘honest and candid one’, and needs to be put in the right ‘context’ given our geographical realities. The reality is that if it were anyone but LKY telling us what a Malay should or should not do in such an indelicate manner, even if it were ‘candid’ to the point of satire, they may just be arrested for sedition.

IPPT tests ditch-leaping and bullet-dodging

From ‘Let’s be cautious about lowering IPPT standards’, 5 July 2014, Voices, Today.

(Ben Ong):… I may not be an IPPT Gold award holder, but the logic behind each IPPT station seems clear. The test was designed to gauge soldiers’ fitness in relation to the physical demands placed on our bodies during combat situations.

For example, chin-ups are a good way to gauge whether we can haul ourselves, body armour, weapons et al, across a wall or parapet. The standing broad jump gauges our ability to hurl ourselves across a ditch. The shuttle run measures our ability to sprint short distances — probably useful when dodging bullets or looking for cover.

…What about a special type of IPPT with reduced stations for those unable to pass? It would be bare-bones, but set at a standard established as the minimum required of any soldier. There would be no monetary award, but those who opt for it may have their NS liabilities extended. This makes it fair on other NSmen who do pass the IPPT.

My NS mates and I have concluded that it is not easy, but not impossible, to pass the IPPT. We just have to look after ourselves, eat healthily and do simple exercises as part of our daily lives. We try not to eat chicken rice or char kway teow every other day; we climb stairs to the office instead of taking the lift; we walk to places where we have lunch instead of driving; we do push-ups, tuck-jumps or sit ups at home while watching the news.

If the IPPT were designed to create fighting fit supersoldiers, then we’d have to wear ‘body armour, weapons et al’ AT EVERY STATION in order for it to be a realistic gauge of combat fitness. SBJ is particularly unpopular, with 38% of NSmen polled by ST wanting this station dropped, second only to the murderous 2.4k run. It also happens to be the only station that you can complete in less than 10 seconds if you’re the kind who jumps over longkangs on a daily basis. Yet nobody, full battle order or not, leaps over gaping ditches looking LIKE THIS.

Gold standard jump

Gold standard jump

In the event of a real war, I’d take my chances with a running start than standing at the edge of a death drop swinging my arms like  I’m doing warm-ups for a ski jump event instead. If it’s jumping over obstacles that you want to test, then why not put our reservist NSmen through SOC (Standard Obstacle Course) instead? It’s IPPT, not Ninja Warrior. SBJ proponents argue that the station emphasises on lower body muscular strength, and strong legs would come in handy should you need to carry the wounded to safety. In that case, why should distance be a critical factor? How about having us do 40 squats instead?

If there’s one ‘proficiency’ that Shuttle Run serves to improve, it’s unlikely to be escaping a rain of bullets. It’ll be more useful for a situation whereby you spot a gleaming 1 dollar coin on a busy road some 10 metres away and you need to dash and grab it before a car runs you over. Escaping bullets is not just about bursts of speed or dumb luck, but agility and lightning reflexes as well. How about replacing the shuttle run with a station called ‘Bullet Duck’ instead, which gives you points based on somersaulting, rolling, bending over and jumping sidewards in slow motion while returning fire.

Today, you can even do your 2.4k run on a TREADMILL in an air-conditioned gym. I can’t think of one ‘combat situation’ where this may relate to. Or perhaps it’s mental preparation for POW capture. Because that’s exactly what running stationary on a treadmill for 10 over minutes feels like. Torture.

In real war, nitty-gritty rules like overstepping the SBJ line, ‘fault jumps’, ‘chin over bar’, ‘no cycling of legs’, ‘elbows touching the knee’ are all rendered irrelevant, yet these are exactly the small things that make the difference between a pass and fail. No NSman should be compelled to do RT(Remedial training) over a trifling technicality. Being an ‘INDIVIDUAL PROFICIENCY’ test, the IPPT also undermines what really counts in the battlefield. Teamwork. If you can’t jump or scale walls for whatever reason, your band of brothers are supposed to be there, hauling you up from the brink of certain death, saving you from a lobbed grenade and taking a bullet for you. Like the SOC, such fitness tests and its incentives encourage a ‘me-first’ mentality where the one who gets the Gold (and money) escapes unscathed, while the less fit fall into bottomless pits and get impaled on barbed wire because they lacked certain ‘techniques’ or physical prowess that some people are naturally gifted with. Or worse, do RT.

As an ex-IPPT sufferer myself, I can tell you maintaining a ‘healthy lifestyle’ alone will not guarantee a pass. I know guys who are professional sportsmen but falter at chin-ups or SBJ. In fact, I may argue that forcing IPPT down our throats may turn us against general exercise for its own enjoyment, to the point that one can’t jog around a stadium track anymore without being reminded of RTs, or manage a chin-up without hallucinating voices shouting ‘No Count. ZERO’. One argument that may make the Government sit up and listen is that RT takes the NSman’s precious time away from family and procreation, which I believe has higher priority over IPPT passes, or an army’s proficiency in jumping over ditches.

UPDATE: When the SAF decided to reduce the number of stations from 5 to 3 (push ups, sit ups and 2.4 km), I suspect the same writer Ben Ong complained allowing more guys to pass the test by removing problematic stations would make us a weaker, ‘strawberry generation’ army. Using the dodgy analogy of removing composition from Mother tongue exams so that more students can pass, he reiterated his point that anyone should be able to pass as long as they ‘watch their diet’ and do basic exercises ’10 to 15 minutes a day’. Another writer griped that the IPPT needs to be a ‘struggle’ to bring out the best in soldiers. All these complaints before the whiners even experiencing the new IPPT themselves. What makes you think it’s easier to run 2.4km after doing BOTH push-ups and sit-ups?

Dudes, the army doesn’t maintain its ‘operational readiness’ based on tough IPPT stations alone, and there are many who pass or even score flying colours in the IPPT but make terrible soldiers who won’t leap over ditches (SBJ) or can’t duck bullets (shuttle run) in a real war situation. Stop preaching your fitness sermon or you’ll be at the receiving end of a blanket party. Now no Gold in IPPT can save you from that.

Women’s Charter penalising men unfairly

From ‘Stop abuse of Women’s Charter’, 26 April 2014, St Forum

(Derek Low): I SUPPORT Justice Choo Han Teck’s suggestion to reform the Women’s Charter (“Maintenance not an unalloyed right of women: Judge”; Tuesday), although his idea of a Marriage Charter may take years to become reality. Women in our society have often pleaded for equal rights in every aspect of their lives. So why do we still allow double standards that penalise men under the Charter?

The Charter was enacted in the 1960s to protect the many housewives who were supported by their husbands. But times have changed. Our Government has encouraged women to join the workforce to be independent and contribute to nation building. Women have come a long way since then. Many are more successful than their husbands, who are proud of their spouses’ achievements.

I urge Singapore’s modern women to take pride in who they are, what they do and the effort they have put into their marriages. But when the marriage fails, they ought to be logical and sensible, instead of making unreasonable demands under the outdated Charter.

Justice Choo called for a fairer ‘Marriage Charter’ after rejecting a woman’s $120,000 claim from her ex-husband. She’s a regional sales manager while he’s a senior prison officer, the latter already currently paying $1000 monthly for a 17-year old son from her PREVIOUS marriage. The judge cuttingly refers to such arrangements as ‘patronising gestures of maintenance that belie deep chauvinistic thinking’. In 2011, ST reported that an average tai-tai can expect to earn $15-30K of monthly maintenance from ‘high net-worth’ husbands. The Queen of Instagram herself, Jamie Chua, sought a jaw-dropping $450,000 monthly from her ex-husband.

Unfortunately for some not-so-well-off men, such flexibility wasn’t so readily applied in the past. In 1980, divorcee ‘Born Losers’ cried foul when his ‘recalcitrant wife’ got to benefit from his maintenance, even though she wasn’t the one looking after the kids. It was already known in 1970 that men get the shorter end of the stick when a marriage fails, with one writer referring to the Charter as the ‘additional FANGS to a woman’s natural armoury of feminine weapons and wiles’, and that marriage was mostly beneficial to women, the men being ‘unappreciated, unsung martyrs’. Some fall victim to frivolous accusations of defying ‘personal protection orders’, especially if they’re twice the weight of their wives and naturally viewed as the bully in the relationship. This call for ‘gender equality’ isn’t new really, with people recognising the unfairness in the laws as early as 1971 – more than 40 YEARS ago!

We have to thank a certain Mr K.M Bryne, Minister of Labour and Law, who in 1959 decided that ‘women and girls’ needed to be protected from the abominable pigs that are men, which interestingly included elements such as ‘sweeping powers against patrons of brothels’, and a ‘one-man-one-wife law applicable to all EXCEPT Muslims’. The intention was to bring the laws ‘up to date’ with other countries ‘like England’, based on the assumption that women are the more devoted parents who only want the best for their children that they would give up their careers for them. That they would never marry a rich dude for money, find a reason to desert him, then ask for maintenance leveraging on this wife-protecting charter. Meanwhile, men are compelled to read the laws carefully before deciding if marriage is worth the risk of a lifetime of indebtedness, and even if they are financially worse off than their spouse, they’re sometimes liable to give what the law refers to as a ‘token fee’. In some cases, this can be even as low as 1 freakin’ DOLLAR.

In an attempt to nullify its image as a male-bashing organisation, AWARE stepped up to propose that the charter be renamed the ‘Family Charter’ (Tweak Women’s Charter for gender equality, ST Forum, 25 April 2014), claiming that they have ‘LONG ARGUED that much of the Charter needs to be rethought’. Well have they really? What have they been doing to urge ‘rethinking’ of the Charter to ease the burden on men since their formation in 1985? It’s not stated anywhere in their list of milestones, though in 2010 then Executive Director Corrine Lim defended that it was a ‘misconception’ that the Charter was ‘anti-male’, yet at the same time admitted that the maintenance issue was ‘outmoded and unfair’. Well of course it can’t be ‘anti-male’, it was a MAN’s idea in the first place.

Maybe more men could have been rescued from such archaic laws if the organisation had focussed more on pushing for revisions of the charter rather than slamming ads for being sexist or getting misogynistic army songs banned. More recently AWARE has complained about NSmen receiving benefits as reward for service because NS isn’t the ‘single gold standard for citizen belonging‘, and that this threatens to create ‘different tiers’ within society. As one who served himself, such handouts are well appreciated, though it’s tempting to brag it’s only one’s duty to serve and that we’re not doing this for housing or education benefits but for the NATION. We especially didn’t ask for AWARE, who is obviously in no position to comment on NS matters, to urge that we should be deprived of the fruits of our labour should the Government deems us deserving of such. Maybe this gender-neutral Charter response is really a smokescreen for the backlash from that previous NS comment.

But back to the Charter. AWARE weren’t the first to suggest a change of name and have no right to claim credit for it.  In 1980, some Christian societies called for the courts to exercise discretion to grant maintenance to the husband ‘where circumstances justified it’, like the handicapped or those too poor to maintain themselves. The name ‘Family Charter’ was proposed then. Others called for a counterpart to the Women’s Charter called the MEN’s Charter. Maybe we should have a CHILDREN’S Charter too, one that protects kids against neglect because their splitting parents are too busy fighting over money to perform basic childcare duties.

As a credit card company once famously said: The men don’t get it.

Stomp website promoting voyeurism

From ‘MDA responds to anti-Stomp petition’, 17 April 2014, ST

Media regulator the Media Development Authority (MDA) will not influence the editorial slant of websites but will take firm action if there is a breach of public interest or the promotion of racial and religious hatred or intolerance. In a statement on its Facebook page last weekend, it wrote that netizens can and should continue to signal to Internet content providers the standards expected of them as part of efforts to promote responsible online behaviour.

The post was made in response to a petition to shut down citizen journalism website Stomp, which is owned by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). The petition claims to have collected more than 22,700 signatures since being set up 11 days ago on international campaigning site change.org by 26-year-old retail executive Robin Li.

…Mr Li told The Straits Times that he launched the petition after a March 24 post on Stomp in which an NSman was accused by a Stomp contributor of failing to offer his seat to an elderly woman in front of him. But one picture in the post’s photo gallery showed a reserve seat near the NSman that was empty.

Mr Li said that was the “last straw”. “Many netizens contribute posts that are at the expense of others, especially NSmen. Their faces are not blurred either… this promotes voyeurism and comes at the expense of their privacy,” he said.

Mr Felix Soh, editor, digital media group, of SPH’s Digital Division which oversees Stomp, denied Mr Li’s accusations and pointed out that there was no attempt to hide any information in the March 24 story.

“In fact, the full picture showing an empty seat on the MRT train was published by Stomp in the gallery of two photos accompanying the story. Furthermore, the fact that there was an empty seat in the row was mentioned in the second paragraph.” He added: “It is sad that those who clamour for the freedom of the Internet are now asking for the closure of a website – just because they don’t like it.”

Many people didn’t ‘like’ adultery site Ashley Madison either, which MDA banned because it didn’t meet their guidelines on ‘public interest’, flagrantly disregarding ‘family values and public morality’. Invasion of privacy, however, not only doesn’t count as a breach of ‘public morality’, but is in fact the bread and butter of Stomp, so it’s not in SPH’s ‘interest’ to shut down the voyeuristic tabloid elements. Those of a more dystopian bent would see Stomp as the dreaded roving all-seeing-eye, to the point that the threat of getting ‘stomped’ has become an everyday catch-all phrase to deter any form of antisocial behaviour, be it eating on the train or sleeping on a priority seat. What would it take for SPH to stop encouraging people from spying on each other, I wonder? Someone traumatised enough to kill himself in shame because his photo got plastered all over social media, perhaps?

Instead of addressing their penchant for distorting images and context at the expense of the unsuspecting, SPH went on to question the authenticity of the petition and the number of electronic signatures obtained. Not like numbers matter anyway since it’s unlikely that a petition would bring about Stomp’s demise. There’s also a certain demographic of those people caught on camera. Everyday people like you and me doing everyday things. You may even find yourself snapped unawares even if you’re not part of the action. Fat chance finding a Stomp piece about an important person flicking his booger in public.

Launched in 2006 as the ‘Straits Times Online Mobile Print‘, SPH’s intention was to cultivate what has been termed ‘citizen journalism’, or ‘grass-roots reporting‘. Cherian George disagrees with ‘citizen journalism’ for the simple reason that the end product still has to get the blessings of ST journalists, who get to pick and choose what sells and not what’s decent. Nonetheless, the award winning site (Gold for BEST ORIGINAL CONTENT (provided by other people for free), 2014) stands by its original purpose of getting users to do the ST’s job without a single cent. For every piece of news that justly highlights abuse towards the mentally disabled, road ragers or brawls on the train, there are at least a dozen others that belong more to the category of ‘citizen paparazzi’ than ‘journalism’. Stomp calls their stars of the show ‘Hey Goondus’, while users out to defend the innocents mock contributors as ‘stupid stompers’, unwittingly adding to the millions of hits that keep the site alive.

Here’s my rundown of my ‘Best of Stomp Voyeurism’ stories, which also serves as a warning to everyone out there, not just hapless NSmen, who ever eats food in public, cuddles, sleeps on the train or wears short hot pants. You’d also notice how the editors are inconsistent in their practice of blurring out faces so you can’t trust them with any sense of moral decency. The more practical way to shut Stomp down, short of hiring Anonymous to hack the shit out of it, is to just stop visiting, sharing or ‘liking’, though I confess to occasionally accessing it if only for ‘research purposes’.

1. NSman with trouser leg coming loose

Break a leg, stompers

2. Guy eating a bun on the bus.

The shame is too hard to swallow

3. Couple sleeping on MRT

The editors who let this go public were sleeping on the job too

4. Eating during a presidential salute

Tony Tan Keng Yum

5. Kids hugging in uniform

Stomper, you sicko you.

6. NSman drinking water on a train

No water parades on the train

7. Girls with long legs

One for your private collection, eh Stomper?

8. Taking your dog out unleashed.

Dogged by stompers

9. CISCO officers eating in a food court

Don’t ever get caught lining up for Krispy Kreme, cops

10. Wearing a helmet on the bus

Stomper is way aHEAD of you, poor guy

But it’s not just voyeur posters going out of control in Stomp. The editors are unable to manage death threats from commenters as well.  Like this one:

Eh this stomper should be shot 10x over. This poor bloke is serving YOU. Protecting YOU. Defending YOU. You effing suck for taking a pot shot at this poor NS dude you retarded asswipe. Learn how to appreciate others and not nit pick you moron.

Of course even if by some miracle the petition is successful in forcing Stomp to close shop, there will be plenty of eager startup companies waiting to pounce and create copycat platforms, not to mention the likes of already existing forums and Facebook. If you’re a regular contributor to Stomp, I hope you realise SPH is winning ‘journalism’ accolades at your expense, and that even if you think you’re reporting wholesome, worthy news, you’re indirectly supporting the propagation of trashy ones. If you happen to be a victim of Stomp and your life has been ruined forever, my advice is to set up a support group for similarly affected individuals, hunt down and stalk the ‘Stompers’ and editors responsible for your shame, and set them up on your own ‘citizen journalism’ campaign website because two can play at that game. You could call it ‘Stompers Are Bastards Online’, or SABO.

 

 

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