Jolin Tsai’s gay wedding video banned by MDA

From ‘Singapore bans Jolin Tsai’s MV’, 24 May 2015, article by Heidi Hsia, Yahoo News.

Taiwanese media reported that Jolin Tsai’s song and music video, “We’re All Different, Yet The Same”, has been banned in Singapore. According to Mingpao News, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has sent ban notices to television and radio stations in the country so as not to air the song or the music video.

It was reported that the song has been banned because of the lyrics that encourage the pursuit of equal rights of marriage for the LGBTI community, which conflicts with the laws in Singapore.

…The music video for “We’re All Different, Yet The Same” was inspired by the story of a lesbian couple who has been together for 30 years. It features a wedding scene between Jolin and featured Taiwanese actress Ruby Lin.

UPDATE 25 May 2015: MDA has clarified that the song is not ‘banned’ here, but rather ‘allowed with the requisite age rating and consumer advice’, yet it has also advised broadcasters not to play the track or the video on channels that are ‘freely assessed’ by younger viewers due to ‘mature content’. I wonder what it does mean, however, when an actual ban is in force. I suppose it means you can’t download it from the internet, order the album/single online, sing it as karaoke or do a cover of it and upload your version. Youtube doesn’t even seek an age verification from you before streaming it, though. And you can still listen to F-bomb loaded rap songs about random raping in Forever 21. ‘Allowed with age rating and advice’ begs the basic question of, well, allowed WHERE exactly.

Jolin’s video raises an interesting question about the gay stigma and the institution of marriage: If you do not have family or relatives to make a critical life-or-death medical directive on your behalf, can your partner do it instead? Also, it has two women kissing. Beautiful women kissing, may I add.

Alas, MDA doesn’t care about ethical debates and only axes stuff if it gets them hot under the collar and breaches their own guidelines. They somehow decided on the sly that a video depicting gay marriage is not quite the ‘right thing’ that our population should be viewing. The fact that it was not released as a media statement like how they shut down A-Mei’s Rainbow suggests that they had intended to contain their act of censorship before it turned viral, knowing full well that one, people won’t be too happy about it, and two, anything banned by MDA will be inevitably the most searched and shared item on Youtube and Google.

If it does eventually blow up, they’d be forced to issue a press release giving the same old same old, and by that time hordes of K-box enthusiasts would have already put Jolin’s song at the top of their weekend singalong playlist, crying at the end of it because it tells such a touching story about love in a short few minutes, and also in shame because Singapore’s probably the only country to ban it. And sneakily too.

As a media ‘development’ authority, however, they continue to severely underestimate how the ‘media’ works. Some years back, a couple of Mediacorp actresses sprung a kinky surprise on the broadcaster by kissing each other on the mouths during a live telecast of the Star Awards. The re-run was censored, but everyone who went nuts over the girl-on-girl action just wanted to replay the kiss in slow motion on Youtube. Who cares who got into Top 10 list of Most Popular Actresses? Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl’ was also reportedly banned from airwaves, but she JUST PERFORMED the damn song here earlier this month during her Prismatic tour.

In fact, some of the kisses that we DO allow in M18 movies are hotter and wetter than the chaste wedding peck between Ruby Lin and Jolin Tsai. Some movies that do not involve lesbian sex at all get severely restricted because they feature gay families doing stuff that normal families do. At least NLB got more proactive after the penguin debacle. MDA can’t make up its mind if lesbians french-kissing or a loving couple in matching wedding outfits is more objectionable.

MDA also doesn’t care that Singaporeans read widely enough to know that marriage equality is happening in developed countries all over the globe, that we don’t need a controversial touchy-feely video to tell us why it’s worth supporting, even if the government maintains its ‘conservative’ stance. Even the ST has no qualms about publishing an article about Ivan Heng being a happily, married man, notwithstanding that it was a gay marriage. Moral of that story? Find happiness, screw the haters. Apparently MDA thinks this message is as dangerous as someone teaching you how to rig a drone with explosives and fly it into a government building.

So there is a ‘light touch’ after all when it comes to banning LGBT anthems, so light in fact it hardly made a sound, like a tip-toeing ninja assassin in the night, but soon caught out like a cowardly rabbit in the headlights.

MDA’s ban on TRS draconian and excessive

From ‘TRS’ bid to stoke social tension unacceptable’, 7 May 2015, ST Forum

(Ann Chan, director of Communications, MDA): THE Media Development Authority (MDA) strongly disagrees with Ms Braema Mathi’s assertions that our actions are “draconian” and “excessive” (“Regulating online space: Engaging stakeholders in dialogue much better”; yesterday).

Based on information that has come to light, The Real Singapore’s (TRS) editors Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi were deliberately fabricating articles and inserting falsehoods to stoke anti-foreigner sentiments and undermine Singapore’s national harmony.

They did this to attract more readers to TRS, and thus, generate more advertising revenue for themselves. They were, in effect, lining their pockets at Singapore’s expense.

Suspending TRS’ licence was necessary to ensure Yang and Takagi did not do more damage with their deceitful reporting. In suspending TRS’ licence, the MDA had provided Yang and Takagi our grounds for doing so, including specifying the offending articles that contravened the Internet Code of Practice, and giving them seven days to explain why their licence should not be cancelled. They can also appeal against the suspension. Due process has been followed.

We agree with Ms Mathi that the diversity of Singapore’s populace should be reflected in the diversity of opinions online. But accepting diversity does not mean we also have to accept deceit, fabrications, plagiarism and distortions – all just to make a quick buck.

Unlike human rights activists like Braema Mathi, media experts have lauded the TRS ban by MDA as an example of the authority’s ‘light touch’ approach because TRS was considered an ‘extreme’ site among other platforms with similar content. In other words, the MDA was ‘magnanimous’ enough to leave the less popular, but equally offensive, sites alone, sites that weren’t milking the eyeballs of gullible Singaporeans and ‘making a quick buck’.

Apparently a ‘light touch’ is also an inconsistent, cherry-picking one, one that does nothing more that make the xenophobe poster-child that is TRS a scapegoat and hope that the rest of the wannabes clean up their act out of fear. It’s as ‘light-handed’ as a mob boss burying someone alive for not paying his dues ‘as a lesson’ to anyone who even thinks of screwing him over. There’s no evidence that this approach is even effective. A ‘Straits Times Review’ site (renamed States Times Review to avoid legal tussles with ST) with a similar bent as TRS has come online as we speak. MDA believed it had lopped off the Medusa’s head like Perseus when all it did was snip off one of the Hydra’s.

No details were given by MDA as to how much TRS makes from posting these evil ‘fabrications’ to qualify the ‘quick buck’ claim, nor exactly the level of ‘damage’ the site has caused to warrant a total shutdown since its inception.   This explanation in defence of their ‘draconian’ web content-slaying seems to be flip-flopping between TRS as a threat to national harmony and their unscrupulous profiteering. If ‘due process’ had been followed, then it seems rather at odds with this whole ‘light touch’ policy given that some sites get hit, while others, like TRE or the aggressive Blood Stained Singapore blog, do not.

The internet, of course, is full of deceit and distortions. Influencers are paid to write negative reviews of telcos, for example. A famous blogger who supposedly cured her brain cancer by eating ‘wholefoods’ recently admitted that it was all a damn sham. Unlike the alleged ‘damage’ that TRS has caused, following a quack’s advice instead of seeking medical attention actually kills you in the long run. Other authors exaggerate, sensationalise and frame their content whichever way they see fit to get readership, some of international standing earning the wrath of our own leaders for slanted journalism. I could create an entire fantasy blog about how I’m actually 100 years old and that the secret to my longevity is watching porn and masturbating 3 times a day and there WILL be suckers who buy into it. Between a site that tells you lies about PRCs vs another that says bulimia and anorexia are good for you, I think there would be stronger justification to ban the latter, when actual lives are at stake.

Speaking of lies, STOMP should be grateful to MDA for their ‘light touch’ policy then, especially after the SPH-owned portal posted a fake article about a faulty MRT door, and ‘making a quick buck’ out of such fabrications at the expense of our beloved SMRT. Instead of adopting a ‘slash-and-burn’ approach to weeding the internet of pesky sites, the authorities should embark on a proper literacy program to cultivate critical thinking and discretion when reading online material. Shutting down entire sites just because you disapprove of some of the content is simply caveman enforcement, the kind that thumps you into submission first before involving any higher brain activity to prevent future victims from falling for such nonsense elsewhere i.e without planning ahead.

People for centuries have been, and will always be, seduced by all kinds of fictitious bullshit for as long as the written word exists, whether it’s on papyrus or on an iPad. Today, we call most of these ‘advertisements’. TRS already has its fair share of vocal opponents, including ministers dying to file defamation suits. Purging it entirely without giving users the chance to critique and challenge its content like one trading blows with a sparring partner is, in government-speak, a ‘missed opportunity’ for internet literacy, and MDA itself, to evolve. We should learn how to tame the growing beast of social media without cracking a thicker whip every time it roars.

Future Music festival banned because of drugs

From ‘Future Music Festival Asia’s appeal for permit denied’, 7 March 2015, article in CNA

Future Music Festival Asia’s appeal for a permit has not been approved, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Friday (Mar 6).  “The Minister for Home Affairs has carefully considered and turned down the appeal by Livescape Singapore to hold the Future Music Festival Asia 2015 in Singapore,” said MHA in a statement. It said the appeal was received on Mar 3, and the outcome was conveyed to organisers Livescape Singapore on Mar 6.

Livescape Singapore, which has sold about 15,000 of the 20,000 tickets available for the two-day festival, previously submitted applications for a public entertainment licence to the police in January and last month, but was rejected both times. Police cited “serious concerns” over potential drug abuse at the event.

…The festival, which had a three-year run in Kuala Lumpur, has been marred by drug problems. Concert organisers had to put a stop to the event on its third day last year, after six Malaysians died of drug overdose and another 16 people were hospitalised for drug-related reasons.

Several Singaporeans were also hospitalised after a suspected drug overdose. Two were later charged for drug offences in Kuala Lumpur.

In Parliament on Friday, Senior Minister of State Masagos Zulkifli said that the Government is “keeping an eye” on music events, over concerns of potential drug abuse at such festivals.

In 1970, Woodstock: THE MOVIE was banned in Singapore. No official reasons were given then, but for a nation that also banned Puff the Magic Dragon, it became clear that the censors deemed Woodstock as not only a vile gathering of unsavoury, promiscuous, slovenly hippie characters who strut around nude, but also as a rock bacchanalia promoting and glamourising drug use.

Then ‘electronic music’ in the form of techno/trance arrived on the scene, and the Ecstasy-fuelled ‘rave party’ was born. Not only was such head-bobbing monotonous music conducive to getting high or stoned, it also served as a mantric, vulgar call to arms for secret society hooligans, as depicted in Royston Tan’s ’15’.

We mananged to keep Zoukout in check though, thanks to an army of security officers, though that didn’t stop people from falling into the sea and drowning, or getting molested. In fact, the risk of getting drunk or groped, whether it’s a rave or a state-sponsored New Year countdown, is higher than you slipping into a psychedelic death trance after popping some fun pills.

Zoukout isn’t all that innocent as we might think. Some folks have called for a total ban on that as well, for promoting a hedonistic lifestyle, spreading STDs and encouraging people to have random sex on the beach. The Zouk management insisted that this was the work of a few black sheep, and we shouldn’t allow such ugly incidents to taint the image of Singapore as THE nightlife destination in all of South East Asia.

Not that drug abuse isn’t already happening anyway. If you can’t drop some ketamine or mephedrone at beach festivals, you can always do it in the clubs, or ‘house parties’, where you don’t have nosy bouncers or undercover cops poking into your business all the time. This isn’t the first time we’ve deemed music a threat to public order and civilization as we know it. We’ve pressed the mute button for Thaipusam festivals, for example.

If it’s not due to knee-jerk ‘serious concerns’ over drug use, we also have zero tolerance towards artistes promoting the ‘gay lifestyle’. In 2005, an Action for Aids charity concert Affect05 was banned because it featured a gay couple as lead singers. Some Christians were aghast that openly gay Adam Lambert was performing in Singapore. Taiwanese veteran Ah Mei was banned from performing ‘Rainbow’ at Gardens by the Bay. It appears that succumbing to toxic hallucinations from Avicii-induced euphoria is just as bad as having the idea drilled into your head that ‘gay is OK’.

Maybe we should ban the Laneway festival as well, for turning our clean and green Singapore into a hideous ‘garbage city‘. Not to mention K-pop boyband concerts, for inducing cult-like behaviour. How about F1 concerts? In 2013, mega superstar Rihanna was allegedly high on weed while lip-synching on stage. Think of the harm this would do to her teenage fans! It’s been a while since we’ve seen the ‘Stomp!’ troupe performing in Singapore. Maybe we secretly banned them because they encouraged people to pick up random trash cans and sticks off the street and raise a ruckus, fooling the police into thinking that a riot is happening. And finally Sentosa New Year countdown parties too, because we don’t want women to get gang-raped in full public view.

What we’ll have left is ‘good clean,  wholesome, drug-free fun’, like Air Supply or Kenny Rogers in concert, where you’ll be exposed to love ballads about the sun and the rain and not think about getting high on marijuana at all.

UPDATE 9 March 2015: FMFAsia is officially cancelled. You could say it won’t be coming our way anymore in the near..future.

Fifty Shades of Grey impeding true intimacy

From ‘The realities behind the Fifty Shades’, 14 Feb 2015, Voices, Today

(Elvira Tan, marriage specialist, Focus on the Family): The film, Fifty Shades Of Grey, based on an erotica novel by the same title, has been released here, just before Valentine’s Day.

…A study published in Journal of Women’s Health last year concluded that there are strong correlations between health risks in women’s lives, including violence victimisation, and consumption of Fifty Shades. Female readers were more likely than non-readers to have had a partner who abused them verbally and to report fasting, binge drinking, using diet aids and having five or more intercourse partners.

Despite this, the novel and the film’s trailer have been popular. This is understandable, since humans have a longing for intimacy. However, sexual intimacy is not the same as relational intimacy. A person’s felt need for gratification may not meet his/her real need for connection and lasting love. Relational intimacy transcends sexual experiences and is best sought out in wholesome ways for it to be truly fulfilling. Ironically, focusing on the body rather than the person lessens both emotional connection and sexual appetite.

The authors of the book, Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart, explain that erotica/pornography “teach you to be sexually aroused by looking away from your partner, not toward him”. “You may be engaging your body with him, but your imagination is with some fictional character. That’s not intimacy.

…The untold story behind Fifty Shades is that engaging in erotica and pornography drives a wedge in marital relationships, often impeding the true intimacy many couples long for, as recounted in many of the marital counselling cases we have seen.

As a Christian organisation, you would expect FoF to have some reservations about Fifty Shades being shown uncut in its full explicit glory. But short of calling for a ban like our libraries have banned the book, they have cited academic research that explains why BDSM, among other forms of gratuitous porn, is bad for marriage and your overall mental health. Another publication titled ‘“Double Crap!” Abuse and Harmed Identity in Fifty Shades of Grey’ has researchers reading the book to pick out signs of ‘intimate partner violence’.  A more recent paper concluded that the 50 Shades phenomenon drives women to watch porn. No one to date has examined if sales of cable ties and red rope have risen since the launch of the books.

The study cited by FoF even admitted that they could not draw a conclusion on CAUSALITY between 50 Shades and messed-up behaviour or a newfound lust for anal sex. Especially so since it’s only women (specifically women from Ohio State University) who were surveyed and not MEN who’re the ones more likely to imitate and initiate the protagonist’s sex acts. Furthermore, the reference quoted by Elvira (Pulling back the shades) was written by a couple of evangelical Christians themselves, one with a link to FoF. If there’s anyone pulling 50 shades of wool over our eyes it’s FoF for sneakily plugging a book with an obvious Christian agenda in the Today paper.

This is the same group accused of promoting, ironically, ‘rape culture’ in schools. The organisation’s understanding of ‘true intimacy’ seems rather fairy-tale simplistic, more befitting of a Hallmark anniversary card than the real world, and from the previous pamphlet debacle they can’t seem to grasp basic BGR, not to mention BDSM.  50 Shades has become a convenient scapegoat, lumped together with the entire genre of erotica and porn, when they’re clearly another factors that lead to marriage breakdowns or domestic brutality, like access to dating apps, gambling, or the proverbial whipping boy ALCOHOL. Any mature adult would associate the 50 shades themes with kinky sex and role-play (one level of depravity below the use of sex toys) rather than its flaky extensions to partner violence. The difference is that Anastasia’s participation in Grey’s fun time seems mostly VOLUNTARY. This is made clear in the film. Grey doesn’t put her naked in a cage and throw away the key. It’s an erotic ‘romance’, not a horror film.

Curiously, the Bible itself is filled with commands for you to give up your free will and submit to an all-powerful, possessive being, one who doesn’t need a helicopter or glider to rule the skies, but watches your every move, tells you how to behave in front of Him, and asks you to sacrifice your own flesh and blood as a test of your devotion.

Ephesians 5:22 – Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

Ephesians 6:5-8 – Servants, be obedient to them that are [your] masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates

This isn’t even the first movie here to explore BDSM; In the 2000s Secretary, a bolder film for the adult set, was released quietly. The lesser known ‘Quills’ was an ode to the originator of BDSM Marquis de Sade himself. Guys from my generation would be familiar with the hints of BDSM from the sleazy, coming-of-age classic, Basic Instinct. Even our local movie Sex Violence and Family Values featured a story about parents engaging in kinky sex. We seem more tolerant of bedroom rough-and-tumble than a movie about gay marriage or even one featuring a threesome. The Passion of Christ probably had more brutal, bloody flogging than all these movies combined (not a hint of blood or even a bite mark in 50 shades), and that wasn’t even rated R21.

So BDSM has been around way before 50 Shades took it to ‘Twilight’ levels of mainstream popularity (the series about a ‘dominant’ vampire actually inspired EL James). Rihanna’s ‘S&M’ is still played on the airwaves (‘chains and whips excite me’). Some men who’ve never heard of 50 Shades pay dominatrices to flog them until they regress into a crying infantile mess. If you don’t have someone to punish you, you could suffocate yourself for kicks in a gay spa.  Yet, the pro-family fetishists will have none of it. A performance by Japanese girl-group Ebisu Muscats involving rope was banned because of its lewd suggestions of bondage. Now MDA, to everyone’s pleasant (or unpleasant) surprise, has given 50 Shades the green light to invade our pop culture consciousness unshackled, and here we have someone saying this is bad for marriage, while thousands of Singaporean couples are out there lining up at cinemas over V-day weekend hoping to spice up their dismal sex lives after watching it.

Most people, unless they have genuine fetish disorders, don’t take BDSM even remotely seriously  these days, with discussions on handcuffs, velvet rope, tight leather and ice cubes eliciting giggles and groans rather than uncomfortable squirming. We use ‘sadist’ and ‘masochist’ loosely, describing perfectly normal human beings like horrible bosses and ultramarathoners respectively, to the point that BDSM is no longer as ‘disturbing’ as it once was.  If Fifty Shades were harmful to ‘intimacy’, then the typical Nicholas Sparks’ book/film creates unrealistic, rose-tinted expectations of a romantic partner, which can do as much, if not worse, damage to emotions and intimacy than some gentle ass smacking.

I haven’t read 50 Shades myself, but having seen the movie, I doubt anyone would come out of the theatre rushing to the nearest sex shop to buy designer blindfolds and cable ties, or even less likely, go home and beat the living ‘double crap’ out of their spouses for pleasure, following the Dominant/Submissive contract right down to the letter like a BDSM Kama Sutra.

Charlie Hebdo cartoon pulled out of Economist Singapore

From ‘Right to speak freely and responsibly must come together':Yaacob on Charlie Hebdo, 17 Jan 2015. article in CNA

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said he appreciates a decision by a local printer of The Economist not to reproduce a page with the latest cover of the Charlie Hebdo magazine depicting the Prophet Mohammed. “We have no doubt that there’s no such thing as freedom of expression without limits. As I have said before, the right to speak freely and responsibly must come together,” Dr Yaacob said to the media on the sidelines of the JFDI.Asia Demo Day on Friday (Jan 16),

Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs said the circulation of the cartoons will not be allowed in Singapore. He later posted on Facebook that “there are longstanding laws against causing offence to our races and religions” in Singapore. The page in the Singapore edition of The Economist was replaced with a statement informing readers that the magazine’s “Singapore printers” declined to print it. The magazine hit local newsstands on Friday.

“I think Singaporeans understand the sensitivities and we must continue to protect our racial, religious harmony. So I appreciate the sensitivities shown by the printer and I commend them for the decision,” said Dr Yaacob.

…Dr Yaacob said the Malay/Muslim community is “by and large offended” by the latest Charlie Hebdo cover. “But I think they also understood that we need to act rationally and I am quite impressed at how the community has come together to respond to this particular episode,” he said.

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Instead of the actual image, our local printer (Times Printers) agreed to allow a link directing the reader to the cartoon, only without the disclaimer ‘Click at your own risk. We are not responsible for any bloody riots taking place on the streets over this’. As the head honcho of all Muslim Affairs we’re supposed to take Yaacob’s word that ‘by and large’ a cartoon of the prophet shedding a tear expressing solidarity with the Je Suis Charlie movement is insensitive to Islam. Hebdo has published worse, of course, with images of His Most Exalted One being subject to gross humiliation and explicit violence. The creator of the latest cartoon has already explained the meaning behind it, that it wasn’t meant to poke fun but imply that the prophet would never have approved of these mindless killings. Angry Muslims elsewhere have already taken to the streets slamming the resurgence of Charlie as an act of defiance. To some, it’s an act of WAR. Well, Sacre bleu!

Since the time someone was investigated for posting an image of a pig on the Kaaba in Facebook, Singaporeans have become all too familiar with the consequences of breaching boundaries of ‘free speech’. The publisher’s ‘self-censorship’ is similar to the restraint exercised by Singaporeans from expressing their honest views about such a ‘sensitive topic’. We don’t talk about it in school, at work, even around the dinner table, letting the controversy drift by while we argue instead over the ethics of Xiaxue vs Gushcloud. Opinion leaders straddle an overcrowded fence, saying that ‘I am not really Charlie Hebdo’ and ‘Killing is bad, but free speech has its limits’. One moment we’re condemning the murderers, the next we’re saying ‘Hmm, maybe those cartoonists went too far’. The usual refrain is ‘There is no excuse for murder, this has nothing to do with religion…’. Then there’s this big ‘BUT….’.

Some go to the extent of calling out countries for hypocrisy, such as Saudi representatives at the Charlie Hebdo march, who hail from the very same place that sentenced a blogger to 1000 lashes for denigrating Islam. Maybe our publishers just really wanted to play it safe in case they get a similar mode of punishment in Singapore, or their office gets razed to the ground by insurgent syndicate members. We can’t blame them for that really, but one can’t help noticing the double-take when a public figure goes on to commend them for muzzling themselves over a cartoon that anyone can find online at the click of a mouse. In particular THIS cartoon. Our local FHM magazine has published a caricature of Jesus Christ with a shotgun previously, which in my opinion is more offensive than the Prophet with a glum face holding a ‘Je Suis Charlie’ sign. Today, FHM is still in business, though focusing more on boobs, thighs and butts, which ‘by and large’, doesn’t offend the general populace. MDA must be thanking the heavens that the publisher censored themselves otherwise they’d have some work to do. Thank you for acting ‘rationally’. Hey wouldn’t it be more ‘rational’ if you removed all links and references to Hebdo COMPLETELY? Here’s a broom and a rug, guys!

The irony was evident from the moment our ministers lined up to ‘strongly condemn’ the act, even sending dignitaries to march with the Parisians. The French ambassador took Singapore’s deep condolences as a gesture of support for the French people, and ‘solidarity in the fight against terrorism’. Yet, we knew that Singapore would have banned Charlie Hebdo all along, whether they’re slamming the Prophet, Buddha Jesus, or the Supreme Court for that matter, as one of our own cartoonists Leslie Chew found out the hard way. It would be a matter of time before the awkwardness hits home, when a ‘controversial’ image from the ‘survival edition’, meant to symbolise resilence against terror, is taken out because people are afraid of the consequences. By branding the latest cartoon as ‘religiously insensitive’, MDA is throwing the ‘context’ out of the window and going for the safer option of a blanket ban. The failure to appreciate context, of course, is the reason why extremists kill people in the first place, and a ban is exactly what they have always hoped to achieve.

The French ambassador may want to take a second look at our condolence signing and look for the small print that says: ‘We feel you, bro, but Charlie Hebdo is still a no-no here. Sorry’. As for us, maybe looking up ‘solidarity’ in the dictionary might be a good idea before jumping on the Hebdo sympathy bandwagon.

To Singapore, With Love banned by MDA

From ‘Local film To Singapore, With Love, not allowed to be distributed, shown here’, 10 Sept 2014, Today

To Singapore, With Love, a film about political exiles directed by local director Tan Pin Pin, has been barred from distribution or exhibition in Singapore. The Media Development Authority (MDA) has classified the film as Not Allowed for All Ratings (NAR) where films are not allowed for exhibition or distribution.

“MDA has assessed that the contents of the film undermine national security because legitimate actions of the security agencies to protect the national security and stability of Singapore are presented in a distorted way as acts that victimised innocent individuals,” the MDA said in a statement released today (Sept 10).

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said in a Facebook post that he agrees with and supports the MDA’s assessment.

“The individuals in the film have given distorted and untruthful accounts of how they left Singapore and claimed that they were unfairly denied their right to return to Singapore,” he said. “It is not surprising that ex-CPM (Communist Party of Malaya) members and sympathisers wish now to give their own accounts of historical episodes that they were involved in. But individuals who have chosen to leave and remain outside Singapore, and refused to account for their past actions, should not enjoy a public platform to purvey distorted and untruthful accounts to mislead the public, absolve themselves or deny their past actions.”

At first glance, the title of Tan’s film reads like that of a National Day song, and cleverly chosen too. The last time a NAR rating was slapped on a local film was Sex. Violence. FamilyValues for racist themes, which was eventually toned down to a R21 with cuts. It’s unlikely that Tan Pin Pin’s nuclear warhead of a film that threatens our very NATIONAL SECURITY would get emasculated likewise. Another local firebrand known for featuring political ‘agitators’ is Martyn See, whose film on Chee Soon Juan ‘Singapore Rebel’ was unbanned in 2009 after 4 years on the blacklist.  His other documentary, Zahari’s 12 years, was banned in 2007 for ‘distorting’ Said Zahari’s detention and arrest for ‘communist united front activities’ by the ISD in 1963. Today, you can find both See’s films on Youtube. The country has yet to explode to kingdom come since these were uploaded.

Tan herself was questioned by THE POLICE during the crackdown on See’s Singapore Rebel in 2005, after she, along with 9 other filmmakers, wrote a letter to the forum asking the government where the ‘OB markers’ lay when it comes to political films. Not as renown as household names like Jack Neo, Royston Tan or Anthony Chen, Tan is also the creative force behind ‘Singapore Gaga’ and ‘Invisible City’, both critically acclaimed as quirky odes and mirrors to the ‘real’ Singapore. Unfortunately in the case of a touchy subject like political detainees and ‘commies’, shit just got too real for the PAP to handle. Yaacob even tried to paint them as disloyals who ‘chose to leave’ Singapore. It was either surrender to an absurd charge and suffer endless heckling or flee. To these detainees, there was never a ‘choice’ in the matter.

This communist paranoia belies the decision to give ‘To Singapore, with Love’ the chop, which makes me wonder if MDA and gang are still stuck in the 60’s hunting down the henchmen of the Red Skull. For a film making the rounds on the international circuit, our ban strikes the foreign audience as a shameful symptom of a country in outright denial.

Here’s a quick bio of some of those exiles featured in Tan’s film (which you may eventually watch for yourself when it comes online). If you watch some other interview snippets off Youtube, these folks hardly look like the sort to tear the very foundations of our society asunder, more like people whom you’d want to give up your seat to on the MRT. Besides we already have ISIS flag flyers and Syria freedom fighter wannabes to worry about. They’re the ones who’re more likely to pick up rocket launcher shooting as a hobby.

1) Ang Swee Chai: She’s the prominent surgeon and wife of fellow dissident and outspoken human rights lawyer Francis Khoo, who both spent more than 35 years in exile. The ISD allegedly escorted her away while she was in the middle of an operation. She’s also the co-founder and Patron of British Charity Medical Aid for Palestinians. Now living in London, she recounts more than 72 hours of relentless interrogation during the ordeal, just so to dig out the whereabouts of her then missing husband. They were married for barely 2 weeks.

Incidentally, husband Francis Khoo (died in 2011) was one talented chap. He draws satirical LKY cartoons, recites poetry and sings in this video below. No wonder Ang chose to stay by his side in asylum although she doesn’t have a Marxist bone in her body.  A double loss for Singapore indeed.

2) Chan Sun Wing and Wong Soon Fong: These two were Barisan Socialis assemblymen, or ‘comrades’, which the ‘secret police’ were chasing back in 1963 for alleged involvement in the ‘Satu’ general strike. In an interview not related to Tan’s film, Wong Soon Fong spoke about his fight against British colonialism, the merger with Malaysia, spending time in the mountains like a true badass commie guerilla and missing his relatives back home. He was in Thailand at the time, along with ’20 OTHERS’. Come on, Yaacob, he’s just a harmless uncle who can pass off as someone who sells chwee kueh for a living. Let him come home for God’s sake.

3) Tan Wah Piow: Arrested as a student leader for ‘rioting‘, Tan sought political asylum in Britian and lives in London till this day. SBC even produced a 2 part TV series called ‘The Conspiracy‘ which exposes Wah Piow’s Marxist plot to SUBVERT Singapore, a ‘mastermind’ of a network of communist conspirators. It read like the Al-Qaeda of the time, but today the government is more hung up on him escaping NS than extracting confessions of plotting to overthrow the PAP.

4) Ho Juan Thai: Like Wah Piow, this former WP candidate fled to Britain after being charged for ‘playing up issues of Chinese language, education and culture’ to incite VIOLENT, CHAUVINISTIC reactions from the Chinese speaking population at election rallies. He’s also accused of forging his passport to gain entry into Britain.

In a digital information age where we’re encouraged to think critically and be open to viewpoints other than those of the ruling party, it’s embarrassing that the MDA, which has recently tried, but failed miserably, to ‘co-regulate’ with arts groups on self-classification of performances, has resorted to its staple blunt, arcane method of pushing the panic button with an iron fist whenever a film featuring Singaporeans who got into trouble with the regime is produced. Ironically the MDA blames the producers for ‘whitewashing’ some of the lawbreaking, but doesn’t address the oppressive crimes against humanity by the ISD. Surely these detainees were never as dangerous as Ebola, and neither is Tan’s film as remotely insidious as the propagandist bile that is the Young PAP’s Servant Leadership video.

With all this hype over next year’s SG50, maybe it’s the perfect opportunity for the government to exercise some graciousness and compassion by reconciling and engaging our political exiles and bringing them home, absolve them of alleged crimes, let them spend some time with their loved ones rather than whitewashing them off our history books as cowardly fugitives instead of the ‘pioneers’ that they deserve to be.

The Singapore Story is incomplete if those who dared to fight for their fellow countrymen, at the risk of cruel scrutiny and being shunned from the authorities with the same contempt as drug traffickers, scammers or murderers, never had a say in it. In the spirit of all things Singaporean and Family, the homecoming of political exiles, a gesture of the PAP moving beyond the old world paranoia of the past and putting family togetherness before petty politics, would be the one true thing worth celebrating on our 50th birthday.

Archie comic banned by MDA for depicting gay marriage

From ‘Archie comic breached content guidelines:MDA’, 16 July 2014, article in Today

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has confirmed that it has banned one volume of the Archie. The Married Life series because of its depiction of same-sex marriage between two characters in the comic.

In a statement, the MDA said it had received a complaint about the comic – Book Three in a series of five – in March. After an assessment, it found that the content breached MDA guidelines. “We thus informed the local distributor not to import or distribute the comic in retail outlets,” an MDA spokesperson said.

…Separately, the National Library Board (NLB), which carries copies of the comic, said it acquired the comic before the MDA found its content to be in breach of guidelines.

“We will be reviewing the book in the light of MDA’s decision,” said the NLB, in response to TODAY’s queries.

“It should be noted that Archie. The Married Life was acquired for our adult collection. NLB takes a broader approach for the adult’s collection than it does for its children’s collection,” added the NLB.

Bad Bromance

Archie used to be goofball entertainment for me in my teens, but he has all grown up since. In 2009, the series courted controversy by having the main character marry BOTH Betty and Veronica in consecutive issues, prompting conservatives to accuse everyone’s favourite freckled redhead of being a ‘ bigamist’. Not sure if polygamy is in breach of MDA’s guidelines because it’s an ‘alternative lifestyle’ that sure as hell isn’t in line with ‘community norms’. It’s not just narrow-minded Singaporeans making a fuss about a comic about gay marriage. In the US, the Christian group One Million Moms protested the sale of the comic, to little success. Why didn’t MDA completely ban the movie ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry’ instead of giving it a lax M18 rating then? Didn’t you spare a thought for OUR own 1 million mommies and their precious norms?

The gay character in question is military stud Kevin Keller, and in the banned comic he marries Dr Clay Walker, a black man. Keller first came out in a Veronica #202 (2010), when he told Jughead that he was not interested in Veronica because he was gay. Archie never dealt with such ‘sensitive’ topics in the past. He was flirting with either the brunette or the blonde, messing around with Jughead, or watching the resident jock Reggie getting beat up by Moose. Things became edgier when he gave his first ‘interracial kiss’ to Valerie from the all-girl band Josie and the Pussycats (whom he also married). You damn philanderer you.

You’d need to go back almost half a century to find another ban that’s more ridiculous than this. In 1969, our Ministry of Culture banned five MARVEL comics, including Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Daredevil, X-men and Avengers, for themes on ‘horror, violence, suspense and fantasy’.  In 1987, Elf Quest was banned for featuring a ‘ritualistic orgy’, along with No 64 Swamp Thing and the FIRST ISSUE of Green Arrow (which shot up in price from $6 to $50 following censorship).

But first lemme take an Elfie

With such ‘adult’ themes in the new-look Archie, I doubt young impressionable minds are reading it anymore. Most teens these days probably know Christian Grey (of Fifty Shades fame) or Glee’s Blaine Anderson but have never heard of Archie Andrews. Well thanks to the ban, now they do. And then they go and experiment with BDSM and choke each other for kicks. That’s better than falling in love with another boy, RIGHT.

Not a sweet ending for Archie or Keller then. News has already leaked of adult Archie taking a bullet to save Keller’s life in the final issue of the Married Life series. To those still holding on to the banned comics as loans: SELL THEM AS FAST AS YOU CAN before NLB raids your home like the Spanish Inquisition, seizes the books and pulps it all to hell. I’m sure you can make back at least 10 times the fine for ‘losing’ it.

UPDATE: On 30 July 2014, MDA clarified that an X-men comic also featuring gay marriage was, in contrast to Archie, allowed for sale with restrictions. Astonishing X-men Issue 51 supposedly offered a ‘balanced treatment of the issue’ because there were characters who disapproved of the union. By seeking such ‘balance’, MDA is already admitting ‘Gay bad, straight good’, and too much gay for their liking equals ‘ban’.

‘Balance’ of course, in most stories about ‘out’ characters’ mainly serves as dramatic narrative so that our gay couple can overcome opposing voices and daunting odds to be together, which is what happened to the gay couple in the end anyway. Moral of the story: Don’t care what others say, get married anyway.

If MDA had followed the Archie series, they would have realised that not everything went smoothly for gay Kevin Keller either, having to endure homophobic slurs like ‘twinkle-toes’. This sure looks like a ‘balanced’ portrayal of being gay to me, but apparently not balanced enough to allow for sale THAT ONE ISSUE where the marriage occurs with not one person charging into the chapel , fist raised, crying foul at the sheer audacity of it all. Obviously, MDA had no idea what Keller had to go through to finally put a ring on it.

Now all you needed in And Three Makes Tango was for one straight, furious penguin to try to destroy the gay family by stomping all over the unhatched egg and the book might have been ‘balanced’ enough to remain on children’s shelves, even if it involved first degree penguin murder.

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