Madonna performing for the first time in Singapore

From ‘Madonna could perform in Singapore for the first time’, 29 Nov 2015, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

Queen of pop Madonna, who was banned from performing her controversial Girlie Show World Tour here in 1993, seems set to strut her stuff in Singapore for the very first time.

Home-grown concert promoter IMC Live told The Sunday Times it is in talks to bring the 57-year-old American star’s ongoing Rebel Heart tour here for a one-night concert for 30,000 at the National Stadium.

…For the Singapore gig to be given the go-ahead this time, The Sunday Times understands some songs may have to be dropped from the setlist.

Bitch, it’s Madonna, the only singer to continue chart-topping since the Michael Jackson ‘King of Pop’ era. I was a casual fan in the 80’s, when she brought the world timeless ballads like ‘Live to Tell’, ‘Crazy for you’ and sugary pop gems like ‘Holiday’ and ‘Open Your Heart’. She was Material Girl, Madge, Maddie, sex kitten, goddess, Kaballah practitioner all at once. When you look up ‘raunchy’ in the dictionary, you will find Madonna in a bustier.

She has come a long way since the days of the conical bra and Vogue. Things spiralled downhill after she remade American Pie. Today, she struggles to keep up with the Youtube and Spotify generation, sometimes ending up like the Auntie in denial gatecrashing a dubstep party when she should really should be line-dancing. Her ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ collaboration with Nicky Minaj is a case in point. Most singers her age would be more comfortable dueting with the Bee Gees instead.

Despite attempts to stay edgy and relevant, Madonna remains revered among the Pop Princess sorority, from the Britney Spearses to the Arianna Grandes. No one denies her accomplishments, but as iconic as she is, the fate of the Rebel Heart Tour remains at the mercy of the MDA, and a certain lot of Singaporeans among our midst who will stop at nothing to ban her from these shores,  the very same people who signed petitions against openly gay Adam Lambert from performing at the Jubilee Year End concert.

Other than being an active promoter of the LGBT cause, there are several more reasons why Madonna may find herself ‘Swept Away’ by the prudish powers that be.

  1. Hentai Demon Rape

In 2002, the ‘Drowned World Tour 2001′ DVD was banned for sale here as it featured an animation sequence of a monster raping an ‘Asian looking girl’. You can, of course, find the link to the video on Youtube.

2. Insulting Christianity

Another DVD ban. In the ‘Confessions’ tour, Madonna sang ‘Live to Tell’ while strung up on a cross.  This coming from the same woman who brought us the blasphemous ‘Like a Prayer’ video, where the cross was sexualised as a cleavage accessory to black lacy lingerie. And that was in 1989, way before Lady Gaga bugged the Christian community with less spicy stuff like ‘Judas’.

3. Random violence against men

The Guy Ritchie-directed video ‘What it Feels like For a Girl‘ was banned in 2001 because it depicted Madonna going on a misandrist rampage. An advisory warning by MDA alone would not be enough to protect our local men from being castrated on site if all the ladies in the house transform into Amazonian cannibals.

4. Lesbian kissing

This.

5. Drug references

One of Madonna’s more recent albums was titled MDNA, which is one letter away from controlled drug MDMA. You may know it as Ecstasy.

6. Kinky BDSM and Androgyny

Till today, the steamy Justify My Love video continues to stir loins. 20 years later we would have Fifty Shades of Grey. How many more reasons do we need to justify her ban?

If all goes well, we could have the first almost-sexagenarian to perform to a sold-out crowd in Singapore. Toned down or not, Madonna could earn more from this single show than all the Air Supply concerts combined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nude-less Playboy still banned by MDA

From ‘Playboy.com ban in Singapore remains: MDA’, 14 Oct 15, article by Lee Gim Siong,  CNA

The ban on access to Playboy.com in Singapore will not be lifted, said the Media Development Authority (MDA) on Wednesday (Oct 14). The US-based magazine had announced on Tuesday that it will stop publishing nude photographs in its pages from February next year. The website had also stopped publishing nude images since 2014.

In response to queries from 938LIVE, the MDA also said that it is too early to comment on the revamped Playboy magazine, as it has yet to be launched.

The spokesperson added that Playboy.com remains on the list of websites which are symbolically blocked in Singapore, to signal the types of content which the community regards as offensive or harmful.

The majority of these websites are pornographic in nature, and this position on the Playboy website has been in effect since 1996.

Playboy’s shift of focus away from naked centrefolds spells the inevitable demise of the ‘girly mag’. Along with Singapore’s very own FHM, we men may no longer bond at the newstands pretending to be browsing golf monthlies but in fact peeking at the covers of dirty magazines. The Internet (more specifically, porn) has made the eponymous bunny and its celebrated flesh parade obsolete, just like how it has made MDA’s ‘honour roll’ of blacklisted websites redundant. Some of these ‘symbolically’ banned sites may not even exist anymore. Not sure if it still has ‘Sex.com’ on it.

MDA’s taking a cautious ‘wait and see’ approach, naturally, but may find other reasons to stick to the status quo, like articles glamourising homosexuality, incest, bestiality or anything that goes against our conservative Asian values. No hot-blooded man is going to access Playboy.com for erotic essays of course, unless they’re doing so out of pure nostalgia, a misty-eyed throwback to the good old days of borrowing a semen-stained Playboy mag from your classmate for a few days and hiding it from your parents under your mattress. It wasn’t a ‘men’s magazine’ so much as a ‘boys to men’ magazine.

Here then, is a curious history of Playboy magazine in squeaky clean Singapore:

1) Playboy and its companion Playmate calendar was banned in 1960. Until then it was being sold at $2.10. Today, you may have to fork out at least 10 times that price considering it’s a collector’s item. You may even choose to feature it as an art exhibit, for hipsters to stare and stroke their chin at, instead of stroking something else.

Jayne Mansfield

Jayne Mansfield

2) In 1979, there was talk of the glitzy Playboy Club opening in Singapore. Its philosophy stood for ‘refinement, distinction and perfection’. Yes, that is exactly what we teenage boys feel while rubbing ourselves under the blanket spending a hot night alone with the magazine. Remember, the actual Playboy publication was still banned then. I don’t suppose the Club hosted strip-shows. In any case, in 1983, the Club was struck off the register because it wasn’t doing worthy of ‘distinction’, or rather, ANYTHING at all.

3) In 2003, one of the reasons given by the Censorship Review Committee for the ban of Playboy magazine but not Cosmopolitan was that it was ‘demeaning to women’. So I guess movies like Secretary are fine, then.

4) Ngee Ann City once boasted of Singapore’s first PLAYBOY boutique store (Playboy rears its rabbit’s head at Ngee Ann City, ST 1994). I’m shocked that I’ve never heard of this. Maybe I was too busy with, ahem, the Internet. It soon went bust, and was never to be mentioned again.

5) In 1991, Temasek Holdings reportedly acquired a 5% stake in New Zealand-based Brierley Investments Limited (S’pore’s connection with Playboy, 20 July 1991, ST). Industrial Equity (Pacific Ltd), a unit of Brierley’s, acquired a 5.8% stake in Playboy Enterprises in 1987. So, get this, a part of our Government-linked investment funds may once have connections to a girlie magazine that the Government itself BANNED for local consumption. That’s like investing in a company owned by a Mexican narc cartel.

6) In 2007, Singapore-based Acme Mobile Pte Ltd struck a deal with Playboy to distribute ‘Playboy branded’ games, images and ring tones across South East Asia. No nudity, of course. But likewise for Playboy.com.

Without naked pictures, it’s only a matter of time before Hugh Hefner’s salacious legacy goes limp. As limp as the reasons given by MDA to continue banning the World’s Finest Men’s Magazine ever.

Amos Yee parody sketch cut from Chestnuts 50 show

From ‘MDA on cuts to Chestnuts 50: script was sent in late’, 20 Sep 15, article by Akshita Nanda, ST

The Media Development Authority Singapore says the script for Chestnuts 50 was sent in late so “several problematic segments concerning an ongoing court case” could not be processed in time. It was responding to writer-director Jonathan Lim’s sketch parody show showing at the Drama Centre Theatre until Sept 27.

Last Friday, the show ended with Lim saying his team was told just hours before the opening show a day earlier to remove about 40 minutes of a central sketch inspired by the case of teen blogger Amos Yee, or forfeit their arts entertainment licence.

…Speaking to Life, Lim says he was surprised by the reason MDA gave to cut the Yee sketch, since another segment referencing an ongoing court case was passed. The current Chestnuts 50 performance includes a part inspired by the City Harvest mega-church case, where its founder and five others are alleged to have misused church funds.

*Warning: spoilers ahead*

I was fortunate enough to catch Chestnuts’ second performance last Friday. When Jonathan Lim made his announcement near the finale about the last minute change requested by MDA, I wasn’t sure if it was yet another of the many ‘meta’ gags made at the MDA’s expense. It turned out that he was serious and the Amos Yee gag was snipped, which I was looking forward to based on what I saw in their teaser materials online. If MDA had also decided to tone down the fiery ‘bromance’ between LKY and Lim Chin Siong in another major sketch, it would be a case of Chestnuts being ‘roasted on an open fire’, and the only thing left watching would be Jonathan channeling Kit Chan in drag.

According to Lim’s Facebook page, MDA’s reason given then was that it was an ‘ongoing legal case’. As for the City Harvest sketch, the slightest of changes were made to characters’ names, but everything else about the plot was rib-ticklingly obvious. Even Mediacorp’s The Noose managed to get away with mocking Sun Ho’s music career. And they’re probably itching to do an Amos one too, pending MDA’s green light.

The question would be: Legal case, SO WHAT? Has a gag order been imposed like how the AGC told the public to ‘refrain from commenting’ about last year’s Thaipusam incident? Furthermore, it seems a different set of standards apply to social media, where it’s a Amos Yee lampoon free-for-all. Even Amos himself managed to get his Facebook posts updated while he was in remand. Then there’s this Tumblr blog about Amos’ fashion sense.

Not to mention Youtube. Here’s examples of Amos parody videos which MDA apparently decided is OK for general viewing, ongoing legal case or not.

MDA also beat their personal record of late notification. Last year they issued a NC-16 advisory and licence to the Dim Sum Dollies just 3 days before the opening show. In their press release, they said that conducted the script review ‘expeditiously’, claiming that they received the script on 1 Dec 2014, 10 days before opening. Not so lucky for Elangovan’s ‘Stoma’ though, which was banned completely.

To be fair, maybe the MDA is indeed overburdened by regulatory duties, though some would say they brought it upon themselves, having to nanny not just films, radio, plays, video games and books but political videos and ‘sociopolitical’ websites as well. A previous attempt to introduce a ‘self-regulation’ scheme for arts groups to classify their own productions turned out to be an abject failure. So this last-minute censorship and its excuses about late submissions is like the MDA giving the arts community a retaliatory shrug: “We gave you a chance to regulate ‘ownself’ and cut the red tape, but you didn’t want to, so this is what you get’.

Maybe there is still hope for the Amos Yee sketch if Chestnuts decides to launch an exclusive on Youtube instead. The show is otherwise still worth catching without Amos inside. Hopefully this piece of news doesn’t make the ‘gao lak’ experience a ‘gao wei’ one.

SIFA film withdrawn due to cut Molotov Cocktail scene

From ‘Singapore International Festival of Arts withdraws two films from Open event’, 18 June 15, article by Mayo Martin, Today

Organisers of the Singapore International Festival Of Arts’ (SIFA) pre-festival event The OPEN have withdrawn two films from its movie line-up after the Media Development Authority Singapore (MDA) said these required edits before it could be screened.

The films were Tony Manero by Chilean director Pablo Larrain and A German Youth by French film-maker Jean-Gabriel Periot.

…In a statement, organisers said they were informed yesterday (June 17) that both movies required a scene each to be cut due to sexual and mature content, respectively. Rather than screen a film with edits, the organisers have chosen to pull out both films “to respect the integrity of the directors’ vision and craft”.

The two scenes in question were a fellatio scene in Tony Manero and a scene featuring a video on how to make a Molotov cocktail in A German Youth. Both films had received an R21 rating on the condition that the scenes be edited.

…SIFA director Ong Keng Sen told TODAY: “The objection to the fellatio scene was that it was too graphic and extreme, but I told them it should be put into context on why people are behaving this way. It was about how violence and decadence has been imprinted in the human being.”

Meanwhile, A German Youth is a documentary that was shown at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. It traces the founding of the militant Red Army Faction and Baader-Meinhof Group.

Ong questioned the objection to the Molotov cocktail scene, citing how the information on making one is already available on the Internet. “I tried Googling how to make it and it’s all within the first four entries. We have to ask ourselves if these censorship guidelines are still applicable when all of these are available on the Internet,” he said.

Well, you can google ‘nude uncensored sex’ on the Internet and get exactly what you want but that doesn’t mean we should scrap censorship altogether, be it for mainstream movies or ‘niche’ festival films. Cutting out a blowjob scene is probably expected of MDA, but snipping a scene teaching you how to make a homemade bomb is strange given that we do allow films featuring ‘occasional recreational drug use’, as well as cinematic step-by-step manuals on how to design and operate improvised weapons of fiery destruction, nevermind if these actually work in real life.

This scene from Salt starring Angelina Jolie, for example, tells you how to escape from a room conveniently stocked with volatile chemicals and a fire extinguisher by assembling an instant flamethrower in less than a minute.

The one and only Macgyver can blow people up using a video camera and silly putty. The whole series, in fact, is about the man making weapons out of scraps.

Which suggests that it’s OK if you’re the good guy making an explosive out of baking soda, detergent and shoelaces, but not if you’re intending to use it in a riot against the Authority. If that’s the case, we should also censor films and TV featuring scenes of people smashing bottles in half and turning them into stabbing weapons. We already banned beer bottles in Tekka hawker centre for the exact same reason anyway.

In fact, in the fifties before we had videotapes not to mention Youtube, the ST even revealed an old-timey homemade bomb recipe in one of their riot reports: Petroleum jelly/trade rubber, petrol, cotton fuse. Today, you can experiment with DIY detonators using nothing but ingredients and accessories bought from Daiso. You could build a bomb in pyjamas over your kitchen sink without having to put on goggles, labcoat or safety boots. You don’t need an obscure film from a festival that few people care about to transform us into amateur terrorists overnight.

Other than cracking down on festival films glamourising bomb-making, terrorism, explicit sex and homosexuality, our censors also objected to themes that potentially threaten religious and racial order. In 2004, we banned ‘The Final Solution‘, an Indian documentary that was considered ‘inflammatory’ because it dealt with communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. Singapore’s very own ‘To Singapore With Love’ was a liability to national security. I’m not surprised no one has thought of making a film based on the true story of Mas Selamat’s escape. It would probably be banned as well because it puts a certain minister in a bad light, and teaches viewers how to slip out of a toilet and cross over to Malaysia amid tight security, without having to assemble a single Molotov cocktail while at it.

Then there were the weird ones. In 2008, we banned ‘Bakushi’, a Japanese film about rope bondage. 6 years later, we passed ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ without cuts on the big screen with an R(21) rating. Perhaps there is hope for fetish fans after all. Still, it’s ridiculously ironic how the cut Molotov cocktail scene is categorised here as ‘mature content’, when the censors obviously think adults are not mature enough to handle it, that people would suddenly become ‘self-radicalised’ after watching a foreign film, go raid liquor and hardware stores, then fly a private plane above the city and drop little homemade bombs causing death, destruction and chaos everywhere.

NAC withdrawing $8000 grant for Sonny Liew’s graphic novel

From ‘NAC withdraws grant for graphic novel publisher due to ‘sensitive’ content’, 30 May 2015, article in CNA

The National Arts Council (NAC) has withdrawn a publishing grant for the graphic novel The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye on the eve of its Singapore launch because of “sensitive content”. The council declined to elaborate on the reasons behind the decision to revoke the S$8,000 grant.

The experimental graphic novel by artist-illustrator Sonny Liew follows the story of comic-book artist Charlie Chan during the formative years of Singapore’s modern history. It weaves together fictional and historical elements, with nods to events and personalities in the nation’s history, such as Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, opposition politician Lim Chin Siong and Operation Spectrum, the so-called Marxist Conspiracy, in 1987.

In a statement, NAC’s senior director of the literary arts sector Khor Kok Wah said: “We had to withdraw the grant when the book The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye came out because its sensitive content, depicted in visuals and text, did not meet our funding conditions. The Council will continue to support and work with Epigram, a leading publisher of Singapore literary works, on other projects.”

…Mr Liew expressed his disappointment with NAC’s decision. “I’d hoped the book was nuanced enough in … dealing with the issues. But developments have made it clearer that NAC works under constraints that make it difficult for it to support works that are deemed politically sensitive.”

In 2011, the NAC withdrew a grant for a volume of playwright Chong Tze Chien’s collected plays, which had included Charged, a play that dealt with national service and race.

According to the Funding Guidelines, NAC will reject works that appear to have a ‘negative influence on society’, those that advocate for lifestyles that are seen as ‘objectionable’ by the public, denigrate on the basis of race or religion, undermine the authority of the government or threaten the nation’s security or stability. In Charlie Chan, Operation Spectrum is satirised as a plot to ‘replace all music in Singapore with the melodies of Richard Marx’, which gives a new, rather ominous twist to the lyrics of his greatest hit ever, Right Here Waiting (wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you). Not only will this ‘indirect censorship’ boost sales of Sonny’s book, it will also draw audiences to rediscover the adult contemporary music genius that is Richard Marx.

A more extreme parallel to Charlie Chan would be the charges slapped on fellow cartoonist Leslie Chew, the mastermind behind ‘Demon-cratic Singapore’. But I would think another reason why the depiction of LKY in a comic book is considered ‘too sensitive’ for funding is probably because of recent discussions to make it illegal for anyone to commercialise the image of our great leader for personal gain. I wouldn’t be surprised if MDA goes around pasting black boxes over panels of Charlie Chan containing references to LKY or the Marxist insurgency. The way around that, of course, is to order the unedited ‘US version’, or head over to the Causeway to buy it, along with a DVD for ‘To Singapore, with Love‘, which would neatly serve as a ‘behind the scenes’ companion to Charlie Chan if you want to know more about that fog of Singapore history known as Operation Spectrum.

Interestingly, Chong Tze Chien, the other victim of NAC’s sudden withdrawal was featured on the organisation’s publication titled ‘Literary Singapore’. The ‘directory’ of writers describes the play ‘Charged’ as such:

Through his signature use of experimental and innovative puppetry and stage devices, Chong’s “Charged” is Singapore’s most controversial and nuanced political play to date – addressing the issue of racial tensions in the most explosive of scenarios – that of a Chinese corporal shooting his Malay counterpart while on military duty.

And then NAC decided: Hmm, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea supporting this after all, I want my money back. What was once lauded as a ‘most controversial’ portrayal of race relations becomes a ‘taboo’ overnight. One moment you’re giving yourself a pat on the back for a ‘progressive’ stance, and the next you’re hurriedly taking it back, like ‘modern’ parents having second thoughts about giving their 18 year old son the car keys before his big date, afraid that they may have to pay an abortion check later. Incidentally, ‘Charged’ won the ‘BEST ORIGINAL SCRIPT’ at the 11th Life! Theatre Awards.

I suppose one has to be prepared to make a living the hard way if your grant doesn’t qualify because your book or script is too provocative by NAC standards and may spark a mass riot like Charlie Hebdo. If only they’d told you sooner though. MDA did the same last-minute about turn when they banned Ken Kwek’s Sex Violence Family Values when it was just about to premiere in local cinemas. You could say the authorities were ‘right there waiting’ before deciding to pull the plug.

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 378 other followers