TRS creators charged with sedition

From ‘The Real Singapore duo slapped with 7 charges under Sedition Act’, 15 April 2015, article in CNA

The couple behind socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS) – a 26-year-old Singaporean man and a 22-year-old Australian woman – were on Tuesday (Apr 14) each charged with seven counts of sedition.

Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi allegedly published seditious articles on the website between October 2013 and February 2015. One of these articles falsely claimed that an incident between police and some members of the public during a Thaipusam procession on Feb 3 had been sparked by a Filipino family’s complaint that the drums played during the procession upset their child. The contributor of the article posted on another website that the allegations made in the TRS piece were untrue.

Yang is Singaporean, while Ai Takagi is Australian. According to the charge sheets, the particular articles have the “tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different groups of people in Singapore, name, between ethnic Indians in Singapore and Philippine nationals in Singapore”.

…Under the Sedition Act, the duo are liable, on conviction for a first offence, to a fine of up to S$5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of up to three years, or to both. As for the charge under the Penal Code, they are punishable with imprisonment of a maximum of one month, or a maximum fine of S$1,500, or both.

From St article 15 April 15, Couple behind TRS website face sedition charges

From St article 15 April 15, Couple behind TRS website face sedition charges

The ‘seditious’ articles are still online as we speak. In the Thaipusam article, it is alleged that the provocative but flawed eye-witness account ‘asserts’ that a Filipino family CAUSED the clash. Since instruments are banned during the festival, I would imagine the police confronting the musicians anyway, with or without a crying Pinoy child. But if anyone tries to push the argument of cause vs correlation they may just find themselves at the receiving end of a contempt of court charge.

If it weren’t a Pinoy family but say an Indian family of another caste, would that constitute ‘sedition’? What about the xenophobic backlash against the celebration of Philippine Independence Day in Orchard? Shouldn’t those Singaporean bigots who fumed against the event get slapped with sedition charges as well? Or the PRC family who complained about the smell of curry from their Indian neighbours. When does a symptom of xenophobia become deadly ‘seditious’?

In the other offending article on Filipino employers, Pinoys are described as ‘relentless backstabbers’ and generally ‘share the same traits’. This guy was basically stereotyping a particular race/nationality, just like how some Facebooker complained about the smell of a certain race on the MRT, or some ex-presidential candidate thought he was in Bombay while on a bus. If I say ‘those damned Americans are a bunch of redneck hillbillies’, would I be accused of inciting hostility among groups? When Amos Yee derided Christians, he was ‘causing distress’ and ‘harassment’ but not ‘promoting ill-will’. If he had insulted another religion would he be slapped with sedition? We were all even called ‘dogs’ once by PRC scholar Sun Xu. I doubt he was bitten by a single charge. Anton Casey flew to Perth before anyone thought about whether his remarks were deemed seditious because some Singaporeans got so insulted they wanted him to pay dearly with his life.

Does hiding racial stereotypes behind ‘stand-up comedy’ protect you from sedition charges, like if you mimic an Indian accent for example? If Kumar says ‘You Chinese buggers all only know how to gamble’, do I have a case against him?  The acronym ‘PRC’ is particularly offensive. In the ‘pee in a bottle’ article, the writer simply assumed that the woman who let her grandson drop his pants and wee in public was a ‘PRC’. Nothing else was mentioned about how she wanted to sabotage all hotpots in Geylang and blow up all the PRCs eating from it. PRC is the ‘n**ger’ of Chinese nationals. Just like when Edz Ello called us ‘stinkaporeans’, we couldn’t take it and demanded that he join the Sedition Squad.

Likewise, the PRC stripper article was about how ‘the majority’ of Chinese women come here on bogus work permits to steal other people’s husbands. Nothing new here. People have been harbouring negative stereotypes about ‘China women’ for more than a decade. Do we see people rounding them up and hanging them from trees and poke them with hot skewers? No. Do people make wild empty threats against the entire community on Facebook? Of course. Do we need to bother with what they say? I guess it depends. The Sedition laws seem to guard against the possibility that people take such comments so seriously they would brandish a flaming pitchfork over it. In the past, ‘seditious literature’ was serious business. They were documents specifically designed to instigate a mutiny against British imperialists, not some rant about why you think people from a certain country suck.

If the TRS offends you, you have the moral obligation not to read or share its articles. If you experience discrimination at work, you can take formal action with the authorities without dehumanising the entire race online. Let’s not kid ourselves that racial/foreigner tensions don’t exist. We are an island of tribes and little cosy enclaves getting the job done in spite of our differences, not a ‘It’s a Small World After All’ theme ride.

Amos Yee charged under the Protection from Harassment Act

From ‘Youtube Amos Yee charged, bail set at $20,000′, 1 April 2015, article in CNA

Amos Yee Pang Sang was on Tuesday (Mar 31) charged in the State Courts with multiple charges. The 16-year-old, who was arrested on Sunday, had his charges read out to him in Court, and asked for a lawyer to represent him. The three charges were under Section 298 and Section 292(1)(a) of the Penal Code, as well as Section 4(1)(b) of the Protection from Harassment Act.

For the first charge under Section 298, the charge sheet stated that the YouTube video created by Yee “contained remarks against Christianity, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of Christians in general”.

As for the Protection from Harassment Act charge, Yee’s video “contained remarks about Mr Lee Kuan Yew which was intended to be heard and seen by persons likely to be distressed” by the clip, according to the charge sheet.

The Court also granted him a bail amount set at S$20,000, under the condition that he will not post, upload or otherwise distribute any comment or content, whether directly or indirectly, to any social media or online service or website, while the current case against him is ongoing. The amount has been posted, and Yee is out on bail.

According to section 298, it is an offence to insult someone else with the intention of wounding the religious feelings of that person, meaning if I tell you in the face that I do not think it’s physically possible for Jesus Christ to walk on water and the Bible is a silly pack of lies, and you’re offended by the remark, it means that your ‘religious feelings’ have been hurt, and I’m liable to get charged under the Penal Code although I’m merely presenting an argument based on current scientific knowledge. It’s a different story, though, if I decided to put a pig on the Kaaba. That would be an act of sedition, meaning I’m promoting ‘feelings of ill will and hostility’ among the races.  How does the law draw the line here? Has FHM been charged for depicting Jesus with a shotgun? What does Christianity say about ‘turning the other cheek’?

The more intriguing charge, however, is the one under the protection from harassment act. My idea of harassment is an obsessed fan stalking me outside my doorstep, and sending death threats to my spouse out of jealousy. The victim of the act here is, specifically, ME. Who, exactly, was Amos Yee ‘harassing’? Did he send his link to specific people and force them to watch it? Was he causing trouble to a dead man by loitering around his casket threatening to jump on it? Did he go up to the Lee family and prance around with a party hat and a trumpet going ‘Hooray your dad is dead!’?

If the harassment charge is equivalent to ‘insulting’ a fellow human because you have the ‘intention’ of doing so and it causes them ‘distress’, then we’ll have to round up a whole bunch of attention-seeking netizens and bloggers who so much as declare that a minister’s wife looks like a sack of shit, or influencers attacking other influencers with obscenities or death threats. Hell, I’ll charge the Pizza Hut guy for calling me a pink fat person because he hurt my feelings and I can’t sleep because I’m crying all night long. Amos’ parents have been called ‘useless’ by Facebookers because they can’t control their kid. Maybe they should take action against such unfair accusations as well.

Since when have we become so fragile to, for lack of a better word, MEAN things people say about us, or our dead parents? Come on, give our police a break. They just spent an entire week securing the biggest funeral of all time. Now we expect them to drag a naughty boy to court who hasn’t yet learnt how to toss a grenade or shoot a rifle. (Soon, Amos, soon). It’ll be less taxing on our psychological well-being if we just brushed off such insults, and not go ballistic on a kid like how the Thais would punish people for mocking their almighty King. Like, chill, people. Are we serving justice, or appeasement?

Amos’ crime here is being pathologically ‘insensitive’ to the occasion, and for that I personally think a jail term is too harsh. To be fair, he makes observations, one-sided as they may be, about the country and its leadership at an age when most adolescents are hopelessly apathetic about the state of the nation, spending more time at tuition or playing video games than downloading charts and statistics about how miserable Singaporeans are under LKY’s so-called ‘dictatorship’. Some uncles 3 times his age don’t even bother with the research and continue hating on the Lee legacy because their friends are into it too.

He’s 16. He’s barely growing hair on his balls, and what he needs now is learning from this and grow some ‘perspective’, ‘objectivity’ and ‘tact’, and hopefully he may mature into a formidable political commentator, channeling the eloquence and fury into something beyond acting like a spoilt brat in a Jack Neo movie.  The seeds of discontent have been planted, all he needs is some pruning. That includes the hair.

Gushcloud influencers influenced by Singtel

From ‘Gushcloud bloggers apologise for negative Singtel marketing campaign’, 18 March 2015, article by Lim Yi Han, ST

At least two bloggers have apologised for posting negative comments in a Singtel marketing campaign. Mr Xavier Ong, 20, and Ms Eunice Annabel Lim, 21, and others managed by social media marketing firm Gushcloud were allegedly asked to complain about telcos M1 and StarHub‘s services to promote Singtel’s mobile plan for youth.

Mr Ong was first to say sorry in a lengthy blog post on Wednesday. “I…apologise to anyone affected for posting negative comments towards M1 (while on a Singtel campaign) and not explicitly stating or revealing that I was on a campaign with Singtel,” he wrote. But he added that he had not lied, and that he had been “unhappy” with his service provider, M1.

Screen shots of Mr Ong’s posts on his Twitter account criticising M1 were put up by blogger Xiaxue, whose real name is Wendy Cheng, along with what she called “leaked” documents allegedly asking bloggers to complain about the services of M1 and StarHub.

Earlier this year, ST ran a feature about ‘influencers’ (Influencers hold court, but how credible are they?4 Jan 15), defined as people who have a substantial ‘reach’ and following on social media platforms, trend-setters who shape the opinions and behaviour of their fans. One of these web celebrities gave this telling soundbite: ‘With great influence comes great responsibility’. That ‘influencer’ is none other than Xavier Ong himself. Interestingly, the ST refrained from using the glamorous term in the article above, preferring to relegate Ong and his fashionable ilk to the more mundane, Roy Ngerng division of ‘bloggers’. You know, the kind that gets sued more than they’re paid.

Ong’s ‘disguised’ Singtel advertorial is still up as we speak, and it’s painfully obvious that he was in the telco’s payroll from the get-go, using old-timey marketing phrases like ‘It’s just as simple as that!’ and copy -and-pasting the charts and infographics wholesale. You’re not fooling anyone kiddo, and despite your massive ‘following’, it’s likely that people (like myself) only knew of your existence when you got yourself ‘influenced’ by $ingtel’s devious marketing strategy. Not so ‘influential’ now, eh?

You see the same ruse used in Eunice Annabel’s blog. Complain about M1’s reception, give some perky backstory about how you came across Singtel’s FANTASTIC offer, and then sell the shit out of it. Sorry I don’t buy it, but probably because I can’t make it halfway through the pretentious product placement before opening another tab in my browser to watch vastly more entertaining cat videos. Nope, not even if they do naked selfies for the sake of the goddamn Youth Plan.

Poor Starhub. Lifestyle blogger/model/actress/Starhub hater Lydia Izzati was merciless in her shaming of the rival telco, saying ‘Screw You Starhub‘, only to go on to praise the Singtel Youth Plan to the heavens. I couldn’t find the Gushcloud logo anywhere on her blog though, but any site that requires me to scroll down for eternity through the most trivial artifacts of your life story and giving me finger abrasions doesn’t warrant any form of ‘influence’ in my opinion.

As for the masterminds behind this fiasco, tapping ‘influencers’ as part of your smear campaign seems like  a desperate tactic following some abject failures previously, like the mRemit ad with painted-on throbbing man-boobs. The marketing honcho explained that this was an ‘isolated incident’ and the campaign was a ‘niche’ one, ‘targeted at a narrow customer segment’. Let’s see, two pretty faces, both early twenties, with around 10 million site hits between them, a YOUTH plan. You’re not exactly selling frozen yogurt to elderly people with dentures, Singtel.

Singtel got it sorted out eventually, with Gushcloud’s partnership and the staff in charge getting terminated on 19 March 2015 (Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong apologises to M1, Starhub, employee in Gushcloud campaign no longer with Singtel). Maybe the work of some attention-seekers wanting to earn an extra buck doing the dirty work for a telco giant has brought about the eradication of this ‘influenca’ virus once and for all. Incidentally, the telco recently unveiled a new logo and a slogan called ‘make everyday better‘. By paying clueless narcissists to bitch about your competitors I suppose.

As for Gushcloud, or should I say Blushcloud, you could still reinvent yourselves after this embarrassment, not as a ‘social media talent agency ‘ but maybe an underground fetish network for like-minded individuals to socialise via a ‘niche’ genre of ‘watersports’.

This article was not brought to you by Singtel, Starhub, M1 or MyRepublic.

Spornosexuals showing off on Instagram

From ‘The rise of the spornosexual’, 1 March 2015, article by Gurveen Kaur, Sunday Life!

With his six-pack abs, bulging biceps and tanned, smooth skin, Mr Edwin Kon looks every bit the fitness model. The flight attendant, 29, has been snapping topless selfies ever since he began hitting the gym regularly seven years ago. Initially, the snaps served merely as a visual chart for him to track his physical development. Two years ago, however, he began posting them on Instagram.

“I’m proud of the way I look,” he says. “And there is nothing wrong with posting photos of myself in swimming trunks on social media.” Since then, he has amassed close to 37,000 followers with photos of his ripped physique – images that leave little to the imagination.

Nearly all of them are tagged: #spornosexual.

Coined last year by British journalist Mark Simpson (the same man who gave the world “metrosexual” in 1994), the term refers to a more hardcore, body- obsessed version of the noughties’ appearance- and fashion- conscious man.

Think football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, pop star Justin Bieber and local actors Allan Wu and Zheng Geping.

If you’re wondering why there’s ‘porn’ in the term, ‘sporno’ is actually a portmanteau of ‘sport’ and ‘porn’, though I don’t see how that applies to Justin Bieber. Lest we forget, the singer used to look like a floppy muppet. I’m also not sure if gym counts as a sport at all. It’s like calling torture a hobby, or walking on broken glass tap dancing.

Bae Bae Bae ooooh

‘Porn’ is apt, in the sense of how these narcissists flood Instagram with their ripped torsos, or ‘torso-porn’. Like porn, sporno hunks objectify the male anatomy, reducing it to money shots of glistening abs, throbbing waxed pecs and bulbous biceps. The first thing you notice is their He-Man boobs, not their personality or their faces.  If you wear a very uncomfortable T-shirt over your sculpted body however, it sometimes looks like you’re hiding an alien trilobite underneath. Which explains why spornosexuals are often topless because the beast needs to breathe.

While ‘food porn’ gets your digestive juices flowing, ‘sporno’ makes you hate your flabby self and contemplate spending your money on ‘ab sculpting’ to fit in with the ideal of a ‘manly man’. It makes you look at your creepy fat uncle during CNY dinner and ask him: ‘Why can’t you do something about yourself and become more like Zheng Guoping, dammit!’ For some, it stimulates more juices than just salivation.

The idea of masculinity has been in flux ever since the first caveman began dragging his mate by her hair. Greek warriors and immortals like Adonis were fetishised and worshipped, similar to how our spornosexuals idolise the perfect body. Before Instagram, we already had buff, ripped men posing naked on canvas. Note the precision used in creating the shadow over his wondrous butt-crack. #greciosexual

In the 1950’s-60s, we aspired for the ‘Hollywood leading man’ look, the cool cat who didn’t think it was necessary to wear tight fitting shirts. All you needed were dreamy blue eyes, a sexy stare and wind-blown hair. Think classics like James Dean, Paul Newman or Robert Redford. Looking good was supposed to be EFFORTLESS, not spending your time pumping goddamn iron. Your face, that smooth pout, that intensity, did the talking, not your biceps. These men made the girls surrender to their irresistible indifference, hairy nipples or not. #dreamboatsexual

The 70’s had its ‘macho man’, and the Village People even made a song out of it.  These beefcakes were not afraid to show off their armpit hair, or sport porno moustaches. The 70’s man indulged in vices loud and proud, sexualising beer, cigarettes and illicit drugs. The spornosexual on the other hand, is often as hairless as a baby’s bottom, in more places than you can imagine. He champions a ‘healthy lifestyle’, owns more wrist monitors than I’ve had watches in my lifetime, and probably has never heard of disco. #hirsutesexual

Hey Girl

The 80’s was the era of the ‘action hero’, in the spirit of the machismo carried over from the decade before. Heartthrobs like Jean Claude Van Damme, Sly Stallone and Arnie were the real deal, and could smack today’s spornosexuals around with their pinkies while curling 10 kgs with the other hand. Conan the Barbarian FTW. Brawn mattered more than brain, and that was just fine.  They graced B-grade movie posters and the covers of Mills and Boons romance novels. Hair started disappearing from chests and faces and migrated in droves to the scalp. In the early 90’s it was Highlander ‘himbo’ chic. You could be a garbage man in overalls and still exude glorious Fabio levels of manliness. You are Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers running in slow motion. #barbariosexual

Me sword very big

Red Hot

Guys started to soften since. From lusty lumberjacks or stately warriors they became dandy princes on horses and pasty-faced vampires, and what used to be grease on their faces is now replaced by a more expensive form of emollient known as moisturiser. The new man was confident, well groomed, dapper and was ‘in touch’ with his feminine side. In short, they became richer but ‘gayer’. They’re not handy with power drills or axe to chop wood, but know exactly which button to unbutton to look absolutely ravishing. Cue the #metrosexual.

He’s a dish. Best served cold

But it didn’t stop there. The masculine identity hit its pinnacle with the UBERSEXUAL. George Clooney became the man of the decade. The ‘Sexiest men alive’ as voted by People Magazine became less rugged and grimy over time, from Mel Gibson and Nick Nolte (?!) to more recent winners like Adam Levine and Ryan Gosling who fit the ‘uber’ bill. The latest winner, however, is grog-guzzling Thor himself Chris Hemsworth, who embodies more of the throwback Conan the Barbarian archetype than the fitspo-addicted spornosexuals of today, guys who swing a mighty hammer like a woman twirling a hula hoop. There is hope.

An interesting trend is the evolution of James Bond, who has traditionally been a sleek, not too muscular ladykiller who epitomised the definition of ‘dashing’. Sean Connery was the classic ladies’ man, before he morphed into the more girly Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Today’s 007 comes in the unlikely hunky -doriness of Daniel Craig. Craig is roast beef to Brosnan’s turkey bacon. Or look at Superman. Then and now. All tight and buff but still afraid of Kryptonite. #supersexual

It’s a bicep, it’s a plane.

The rise of celebrity chefs led the way for the invasion of the GASTROSEXUALS. Men who like to imagine themselves conquering Hell’s Kitchen, who know exactly what’s the best spatula or egg timer to use when baking a souffle. Never have we seen the Y-chromosome subject to so much sexual selection over time. It’s more straightforward for the ‘ideal’ woman. They become fatter or skinnier, their hair and skirts get longer or shorter. One moment our girl-crush is Kate Moss, the next it’s Kim Kadashian. Sexy women are just ‘sexual’, without us having to compartmentalise them by their penchant for facial products or whether they post pole-dancing videos on Facebook.

Maybe it’s time to look beyond the physique and glamour and reflect on what society (by society I mean women) finds alluring in a man again. Wit, intelligence, a sparkle in the eye? A man who impresses not with his pectorals but his poetic sense of humour and charm, with an endearing beer-belly body type that suggests mirth and a devil-may-care attitude. Think anti-sporno characters like Jonah Hill, or Ricky Gervais. Comedians basically, with as much brain as belly, not so much brawn. #flabbosexuals

But on a serious note, maybe we need to see if such spornosexualising is even healthy to begin with. You may be fit as a fiddle, but fall prey to a gym addiction and obsess over your body-image. You may collapse into a nervous wreck every time someone makes a passing remark of your weight, or the size of your chest, or fall into depression if someone else got more ‘Likes’ than you did on Instagram. You decide to hit the gym past midnight because you feel guilty about having half a pineapple tart. You spend an hour touching up your pic just to get the right hue on your six-pack and aureolae before making it your icon on Whatsapp. People who nod off on your shoulder on the MRT get concussions because you’re built like a German tank.

That’s no longer ‘pride’ anymore, dude.  It’s body dysmorphic disorder.

Xiaxue taking out Protection Order against SMRT Ltd (Feedback)

From ‘Xiaxue takes out Protection Order against SMRT Ltd (Feedback)’, 6 Feb 2015, article in CNA

Controversial blogger Wendy Cheng, better known as Xiaxue, has taken out a Protection Order against satirical group, SMRT Ltd (Feedback) for repeated harassment.  The Protection Order, which comes under the Protection from Harassment Act enacted in November last year, is meant to prevent the satirical group from publishing or continuing to publish offensive comments about Ms Cheng and her family.

Making the announcement in a blog post today (Feb 6), Ms Cheng, 30, claimed that she has been harassed by the anonymous entity since 2012, ranging from snide comments on her looks and height to disparaging her character. Her family has not been spared from harassment as well, she wrote.

Speaking to TODAY, she said that the circulation of her home address online was among the reasons leading to her decision to take out the Protection Order. It was published by a netizen on the SMRT Ltd (Feedback)’s Facebook page.

…Should they flout the court order and persist in making insulting or abusive comments against Ms Cheng and her family, they could be fined up to S$5,000, jailed up to six months, or both.

There is one man out there who would be following this saga keenly, a man who scams Vietnamese tourists for a living and was forced to close shop because of online harassment. In fact, Xiaxue may be ‘influencing’ him to do the same to the self-proclaimed vigilante group as we speak. Jover Chew, time to unleash your own Protection Order bro. It costs about $300-500 to lodge a magistrate’s complaint, which is the amount you earn from a crappy second-hand iPhone sale. I don’t think they accept payment in bags of coins, though.

It wasn’t long after the legislation against cyberbullying was enacted last year before a Frenchman summoned a PO against a certain Dr Param, who uploaded a Youtube video with what I’d assume to be offensive and scathing captions about the foreigner after a spat in a petrol kiosk. Param was ordered to remove the captions, the contents of which remain a mystery. There was a time when PPOs or personal protection orders were filed against drunk, abusive wife-beating husbands. Today, if you have the money and the time, you could immunise yourself against disparaging insults and death threats by issuing orders against trolls who don’t physically camp outside your home stalking your ass, but talk trash about you behind a screen. The duress you suffer at the hands of these jerks may not even be a fraction of the trauma that Xiaxue professes to have gone through, and you can still get your PO filed.

It’s like defamation suit ‘lite’, for ordinary people who don’t expect to be awarded $29,000 for being flamed online.  In the no-holds-barred universe of social media, the intention of POs against online hooliganism is to make the Internet a place for shiny, happy people holding virtual hands, though it would certainly also make the web much less, well, FUN. There are ways around the viciousness without going to the courts. You could choose to block comments or followers, delete all your social media accounts, change your email and start your online life on a fresh slate, like how an abused wife would change the locks of her house to prevent a monster husband from barging in demanding for sex, money, or both. Seeking protection also doesn’t stop people from bitching about you openly in public, or sticking pins in a voodoo doll designed in your image. No legal summons in the world can do anything about the centuries-old force of human nature that is gossip.

Most people who aren’t celebrity bloggers, or rather INFLUENCERS,  may choose to simply ignore the bashing as long as nobody’s lurking outside their doorstep and their address and contacts remain secure. After all, haters gonna hate hate hate hate.  Alas, much of our gratification from social media is derived from people making fun of other people, and if today the victims of our collective Schadenfreude have at their disposal a legal tool to shut people up, well, there goes the entertainment. It’s the modern equivalent of pitting a gladiator with a sword vs another with a balloon sabre. No argument, no one-upmanship, no fight to the death, just one person using the code of law against the other over a reputation-slaying insult. That’s it. You can’t defame politicians without going bankrupt and now you have to think twice before telling Steven Lim that you’d rather stuff a used dildo in your ear than hear him sing.

Xiaxue is no angel by her own admission. Some years back she launched her own vendetta campaign against people who dissed her on Facebook, some who probably deserved it, but were deprived of the opportunity to file POs against the Tyre Queen herself. Mean blog posts aside, her Twitter feed is a candid resource of violent, vulgar insults against her critics, blog rivals and innocent human beings who happen to be brought here to take up jobs that Singaporeans spit upon. Even her neighbours’ babies are not spared.

To those who have been hurt or shamed by her before, or had their families unwittingly implicated over a ‘geylang chicken’ remark, SMRT Ltd’s antics are just a sweet case of ‘what goes around comes around’. After all, legal proceedings aside, Xiaxue has a loyal army of fans (at least 40,000 daily readers) ready to defend her honour. A good time to be a lawyer, nonetheless, now being open season for ‘hater’ hunting. Tyre Queen 1, SMRT Ltd Feedback 0.

A-star scholar biting the hand that feeds her

From ‘Drop ungrateful scholarship holders’, 28 Nov 2014, ST Forum

(Estella Young): WHILE funding for the local arts scene is always welcome, it is disappointing to see Dr Eng Kai Er use her one-woman arts grant as a thinly veiled attack on her scholarship agency (“A*Star scientist starts arts grant in protest against six-year bond”; Tuesday). Depicting herself as the hapless victim of a scholarship bond and describing her scientific research as “narcissistic, masturbatory work” that she is not interested in show a shocking lack of appreciation for the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on her doctoral studies, not to mention the academic and professional opportunities afforded to her.

It would have been far more honourable for Dr Eng to resign her scholarship once she had resolved not to pursue a scientific career. Remaining employed in the field while publicly sniping at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and the scholarship system is simply biting the hand that fed her.

Eighteen is not too young an age to make a commitment for the next decade of one’s life. A six-year bond is hardly indentured slavery: The savvy scholarship holder who dislikes his job would use the opportunity to hone his professional skills and position himself for his post-bond career change.

Since Dr Eng is unlikely to remain in the scientific field beyond her bond, A*Star might be better off terminating her bond immediately and channelling the estimated $700,000 in liquidated damages to a more deserving party.

While Dr Eng was still studying at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, she and a fellow student paraded around Holland Village in the nude for kicks, probably at the peak of her artistic blossoming then.  A-star decided to let her off with a warning letter. Eng, other than an being an aspiring patron for the arts scene here with her ‘No Star Arts Grant‘ project, is no slouch in areas outside of the Infection expertise that she was groomed for. The Hwa Chong alumni was a national competitive ice-skater, MENSA member and more recently a dancer-director-choreographer for a play titled Fish. She also dances on the MRT in her free time. Not sure if anyone has called her side projects ‘narcissistic’ or ‘masturbatory'; her one-woman arts grant certainly RUBBED some folks the wrong way.

Are you A-star scientist, or Are you Dancer?

If Eng is ‘biting the hand’ that feeds her, then bond-buster Chen Jiahao, aka Acid Flask, must have chomped off an entire arm for accusing A-star of bribery and corruption in 2007.  A-star threatened with defamation, and Chen shut down his blog. Ironically, Eng published a paper that deals with a cellular process known as ‘autophagy’, or a ‘constitutive, dynamic, bulk degradation process’. The word in its original Greek means ‘self-eating’.

The notion that students should already know what they want in life by EIGHTEEN is subjective at best. I didn’t then, and to be perfectly honest, I’m still not sure up till now. Which is why I’m writing a blog instead of paying people to do arty-farty shit. We’re not worker bees cemented to fulfil an ordained purpose till we die, and according to Cherian George, at this age we’re not trusted to vote or watch an R21 movie, yet are supposed to be ready to enter a contract binding us till we’re 30 years old (Bond-busters:Who’s to blame?22 Aug 1997, ST). Things change, people change. You could be working Semliki Forest viruses one day and decide you want to become Natalie Portman’s Black Swan the next.

Most scholars would swallow the bond despite losing interest in their jobs, driven by emotional indebtedness and fear of stepping out of line, but a rare few will react in the most extreme way possible. SAF doctor Allan Ooi reportedly killed himself in Melbourne over his unhappiness with his bond. A scholarship also doesn’t necessarily guarantee promotion success in the real world, with some switching to private after their pride was burnt by high-achieving non-scholars. For those who refuse to soldier on or pursue their other passions whilst giving their benefactor the middle finger like Eng has, breaking the damn thing appears to be the only other option.

In fact, breaking a bond may be the best thing that ever happened for some Singaporeans, like ex PSC scholar Brandon Wade for example, now US-based and millionaire founder of a ‘sugar daddy’ dating website. Hector Yee, doomed to slog at the National Computer Board, broke free and got himself a job at Google. A-star chairman Philip Yeo called his act of defiance ‘bullshit’, this coming from a man who once said he wants ‘hungry leaders, not boring drones‘. ‘National Computer Board’, incidentally, is the kind of boring, ‘droney’ name that summons retro images of clunky, grey computer monitors and floppy disks. The only time you hear someone actually say ‘computer’ is in an 80s sci-fi movie where you’re asking some artificial intelligence behind a screen to summon data for you. Like ‘Computer, set coordinates for Lamda Galaxy’, or ‘Computer, find this rogue scholar and terminate her contract now’.

While originally intended as a mechanism to harvest talents with the ‘moral obligation’ to contribute to nation-building,  the ‘Programme’ has been deemed by some as an ‘instrument for converting free Singaporeans to indentured serfs‘. In a world where we routinely encourage our local brains to venture overseas, ‘dream big’ and hone their skills, the expectation that scholars should return home to serve the glorious motherland after their stint and contribute locally in a stifled work environment seems outdated, even naive.

A ‘bond breaker’ no longer has that stigma of ‘brash ingrate’ tied to it anymore, when ‘staying hungry’ and ‘breaking the rules’ has become the hip work ethic these days. Even if they did stay on to serve obediently as ‘promised’, there’s no guarantee that may even be model workers. Some government drones fall prey to sex corruption, others get caught for child porn and underage sex. Nobody accuses them of being ungrateful brats or depriving others of the chance to succeed, though we the taxpayers pay for their education, training AND their jailtime.

Eng has already been let off the hook once for going full frontal and the dancer-artist seems prepared to bear the consequences after some serious bitching about how her day job sucks ass. If all else fails, a rewarding career of MRT pole-dancing beckons.

SMRT Ltd (Feedback) Paypal account suspended

From ‘Sim Lim Saga: Online vigilante group says Paypal account suspended’, 10 Nov 2014, article in asiaone.com

Online vigilante group SMRT (Feedback) has said its Paypal account has been suspended due to “suspicious activity”. According to a statement on its Facebook post on Saturday: “So Paypal has suspended the account due to ‘suspicious activity’ which is usually associated with criminal gangs or terrorist activities.

“Come to think of it, actually that’s true. We are terrorists. Sim Lim terrorist – terrorizing the hearts of errant retailers floorwide.”

Second Minister of Home Affairs S Iswaran urged ‘restraint’ whenever netizens try to be ‘judge, jury and executioner’ in dispensing online justice, and instead ‘let DUE PROCESS take its course’. This due process involves CASE ‘INVITING’ the rogue store to sign a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA), this after 18 complaints over the course of 10 months have been lodged against Jover Chew and gang. Due process, sir, is too NICE to be even effective. SMRT Feedback believes that a ‘necessary evil precedes a greater good’, even if that evil deed means forcing the enemy to flee the country, like Anton Casey did. In Jover’s case, he got pranked with 3 large Pizza Hut pizzas delivered to his home.  ONLY THREE?

‘Vigilantism’ didn’t always have a ‘Gotham’ feel about it. In the 60’s, the government set up what was known as the ‘Vigilante Corps‘, a group of dedicated individuals who volunteered their services in case of civil emergencies and ‘nation-building’. They acted within the law and were practically the equivalent of today’s SAF Volunteer Corp. They didn’t have a ‘death wish’ like the original 70’s street vigilante Charles Bronson had, and were assigned to non-vigilante tasks like donating blood or helping out at old folks’ homes. Like Boy Scouts, practically.

PM Lee has already warned against this ‘lynch mob mentality’, yet there’s something romantic and gratifying about DIY justice, whether you call the crusaders a ‘one-man army’, keyboard warriors, digital bandits or witch-hunters. We all root for the masked renegade who gives plodding law enforcement the finger and takes matters into his hands.  Without the spirit of vigilantism, we wouldn’t have random commuters apprehending molesters on the train, nor would give give out medals of courage to people who chase down grandma-robbers. If we all waited for ‘due process’, we’d yell ‘Mata Mata’ all day long when a crime against humanity is committed, and by the time the police come knocking, snatch thieves and potential rapists would have long escaped the clutches of justice. If the police question you on your inaction, you can retort that you were simply taking Minister S Iswaran’s advice, allowing the all-powerful ‘due process’ to make things right. That is, when the cows come home.

SMRT’s takedown of Jover Chew is a digital extension of such acts.  And then some, bordering on harassment, even ‘cyber-bullying’ (leaked gross topless pictures of Jover sprawling on his bed). SGAG, another ‘satirical’ site, followed up with a ‘You Don’t Chibai‘ shirt personally delivered to Mobile Air. In PM Lee’s cowboy town, SMRT Feedback is the mysterious gunslinging stranger who walks into the salon and starts taking out the trash one by one, broken bottles and all. Steven Seagal would approve. 3 years active, the very first post in 2011 by the collective had nothing ‘vigilantic’ about it at all. In fact, it sounded dead serious.

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The group then took on a bigger challenge, getting into an argument with veteran actor Tay Ping Hui after calling him a cheapskate. You know you’re ready for big time trolling if you can cross swords with Tay Ping Hui. Today, SMRT is no longer just mocking train breakdowns or fighting arrogant celebrities. They’ve become – and there’s no cheesier way to put this- a force to be reckoned with.

But it’s not just conniving bastards or racists who face the wrath of online vigilantism. We should be especially careful of those who blame and shame lesser criminals, like people who can’t PARK, for example. If you’re a married man checking out the Geylang night scene, be wary for the female vigilantes from ‘Geylang Checker’.  One vigilante baits horny men online by posing as a 14 year old girl. His mission: Rid the Internet of  perverts and paedophiles. You could go vigilante on people who don’t return trays at hawker centres, joggers who run with their pets on a leash, or the worst of the lot, people who drink shark’s fin soup!

There is one very well known portal that probably kickstarted this whole ‘online vigilantism’ spree in the first place, a website dedicated to ‘citizen journalism’ that catches anti-social behaviour in the act, exposing and shaming ordinary Singaporeans in an act of trivial folly. Yes, that’s none other than STOMP, and here is the owner of the site SPH reporting via the ST about online vigilantism ‘going too far’ in the Sim Lim Saga. Jover’s wife has already made a police report about SMRT (Feedback)’s actions. She should really have hired an anti-vigilante vigilante to do the job instead.

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