The Middle Ground can’t go on anymore

From ‘The Middle Ground to wind down, publisher says ‘can’t go on anymore’, 28 Oct 2017, article in CNA.

Local sociopolitical website The Middle Ground announced on Saturday (Oct 28) that it was winding down in a note by its publisher, Daniel Yap.

“I want to let you know today that we’ve decided to start the process of winding down our publication,” said Mr Yap. “It’s a decision that the TMG team has been dreading for some time, and we wanted to let you know as soon as possible.

…The Middle Ground was launched in June 2015 with Mr Yap and editor Bertha Henson at the helm.

On its Facebook page, The Middle Ground describes itself as a “space for everyone in the middle, somewhere in between the madness at both extremes”.

It added: “It is a place where two sides can meet and be informed about opposing schools of thought. It is a place for moderate speech and agreeable disagreement.”

Video killed the Radio Star, MDA’s registration requirements killed TMG’s previous incarnation, the Breakfast Network (founded by TMG editor Bertha Henson), and what we refer to as news and op-eds these days (on Facebook feed, mainly) is killing blogs and ‘socio-political’ websites.

Regulatory burden and fear of censorship (or self-censorship) are not all to blame. Online journalism, especially of the serious political commentary kind, is no longer a sustainable business model. In the age of memes and personally curated newsfeeds, readers’ attention spans have reduced to that of a gnat’s. We choose to read only what aligns with our worldview, be it pro-PAP or anti-establishment. The number of fence-sitters out there who want to ‘discuss issues and agree to disagree’ are probably less than those willing to pay money to see Steven Lim fight in a ring.

If you’re an intelligent person with an opinion to make, you no longer submit your work as a contribution to credible online media. You simply publish your essay on Facebook. It’s faster, it’s free, and you can go viral before you can make sense of whatever form the MDA wants you to fill to register your site. You just have to be careful not to do a Li Shengwu and get your arse beat by the AGC. Whether people bother to plough through more than 2 paragraphs of your post is another matter.

Meanwhile, registered sites like The Independent resort to sensationalism and shit-stirring reporting to stay afloat. Mothership becomes more ‘Buzzfeedy’ with its foray in the memeverse and quizzes like ‘Which kind of Singaporean Social Media User Are You’. The Online Citizen has a category called ‘Animals’ and has a paid banner for ‘Gold-D’ Cat food. Then we have the offspring of the Father of Fake News that is The Real Singapore, the StatesTimes Review, stuff that people share on their feeds whenever they were late for a job interview because the fucking train broke down. The socio-political site that we used to know is dead. It gets flickers of traffic every 4 years during the elections, but for most of its existence it feeds off people who don’t know shit about society, or politics for that matter.

If you’re looking for a serious read without the flashy ads and millennial-pandering listicles about who serves the best bubble tea in Singapore, then you’d have to head to the library to borrow an actual book.

And who in their right mind would do that?

 

 

 

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Li Shengwu surprised that Government is so petty

From ‘Li Shengwu surprised that Facebook post on Singapore court system enough to trigger AGC response’, 17 July 2017, article in ST

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said on Monday (July 17) it is looking into a recent Facebook post put up by Mr Li Shengwu, the son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In a private post, which was uploaded on Saturday, Mr Li, 32, shared a Wall Street Journal article on the recent Oxley Road dispute, titled “Singapore, a model of orderly rule, is jolted by a bitter family feud”.

He also commented on Singapore’s court system.

The AGC said in a brief statement on Monday morning that it is aware of Mr Li’s post and is looking into the matter.

In a Facebook post on Monday afternoon responding to AGC’s statement, Mr Li said he was “somewhat surprised” that his last post – which was shared on “friends only” privacy settings – was enough to trigger a response.

He added: “I’m surprised that the Singapore government is so petty. Would they also like to trawl my private Facebook feed for seditious vacation photos?”

In the offending post, Li Shengwu, a Harvard academic, shared his thoughts on media censorship, as a side note to a linked article summarising he Oxley ‘political crisis’.

Keep in mind, of course, that the Singapore Government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report.

We all also keep in mind, of course, that Shengwu is PM Lee’s nephew, and PM Lee has declared in public that he would not take legal action against another member of the Lee family as it would besmirch LKY’s name. But that wouldn’t stop the AGC from calling this being in ‘contempt of court’.

Or would it?

This could well be a post-Oxley Catch-22. AGC has taken to task people like cartoonist Leslie Chew and rogue political activist Han Hui Hui.  We should expect them to demand that the offender issue a statement of apology, or least remove the post from the face of the earth. But this is – dun-dun-dunnn – PM Lee’s own flesh and blood.

Incidentally, one possible reason why international media tends to be cautious about commentaries on Singapore’s elite is they may get ‘sued until their pants drop’. Which is what both Shengwu’s uncle and – guess who – late grandfather LKY did when they were accused of running a dynasty by the Herald Tribune. Now that alleged dynasty has been dramatically torn apart.

Shengwu is a grown man and doesn’t need daddy to tell him what not to post on Facebook, even if it’s in ‘private’ setting. He’s also been described as ‘Oxford’s finest debater‘, having won Best Speaker at a World Debating Championship. It’s interesting to see how being a world-renown master debater can get you out of a tangle with the all-powerful AGC. I wonder how ‘seditious’ those vacation photos could be, though. Did he pose with kangaroos in Oz with ‘sensitive captions’?

Maybe Dad and Aunt Lee Wei Ling are drafting their Facebook notes as we speak. It’s Game of Thrones week, but save some popcorn for this one.

UPDATE: Lee Wei Ling just described this ‘petty’ incident as a case of ‘Big Brother’ syndrome and suggested that there’s a FB police monitoring the Lee siblings’ posts, even infiltrating privacy settings. It’s more likely attributed to the very nature of social media itself, rather than a Government hack charming his way into Shengwu’s circle of friends.

No doubt her big brother is watching this intently. Like a pesky cockroach that refuses to die.

 

 

 

Public servants using Workplace by Facebook

From ‘All public servants in Singapore to use Workplace by Facebook by 2017’, 10 Nov 16, article by Irene Tham, ST

All public servants in Singapore will be using Workplace by Facebook to communicate with one another on their mobile phones and tablets, marking yet another first for Singapore among governments in the world.

Workplace by Facebook, a professional edition of the popular Facebook social networking tool, has been rolled out to 15 public agencies. It is in use by more than 5,300 public officers.

The plan is to get all 143,000 public servants from all agencies on board by March next year (2017), said Mr Peter Ong, head of the Public Service Division. The decision was made taking into consideration factors such as security, cost and ease of use.

…The use of Workplace by Facebook follows the Government’s move to delink public servants’ computers from Web surfing, first reported in June, to prevent leaks from work e-mail and shared documents amid heightened security threats.

Based on pricing info on Facebook’s website, costs for the service for all 143,000 public servants is estimated at around $154,000 per month.

If this was meant to be the deal sweetener in exchange for Internet separation (incidentally, also another First in the World), then why does it leave such a sour taste in the mouth? For such a new platform, this move to expose officers’ internal worksharing and personal data like a wretched slut to Facebook, an organisation not exactly known for keeping user data confidential, is horrifyingly premature, especially  coming from the same folks who researched long and hard before pulling the plug on the Internet for work computers.  Yes, Facebook will save us all from the bogeyman that is Internet Separation, an era of darkness that we dread more than 4 years of Trump Presidency.

As it is with the current Internet access, not many bother to ‘collaborate’ online through the Cube portal. With $154K out of the pocket every month, what makes the civil service think that officers would play around with Workplace when they’ll be busy struggling with dual devices once Internet separation sets in? If I need 2 minutes to send a link from a second device to my own work email, where do I find the time to log in Workplace and ‘Like’ that highly informative article that my boss just shared on his/her timeline? And I have to do this on MY phone? In between Whatsapp group chats and Youtube? Yikes.

In 1 year, the same amount of money that we willingly ejaculate all over Mark Zuckerberg’s Face (book) could have been used to beef up our cybersecurity while keeping the Internet as we know it intact. If not, at least it could send people off to an island villa work retreat – food and transport included. Public officers are barely recovering from a prickly slap in the face. This is the Government pouring calamine lotion on a fistful of dollar bills and rubbing the wad all over the wound.

 

Grassroots leaders skipping immigration queue

From ‘Png Eng Huat stirring hate and anger with Facebook post: Tan Chuan-Jin’, 19 July 2016, article in CNA

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan Jin said on Tuesday (Jul 19) that Hougang Member of Parliament Png Eng Huat was “stirring hate and anger” in a Facebook post about how Mr Tan and his entourage were given expedited clearance at the immigration checkpoint at Tuas.

On Sunday, Mr Tan and a group of residents and volunteers returning from a durian trip to Johor Bahru were able to skip the immigration queue. In a Facebook post on Monday, Mr Png wrote that he too, had been at the checkpoint with his residents after a trip to Desaru, and that they were among other travellers at who had had “to wait patiently for hours for their turn”. Mr Png added that one of his residents was 89 years old and another had been injured during the tour.

The opposition Workers’ Party MP wrote: “If these two elderly residents can wait in queue patiently for their turn, so can all my volunteers and grassroots members.”

In response, Mr Tan wrote on Facebook on Tuesday: “It was not about the old folks,” he wrote. “It was aimed at stirring hate and anger, not only to be directed at me, which I can understand politically, but also at my residents and volunteers (who organised as well as helped guide each bus), as well as our officers who secure our borders. It’s unfortunate that (Mr Png) and his colleagues chose to politicise the issue.”

Mr Tan stated that he had been on an official visit to the Malaysian Deputy Home Affairs Minister’s Hari Raya open house but that he travelled by bus so that he could be with his residents and volunteers during the trip. He added that on their return journey, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) facilitated the clearance for him and his security officers who were carrying their firearms, as well as the residents and volunteers on his bus.

In a statement earlier on Tuesday, the ICA clarified that it is normal practice for ministers on both sides of the Causeway, as well as members of the Malaysian royalty, to be given expedited clearance at the land checkpoints.

It’s also ‘normal practice’ for grassroots folks to get free tickets for a BBQ among other perks, such as Primary 1 registration. Cronies and syncopants of important people jumping queues is nothing new at all. If a minister wanted to bring a personal entourage to an exclusive Pokemon Go launch and they get priority booking, then that’s just how it is with politician groupies the world over.

To call Png Eng Huat’s complaint as ‘stirring hate and anger’ is probably stretching it though. The world is facing violence on an unprecedented scale. Policemen in the US are getting man-hunted, lone wolf ISIS obsessives are attacking random people on public transport, racist Brexit supporters are taunting immigrants and Turkey just suffered from a bloody coup attempt. There is ‘hate and anger’ being stirred in all the shit that is happening globally where lives are at stake, but hardly in this case. Not out of some Opposition MP nitpicking on FB over a Minister and his minions cutting queue at Woodlands checkpoint after a durian trip.

Not all Ministers exercise their queue-jumping privilege though. Not when it comes to Redhill chicken wings.  Apparently our PM realises that most Singaporeans wouldn’t mind cabinet VIPs passing immigration before them, but deprive a hungry citizen of his chicken wing and you’re asking for trouble.

But what really bugs me about this thorny debacle is not about preferential treatment or whether Ah Png is making a big deal over the incident. It’s rather NOBODY told me that you could actually sign up for durian trips with your MP! If you could get priority clearance at ICA, imagine the quality of durian you would get during the excursion!

You can’t catch Pokemon in ‘f**king shitty’ Singapore

From ‘Australian expat fired after calling Singapore a shit country for not having Pokemon Go’, 11 July 2016, article in Today

An Australian expat working for property site 99.co has been fired from his job after he called Singapore a “f****** s*** country” on Facebook.

The man, Mr Sonny Truyen, was apparently upset that the game Pokemon GO was not yet available here.

“You can’t f****** catch Pokemon in this piece of f****** s*** country,” he wrote on Facebook.

His comments were screencapped by users of the Hardwarezone forum, who later uncovered that Mr Truyen had been working for 99.co.

Within a day, 99.co’s Chief Executive Darius Cheung published a note on his website and on Hardwarezone that Mr Truyen’s contract had been terminated.

Pokemon GO is sweeping the globe faster than Flappy Bird during its time. Unlike the latter, the ‘augmented reality’ game forces players to actually venture out into the great outdoors to catch virtual Pokemon. It’s like Foursquare meets Tamagotchi. Needless to say it’ll be a massive hit among Singaporean kids. Parents, be afraid. Be very afraid. Your children are going to start hallucinating Pokemon everywhere they go when they’re not engrossed in their phones. Not only would they ‘rage’ like the dick that Sonny Truyen is when they can’t ‘catch them all’, but by blurring the lines between fantasy and reality Pokemon GO will turn gamers into digital zombies and put their lives at risk when they start straying onto busy roads or falling into drains chasing after illusory Pokemon.

If you’re an Ashley Madison addict who thrives off meeting exotic Asian cheating wives, you’re going to be cursing about how fucking shit this country is too. Nothing good comes out of insulting Singapore. We don’t have a Thai king yet the Internet vigilante will unleash its brand of lese majeste when our sovereignty is undermined. Anton Casey was fired and ejected all the way to Perth for complaining about the stench of the poor unwashed masses on the MRT. 

Truyen has since apologised, and though what he ranted about was pretty thoughtless and juvenile, it wasn’t discriminatory or racist, nor was he inciting violence like Bryan ‘open fire’ Lim. A foreigner has every right to think that Singapore sucks balls, and if Sonny genuinely thinks Singapore is shit then so be it. Why waste our time trying to defend it? I reserve my opinions about how awful some of our neighbouring cities can be. If I get spotted walking around in some ghetto pinching my nose with a look of anguish on my face, no one is going to call for my termination. Yet if I verbalise my hate on Facebook that so-and-so place smells worse than llama poop, the shit will surely hit the fan.

Sonny’s just an employee of a company with a spammy name (99.co) that sounds like an knockoff online casino site. A Taiwanese politician once referred to us as – literally – a ‘pi-sai’ (nose shit). Where was the Internet patriot brigade then?

NS Man wants permission to open fire

From ‘Police reports made  on man’s ‘open fire’ comment in response to FB post on Pink Dot’, 13 June 2016, article by Koh Xing Hui, ST

A man’s Facebook comment that he would like to”open fire“, made in response to a post on foreign sponsorship of a recent gay rally in Singapore, has caught the attention of the community on Monday (June 13).

Police reports have been made regarding the comment by a Bryan Lim that read: “I am a Singaporean citizen. I am a NSman. I am a father. And I swore to protect my nation.

Give me the permission to open fire. I would like to see these £@€$^*s die for their causes.”

The comment was made on a post on the We Are Against Pink Dot Facebook page. The post was on foreign sponsorship of the annual lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rally Pink Dot, held at the Hong Lim Park on June 4.

It is not clear who Mr Lim is targeting – the LGBT community or those who support the gay cause.

But in the light of the gay club shooting in Orlando in the United States on Sunday, which left 50 dead and 53 others injured, members of the LGBT community here are spooked and have lodged police reports.

Despite Bryan’s subsequent claims that his ‘threats’ were ‘taken out of context’ and that he was referring to Bloomberg and not the LGBT community, what makes his FB post problematic is how it is framed as a defence of the nation in an imaginary war, whether the enemy are the foreign devils imposing their ‘Western values’ on us, or those advocating a LGBT ‘lifestyle’.

The army does in fact, train us to ‘open fire’, and that really is what NSmen are supposed to do when the sovereignty of the nation is at stake. It’s just unfortunate that Bryan’s lamentable remark came in the light of the deadly Orlando hate-crime shooting, which was spookily attributed to the alleged killer flying into a rage after seeing two men kissing in public. No wonder MDA decided to cut the Les Miserables gay kiss scene. We don’t want to have anti-gay psychotics barging into the Esplanade theatre slashing random people with parangs (Thank goodness for our strict assault rifle laws!). Maybe it was all for our own safety.

Arrests have been made against tough guys acting our their violent fantasies on Facebook. This one was more specific, in reference to the Benjamin Lim suicide case:

Please reveal the identity of the 5 plain clothes officers and we go handle them ourselves. Kill them.

As if hunting down police officers wasn’t enough, some vow to set Ministers and the PAP on fire, like this guy:

It is time to burn Vivian Balakrishnan and the PAP! Rally together and vote them out!

As far as I know, no one has actually been charged and imprisoned for expressing murderous intent through social media (though one 16 year old boy has been jailed for far lesser crimes), and it’s unlikely that Bryan Lim, father, NSman, WAAPD (We are against Pink Dot) fan, will be punished under the law for inciting violence. But this is just one man speaking for himself. The analogy of war between all things good and pure and the LGBT ‘movement’ was started in the first place by men of substantial influence who are supposed to lead by example, in particular Christian pastors.

In 2013, pastor Yang Tuck Loong of the Cornerstone Community church was reported to the Police for his call to arms, urging his flock to prepare for war and be ‘battle ready’ against the ‘powers of darkness‘. God knows what a preacher with a shotgun would do given the circumstances. There is already a villain on the pro-family side of this war, and the surname of this man that the more passionate members of Team LGBT love to hate rhymes with ‘Wrong’.

It is because of such powerful war metaphors, delivered in blatant contrast to Christian teachings of love and compassion, that those on either side of the sexuality divide form factions, be it Pink Dot, WAAPD or the Wear White campaign. It’s like those petty House wars in Game of Thrones, when the real threat of the Undead is knocking right outside our defenses. Ignorance, a mob mentality and a supervillian-magician in the form of a megachurch pastor make a potent, explosive mix, and we’re going nowhere fast in this gay debate if people on both camps keep lobbing firebombs at each other. For every Bryan Lim homophobe threatening to shoot innocent people, there’s someone in support of the LGBT cause flaming Bryan in return, even bringing his children into it (What if your child turns out gay etc). You guys should just organise arm wrestling matches among yourselves as an outlet for your anger before ejaculating all this ridiculous machismo over Facebook.

So much hate, and to what end? Whether it’s Bloom-goddamn-berg or Pink Dot supporters, wishing violent death upon people through public announcements, whatever your religious inclinations, is a step backward in our move towards a compassionate, forgiving society. It’s ironic that Bryan Lim references little ‘Buddha’ and ‘Jesus’ in one of his previous posts because surely they wouldn’t approve of bigotry or resolving problems with guns. You know nothing about religion, Bryan Lim. A true patriot would never harbour ill feelings toward his fellow Singaporeans, whatever their sexual orientation.

As an employer I would frown upon such behaviour calling for violence just because something contravenes my principles.  Such anger should be channeled to more productive ends rather than ‘opening fire’ and instead shooting yourself in the foot. I hope Bryan Lim learns his lesson, becomes a kinder father and NSMan and the only instance when he should ever ‘open fire’ is at a backyward BBQ where all his LGBT friends are invited. Or if he’s really serious about protecting the nation from collapsing into a moral war he could do everyone a favour and quit Facebook altogether.

Parents setting up social media accounts for babies

From ‘Never too young for social media’, 1 May 2016, article by Venessa Lee, Sunday Times

One-year-old Kallista Choo has several social media accounts, including Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. When she is old enough to access those accounts herself, she will see herself growing up via the photographs her parents have uploaded over the years.

They set up an Instagram account for her when she was two months old, and then a Facebook page and Tumblr blog.

…On Instagram, Kallista has more than 1,300 followers. Mr Choo says: “We wanted to give her a voice before she could even talk.”

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Kallista Choo, Instagram talking baby, social media darling, is an influencer extraordinaire in the making. While other parents set up bank accounts, enrol their toddlers into modelling classes, or sign them up for cutest baby competitions, our ‘millennial’ parents have created the modern equivalent of the ‘Truman Show’ around their oblivious children.

We know how that movie ended. The protagonist, sick of having his life documented to micro-detail and shown off to the world by a father figure-dictator named Christof, walks out of his manufactured stage, saying ‘Kthxbye’ to surrogate Daddy and his tens of thousands of followers. Today, Harry Truman lives on among our children thanks to their over-enthusiastic, controlling Christofs.

In the neglected recesses of my old house my parents keep an endearing nude pic of me as a baby, among an embarrassment of forgotten memories like me dolled up for a kindergarten play. It’s the kind of stuff you would dig up only once in a while and laugh at the sheer stupidity of it. And that’s all it’s meant to be, as a private family joke, away from prying eyes of kaypoh relatives and pedophiles. Mentioned once or twice and then we move on. If it’s bad enough you will remember it FOREVER. You don’t need Facebook to send you random throwbacks. If they had put me on Instagram, or worse, Tumblr (renown for its porn blogs), with the caption ‘I’M TOO SEXY FOR MY DIAPERS’, for over 1000 buggers to scoff at, my teenage years would have gone beyond pustulant acne, exam stress and thoughts of cutting. I could be picked on at school because the first friends I have on Facebook are my damn parents.

Social media is a rose-tinted filter. You don’t see the likes of Kallista throwing a fit, bawling and giving them hell in the middle of the night. Her parents have presented her to the world as a cute-as-a-button bundle of joy. When the time comes for Mom and Dad to hand over the accounts to their teenage kid, she would have been drilled into believing that ‘I post, therefore I am’. She risks being overdependent on Likes, Facebook Reactions, the opinion of others, affected by ‘Unfollows’, and growing up constantly seeking mass approval, an ingratiating mess. On the flipside, if your kid screws up his life and ends up in the papers some day for felony, people would go ‘OMG that’s @hamsumboiboi! He used to be SOOOO adorable!’ But breeding a narcissistic complex, attention-seeking behaviour, a rebellious streak or generally annoying the heck out of singles or couples trying for kids are probably the least of your worries.

Over-sharing your children’s pics puts their safety on the line. For anyone with ill intentions, your baby photo could end up as a link to a paedo porn site. If some psychopath wants to steal your baby, stalking has never been easier with social media tagging. In the past, if I wanted to kidnap your baby I would have to physically get out of my house and follow you around, peep around corners and even buy a pair of binoculars. Today, all I need to do is log into Instagram from the comfort of my home in my dirty underwear. Grudging baby-haters may cyberbully her before she could even walk. And if you think you own the right to your pictures and they should never be reproduced without permission, think again.

But the absolute shittiest thing you could do to a baby online is Faceswap away whatever dignity’s left in your child. What kind of sick, creepy-ass parent are you, really. I formally disown you, Faceswap Father!

I’m sure parents would have thought all this through and adjusted their privacy settings accordingly. Except that most of us get so excited when our babies express their first sentences or emit farts louder than Grandpa’s that we lose our minds and let our fingers and thumbs take over. I don’t know how many of Kallista’s 1300-odd followers are friends, random admirers, spambots or lurking sickos. I don’t know how many of those would remain loyal followers when the kid grows up to be a boring as hell teen. It’s a good time, nonetheless, to be a child psychologist. My Dad abused me as a baby – by putting his ugly mug over mine for laughs and I haven’t been sleeping well since.

Maybe all this isn’t about the baby at all, but a vanity showcase of ourselves as awesome parents. Some folks have been known to even set up accounts for their unborn foetus. If I insist on documenting the birth of my child from scratch I may post a photo of Mummy’s positive pregnancy test, right down to the graphic details of how I pumped our shared DNA into Mommy’s cervix.  I long for the old days when parents remain as parents and do normal parenting stuff like teaching their kid how to ride a bike so that kids can, well, be kids, and grow up in a world where their development isn’t being constantly hampered by the pressures of being an unwilling Internet celebrity, where a memory doesn’t need to be hashtagged and commented on for it to exist.