Sunday, December 17, 2006

Self-regulation of Singapore Blogosphere- Whatever for??

Dear Friends,

Although I have great admiration for people like Yadav, Bernard Leong,Aaron and Gerald, I must come out to confess that I am totally against the idea of self-regulation to our blogosphere.

The blogosphere as we know it now, is the last bastion of truly free expression.

What was there before there was blog?

What did we have before the internet gave all of us this precious gift?

Granted, the MSM-MainStream Media (or their masters) have loosened their grip and are allowing more divergent views to be published in their forum pages. But the MSM is still firmly and totally controlled by the government.

The views of the government on the functions of the media are well known. When push come to shove, one of the government leaders would invariably mouth something like,” We will not let the editors/journalists/media etc… set the agenda”-ad nauseum.

Our MSM ain't no Fourth Estate

The MSM in Singapore is never going to be the “Fourth Estate” as is the case in the western democracies.

The “Fourth Estate’s” coinage has been attributed to Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797), a British politician. It comes from a quote in Thomas Carlyle's book, "Heros and Hero Worship in History" (1841).

"Burke said that there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important far than they all."

The three estates in the above quote referred to the British parliament,( the Lords Temporal, the Lords Spiritual and the Commons). The Lords Temporal and the Lords Spiritual combined being The House of Lords, the upper House of parliament. And the Commons is The House of Commons or the British lower House.

Singapore’s MSM is not there to be a watchdog; a check and balance of the government’s abuse of power. If Woodward and Bernstein were journalists in Singapore, they would not be heroes. Very likely, they would have been detained under the Internal Security’s Act if they had tried to publish details of the happenings at the Watergate hotel on that fateful day in June 1972.

We have the Speaker’s Corner, I hear you say. You have to register at the police station next to Hong Lim Square and you also cannot use any form of amplification!

If you try a “Chee Soon Juan” and as much as walk together in larger than a group of four’s, you will share the same fate and ignominy as him. I do admire CSJ’s guts.

That leaves us precious little left.

We can just take it ( like most Singaporeans have done in the past) or leave it ( as many more have done in the present).

Or we can blog…

The “gahmen” has seemingly turned a blind eye to Singapore’s nascent blogosphere. The IDA or the police may actually visit to read the contents ( they do, I assure you) but unless one is so stupid as to write defamatory stuff about certain families and characters, or worse incite racial or religious hatred ( which I am vehemently against-incitement of hatred that is), then for godknowswhatreason, they have let us be.

Perhaps they want us to let off some steam (words in cyberspace are infinitely better than a revolution downtown) , or maybe they want to know what these “radical intellectual-types” actually feel? or maybe they are really closet liberals waiting to come out (ok just joking). I don’t know and I don’t care.

So why oh why?

We have the freedom now. So, why do we want to self-regulate? Have we been so used to being a subjugated people that when freedom has been thrust upon us, we tell them, “No, please we don’t deserve freedom” ( Xenoboy talk the most sense of us all here).

History repeating itself?

Back in the early days of Singapore’s internet, we had soc.culture.singapore which was a newsgroup.It was like the present Sammyboy’s internet forum.

When some (intellectual-types) advocated that we self-regulate ( or they called it “moderation”) I was adamantly opposed to it.

I was amongst a minority who voiced out vociferously against this. However,the majority went ahead to form "moderated.soc.culture.singapore".

You guessed it. It died a quick death. Uncelebrated-no funeral.

None of you even knew such a newsgroup existed. You know whatimean?

So, I say what I said then, “NO!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan


Dr Oz bloke said...

I have always likened this to parenting.

Are kids truly free? Do they have the freedom to do what they want?

Well yes and no. The parents decide what is safe and what is too dangerous for the kid to do by himself/herself. For example a 4 year old boy cannot be trusted to safely cross the road by himself.

But he can be trusted to feed himself using a fork.

You get the idea?

Whenever someone comes in and says you cannot do this or you cannot do that.....well that's parenting for you. And it shows you what that person/authority thinks of you.

So when the Singapore government says that we cannot have people expressing jokes on religion, because there will be widespread riots.....well they are essentially also saying that as Singaporeans we have not matured in the past 40 years when it comes to racial harmony. We are just little kids to them.

Iam somewhat inclined to agree with their assessment.

BL said...

Dr Huang,

I find it quite surprising that you think that I am pro self-regulation. Perhaps, I might put it clearly down here that I am against the idea of forming a bloggers association suggested by Yadav for very good reasons:

(1) The blogosphere is too diverse to have representation.
(2) The introduction of politics into a space where people are free to speak their thoughts.

The real issue is not the freedom of speech, but the responsibility for that freedom. So, a possible solution is to create at least a code of conduct among a group of bloggers for a specific course.

In any case, self-regulation is already happening in the blogosphere. Think about the Wee Shu Min case, she entered into the blogosphere with her remarks and she suffered as a result for her own comments.

Hope that it clarifies my position.

yours sincerely,
Bernard Leong (BL)

nofearSingapore said...

droz:I guess you thing S'poreans deserve the paternalistic condescending attitude of the govt.
Some have already given up on the S'poreans and are sure that we are hopeless and deserve our lot.
Not I however. As David Soul said," Don't give up on us baby, we' re still worth one more try!"

Bernard Leong:I have been confused lately. So you are not for self-regulation but for a "code of conduct". My apologies. I confess to being too lazy to sort out the maze about who said what to whom ( ya, but no excuse lah!)

Defacto self-regulation takes place naturally as those expousing ridiculous ideas ( or just bad writing) get punished by bloggers IGNORING their blogs.

I say just leave things be. I know if I read Bernard Leong's blog that he does not talk nonsense and a lot of research goes into it.

So do I care if he is a member of an artifically imposed self-regulated Association of Associated Bloggers Association? No!
Let's enjoy our freedom!


not_regulated said...

Dr H,

I am not for the idea of extensive self-regulation. Any association of bloggers creates classes of people. As long as people understand what is right or wrong to write in their blogs, it should be OK. We do not want knights in shining armours creating roundtables and tell us how we should THINK. If people want to be regulated, join the army - they are very regulated, I heard...

Aaron said...

I think there should be a distinction between legislation and regulation. I don't support a law like the NPPA to govern blogosphere. What I need is necessary however is, like what BL said, a code of conduct. An association would be helpful, but that's secondary. The MSM likes to take potshots at blogs for being unworthy of serious contention primarily because there's no code governing individual online publishing. If we have a code of conduct, MSM have nothing else to say already. It's a step up the evolution of the Singapore blogosphere. :)

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Aaron,
Let's not be afraid to let things grow naturally.
Don't worry what MSM says ( they are bound to say something). Afterall, we are the competition.
Don't be like the govt. Afraid of everything. They are control freaks always needing to micromanage everything!
Let's see where freedom take us.
Don't confine it. Don't tell it what to do.

Whispers from the heart said...

The smarter bloggers know when not to fall into a trap.

If you like living in a cage, you can always register with stomp and blog all you want there.

Because a handful had gotten into trouble, (some for no obvious reasons) it does not mean the other 90% will. Have faith in the human kind and fellow singaporeans lah.

No one will learn if we all live on signs put up for us. The government's role is to help its citizens to learn and grow, not punish them unduly.

For those who had been parents, you'll understand.

I certainly hope this is not one of the smarter ideas from the local blogosphere. It certainly says alot about our maturity to the MSM. Or worse, we are competing with them for the 146th position!

chutzpah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
not_regulated said...

Code of conduct sounds so much like OB markers. The association looks like a country club (members only).

It is like creating a playing field that is not level. We have enough of controls. We do not want limits to tell us what to think.

I think that STOMP has some internal code of conduct, which is good for some bloggers. STOMP also has the feeling of an association too.

Anonymous said...

Dr H wrote: Defacto self-regulation takes place naturally as those expousing ridiculous ideas ( or just bad writing) get punished by bloggers IGNORING their blogs.

Yup, I think the above is happening, sometimes the blogger is even "shot down" as seen in WSM's case. Thus, we should let each blogger be... given the very interactive-interdepent world of blogsphere already has its own "automatic" feedback system.

travailingdoc said...

Hi Dr. Huang

Regulation of the Blogosphere is just another facet of the stringent control of freedom of expression. It is a natural progression of a rigid and strict oligarchic system where dissents are criminalized and marginalized.
To be allowed this unprecedented airing of grouses and opinions in the blogs either indicate a refreshing and enlightening mindset change amongst the elite,or , and I think more likely to be so, the blogosphere cannot really be controlled with lawsuits and threats ,like the regular media can be.
To submit to self regulation for bloggers will be to play by the rules designed by the very bodies and institutions that have had stifled and repressed critical views while fettering and suppressing information. As you have succinctly, pointed out , lose this only precious tool, and you are effectively neutralized.

Singapore is called pejoratively as a nanny state.A flip side to this is the rather insulting term..Slave mentality.

Giving up this tiny remnant of the already much shredded up right to freedom of expression and information will further perpetuate the prevailing impression that Singaporeans are not capable of independant thoughts and actions without the control and supervision of the ubiquitous authoritative mandate.
Such groveling and dependancy further feed the credence that Singaporeans do suffer from the Slave Mentality... with all the known social psychological consequences like diffidence, pathological dependancy, ineptness to help oneself in a crisis, and a generational disorder that is seen today in the US even when slavery had been abolished many years ago.

Is this what Singaporeans are passing as a legacy to their future generations???

What you decide to do today has wider implications than you think!

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Chutzpah,
I have to edit some of your words as Bernard Leong thinks your words were, how shall I say it, "ungentlemanly".
So I will repost the rest of the comments thus:
quote" chutzpah said...
I am amazed that Bernard Leong has the audacity to declare himself pro self-regulation. He should start by regulating himself --- his online CV is ........... "unquote

9:43 PM

Whispers from the heart said...

Dr Huang,

who is to decide what is deemed "ungentlemanly"?

I consider "meeting someone at a cul-de-sac with my knuckle dusters" rather gangster-rish.

I have readers calling me a bimbo mother as well.

I think we should all grow up. All these talk of a code of conduct is rather self-defeating. I am sad that even highly educated singaporeans resort to quick fixes to settle their perceived problems.

Are singaporean bloggers desperately needing a code of conduct?! I know almost 99.9% write about mundane stuff like their pets and their shopping sprees. Personally, I find such entries equally revolting, how?

If we have a code of conduct, how are we to enjoy blogs like WSM's? Her brutal truth is a valuable lesson for all singaporeans.

Maybe, those who suggested a code of conduct should offer it to the elite bloggers. They need it more than we do. They get into bigger troubles than we common folks.

While some boy's cartoons angered a few christians, WSM's words hurt the whole nation. Now, how do we define her sort of conduct, then?!

As Dr Huang rightly put it, there is self regulation in the blogosphere. This whole episode reminds me of the chinese idiom "此地无银,三百両".

not_regulated said...

It seems that this call for code of conduct is to implement certain standards in the way people should blog. Will the code of conduct narrow the scope of our point of view? Is this code of conduct created by the articulated to tell the not so articulated how to articulate?

If one cannot stand the way things are run, there is the option to move on.

I say no. Let's evolve.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Dr. Huang et al,

Sorry, if I am confused about all this talk about code of conduct, self regulation etc. etc.
May I ask how one can enforce one's will upon others on the internet..
Is this mentality of control and domination just another manifestation of the malaise that had befallen on the people??..

do unto anothers what others have done unto you????....

The vehicles through which you all are blogging are located overseas.
They don't give too hoots about you!!all the braggadocios...Gee Wheez.

Set aside your egos and act responsibly for a higher calling

Paladin said...

you can enforce one's will upon another in the internet in a very simple way...

ever heard of the Defamation Lawsuit?

what is a higher calling? Obeying our Dear Leaders? I am all for human development. That's HUMAN development. I'm not for human development in the PAP sense, which is DEVELOPMENT by humans.

Anonymous said...

Dear Paladin,

You are reading into my posting and projecting what you want to see..

I never said actions that are irresponsible and that amounts to a personal defamation are acceptable..

" untruths made with maliciouness
and not in good faith, in
words or actions deemed to put the person in a lower opinion by the community unless protected by privileged immunity or for the general good " are basis for defamation, be it slander or libel..
You can be sued not only in the internet but in your everyday your neighbors, colleagues,in the news, TV, mates etc.,etc So are you saying we should have codes of behaviour and regulation regarding all human activities, so that we will not be sued ???

If you have defamed someone, by any mode of publication, you deserve to be sued ..
But that does not mean we be our brothers keepers.. and regulate and control everybody just because you fear...
... by all means regulate youself if you want... who cares.. but don't tell me to... its none of your damn business.

Higher calling..
You can only pathetically revert to your eternal deference to the PAP..
I empathise with your narrow view of life..

Whispers from the heart said...

Sadly, Singaporeans only know one path.

How many have resort to defamation suits?

Why don't we question the purpose of defamation suits?

Does winning the defamation suit proclaims you a saint? We have TT Durai still on the run now.

Those who fear have the most to fear and resort to defamation suits.

For others, they are conditioned to fear at the thought of a defamation suit.

Maybe, the wizard of Oz should provide us each a certificate of bravery. Instantly, we are brave and fearless.

Somewhat like this shallow idea of issuing a ISO 9000 certificate of good conduct in blogging. Stick our logo somewhere and we are good boys and girls.

And mankind goes back 2 steps.

Anonymous said...

regulation shackles the mind, period.

nofearSingapore said...

Dr.Huang: I am pasting the below comment from about my article:

The_Latest_H Says:
December 20th, 2006 at 12:13 am
The thing is this: do we want the government to set the agenda, and allow them to walk over us- as they always do- or do we want to be bold and speak up?

The fact remains that we cannot remain red carpets for them to thread us upon. As citizens of this country, we should have every right in voicing our concerns on where this country is heading. Its not a privilege granted only to the top people in this government.

Its an entitlement.

Now even as the government tries to impose its will on the online community, and force some people to “moderate” their own views, the more the larger community show that they ain’t pushovers.

In the US, in the recent November Senate/Congressional and gubernational(sp) elections, the Republicans and even the Democrats were up for intense checks. They were all YouTubed in a sense; caught in videos and re-played to massive audiences until these politicians were so ashamed. One only had to look at now ex-Senator George Allen, who lost his Senate seat to Jim Webb in a tight election because of the fallout that arose when Senator Allen called an American-born Indian(a real Indian, not a native American) a macaca. It was captured on video by that Indian himself- and uploaded onto YouTube. The rest…well we know the rest.

So this example points out how Net 2.0 has democratise the political landscape and the journalist landscape in the US. Its power to the people, again- and that’s why the PAP fears this. It has had always feared that when people have power, they lose. To try and clamp down on free speech online is a manifestion of that fear.

That’s why we have to maintain free speech and freedom from fear online. If people in the US can use YouTube to check on their politicians, then in time, here in Singapore, we should do the same. Regardless whether the PAP likes it or not.

zyberzitizen said...

Wow, stumbled upon this interesting dialogue.

There are already laws in place - sedition, defamation, libel, racial harmony, etc.

I think it is unwise for us then to add another layer onto this ourselves, voluntarily.

Though Aaron says he does not have laws in mind, the effect might turn out to be the same nonetheless - it scares people.

What I'd suggest is that those of us who are concerned for our fellow bloggers who might get into trouble should perhaps form an organisation outside of the blogosphere to conduct workshops, seminars, talks, etc for bloggers.

Those in the legal profession who are also bloggers themselves could take on such roles.

This way, we leave the decison to bloggers while at the same time provide an avenue for bloggers to find out more.

The aim should be personal responsibility - not forced coercion.

Just my two cents, folks.

I'm with you on this one, Dr Huang.. ;)

Paladin said...


my view wasn't narrow at first, but someone made it narrow. No, it's not you, Anon, so don't worry.

Paladin said...

And as an afterthought,

you projected what you wished to see upon my words too.

And considering how some people go to court over a few words, perhaps we do have reason to be worried.

And no, please don't question what a Defamation Lawsuit is about...once you start to draw parallels with the Lees, you will kena one yourself.

See, that's self-regulation! HAHA!

travailingdoc said...

Cheers Dr. Huang.

You have indeed won my admiration for being outright and bold. You are absolutely right regarding the take on Senator George Allen. He lost his seat, when many Americans,and a very articulated white majority , came out in open condemnation in the internet against his views. These are all available for reading by searching under Senator George Allen.
Americans are fortunate to have unfettered Journalism which does a pretty good job in researching and debating issues in the media. It does provide effective checks against the abuse of executive power.

If there is any slight comfort, the Federal court had just made a watershed decision, in which bloggers are responsible for just their own postings in matters that infringe the law, be it criminal or civil. Blog owners and other ancillaries are free from liability.

I am very proud that there are all you here who overwhelmingly are against regulation of any kind.
This makes my case a whole lot easier when coming to the defence against distractors,that Singaporeans are not wimps and pushovers. This momentum must only grow as it brings in more converts.

Many of us who are overseas are communicating with each other in forums like this. We keep a very close watch of local happenings in Singapore. We can see through unimpaired vision the true situation encompassing the world vis a vis Singapore . We are all pretty concerned.The policies of the present leaders are tangentially off, but they are too arrogant to listen.

Keep up the good work..

Merry Christmas to all...

nofearSingapore said...

Hi all
paladin & anon: Thanks for your comments. I am glad you got your differences sorted out. Blogging is different as we cannot see the other persons expressions and body language. So lets live and let live.

ZZ: enjoyed your articles about CSJ and the pessimistic lot of bloggers. Saw that you got quite a lot of flak from some bloggers. Life is like that. Make it more spicy and interesting. If all of us think alike, might as well go through the PAP 60's and 70's again right?
travailingdoc: don't get your hopes too high. What you are seeing is just the vocal minority. The other 90% has surrendered their cerebral cortex to U-know-who already. Traded in their souls for gold.
How is the weather in the mid-West this week? Will be there for a week over Christmas. Cold? ha ha

Merry Christmas!


travailingdoc said...

Dear Dr. Huang,

The mid west will have temperatures in the 30s and 40s over Christmas . The mid west has strong winds that will bring the chill factor much lower, so bring along your downs and long johns.
There will be snow probably too.

Any way, the world was changed by just one man and 12 disciples and on Dec 25th, we remember his birthday.

Travel safe

All the best.
Will be going down to Houston myself for Christmas

Chutzpah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
nofearSingapore said...

Hi chutzpah,
As you know, freedom is never absolute. ( eg. you are not free to shout "Fire!" in a crowded cinema etc etc"

This is not the forum for you to accuse another person about the accuracy or authenticity of his CV etc.

I will again have to edit your comments - or censor ( if you prefer the other term).

I am not able to do that now as I have some technical problems editing my own post and will do that at the soonest opportunity when I get back to Singapore in a few days' time.

Chutzpah, if we use the freedom of the net for personal attacks, it only gives more ammo to those who are uncomfortable with freedom and what it entails.

Please try to understand. If you can, please edit the post yourself.

Happy New Year to all,


nofearSingapore said...

Hi Chutzpah et al,
I am posting an edited version of your post.
Thank you,

Chutzpah said...
If Bernard Leong thinks that my comments are unsubstantiated, he has every right to refute them himself. Why do you need to resort to censorship? Isn't that against the spirit of your own message?

And what's so ungentlemanly about exposing a *****?

So I am going to respectfully repost my earlier comment:

I am amazed that Bernard Leong has the audacity to declare himself pro self-regulation. He should start by regulating himself. His online CV is a ****-- *******, ********.
3:26 PM

Best wishes