Feb 28, 2007

Debating the Dinosaurs

I was watching TV last night. Well, no, I was actually playing dinosaurs with my kids (as usual, I get to be Tyrannosaurus Rex, heheh) but the TV was on. Suddenly I caught these words being spoken on TV, with great emphasis:

" There are SO many radical blogs out there, like Mr Brown and Mr Wang Says So."

Turns out that a debating competition was being televised. It was between Raffles Institution and Hwa Chong Junior College. The motion was "Are young Singaporeans politically apathetic?".

I think that the Hwa Chong guy was trying to argue that that since "there are SO many radical blogs out there, like Mr Brown and Mr Wang Says So", this proves the motion that young Singaporeans are not politically apathetic.

This is flattering - I'm still young. Not such a dinosaur, after all. Even more flatteringly, Mr Brown is also young. What really makes me laugh is that Mr Brown and I are being described on national television as "radical". Well, I suppose that Singaporeans with strong opinions are still quite rare. Maybe that makes us "radical". But if we do represent the cutting edge of free speech in Singapore, that's a rather sad reflection on our society, actually.

In the past few days, I've been reading a couple of draft essays, meant to be compiled and published as a book by the Institute of Policy Studies later this year. They are not my essays - I've just been invited to read them and give some comments. The book is about digital freedom of speech in Singapore (oh yes, various bloggers are mentioned, including Mr Brown and me). To give you a flavour, here's the opening paragraph of the essay by Tang Hang Wu, an associate professor at the Faculty of Law:
"In 2003, Gary Rodan argued that although there are social groups in Singapore attempting to negotiate `new political spaces for expression on the Internet', these efforts `have generally been modest in their scale and impact'. Randolph Kluver, writing in 2004, took a similar view. Kluver concluded that during the 2001 Singapore General Elections, in terms of a means of outreach, the Internet has not been deployed effectively by the [political] parties in Singapore. However, we know that two to three years are a long time in Internet terms; Rodan's and Kluver's analysis may no longer be accurate to describe the state of digital speech in Singapore. In this paper, I argue that the 2006 Singapore General Election ("2006 GE") demonstrated that the Internet, due to its evolving architecture, has an impact on the laws and norms governing free expression in Singapore."
Somewhere in this essay, I get mentioned for my "intelligent and incisive critique of government policies". Interestingly, I am mentioned right next to Sammyboy, Rockson and Talking Cock. Hey, didn't you know, radicals tend to come in motley crews.

Tell you more next time, about this book and its essays. Mr Wang the Radical Young Dinosaur needs to go brush his teeth, shave and go to work now.


Anonymous said...


To lump you together with TalkingCock is unfair. TC is a joke site but your blog gives intelligent analysis of issues in Singapore.

I'm glad that the team who made that offensive comment lost.


Anonymous said...

actually, i think mentioning TC and Mr Wang's blog in the same breath is ok as both are very popular here. TC may be "talking cock" but it IS political satire at its best.

TC and Mr Wang's Fan

Ned Stark said...


Tc maybe a joke site but if u cut thru the jokes u realise they actually touch on serious political and social issues affecting Singapore. Humour is not as insidious as claimed by the powers that be.

Well said Anon...i happen to be a TC and Mr Wang fan myself..

Anonymous said...

Humour is only funny when there are elements of truth in it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anon and Stark,

"Tc maybe a joke site but if u cut thru the jokes u realise they actually touch on serious political and social issues affecting Singapore."

If I were to tell someone which site, Mr Wang Says So (MWSS) or TC, is a better way to learn about the social and political issues in Singapore, I would say that MWSS gives excellent arguments worth reading, but if you are bored one day and have nothing productive to do, read TC to amuse yourself and then go do something more useful.

I don't think that political humor/satire is "insidious", but I think that blogs written by Mr Wang, Aaron Ng, Intelligent Singaporean, etc are more serious.

So what if TC does touch on serious political and social issues? It does not *discuss* them seriously. (I’m not a cowardly anonymous PAP agent by the way, these are just my opinions.) However, the jokes do provide much entertainment.

“Humour is not as insidious as claimed by the powers that be.”

I assume that you are referring to what MP Bhavani said in response to Mr Brown’s article, “S’poreans are fed, up with progress!”

There is a big difference between the types of humor used by Mr Brown and the humour used in TC. Mr Brown used humour while criticizing the increases in fares and charges after the election, but TC is just humorous satire *only*. (Unless you can show me one single article in TC which makes a point instead of just joking around.)

My point is that MWSS and TC do different things with the same issues- MW dissects them and makes intelligent and persuasive arguments, often backed up with evidence from external sources. TC makes extremely witty jokes from the issues.

By “mentioning TC and Mr Wang's blog in the same breath”, the student was either implying that TC actually was an “intelligent singaporean” blog like MWSS (very unlikey) or that MWSS is a joke site like TC, not to be taken seriously (insulting!!!).

P.S. Does anyone have a video of "Highlights from Parliment" aired after the 9.30 Channel 5 news last night? I would be deeply grateful if it could be posted on Youtube- I intend to do a blog post about it. Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

SPH: dont distribute SMRT sucide video!! Subscribe
From: peppyboy 26-Feb 23:03
To: Sardine_Can unread 21 of 64

133485.21 in reply to 133485.11

SMRT is stupid, thinking that it can remove such sucide videos from the internet completely!


You're right..

They think they can run, they can hide, but for how long? The truth will eventually surface..

Anonymous said...

No government in this world has ever succeeded in her attempts to control or restrict Internet because Internet was built by US to survive in a nuclear war

Abao said...


That student must be kidding. Mr Wang and Mr Brown "radical"?!

Providing well thought out, reasonable alternative views does not constitute as being radical.

Anonymous said...

i wont say you are radical. critical is what you are. and i think criticism is good for a society like ours where dissent is often silenced.

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