Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Does Balaji Blog?

I hate this blogging thing. It's like that hallmate you once had - you know, the one that was really cool to do - I mean, do things with and hang with on Friday nights, but just would not get off your bloody back when you had a presentation the next day, the presentation that was way behind schedule because you'd spent too much time f- hanging with aforesaid hallmate. They would be all: "Yo, wanna Fong Seng/prata/table soccer?" when all you wanted was to finish the stupid freaking essay on International Political Economic Relations with China in a Globalised World System and make a nice cover page with the NUS logo because everyone knows that TA's give you extra points for NUS logo cover pages. But you couldn't tell them to fuck off, because God knows that friendships need maintenence, blahblah, and if you didn't do it, eventually the only friend that you'd have would be your own hand.

So when Senior Minister of State for Information, Communication and the Arts Balaji Sadasivan announced that political podcasts would not be allowed during elections, and that blogs that persistantly espouse political views need to be registered and have to stay out of the blogosphere during the election period... well, I just wanted to run up and snog him. Hard. Roughly. Passionately. Upside down. Finally, someone shared my ambivalence about blogs. Knew my problems. My dreams. Even the littlest ones. Cared. *clutch hand to heart*

(Actually, I don't mind snogging him anyway - he's in a pretty good shape for a Senior Minister. There's a slight paunch, but you know what they say - when you see a thin businessman, how can you do business with him? Fat businessmen are worth investing in. The fat is evidence of being very good at getting rich.

See? Snoggable. Politicians, businessmen - go for the slightly paunchy ones.)

Then I actually read the article on the front page of the ST through, and I swore. Then I yelped, because I'd dropped the papers after I swore, and it hit the head of the Partner, and the Partner accidently bit down and I had to go find some cold water, and didn't get back to the paper till about half an hour later.

Just as well I didn't snog Balaji, I guess. He might think that I'll give him AIDs.

Anyway, by now everyone's heard about the podcast and blogging restrictions, and there's a truly excellent analysis of the legal implications by Yawning Bread, as well as what you should observe as a blogger. Alfian Sa'at has more to say about the actual workings of getting your blog registered, including the implication that the Media Development Authority really needs to get their internet division wing (or whoever it is that managed to claw his way to a deskjob with unlimited net porn) replaced with my 12 year old tuition kid. Mr Miyagi talks more about the podcast aspect, which I know nothing whatsoever about, and because of that, I shall shut up and not volunteer an opinion about it in the fine tradition of politicians everywhere, especially in Singapore. After all, I don't know anything about it - it doesn't really make sense for me to say anything, right?

(On the other hand, feel free to ask me about goats.)

So a couple of things passed through my mind, in between the oil and the candlewax. One question was: Who's actually affected by all these rulings? Whoever blogs and podcasts, which means the technologically abled, and those who for a variety of reasons, have restricted access to more mainstream methods of information dessemination. The first category generally, though not exclusively, refers to the post-65ers. This would be the same group that has no memory of fighting for independence against a patriarchal government dominated by an overpaid elite, that at the same time sought to shut down dissenting publications and arrested people who threatened the status quo, all the while citing the precariousness of a tiny city state against the wilder forces of the world outside. The same group that wants the vote, the same demographic group in every single ethnic group in the world, that wants things to change.

(I was talking about the British earlier, by the way. I get confused easily.)

The second would be fringe groups - for example the newer activist groups that have limited funding. A prime example would be Cat Welfare and Action for Singapore Dogs, groups that have had to deal with the existence of a decrepit, morally bankrupt white elephant charity that nonetheless had official recognitioin and was rewarded duly for its careful refusal to rock the boat. The second category would also include groups that had restricted access to other forms of information dessemination, whether through state control by dominant groups, or pre-emptive censorship by the media.

The next question was: What could actually be done to enforce the ruling? Well, judging by the stellar performance by MDA, and the fact that surfing for Crazy Killer Bikini Teen Nymphoes is more fun than surfing Crazy Professor Politician Chee, er. Not much. Don't get me wrong - as the recent racist bloggers episode proved, if shit looks as if it's about to hit the fan, the authorities are more than prepared to get to the room, wait for impact, then arrest anyone still standing. And they'll prepared to prove that they take the law very very seriously, and apply it. Unless, of course, you're a PSC Scholar, in which case you were merely youthfully stupid to suggest that Indians were repulsive, but you'll only get a slap on your wrist because everyone knows that blog entries aren't to be taken seriously and don't reflect what you really think.

And in both cases, someone proved their Singaporeanhood by writing in, and demanding that the government needed to do something about it.

At this point, I'm issuing a disclaimer: I know nothing. Whatsoever. I have been told that repeatedly by various authority and romantic figures in my life, starting with my mother. Who is an authority figure. Only.

Anyway, so given that barring the obvious candidates or extant opposition party bloggers/podcasters, the average blogger, it seems, can rely on the good old noise-to-sound ratio, and general reluctance to oppress people too vigorously, in case they start doing things like throwing Thousand Treasure tea in the harbour and demanding human rights extremely vigorously.

They know that. Maybe even Balaji knows that. We know that. So... why?

Because something needs to be said. The thing about being a law-abiding government is that you have to abide by the law. Being a law abiding government doesn't mean that you're incorruptable, or kind, or nice, or help little old ladies wearing WP badges cross Potong Pasir Ave 5. You just have to follow the law - which you made. It's as if the government was a Lawful Evil/Good/Neutral character in an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game. You know the character - it would be the Evil Overlord who proposes to kill your half-elven ranger and his gang, but allows them to claim trial by combat and the use of +5 Str +2 Ag breastplate. Because it's the law, and he's got to uphold some kind of law, or where would he be? He'd look all kinds of crazy, there would be no structure to things, and then all hell would really break lose.

So it's been said. They've made a ruling, and drawn a line in the sand. They've explained that crossing the line means that you will be charged, made an example of, kicked to the back of the HDB queue and your favourite 4D number forever withdrawn from the Toto machine. But not every time. Not all of you. Just sometimes. Occasionally. More than occasionally, if you're non-pseudo opposition.

But not every time. Go on, cross the line. It won't be you.

This time.


At 10:14 pm, Anonymous prav said...

god forbid of course that in a democracy there should be free access to information of direct relevance to the elections.

what were we thinking aye?


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