01 January 2000

The Dangerous Blog

Haha. Mr Wang pulled a fast one on you. There IS no such blog as I have described.

Some of you have been saying that Singapore bloggers just ought to be allowed to go out there and say anything, anything and anything they like. And that in the name of the freedom of speech, the law should just leave these bloggers alone.

Well, Mr Wang hopes that his little joke will make you think a little deeper about what you're saying. Are you so sure that there should be NO limits?

In Mr Wang's view, the freedom of speech cannot be absolute, whether in Singapore, or anywhere else. There must be limits. The only question is where we draw the line.

And of all things, why do you want to be kind towards hate speech?

19 comments:

A.Ball.of.Yarn said...

mr.wang, no good - make me excited for nothing...

singaporean said...

Wah...Mr Wang.... you want me to die of heart attack ah? Nearly called Straits Times to place a one page ad disassociating this singaporean with the "True Singaporean".

Further disclaimer: this singaporean doesnt blog yet, and is not related to any other blogs like "Atypical Singaporean".

Zuco said...

I think what would be interesting is when we are the victim of that person's ire and a subject of his crazed diatribe. How will we react to it? Will we still defend his "right" to hateful vehemence or will we holler for retribution?

Mr Wang Says So said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mr Wang Says So said...

I am not a victim of any such person's ire but nevertheless I definitely will NOT defend his "right" to hateful vehemence.

It doesn't matter to me whether such vehemence is directed at Malays, Muslims, Indians, gays, Buddhists, ex-convicts, Christians, transsexuals, Tibetans, Jews, aborigines, non-white Australians, low-caste Indians, lepers, AIDS victims or whatever.

Hateful vehemence is just no-go, as far as Mr Wang is concerned.

Recruit Ong said...

Looks like My Wang has picked up a most familiar ruse of the despotic PAP gahmen. Concoct up imaginary enemies/threats with hidden agenda to panick the populace at large in order to justify and push through harsh draconian undemocratic self-serving opinions, laws and statutes.

Shame, shame leh.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Just like that, and you're panicking? Poor boy.

Every able-bodied male Singaporean above the age of 18 has access to some military secrets, and every computer-literate Singaporean has the capability to post racist remarks on the Internet.

Mr Wang would be quite content if the purpose of his joke is achieved. There are some people who think that bloggers should be subject to no restrictions at all, should be allowed to write absolutely whatever, whatever and whatever -

Mr Wang merely wishes to provoke them into examining their own thought processes a little further.

I think I am succeeding. Good.

MQube said...

Mr Wang, why like that? Make me thrilled over nothing!!

expat@large said...

E@L is one of those who think that anybody should be free to have a forum to portray their political views. To me, all restrictions of speech are bad axiomatically - I hate the libel laws in Australia for example! But open free unhindered political discussion is a TOTAL MUST if people are fell empowered and have a role in the running of their country! A country shold be run for more than boosting the profit of its big businesses and multinational investors... A tough call I know.

Because when does a political comment move into becoming a racist remark?

E.G. Party X is comprised mainly of members of Religion A and Culture(race) G. Someone might say that Party X's policies do not have the best interests of Culture(race) H, is that a political comment, a racist comment, or a religious vilification?

And here we are in these cases trying stop hateful racist comments using laws that are meant to restrict POLITICAL speech (which is already a bad thing in my book). Exactly the wrong way round!

So which law are you going to invoke? Sharia? Libel? Sedition? Singapore needs some new laws! (I can't believe I am saying that!)

What is required is a law that seperates racially prejudical remarks from their political connotations. There should be a seperate law for anti-discrimination which is specific to things like racial vilification, and we should not use laws about "sedition" which is purely a political crime. (Its use should be careful restricted as well. The current version of the sedition laws that I have read can too easily be used a vehicle for "further" repression at the Gahmen's whim (as in these cases)).

Blogging is the forum of the month, next month it will something else. But when the hate moves on to somewhere else, the rules and restrictions that were used to clean up bloggings remain, and they remain ambiguous... they can be misused too easily.

The gahmen might be benign and magnanimous today, but who knows what deluded fascist dicatator tomorrow may bring to exploit the weaknesses?

E@L

Mr Wang Says So said...

E@L said:

"Because when does a political comment move into becoming a racist remark?"

~~~~~

You may not realise it, but the slippery slope argument cuts both ways.

One can argue (as you have done) that all racist speech should be ALLOWED because prohibiting racist speech may kill off some element of legitimate political discussion in such speech.

However, using the same slippery slope argument, one can equally argue that all political speech should be SUPPRESSED because otherwise racists would spout political messages with inflammatorily racist content.

Mr Wang agrees with neither position. Both positions are too absolute.

Society cannot say to itself, "I find it so difficult to make a judgment about this message and that message, therefore I will just ALLOW all speech."

Similarly, society cannot say to itself, "I find it so difficult to make a judgment about this message and that message, therefore I will just BAN all speech."

To Mr Wang, neither position is acceptable, and society therefore has to look and consider, in each case, the actual content of the speech made, and address the kinds of questions you raise in this scenario:

"E.G. Party X is comprised mainly of members of Religion A and Culture(race) G. Someone might say that Party X's policies do not have the best interests of Culture(race) H, is that a political comment, a racist comment, or a religious vilification?"

Mr Wang does not doubt that there may be some very difficult cases. But Mr Wang thinks that the difficulties are often exaggerated, and often theoretical.

For example, consider the actual cases we are seeing now. About Gan Huai Shi, this is what the TODAY newspaper reported:


"The target of his ire were Malays and Muslims.

In some astonishing rants, he compared them to "rodents".
.
He claimed he wanted to blow up Muslim holy sites and wrote that "the Malays must be eliminated before it is too late".

Is it really that difficult to make the judgment here? Is it really true that if such speech is allowed, then only Singaporeans will be, as you say,
"empowered" and "have a role in the running of their country"?

- said...

Hi, Mr Wang, some comments, and 1 question...

Is it difficult to make a judgment about Gan Huai Shi? Well, no - he appears to be a racist - people who say such thing clearly appears to be racist.

but surely the courts/state's response must be caliberated on some sort of principle. If they take a strict liability approach to the Sedition Act, well and fine - I just say thats just offends my conception of freedom of speech (not yours, perhaps)

So far, your reasoning is solid but it seems to lack a Principle: your principle appears, pardon for sounding rude - "its so obvious, why are you guys talking about @#!#@?"

The court will give us some indication of the principle that they are following. We will hear defence arguments, if any (will be surprised).
so as you said, we shall see

First Question: The court will/might probably reiterate fragilty of the state as a reason e.t.c, but do you agree with that as a basis for using the Sedition Act? (or do you think a basis is required at all? - to show an example is not a basis - thats an ends, but you know that already)


Cheers

expat@large said...

E@L thinks Mr Wang may have missed his point, and is going on about extreme this and extreme that - it may have been a tad too complicated as it spouted from E@L's brains on first draft. For example he now rejects the phrase he wrote " Exactly the wrong way round!" --

But the Simple Version:

If you can use a political law to stop racism, then you can use it to restrict legitimate political discussion using accusations of racism as an excuse. THAT is his point!

OK these guys were being extremely hateful, E@L agrees, restrict their influence before they cause damage, but there should be an anti-racism law for that behaviour, not a Political law stretched to cover it.

I know this is a very "Western" concept, seperating law from politics and religion, and there are elements that do not want such an outcome, do not see it as desirable, particulalry the fundamentalists (Muslim, Jew and Christian).

The Westminster System of "seperation of powers" however is the principle which has made England the powerhouse it is today... ok bad example... But E@L believes in it. It is the direction the world has been moving towards since the Magna Carta, and therefore (without falling hopefully too far into the naturalistic fallacy) one we should continue to move with, as it has resulted in the most success in social, political, health and economic terms.

E@L

ivan said...

E@L:

"a very "Western" concept, seperating law from politics and religion"

i'm sorry, but i do recall a anti-blasphemy law in the UK. And though it's unlikely to be used anytime soon, with blair in government, the tories being insular, and the BNP gaining ground steadily, i suspect the argument "The gahmen might be benign and magnanimous today, but who knows what deluded fascist dicatator tomorrow may bring to exploit the weaknesses?" might apply too.

"there should be an anti-racism law for that behaviour, not a Political law stretched to cover it."

i'm sorry not to understand your simple version... but what makes the sedition act a political law? The word "sedition"? My my, if so i suspect (suspect only ah...) there's plenty of renaming to do all throughout the world.

furthermore the paragraph "The Westminster System of "seperation of powers" however is the principle .../ It is the direction the world has been moving towards since the Magna Carta," confuses me. It would seem that the debate is taking place on a theoretical platform, insisting on ideals of unrestricted "freedom of expression" (theoretical to me as i don't believe there's anything which isn't a compromise in the real world);

Yet the Magna Carta not only disposed the monarch of it's discretion but also granted parliament power, power that evolved into the declaration of the principle of "parliamentary sovereignty", which in effect is the theoretical opposite of the principle of "seperation of powers".

Keto said...

Wong San! u liar! U kian pa si bo!

Shion said...

Nabeh, cheated.

Shion said...

Nabeh, cheated.

Anthony said...

Try this argument on for size.

Do you know where the line between absolute censorship and absolute freedom of speech should be drawn? Does E@L? No?

Good, cos neither does the US Supreme Court. What we get in the US is a very confused slew of cases about FoS.

Given that it is impossible to draw a bright line dividing the freedom to speak and the need to censor hate speech, which is the one that will lead to -less harm-?

Intuitively, at some level, we -know- that the racist buggers must be punished. We've already travelled that road, and we know what the consequences of a racial divide is. I agree we should never cross that boundary ever again.

However, it's a very different thing to -censor- this speech or have the -effect- of censoring this speech. VERY different.

I've already given my views on why the Sedition Act is wholly unsuitable for the sole purpose of punishing racists, because the attendant consequences are much larger. You can't punish without censoring. If the two are hand-in-hand, and the two are inseperable, the need to preserve freedom of speech must prevail - it's the position of lesser harm where intermediate positions are untenable.

Hence, I'm fully against using -the Sedition Act- to punish racist bloggers. I agree they need to be punished, but not using the Sedition Act. If it means that they cannot be charged under any other Act, then the right thing to have done was for Parliament to pass the appropriate law.

Put another way, if racist speech was so fricking important to them beyond cheap political points, why wait until now to address this specific issue?

ivan said...

anthony:

"if racist speech was so fricking important to them beyond cheap political points, why wait until now to address this specific issue?"

i haven't looked at hansard, but shouldn't the question be asked if the sedition act was meant to be used to tackle racial issues; if it wasn't meant to (i doubt it though as the wording is very explicit), then your point stands. However it parliament's intent was for the sedition act to apply to racial issues, then it is merely a wrongful labeling of legislature (though it's arguable); hardly a big issue is it?

This isn't judicial invention, nor governmental pressure forcing the DPP or Judiciary to attempt a procrustean interpretation of the Sedition Act. The Sedition Act clearly covers the (mis)deeds the accused have committed.

The only reason the whole blogosphere is up in arms, is because of the focus on the word "Sedition".

Lets say parliament enacts the fictitious "Nose Digging Act" and it expressly prohibits discarding of personal mucous in public, however it too contain a small sub-section prohibiting spitting (expressly). Surely if a person is caught spitting he can be charged under the Nose Digging Act? It may sound absurd, but it's not wrong (ok, perhaps you could make a case that it's against the rule of law, which no one has made thus far in the whole debate in the blogosphere).

Mr Wang Says So said...

The other counterexample -

let's say the government amends the title of the Sedition Act, and now calls it "Racism & Sedition Act".

According to the thinking of some bloggers, this would make things perfectly alright now?

But nothing substantive has changed. All the actual legal provisions are still exactly the same!

This perhaps shows that bloggers who make a big hoooha about the word "sedition" in the title of "Sedition Act" are getting all upset over form, not substance.