Thursday, May 12, 2005

Where is the 2cents worth?

I was going through Sammyboy Forums, of which the ratio of good, readable content to trash-talk/flamewar/whining is approximately 1:1000. Whenever I sift through the site I feel like I am a lone diver trawling the entire span of the Pacific Ocean looking for less than half a dozen pearls.

I was actually looking for AcidFlask related material, when one forummer queried about how the opposition parties failed to get in their 2 cents worth on the AF-A*Star saga.

I pondered upon this thought for a while. I was surprised, as I am inclined to think that this was the exact kind of subject material the Opposition Opportunists love to capitalise on. They were indeed strangely subdued over this matter.

A few seconds later, the answer hit me like a tonne of falling bricks.

This was meant to be a brief observational post on opposition parties silence over the AF-A*Star affair. Interestingly it has garnered (imho) various top quality comments ancillary to the original post.

To find out more about Han's indignance at being labelled 'pro-PAP', Redrown's (me) 'anthropological' study of Sammyboy Forums, Gilbert Koh's reaction to SDP's unauthorised lifting of his articles, Goh Meng Seng's (WP) opinion of non-partisan bloggers and name calling, and Huichieh's excellent justification and clarification of (non-partisan) bloggers position, click on the comments!

Huichieh continues to chew upon the role of non-partisan bloggers in civil society, reflecting on Jeffrey's insightful comment. As he (Jeff) aptly puts it, we are simply "Equal Opportunity Commentators". That would be a good starting point for anyone who do not fully appreciate our niche.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Open Letter to Mr Philip Yeo

Congratulations on your victory. A bitter victory that perhaps left quite a few scars.

AcidFlask has apologised in the manner you wanted him to.

But, tell me, was it worth it?

Was it really necessary? Did it do more hurt than heal in the end?

What are the repercussions on your reputation? The very same reputation that you strive so hard to upkeep?

Did the apology reassure you, made you sleep tighter at night? Did the apology improve your quality of life in any way? Did it do wonders for your ego? (ok don't answer the last).

It was supposed to be a simple, clearcut shushing procedure.

How did it get blown up? Why did it get blown up? Why did it enthrall so many local and foreign entities?

Would it then contrastingly have become more of a loudhailer effect?

Were their interest in the affairs in your best interests?

On Hindsight, would there have been a better way to resolve the issue? One more subtle, one more proportionate, one more reasonable?

On Hindsight, would it have been better to dismiss it with a wave of your hand? He is but a student, whereas you are the head of a government agency. The repute and goodwill that have accrued over the years surely outweigh the student's. Do you doubt that people will see your good works in a different light just because of a simple student's inane comments on an obscure blog? If so, why?

I, for one, do not doubt, nor have ever doubted your esteemed name or works, nor will this issue affect my opinion in any way. However, this event has cast a dark cloud over sensitive, fragile issues such as the Singapore's reputation in the eyes of the world and free speech. It has planted seeds of doubt which would hopefully not be allowed to sprout. I recognise that defending your name is important. But in the same vein I beseech you to understand our position (as citizens of Singapore, and as purveyors of free speech).

I do sincerely hope that it was worth it.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Taking a Stand

Latest developments are well covered in From a Singapore Angle, Singapore Ink, Singabloodypore, and other sites, reproducing AcidFlask's reply to A*Star.

It is, by far, the most revealing and insightful content to the entire debacle so far. One wonders why Mr Yeo, who seems to have plenty of time and resources to spend on engaging lawyers to handle every single minute potential legalities with regards to his esteemed name, has not found the time and resources to produce a proper, detailed and concise statement. (I suppose its in drafting now, right, I hope???) AcidFlask also mentions that Mr Yeo has not pointed out exactly what material was defamatory. May I suggest the generalisation is perhaps due to inability to pick out specific red-letter material? That it was just used as a general measure to oppress someone? Of course, it may just be that Mr Yeo, busy man that he is, has not enough time to do specifically pick out the nitty gritty (P.S This is a Fair Comment and should not be construed otherwise).

From the latest developments, it is becoming more evident that it is not too far off from the purely speculatory Hypothetical Libel scenario I envisioned what seems like a long time ago now.

It is heartening to see AcidFlask not being intimidated. It is heartening to see that he is making his own stance, unafraid to point out glaring inaccuracies in news reports. It is heartening to see that he is taking taking has stand against someone who wields far more power and influence than him. It can be likened to a kid who stands up against his physically stronger bully and his friends – taking them on and challenging them (P.S I am not insinuating anyone is a bully – I am just using abstract analogy).

And it is heartening to see fellow bloggers aiding him in whatever ways they can possible, standing up for him. Because this is not just about a student against a government agency any more. This is about blogging, freedom of speech. This is about the reputation of the very country we are living in, in terms of press freedom, in the eyes of our own citizens, in the eyes of foreign entities. Perhaps, while A*Star claims to defend the reputation of Singapore, they have inadvertently done the exact opposite, which will be highly unfortunate. We must strive to clarify and rectify this.

Because publicity of the real facts, the real issues at hand, will let us all have a clearer insight to the whole debacle. That is why bloggers who feel strongly towards preservation of blogging (which is the best bastion of free speech in Singapore) – should do their part (but should not be forced into doing so) - by the best way they can - public support on their public blogs.

We now await Mr Phillip Yeo's reply to the whole matter. Any refusal to construct a reply, with his own version of events, with full clarification of what he did and why he did it, (and what words were construed defamatory), could now be construed as a sign that, maybe perhaps even the esteemed Mr Phillip Yeo may just have been a little too sensitive this time round, maybe he did overreact to what are no more than harmless commonplace every-day conversational jibes. Dare I also suggest, maybe there is more to the threat than meets the eye...(Fair Comment!!)

However, I am sure that he will write out his own version of events. I sincerely await that, because then we will have a clear picture of events from both sides. The full picture, the vantage point of a neutral observer.

We can then analyse both accounts and decide whether AcidFlask's defensiveness was justified or esteemed Mr Philip Yeo's original aggrievement was justified.

*(Having met esteemed Mr Yeo before, I do think he comes across as a good person. I do find his legal threats ..out of character..but of course I do not know him that well)
*I do hope the entire matter is clarified soon enough. This is certainly a case of having dirty linen aired out in public, which is unfortunate. However, it is hoped that since it is already full-blown, it would be useful if settlement of this issue serves as a precedent, so that bloggers will be more clear and aware of their responsibilities and liabliites.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Making Martyrs out of Molehills

I thought the Singapore blogosphere had finally laid the ghosts of the tripartite CZ-Infantile-AcidFlask affair to rest. I had wanted to post about some inane, out of point topic (ie resume normal service) but evidently there are somethings I just cannot resist commenting on.

Apparently some very 'insidious' smart aleck has instigated MrBrown, MrMiyagi, Xiaxue and CowboyCaleb to 'use their voice' against what he – i use the word 'he' because it is probably one misguided individual – perceives as a miscarriage of justice, a oppressive, bully tactics against freedom of speech.

MrBrown and especially MrMiyagi and CowboyCaleb reacted with indignance, castigating the instigator with biting posts. I think Xiaxue reacted the best in such situations, which is effectively ignoring the post as if it never existed (i think she is somewhat used to doing that anyway, heh, but thats another matter).

Nevertheless it is somewhat perturbing to see yet another matter go out of hand. Firstly, while I fully sympathise AND empathise with AcidFlask, I do think inevitably it is a matter between 2 parties, as opposed to the forces of good against the forces of evil as some have made it out to be. And somehow I doubt that most are actually genuinely sympathetic towards AcidFlask, but rather, seizing this opportunity to further their political agenda, effectively making AcidFlask a hapless martyr. Grabbing whatever little morsels they have about the issue, they use it to further their own personal cause and grievances. Adopting a siege mentality – blogs against authorities. Freedom of Speech against Opression. Which is still ok, except that you should pick your own fights, you do not expect others to fight your battles for you, you do not use others to fight your own battles. You are probably one of those persons who complain that the gov 'never lets us make any decisions for ourselves', and if this is what is going to happen if they do let you have freedom to do whatever you want, then I'm sorry to say I'd rather the gov reins in on your petty tail than to let you wreak complete anarchy upon us.

I put it to you, that you are merely using 'freedom of expression' as just another convenient tool to further your own personal grudges and distaste against the establishment. Worse still, you martyr others for your own cause. Frankly, on a scale of respect for such perpetrators between 0-10, you rank about -15, and thats kind because you probably meant well but are seriously misguided.

If I may suggest, you could start by starting your own blog to highlight whatever grievances you have, you could start by championing your own cause yourself- and not expecting others to do your trumpet calling for you. And write your own original stuff, and not lambasting others for not doing so.

And then Gilbert of SLMJD finds that his works have been literally copied and pasted unto a political website without his permission or knowledge. Pardon me but that is just blatantly STUPID, not to mention DUMB. Obviously Gilbert is none too happy about having his works copied and his name associated with a party he has absolutely no affilations with. I have no idea what they were trying to achieve by lifting his texts, other than pissing off a lawyer – not the wisest of things to do imho, especially since this can be an extremely grave offence. As Gilbert has mentioned, even students ask permission to use his work in private school projects. This is simply basic courtesy, respecting others work and crediting them where they are due. NOTE: THIS is what freedom of expression is about. By abusing others works without permission, you have committed the most grievous sin against expression itself, by infringing on others freedom of expression, so to actually claim to want to promote freedom of expression is a farce. This is also what the Courtesy Campaign is about – and you wonder why the Gov takes the trouble to have such campaigns. The answer could very well be found by looking at yourself.

Gilbert also mentions an email about a perpetrator who wanted Gilbert to join 'the opposition', then claiming he is 'of no use' after he politely declined their offer. Again this scenario is another instance of stupidity, and a certain conclusion can be derived from these events.

Some People Just Don't Understand What is Free Speech. Some people don't understand that with freedom comes responsibility not to abuse it or abuse others right to use it. Perhaps that is why the checks and balances in place are arguably more stringent than elsewhere. Note to you: The word 'Free' in Free speech is not to be taken literally

By taking such misguided steps, it is, in effect, one step forward and two steps backward. If one wishes to champion free speech then he should firstly ensure that he truly understands what free speech entails. Then, instead of abusing it, he can actually practice free speech himself rather than instigating others to do the work for him, or alternatively using other's name and work for their own advances. This in itself is a sin against free speech – then again, it is most likely that these people do not actually care so much about free speech as opposed to their own personal or political agenda and grievances.

In other words, seizing on every tiny morsel they can find, blowing up the matter out of water, opportunistically martyring others for their own causes, twisting causes to suit their own agenda.

And the scale of respect that should be afforded to such people on a scale of 0 to 10? -20.

You refers to Instigator for the 1st part and CopyCat for the 2nd

Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Community

The community in Singapore is small. So small, that everyone is linked to each other through friends or acquaintances, or at the very most, three or four degrees away.

As Agagooga has noted in his entry on Thursday, April 28, 2005, the Singapore blogosphere is undergoing a similar transcending – the blogosphere is finding increasing semblance of organisation and union through the good works of everyone @ and Huichieh of From a Singapore Angle, to name just 2. In effect, a very distinct Singapore Blogosphere Community is slowly taking shape.

Picking up on CowboyCaleb's post which is inspired but perhaps somewhat self-contradictory at some parts, as highlighted by comments on his post, Agagooga goes on to observe that the communion of the blogosphere has resulted in everyone talking about the same events, everyone linking each other, everyone knowing each other. In other words, everyone converging on the same old few topics. In defence, it has to be said that the recent events (CZ, Infantile Saga, and erm..'AlkalineBeaker') certainly affects everyone in the Singapore blogosphere, and thus convergence on these topics is simply natural cause and effect.

Agagooga however laments what he perceives as the singularisation of the blogosphere and observes this as a Singaporean trait, in which Singaporeans are indulgent in all things Singaporean and nothing else, which results in a generic nexus.

A growing segment of the Singaporean blogosphere - in absolute, even if not relative terms - now seems incestuously small, just like Singapore itself, and the Singaporean diaspora - at least the Singaporean student diaspora. Everyone links to everyone else, everyone trackbacks everyone else, everyone talks about everyone else and everyone reads everyone else, especially the same few heavyweights. Perhaps it's a fetishism by Singaporeans of all things Singaporean.

Which I can't really deny – in a sense, we already observe this in other aspects of Singapore life, such as food courts, of which there are many in Singapore but whose variety does not differ much from the next. Or for that matter, the radio stations on our airwaves, of which the content offered by each station differs inconsiderably from the next. I would think that one's traits would naturally be reflected upon one's writings and as such there is no surprise that the blogosphere has evolved as such.

It would thus seem indeed that singularisation is taking place, rather than divergence. As I have noted previously the dearth of niche blogs is stark, however, other than the specific disapproval shown by Agagooga, most bloggers would see the communion of the blogosphere as a positive thing.

I would be inclined to agree with Agagooga, except that such natural evolution was bound to take its predestined path sooner or later. The advent of blogs has impacted the way the internet is used and the number of people jumping on the bandwagon is only bound to increase.

As such, both Agagooga's pessimism and CowboyCaleb's optimism may not be warranted. On one hand, Agagooga laments the singularisation while on the other, CowboyCaleb remarks that the blogosphere has reached 'saturation point', thus heralding a semblance of community with sites such as .

I tend to fail to correspond in certain aspects on both counts. Firstly, Agagooga neglects to highlight the importance of blogging as a social tool in addition to its informational prowess. As such, a communal blogosphere will only serve to enhance its capability as a tool for social networking. Perhaps too, the entrance of a good number of new bloggers may leave the older bloggers aggrieved that their space have been invaded, but I suggest in all likelihood the opposite is true. Unlike real-space, internet space is limitless. There is equal room for 1 blogger or 100 bloggers. In addition, with the growing awareness of blogging, older bloggers who have already established a foothold in the blogosphere will only continue to grow and thrive (in terms of readership). Indeed, Agagooga laments the difficulties of separating the wheat from the chaff when there are countless blogs sprouting the same content. However, I suggest this can only be a good thing, because this provides more competition between bloggers, so that only the more outstanding ones will catch the eyes and interest of readers, leaving the rest in obscurity. This is a better scenario than having only poorly drafted sites simply because there are no other alternatives.

And in response to CowboyCaleb's assertation that the blogosphere has reached 'saturation point', I suggest that this is only the dawn of the Singapore Blogosphere Era. I further suggest that if one were to use a chronological timescale for the evolution of the Blogosphere, this would be circa 0 AD. What happened prior would be prehistory, and what awaits us is the future, where the blogosphere, with its apparent present convergence, will finally mature and sprout its branches, with niche blogs arising from the outer reaches of its branch. Agagooga's grievance (and mine too) about its convergence and present regurgitative nature would then be alleviated!

It is good that both CowboyCaleb and Agagooga have strong, albeit polarised, opinions on the future of the Singapore blogosphere. For they serve as fodder of consideration to the future of blogosphere.

A collateral point I wish to raise is CowboyCaleb's original post,in which he embraces the collectivity of the blogosphere, similarly raising demand of accountability from fellow bloggers by raising the CZ affair, by arguing that we are seen as one collective union.

However, if you go ahead and write something insensitive that upsets everybody, you’re going to give the rest of us a bad name. The people who do not blog, see us as a gang.

This tenuous assertation may not go down well in every corner of the blogosphere, especially since it conflicts with his previous paragraph as observed by commenter Edan.

I blog for me and nobody else. I just know you understand what I’m saying here because a blog is a very personal thing.

In this instance I would tend to settle for a middle ground approach, in which I feel that one should blog with the requisite responsibility that one would be expected to offer, but that this should be primarily motivated by self-accountability as opposed to accountability to other bloggers.

In conclusion, I wish to highlight the very irony of this post is, by reflecting on Agagooga's post, I have perhaps committed the sin which Agagooga had raised-

When something happens on or with one blog, the rest will be quick to pick up on it, spread the word, and pen some commentary, as if something had just happened to someone in the neighbourhood. Gossip and comments flow, just like in a MeatSpace neighbourhood. Wash, rinse and repeat recursively.

But the question remains: Is this necessarily a good or bad thing?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A world of Disclaimers

I am seeing disclaimers sprout out all over the blogosphere, like mushrooms in a damp field after a gentle summer shower. I must say I am very amused/bemused by this phenomenon.

Do I dare also suggest, for some blogsites at least, that the disclaimers are put up as a symbol of defiance rather than actual fear of threat.

The satire goes on in the form of disclaimers.

UPDATE: I would like to take this opportunity to remind exuberant disclaimer users that disclaimers do NOT automatically absolve one totally of all responsibility, especially when the disclaimer is not constructed properly and/or placed at an easily accessible portion of the site.

In the same vein, discussing of sensitive topics MAY also lead to liability even if one chooses to use masked language and innuendo – so be careful.

[What is my disclaimer doing at the bottom of the page in mock serious language then? And why am I discussing hypothetical libel suits then?]

UPDATE 2: In seriousness, do check out the Singapore Blogger's Practical Guide to Minimising the Risk of Defamation Suits at SLMJD.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Recent events on the blogosphere have been fast paced and very eventful, and it only serves to reinforce my cynicism. The events that have unfolded are both disheartening and frightening.

It is disconcerting to see how blogs are slowly being recognised and curtailed by the big boys. Most bloggers treat blogs as personal blogs (naturally and rightly so, I might add) but fail to appreciate the dangers of publishing content open to the entire world. In doing so, opinionated matters especially of a sensitive nature and/or relating to an identifiable individual or corporation are openly published and leaves the blogger in a very vulnerable position. Some application of tact or discernment is warranted but some things are beyond one's control. Especially after recent episodes, only the most naïve would continue to think that his words are not being monitored. This is no Conspiracy Theory, but as cliché as it sounds, Big Brother IS watching you. Even if you think you are secure behind a veil of anonymity, you are still traceable.

The crucial question is: how will mere mortals ever be able to appreciate all the responsibilities and liabilities incurred by publishing a blog? Indeed, like many aspects of cyberspace, there is still much uncertainty. Unfortunately it is never a defense to plead ignorance of the law, but is that fair to hapless individuals?

I'll be the first to admit: I have, to date, written under a pseudonym, mainly due to prevent potential repercussions on my 'real' life. To be frank, my intentions were never to start a blog site which offers the content it does so now. There are a couple of entries whereby I wince before I press the 'publish' button (including the previous entry) and indeed many more potentially sensitive ones which will never see the light of day. Yes, I very much practice self-censorship, I am quite aware of the dangers of airing one's opinions, having been burnt before. Indeed, I have steered clear of politics (no desire to be involved in such discussion), focusing on personal opinions from a layman's perspective. As it is, this site is first and foremost a personal site, in contrast to more journalistic-styled sites. Yes, some opinions are somewhat subjective, and although striving towards objectivity is laudable, we are, after all, normal layman, unlike professional reporters who, indeed in certain domestic publications, more often than not give skewed subjective opinions masked in objective language as well. Absolute objectivity is the Serpent's Lie, because to be truly objective, one will need to encompass the viewpoints of every individual in the whole world, since everyone is uniquely individual. That is, of course, quite impossible. As such, it is all a matter of degree, with esteemed publishers tending toward absolute objectivity, as opposed to layman blogs which offer much more subjective material.

Pretty much because I do not have any ulterior agenda other than to air my opinions, I have, as far as its reasonably possible, try to remove references to distinct identifiable persons or objects, preferring to use satirical, hypothetical or theoretical examples, primarily for 2 reasons: Self-preservation and Disengagement.

While The Singapore Commentator rightly says that 'satire not a good substitute for serious discussion' when important issues are at hand, and states that it is often used as 'disguised rants', on the flipside, satire often protects and softens the blow, and gives one leeway in expressing unbridled opinion whereupon otherwise there would be no opportunity of doing so without exposing oneself to susceptibility. I believe in adaptation. To ensure one's own survival, one must adapt to the circumstantial surroundings. As it is commonly known in Singapore it is prudent to exercise discretion when airing potential sensitive views, hence the proliferation of sites such as Talkingcock and Mollymeek. Like it or not, thats the way it is here.

While I am admittedly somewhat anti-establishment, I have no time or desire to launch a 'crusade' to 'right' the 'wrongs' of society. I do not think its worth forsaking my family, friends, career, and goals (incidentally very different from what may be construed from this blog). Unfortunately, this is a sentiment shared by many fellow Singaporeans. Rather than being apathetic or infantile, it is just not worth the sacrifice. Whether such a situation is 'right' or 'wrong' doesn't really matter. What matters is that the situation is such and we just have to deal with it.

*Note that 'right' and 'wrong' are inherently relative and subjective as well. What may be 'right' to me may be 'wrong' to you.

And those few who choose to take up such a thankless task are either shot down, compromised, or most commonly, join the very establishment they were previously opposed to.

The vicious cycle goes on.

*Oh yeah and I shall also add a disclaimer on the sidebar, for what its worth.