[LINK] RFI: Singapore's Blocks
Wed, 21 Nov 2001 16:10:28 +1100
Welcome to the "Link Institute"!
There has long been an association with government and church attempts
to control communications and the narrow-minded, racist, sexist,
intoleant and exploitative societies which both result from this and
which perpetuate it.
You and many other citizens may feel protected and happy with your
paternalistic government, and in some ways this feeling is probably
justified by such concrete facts as economic prosperity and relative
lack of strife. If you and other citizens consider the restraint
placed on your communications is justified by the benefits which
directly result from it, then that is fair enough. But how do you know
what you are missing out on? How do you know that these limits on your
communication and thinking really do help your society remain fully
supportive of the true needs of all its citizens? How do you as
individuals and as a society discover your true selves if all your
Internet communications (and presumably other communications) are made
to fit in with whatever your narrow-minded, censorious government deems
to be proper? Would you support government monitoring of bedroom
conversation and conduct? I am sure there is a long list of things the
government considers dangerous in matters of love and sex which people
have, when un-restricted, been known to indulge in.
The 20th century was marked by most people in developed countries having
their knowledge of the world and of other people dominated by the
centralised, generally commercialized, highly edited and not-too-risque
mass media. (Though the commercial media has become increasingly crass
in recent decades.) The history of civilisation is one of freeing
individuals from tyranny and enabling them to live harmoniously in the
rich variety which many or most people, given the chance, rejoice in.
Countering this is constant pressure from religion, governments and
fearful people to instil guilt and inhibitions in people.
The efforts of governments to make the Internet "kiddie-safe" seem to me
to be primarily acts of social control - to stop people enjoying
themselves or stepping outside the narrow confines of what some in
government consider to be healthy. But some of the most enthusiastic
client of prostitutes and dominatrixes are male parliamentarians, so
even these politicians can be seen not to really fit their narrow
pretensions to what is normal and healthy.
If the governments were serious about protecting children, they would
make other genuinely dangerous networks safe first - such as by making
all vehicles in residential streets move at 10 km per hour or so and
have 12" thick bright pink foam buffers at the front. But Internet
censorship is not about children, it is about about stopping adults
having fun and challenging currently accepted ideas.
Where is the evidence that children are being harmed or even disturbed
whilst web surfing? If it was a significant problem, it would be easy
to document. The effects of child exposure to violence on TV are well
How can your government reach valid conclusions about what is acceptable
to discuss when the government and its society is living under the pall
Government and social censorship is not just a problem for Singapore.
We have both here in Australia too. The USA is just the same, but the
censorship laws were found to be unconstitutional due to the First
Amendment. The founding fathers had tremendous vision and commitment to
democracy, freedom and diversity. If it wasn't for this single
amendment, the USA would probably be a deeply censorious and even less
healthy society than it is.
Would your government ban discussion of religion and cults? If so,
then you and your citizens would find it hard to protect yourselves
against the ravages of the most virulent and exploitative of them.
What forms of sexuality does your government consider to be healthy?
Human sexuality and intimate relations is a vast field with all sorts of
potentially happy and unhappy outcomes - in which it is generally best
to have wide-ranging discussion with few if any preconceptions on what
is "normal" or "healthy".
The Internet, through web-sites, web/email discussion forums and via
personal email, is a *magnificent* way for individuals to discuss
personal matters and get to know each other without forever fearing the
censorious limits of government or other groups in society, including
those who describe themselves as feminists and who have a very sexist
and outlook on life.
An example of the unique ability of the Net to foster discussion which
could not take place in person, by mail, telephone or printed
publications - and which really helps people understand themselves and
each other - is my web site on the gentlemanly art of spanking the woman
you love, and its related discussion list (1700 members) at Yahoo Groups
I get tremendously positive feedback from women (and a smaller number of
men) about how this site and the list's discussions has helped them and
their partners live in harmony and with greater trust, respect and
passion than they had believed possible.
Without the Net, it would have been impossible for people to communicate
and get to know each other like this - but the Net censorship laws in
Australia mean I have to have to host the site in another country. Laws
such as those proposed for South Australia and NSW would make my efforts
a criminal matter, no matter where the site was hosted. I imagine your
government's restrictions would have a similarly chilling effect on
responsible, honest, exploratory and constructive adult discussion.
If you and your fellow citizens are indeed a bunch of goody-two-shoes,
content to live as instructed by your government, then you are getting
what you deserve - narrowness and a (probably false) sense of safety.
But my understanding of humanity is that many of you - many or most
people in any population - want and need greater diversity and
freedom. It is not just a wish, it is a need - because guilt about sex
and other things leads to all sorts of social dysfunction and
>From what I read, your people are far too enamoured of long hours at
work earning money, and don't spend enough time cuddling and having
children. So much so that your government has programs to try to get
your noses away from the grindstone and have you spend more time in the
bedroom or in other romantic pursuits. So I would think that a lively
discussion of playful spanking, bubblebaths, principled disciplinary
arrangements and life-affirming love and affection should be in tune
with the true needs of your society! But I suspect that your government
would be too prudish, too scared, too censorious to do anything but
characterise my site and its associated discussion list to beyond the
boundaries of what is "safe" for you and your fellow citizens.
> Heck, we can freely discuss anything! But we have to get our
> facts right, back it up.
Within the scope of the mailing list I run, we have such rules too.
This leads to a really wonderful discussion. There's nothing censorious
about this, since anyone is free to start another discussion list (it is
free and easy at http://groups.yahoo.com) and have discussions on
anything with whatever rules or lack thereof they like. (Actually, Yahoo
may have been cutting out some messages recently which are deemed to be
anti-USA - but then, there are plenty of other places than Yahoo to set
up mailing lists.)
What *is* censorious is a government applying such rules to its citizens
- because then they have no alternative. The rules I set for my
mailing list would be censorious if there was no other possible mailing
There are some serious privacy and legal problems resulting from the
ability to freely and anonymously disseminate information by the net. I
discuss these - such as contempt of court - in a submission I wrote a
few years ago for a government inquiry:
There *are* things which governments have a responsibility to protect
their citizens from, such as invasion by armed forces and by
telemarketers, because the citizens have no proper way of defending
themselves individually and government approaches are by far the most
effective. But protecting people from ideas and communication which the
government considered to be false or dangerous is not one of those
things. Such "protection" is pure social control for narrow-minded
reasons. If individual citizens want to restrict their lives according
to government guidelines, then they can do so, but for the government to
restrict the communications and therefore the thinking, experience and
potential for living of all its citizens is overly restrictive and
contrary to the basic needs of democracy, which can only thrive in an
environment of free discussion.
Is Singaporean society so frail that it can't handle a robust discussion
of playful spanking? If so, then by all means ban it! But given your
government's liking for harsh and sometimes extremely cruel corporal
punishment in schools and prisons, I don't think you are all so frail.
// Robin Whittle http://www.firstpr.com.au
// Melbourne, Australia http://fondlyandfirmly.com
// First Consulting and telco tech writing; Internet
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// Show and Tell; 21 Metre Sliiiiiiinky;
// Fondly and Firmly - the Gentlemanly Art of...
// Real World Electronics for music, including Devil Fish
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