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Encourage Singapore To Come Out Of the Stone Age

At 07:06 AM 9/2/96 +0800, James Seng <[email protected]> wrote:
>Just let to add my comment in regard to this unforuntate discusssion.
>To understand the sitution better, you should not impose America 
>idealogy and perspection on how things to be done to Singapore. 
>Singapore maybe young but there are certain culture too.

While Tim's article title was clearly intended to be provocative,
I think the most unfortunate thing about this discussion is that
we need to have it at all.  Any government, or any individual thug,
that would impose violence on people for saying things that would 
bring it into disrespect deserves no respect at all.  Any government 
that claims to have the god-like wisdom to dictate what's best for
its subjects to hear or what religious ideas to believe doesn't
deserve to be listened to, much less obeyed.   If Singapore's government
and religious leaders want to say "Our ideas are better than American
ideas", and you or I or your neighbor want to listen to them, fine;
maybe some of their ideas are better than some of the many ideas
floating around North America.  But if you or I or your neighbor
want to listen to competing ideas, and even to believe and talk about
competing ideas, neither you nor the government have the right to
stop them - only to refute them with better ideas.

People like Tim and I aren't upset only because we believe that
we know better than you and Lee Kwan Yew how to run Singapore;
free speech is often threatened here in the US and especially Canada.
You mentioned movie ratings - they were invented here partly to
avoid the threat of government censorship.  A few years ago a
prominent right-wing religious/political leader, Jerry Falwell,
put out a "Bill Of Rights For American Families" that included the
right not to hear offensive foreign ideas like Communism.

I agree that Singapore and America have different cultures;
in an environment of free speech, if Singaporeans don't like 
American TV and movies, they won't watch them, and advertisers
will quickly figure this out and try to find TV programs they like.
On the other hand, if a power-hungry government decides that it doesn't
like American TV, forbids business licenses to anyone who broadcasts it,
and jails anyone who broadcasts TV without a business license,
they're more corrupt than a government that forbids business licenses to
anyone who doesn't pay a bribe.  (At least in a kleptocracy,
you can usually print or say what you want if you pay the bribes, 
though my father-in-law's newspaper was once shut down for printing 
that the mayor was taking bribes, and who they were from, and how much.)

>In addition, you need to see the method of censorship deployed in
>Singapore. For press media like papers and magazine, it is done in a
>passive manner. They _do not_ read every issue of every magazine available
>in Singapore. They only do so when there is enough complains. 

This also means you don't know what is safe to print and what isn't.
You have to restrict yourself very strongly, because otherwise
some politically influential person will complain to the government,
and you go to jail.  At least if the government tells you what
the rules are, you know it's safe to say things that don't violate them.

>One more point. They know it is impossible to censor everything. [....]
>his reasoning is "how many people can do it? 10%? 5%? That's fine with us.
>If the people really wans it, they can get it". 

Interesting.  I don't know if this is good or bad, but at least they're
It also means that if enough people want information badly enough,
the government may know not to censor it.  On the other hand,
a government that can keep the leader of an opposition political party
in jail for years just because he opposes them is pretty corrupt.

>if you wish to rebuke the points which i mention above, please feel 
>free to do so but do so in the context wrt Singapore culture. 
>Do not impose the general idealogy and culture within 
>your country into your argument. 

The right to speak freely without government thugs shutting you down
and throwing you in jail or killing you is a universal one.  
The ability to get anybody to listen to what you have to say,
on the other hand, is highly dependent both on general culture
and on the interests of the individuals you hope will listen,
as well as on what you have to say and your ability to say it well.

>Now, what makes you think that citizen of Country A has the power or 
>rights to tell politicians of Country B what to do and what they cannot do?
>Just wondering.

Because I have a mouth and a conscience, and they have ears and consciences.  
I certainly have more right to tell a politician in Country B not to
stop his subjects from speaking than he does to order them not to speak.
And if the politicians over here are wrong, which they often are,
you've got the right to tell them that too.  Of course, the politicians
over here usually won't listen to you, and the politicians over there
either won't listen to me or they'll add my name to the firewall killfile :-)
But it's also safer for me to tell your politicians to behave well than
for you to tell them, since you have to live with them.

>ps: Sorry for the off-topic discussion.

It's not off-topic.  Building tools to prevent censorship is 
distinctly on-topic for cypherpunks, and an occasional digression into
whether it's a good idea is worthwhile.

#			Thanks;  Bill
# Bill Stewart, +1-415-442-2215 [email protected]
# <A HREF="http://idiom.com/~wcs"> 	Reassign Authority!