26 April 2009

Bloggers' maturity demonstrated in Aware saga

Although the Aware controversy involved religion and sexual orientation, bloggers and their readers remained sober throughout, proving the government, which often accuses internet users of irresponsible speech, wrong. Netizens also shifted their opinions as facts emerged, disproving the imputation that internet users preferred lies and half-truths to facts. Full essay.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thio and her cohorts are merely acting as all interest groups do to advance their goals, albeit in a distasteful way. The larger problem is the ease with which they were allowed to do so. The well-organised putsch-by-stealth was only possible becase Christian interest groups are one of the very few in Singapore with the organisational discipline and freedom of movement to pursue their objectives. The government’s avowed rejection of independent civil society groups with a political agenda is well-documented. Even today the government is loath to allow for the flourishing of political groups that can influence the government’s agenda from outside. Consequently, over the last 4 decades Singapore has been fallow ground as far as civil society is concerned, with AWARE being one of the few allowed to take root. However, conservative Christian interest groups have not been viewed with such opprobium by the government. The reasons for this is too complex for this blog. Suffice to say, the conservative activist church is one of the last few abodes of independent political activism in Singapore. Its leaders and members are among the meritocratic elite of the country: affluent, English-educated, capable, highly influential and with a sincere belief in the rightness of their cause.

My problem with this state of affairs goes beyond my disagreements with certain aspects of their politics . My problem with it is the disproportionate influence conservative Evangelicals have over the political discourse of the country. They are not representative of the majority of the country in terms of faith, language, income and poitical beliefs. They are fully entitled to thei corner in the political arena, but the lack of alternatives have meant that the discourse is distinctly lop-sided. Furthermore, their organisational capabilities and influence means that they will have a much greater say in the course Singapore will take then nearly any other interest groups, entirely disporportionate to their actual numbers. That should be sufficient to give anyone pause.

-robs

The said...

The supreme irony of this whole sorry episode is that the new Exco and Thio Su Mien have done more to promote the cause of LGBTs in Singapore through their misguided zeal. They have really swung the sympathies of neutral parties like me towards LGBTs.

God works in mysterious ways indeed.

Doublespeak said...

Not true. I don't agree that this has helped GLBT cause in any way.

Being in the spotlight, yes. But how has this helped or promote understanding?

People are now more in favour of the old guards not because they have understood and accept gay people. I suspect it's more because they are worried of a bunch of christian fundamentalists taking over AWARE.

In fact, from this article as pointed, the old guards were worried if they were seen by the public as pro-gay they would lose a large number of would be supporters. And I agree with this too.

Also, I have wondered. If the old guards managed to wrest over AWARE, how will they treat the issues regarding homosexuality, seeing that it had been the main reason that they were attacked in the first place.

I am not saying they will become cowards and shut their mouths. But it has become a very sensitive point.

They won't want further allegations. More people will be watching them closely for any bits of info that they can use to slant in favour of their anti-gay cause.

Will there be changes in the comprehensive sexual education program? Will govt feel the pressure from parents to force on changes? This is the main point of concern after all the drama have died now.

Doublespeak said...

"When I look at the blogosphere through "blogseach.google.com", about 80 percent are now somewhere in Group I. But when I look at letters to the Straits Times and readers' comments appended to them, many appear to be die-hard supporters of the new exco.

Why the difference? I don't know. Anyone with any theory about this? Could it be a generational difference?"

My theory: The diehard new exco supporters feel the need to "conquer" the opinions expressed online, more so for the important/more read/more traffic sites, in this case, Straits Times online.

Their motive? If more people seems in favour of the new exco, it will also seem there's more support for them, and also possibly sway the opinions of those who are unsure what to think, and will follow the majority's views.

Spamming the space online and offline to appear they have the strongest voices, thus appearing as the "majority" voice.

Or it could be ST has more right wing Christian traffic.

Afterall, blogs like The Online Citizen, which speaks out against govt policies more, are less likely to attract right wing Christians, many whom I suspect are in the rich, elite group.

Anonymous said...

One thing the old guard has going
for them is that they all have
that nice kindly and motherly
demeanor about them.

Try to remember the nicest lady
teacher you had from childhood.
They are not that far off.

Contrast this with the new exco.
Think of that unpleasant young
lady high-flyer in a hurry from
your workplace...

This is not luck. Tolerance and
charity shows.

Anonymous said...

"People are now more in favour of the old guards not because they have understood and accept gay people. I suspect it's more because they are worried of a bunch of christian fundamentalists taking over AWARE. "

That is in itself already a really
great help!

The only active resistance to decriminalization is from them.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

THE said: "The supreme irony of this whole sorry episode is that the new Exco and Thio Su Mien have done more to promote the cause of LGBTs in Singapore through their misguided zeal."

Doublespeak said: "I don't agree that this has helped GLBT cause in any way. Being in the spotlight, yes. But how has this helped or promote understanding?"

I think you're both partly right. As doublespeak said, this episode hasn't directly promoted understanding. Yet, what it has done is to heighten awareness that being anti-gay is (a) not widely shared by Singaporeans, so the claim that it is a national consensus is now suspect, and (b) that much of the anti-gay position is the result of manipulation that reeks of deceit.

To the extent therefore that the anti-gay position is undermined, there is net gain for the LGBT cause.

However, as my article makes clear, we're only talking about articulate opinion. Which is what miniscule percentage of public opinion?

live,andletlive said...

Imho, I don't think this saga helped the LGBT in Singapore. It did more to misinform people who does not know much on the two topics of homosexuality and comprehensive sex education. From what I see, it had done quite a lot of harm by misleading people about comprehensive sex education, and by pushing homosexuality into the public sphere when the public is clearly, imo, not ready for it. It is sad, really, but it did open eyes to how misinformed and intolerant people can be.

Kelly said...

You asked about the difference in responses online and Forum letters. Yes, generational difference could be a reason, although it would be interesting to check how many of the Forum letters were from COOS members. Could it have been another instance of 'networking'?

The said...

/// Doublespeak said...
Not true. I don't agree that this has helped GLBT cause in any way. ///

Doublespeak, let me elaborate. Before this AWARE fiasco, those pro and anti LGBTs are kind of dead-locked in a tug-of-war, with neither side making headway.

With the dishonourable and stealthy way in which the COOS members hijacked a secular NGO for their fundamentalist religious beliefs, the anti camp has lost ground. Hence, the pro camp has gained simply by the other side losing the tussle. More than that, there are those neutrals who are won over.

Additionally, the nonsense spewed forth by the COOS members have resulted in some facts surfacing, in favour of the pro camp.

In Mr Wang Says So's blog, one anon posted:
/// AWARE sex education states that "HOMOSEXUALITY IS PERFECTLY NORMAL"
And here you are supporting the old guards who are espousing such teaching. ///

And the response from another poster was:

/// In response to the above, i have bad news. All the psychology and psychiatry textbooks of our day also taught the same damn thing that HOMOSEXUALITY IS NORMAL. Yes, just check out those textbooks in our university libraries. Entire generations of students and trainee psychiatrists are taught that HOMOSEXUALITY IS NORMAL. Worse, our university students are also taught that Discriminating against homosexuals is not ok. ///

The response from Mr WSS was:
/// Huh? But homosexuality IS perfectly normal (in a certain percentage of the human population).

As a matter of fact, this is true not just for humans, but a wide variety of other animals such as chimpanzees, blue whales, lizards, lions, crabs, worms, geese, ducks, penguins, giraffes, dolphins etc etc. ///

On The Online Citizen blog, certain posters were initially with the new Exco team. But when the Feminist Mastermind showed her manipulating skills, those same posters turned around and condemned the new Exco for their perfidy.

The outcome is that because of the bigoted views purvey by the COOS members, independent and neutral parties have countered with facts. There is a broader understanding of the issue now.

Definitely the un-Christian hijacking of AWARE has contributed to more understanding and more sympathies towards GLBTs.

Syle said...

We as a nation, build upon the believes of democracy, justice and equality.

Equality in the society would include equal rights for all citizen, regardless of their sexual orientation. Proclaiming equality while sequestering the the basic rights of the LGBT community is an open mockery of the concept of equality.

How much justice can we have, when open discrimination of the LGBT community isn't condemn, if not encouraged?

How much democracy can we have, when the minorities are pushed constantly into silence? How is the validation of only one side, a democracy?

It is startling the increasing mirror of this situation here with those in the United States.

I am so disappointed that the citizens of this country continue to live in the democratic, just and equal social, painted in a canvas.

Doublespeak said...

"Definitely the un-Christian hijacking of AWARE has contributed to more understanding and more sympathies towards GLBTs."

I wouldn't go as far to say there's more sympathy for GLBTs.

I have been reading readers' comments at various blogs too.

As yawningbread ask, how representative of the population are these comments? Nobody knows.

I do suspect people who feel strongly about this matter would make it a point to make themselves heard at different sites. This would make it seem there are many "in support of" or "disapprove". But they maybe the same bunch of people.

"let me elaborate. Before this AWARE fiasco, those pro and anti LGBTs are kind of dead-locked in a tug-of-war, with neither side making headway."

I agree there's some net gain in this saga afterall. The other side had taken a blow and we have benefited indirectly. And it is not just us who benefits, but society as a whole.

Still the matter is not over yet. And there's the question of AWARE's future.

Cheers?

Paul said...

Alex, you are absolutely right about the appalling comments on ST. Even setting aside the unchecked and repeated postings of nonsensical postings of people who are clearly mentally disturbed, the general level and tone of the debate is amongst the lowest of all the online discussions on these issues that I've read.

I, too, read the hate speech that you cited in your article, and tried to find a specific address to which I could send my concerns and objects. However, although ST says offensive or irrelevant comments will not be tolerated, it seems that only ST has the right to determine that - and that they are sleeping on the job.

Anonymous said...

Reading the TOC report from the 'Church of our Savior' perspective, can someone explain how and what does it mean to embrace the 'sinner' i.e. homosexual but not the 'sin'(homosexuality) as a Christian?

jtjm said...

@Anon
Embracing the person for who he is - giving him equal citizenship rights etc. But not the act of promoting homosexuality.

more information here

Anonymous said...

To jtjm,

Then 377A should be repealed.
Sodomy and oral sex are allowed for
heterosexuals.

And what do you mean "promoting
homosexuality"?
Turning heterosexuals into homosexuals???????

Saint Splattergut said...

Mr. Au,

I only posted this comment now because I realised that not only is the maturity of bloggers brought to the surface in the Aware saga... it is still there, in the aftermath and perhaps even more prominent.

Never have I read so many well-written, forward comments on equality by Singaporeans until now. And yes, equality, not gay rights. Many posts went beyond supporting gay rights, to supporting equality for all, regardless of race, religion, just like the pledge.

I never liked the term "gay rights" because it seemed to give some people the idea that gay people should have "special rights", and so preferred the term "equal rights" instead. It seems like I need not have worried that most people just won't get it.