Go with a smile!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Privacy Policy

I think this will be a short note about the privacy policy of this blog.

I had set up this blog before GE2006 and back then it was even more important than now to be anonymous. A few friends and former workers know my real identity but I trust them not to reveal it. There was a case when I was nearly outed by a troll but he died in a car accident.

The last post I did was an unauthorised biography of Lee Hsien Loong which would probably get me in trouble if I were more famous. This is one of the few "dangerous" blog posts that I am writing but I think that it raises questions that people have to ask themselves. People want to know things about their leaders. It is part of accountability, and a part of understanding - well leaders do so much to shape their governments, so we are a democracy, we have to know, right? The only real biography on LKY out at the moment is his autobiography. I don't even know if there will be anybody who can write a biography about him when he's dead. I'm sure it will sell like hot cakes. How much information can people get about him? What kinds of access will people have to the archives? Let's put it this way - I was reading "Men in White", the history of the PAP. And it was astonishing how much LKY came across as a very secretive, elusive figure. Yes, it was not his biography but still he was one of the central figures.

The current situation is that Lee Hsien Loong, who has been in the public eye since he was a kid, is ironically less well understood than his two predecessors. Even when you allow for the fact that some people are just difficult to get to know (I think that LHL is definitely one such person).

Other reasons why I stay anonymous is because I want my privacy (not that enough people read this blog for me to be really concerned). And even though I don't talk about work a lot, I don't want to think too hard about stepping across the OB markers.

In this day and age, many more people blog under their real identities than when blogs started. The sheer number of people who have commented on the population white paper is staggering. If you think that blogging is a gamechanger, wait until you have facebook and social media. Blogging is the gateway drug to social media. When the blogging phenomenon started gaining traction around 2004-2005, most people wrote as one of their first ever blog entries, speculating on the idea of a blog. Many kept their identities secret. It’s a little startling that so much time has passed by since those days, but a lot of them said these things:

1. It’s a little strange that I should keep a secret diary, and yet have that secret diary accessible to the entire world through the internet.
2. It’s a little strange that I should now be saying the same thing every single person in the world, instead of selecting what I say to whom, through verbal speech, email, in writing. Broadcasting your thoughts to the whole world is extremely strange and a total gamechanger.
3. It’s a little strange that I should now have a double identity, the person I am in real life, versus the person on the blogs.
4. Now I can speak truth to power. Yippee!

There were a few controversies. Many of them centered around young ladies with blogs. A young woman who exhibited her fetish for Caucasian males and who probably enjoyed all the flame baiting that came with it, was sarongpartygirl. And she took naked pictures of herself and ended up on the front page of Shin Min. It was basically a form of mutual masturbation between people like her who loved all the negative attention, and the morally righteous tongue-wagging aunties who loved to excoriate the moral decadence of the younger generations.

I remember one thing I said during the discussions, because miyagi.sg quoted me and it ended up in the papers. I said, “big brother is still watching you, but the equation has been inverted: now all of us has become big brother, and we are all watching the government”.

Now BMT was not a happy experience for me, but I remember one thing clearly: when you are in the infantry, and you are fighting a battle, you must always be firing at the enemy, because that’s to stop them from firing back. The same dynamic must apply to your relationship with power. You must keep on attacking the PAP government in numbers, because there is safety in numbers. They can put 20 Barisan Socialis members in prison, but they cannot put 1000 bloggers in jail. You must make sure that their position is under threat so that they concentrate on fixing themselves instead of the opposition.

It is very curious now when I heard that Lynn Lee had her phone searched for allegedly making a film about the treatment of the Chinese bus drivers in Singapore. It is a little curious. These days, it is remarkable that many comments have been made about the impartiality of the AG’s Chambers, and nobody wants to “fix” anybody. At the same time, though, whenever you have incidents of police brutality being investigated, electronic devices get confiscated and examined, and you get lengthy interviews. When it comes to human rights issues, we can see that we are more advanced along the lines of whether or not the executive is truly independent of the judiciary. But when it comes to issues like the right of public assembly, gay rights, and rights of foreign workers, I feel that Singaporeans are not sufficiently advanced to care very much about them.

But the thing about blogging is that there was still a performer-audience dynamic. You could read the blog of somebody who takes the trouble to blog a lot. Yet you could put a psychological distance between yourself and the author. That person is faceless. Maybe he doesn’t speak for us. Maybe he’s a loner, a loony radical extremist. In these days of twitter and Facebook, it is even easier for radical ideas to spread because people can share their thoughts, and endorse other blog articles on facebook. You actually learn a lot about the people you knew in real life, but you didn’t know their political inclinations. Suddenly these ideas are no longer so foreign because there are people who you know in real life well enough to consider to be sane, and some of them are endorsing those supposedly crazy opposition parties. Maybe something has changed!

Yes, people can complain all they want about the intellectual vacuity of short 140 character tweets, or attention-challenged spying on all the stuff that your Facebook “friends” post up. Sometimes I think that twitter should be renamed "live brainfarts". But what you have on the credit side of the ledger is a very powerful filter that brings your attention to the most salient issues of the day, the ones that attract and probably deserve the most attention.

Anyway, for myself, I’m happy to keep on blogging. It’s a hobby, an exercise for my brain. I keep this blog separate from my real life identity, I keep my real life identity partially separate from my Facebook. I partition my life and I hope that these things do not bleed into each other too much.


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