Singapore: Fascist or Democratic?

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Fascism (definition): “A totalitarian philosophy of government that [assigns] to the state control over every aspect of national life.” (TWT)

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14 DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS OF FASCISM (short version)

SOURCE: Lawrence Britt / Free Inquiry

[Infographic / Summary followed by Full Text]

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14 DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS OF FASCISM (longer version)

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia*. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

* View “Singapore: The Politics of Inventing National Identity,” by Stephan Ortmann
(PDF download).

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights: Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military: Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism: The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media: Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security: Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined: Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected: The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed: Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts: Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment: Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption: Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections: Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or (character) assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

SOURCE: Lawrence Britt / Free Inquiry

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ADDITIONAL LINKS:

a) Censorship in Singapore (Wikipedia)

b) Excerpts from “Anti-colonialism. . .Operation Coldstore” (Thum Ping Tjin)

c) Is this not a mockery of democracy? (Singapore Recalcitrant)

d) Hushed Fascism, Singapore-Style (Chris Ho / Facebook)

e) Political Abuse of Psychiatry (re: Amos Yee)

f) Singapore Blogger Faces ‘Financial Ruin’ (re: Roy Ngerng / Forbes)

g) Teo Soh Lung (on “fighting back with words”) and SDP / CSJ (on “accountability“)

h) Jolly Hangman (re: human rights abuses / Alan Shadrake)

i) Exciting Conversation on Facebook

(Censored–Sort Of) Singapore Crime Fiction

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Today’s blog post is on Jake Needham, whom I interviewed in December!

WHO IS JAKE NEEDHAM?

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Jake Needham writes crime/noir fiction set in Asia, including squeaky-clean Singapore.

He is a lawyer by education and held a number of significant positions in both the public and private sectors. He has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand for over twenty-five years.

And he posts great, snappy updates on Facebook.

BRAGGING RIGHTS

Described by The Straits Times as “Asia’s most stylish and atmospheric writer of crime fiction.”

Described by The Bangkok Post as “Michael Connelly with steamed rice.”

Wikipedia: Jake Needham

WHO IS INSPECTOR TAY?

Libris Reviews describes Inspector Samuel Tay as “a world-weary Singaporean homicide detective.”

Tay is a senior inspector in the elite Special Investigation Section of Singapore CID. He’s pretty much the best investigator the Singapore police have, albeit he is somewhat of an outsider.

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THE DEAD AMERICAN is the third book which features Inspector Tay.

The blurb for the book mentions the following:

“A young American software engineer hangs himself in his Singapore apartment. At least that’s what the police say happened. Emma Lazar, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, thinks otherwise. She thinks Tyler Bartlett was murdered to keep him quiet, and the Singapore police are covering it up.”

That description immediately brought to my mind the case of Shane Todd, an American engineer who was found hanging in his Singapore apartment.

The author does mention in a blog post that the book is not a fictionalized account of the death of Shane Todd. It is, however, set in Singapore, which Jake Needham feels is a “country whose rulers have perpetuated themselves since its first day of nationhood through ruthless censorship and the relentless suppression of effective dissent.”

SINGAPORE CENSORSHIP (OR, “OB MARKERS”)

Jake’s readers have noticed some spooky parallels between the Shane Todd case and a novel he first published years ago about the death of another American in Singapore.

One would think that there would be a natural market for Jake’s book in Singapore, since all the Tay books are built on real events and real places related to Singapore.

However, the content of the Tay books cut Jake off from his publisher in Singapore — he can’t get any local press coverage either. One can assume that this is due to two factors:

(1) the controversial content of his Works of Fiction, and
(2) the unsavory depiction of Singapore authorities in his Works of Fiction.

After all, we are all told that Singapore is to be recognised as clean and incorruptible.

STDesmond Wee-CPIB

“Singapore is [a] clean and incorrupt system and country.” — excerpt from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech at the CPIB’s 60th Anniversary celebration, 2012.

And if you’re like Alan Shadrake who published a well-researched, non-fiction book about the human rights abuses in Singapore, you get thrown into jail at the very least for “scandalizing the Singapore judiciary.”

This makes it difficult for Jake Needham to connect with a Singaporean audience and introduce them to his characters and stories set in Singapore, since his books have disappeared from local booksellers and he receives virtually no local press coverage because everyone knows they are expected to toe the party line.

It brings to the forefront the sense of self-censorship in Singapore.

Can you imagine a scenario where Mike Connelly’s books cannot be sold in California because some of the cops he writes about are stupid, or motivated by politics, or even downright crooked?

JAKE’S VIEW(S) ON THE SITUATION

In an interview with I-S Magazine (original link and blog link), Jake said:

“When The Ambassador’s Wife (the first Inspector Tay novel) was published, all my contacts abruptly stopped returning my calls, and not another word about the book ever appeared in any publication in Singapore. . .

I certainly don’t consider [the Inspector Tay books] to be negative depictions of Singapore. Quite on the contrary, I think they are authentic and honest depictions. That’s always what I strive for, regardless of where I set my novels.”

Jake’s reply to my email on the situation:

“As I recall, it’s very difficult for Singaporeans to buy from Amazon and almost everyone there is forced to source ebooks locally from locally controlled sources. Needless to say, none of my ebooks are available through any of those sources. There is very little popular fiction published internationally that features contemporary Singapore, and I have little doubt a fair number of Singaporeans would enjoy meeting Inspector Tay and seeing their city though his eyes if only they knew he existed.

I’d be happy to support any source in Singapore who could make the Tay books available there — heck, I’d even give a bunch of them away if that was the only way to get them into the hands of people in Singapore.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP

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Screenshot of Amazon page in Singapore — Kindle edition unavailable (thanks to my friend in SG who took this screenshot)

At the moment, Kindle books in the Amazon US store are unavailable for purchase or download for people in Singapore.

THEREFORE, if you’re in Singapore and would like to support Jake Needham’s work of authentic/fresh/exciting fiction set in Singapore, you can help out by doing one of the following:

— Buy his books from iTunes

— Buy his books from Smashwords (coupon code available for people reading this post: see below)

— Sign up for his awesome newsletter

— Follow him on Facebook and Twitter

Share on social media. Here’s a sample tweet.

COUPON AND A NOTE

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Here’s a Smashwords coupon that’s good for a 50% discount on any ebook edition of THE AMBASSADOR’S WIFE (first book in Inspector Tay series) until February 28, which will take the price for you lovely readers down to US$2.50:

Link: The Ambassador’s Wife, by Jake Needham (Smashwords)

Coupon Code: DX49S

* The first two Inspector Tay novels — THE AMBASSADOR’S WIFE and THE UMBRELLA MAN — are available on iBooks and Smashwords. THE DEAD AMERICAN is exclusive to Amazon until March 1 and won’t be available on iBooks and Smashwords until March 2 or just after.

To Singapore, With Love

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Tan Pin Pin’s To Singapore, With Love, a documentary featuring Singaporean political exiles, will not be allowed for public screening. The Media Development Authority (MDA) said the film “undermined national security.”

The biggest feeling in response I have to the MDA’s statement is disappointment. As a person with a functioning brain, and a person who was born in and grew up in Singapore, I also feel insulted with the MDA’s official stance on the matter.

This isn’t a fictitious movie that depicts a disrespectful portrayal of Singapore’s people or its culture. It is a documentary that includes content pertaining to certain “periods in Singapore’s history that are fraught with controversy.”

A documentary is defined as follows: “A movie or a television or radio program that provides a factual record or report.”

It is sad and shameful that Singaporeans are not being allowed to hear these people’s side of the story.

Are Singaporeans too dumb to handle the facts? Can they not be trusted to make their own conclusions from a variety of sources?

Why continue to hide and keep things covered up, when there is, according to PM Lee Hsien Loong’s 2013 New Year Message, a “clean and transparent system of governance”?

As Alex Au wrote in his blog post, “Trust can never be restored by concealment and gagging. Only openness will do.”

Historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin had this to say via a Facebook status update:

“In its statement, MDA said it had assessed the contents of the film, and decided that it undermined national security. It added that legitimate actions taken by security agencies to protect the national security and stability of Singapore are distorted as acts that victimised innocent individuals.”

The MDA’s statement is wrong. Research has proven that the primary aim of Operation Coldstore and other instances of repression was to remove political opposition to the Singapore government. If the MDA disagrees, they should ask the ISD to release documentary proof and allow us historians to revise our research. Having seen this film last week, the one thing that all the interviewees have in common is a deep, abiding love for Singapore. This movie reinforces national security by demonstrating the deep loyalty and commitment of Singaporeans to Singapore, even those forced unjustly into exile.

People deserve to know the facts pertaining to their own country’s history.

I, for one, always appreciate facts from sources other than watered-down, sanitised social studies textbooks which sometimes present only one side of the story.

UPDATE #1: There is a Google form set up by the film and art community to collate more signatories in support of this film. More information on Google and Facebook.

UPDATE #2:

Tan Wah Piow’s statement on the banning of the film:

To ban the film would be an infringement to Article 14 of the Singapore Constitution which protects the freedom of expression. The only way to circumvent Article 14 of the Constitution is to invoke the security threat mantra. This would be implausible in any democratic country where the rule of law interprets “security threat” only in the strictest and narrowest sense.

But Singapore is a different story. That is why the Cabinet has to be very highly paid, because our ministers and Prime Minister are very clever.

But the people are not stupid either. One day, the people will know who is the serial abuser of the Singapore Constitution.

NLB: Censorship and Intellectual Freedom

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“And Tango Makes Three” is a children’s picture book which features the true story of two male penguins that raised a baby chick in a New York zoo.

Here is my short commentary on the Singapore National Library Board’s (NLB) recent actions to destroy three books (including the aforementioned title) that were deemed unsuitable for young children, because of “non-traditional” family themes.

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Image by Nam Y. Huh/AP

I would like to take this opportunity to direct NLB to the American Library Association’s (ALA) page on censorship and freedom of information.

In a Q&A on these subjects, the ALA states:

“Intellectual Freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored. Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive and disseminate ideas.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas considered the “restriction of free thought and free speech” to be “the most dangerous of all subversions.”

It does not take great imagination to understand why.

We need look no further than the comments of Young Artist Award recipient, Cyril Wong, who said:

“As a queer writer, I think I have reached a limit of some sort, in the light or dark of recent events. I don’t know why I’m bothering anymore. By sometime next year, I’m just going to stop; yes, stop publishing, stop working with governmental organisations, even stop writing.”

Justifying the removal of books because they “do not reflect existing social norms” provides me with some questions to ponder.

Is a person less of a human being because of their sexual orientation?

Does a perpetually bitter, jealous married wife promote more “family values” than a single mother who dedicates all of her time and energy towards providing the best for her family?

How is a public library serving the needs of the public if members of the public are only allowed to peruse publications that reflect the social norms of only one group or community, at the exclusion of all others?

When people are not allowed to think for themselves or express their views, their voices are effectively silenced. Their self-identity is compromised along with the likelihood of having an authentic dialogue with other human beings.

And it’s too late for society once people don’t have a voice, or are prevented from being heard if they do.

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More Information:

(Singapore Media)

Author Justin Richardson responds to NLB removing his book (The Online Citizen)
Author Jeanie Okimoto responds to NLB removing her book (The Online Citizen)
NLB CEO saddened by protests against gay book pulping (Everything Also Complain)
Ink Spilled on NLB Book Banning (Extensive collection of links by Robin Rheaume / Facebook)

(International Media)

Singapore Provokes Outrage by Pulping Kids’ Books (TIME)
“And Tango Makes Three” appears routinely on the ALA’s annual list of most “challenged” books (Wikipedia)
What Does Singapore Have Against Gay Penguins? (The Washington Post)
Love That Dare Not Squeak Its Name (on homosexual behaviour in animals; New York Times)