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Sunday, Apr 28, 2019 - 21:14 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

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It's been a fairly busy month, but it's mostly done with, and graduation looms once more; may give a review of the process someday, right after the Hong Kong/Hawaii trip gets covered. But for now, I'll just ease back into the business...

Been There, Done That

Did manage a visit to the newly-opened vaguely Avatarish Jewel at Changi Airport for a family dinner, which hosted, amongst other attractions, a Pokémon cage fighting arena:

More brutal on the pocket than Mortal Kombat 11;
that said, it may yet save our economy

(Source: channelnewsasia.com)

Unsurprisingly, the place was completely packed with middle-aged locals, and so I popped down with my trusty Hamchu to the Sentosa Safari Zone event for a short few hours - it helped that it was just a few MRT stops away, nowadays. Snagged some rare Unowns and a Psyduck plushie, but no shinies, sadly.

Lightning Bans

While Pokémon might have survived in Singapore thus far, thanks to high-level uncles and aunties that know their rights and give no shits, the influence of local fundamentalists* hasn't been flagging; not content with driving Watain off, they've managed to get Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga sanctioned for offensive lyrics. In particular, Grande sang that "God is a woman" (wait, haven't the Ah Bengs been blaring the "God is a Girl" trance anthem since 2002 or thereabouts, to the extent that it was covered by Jocie Guo?), and Lady Gaga for "loving Judas" - but then, she's of age and doing it of her own free will, which is more than can be said for the offended; one wonders if AWARE will be roused on such discrimination...

[*N.B. That said, Easter worshipper, seriously?! I'm quite direct on this: a community gets me a holiday, I address them by name. Blatant double standards don't play well...]

This seems just the next stage in the local front of the global War of Information, with the authorities determined to push through the Fake News law, come what may. Perhaps far more insidious than these overt moves, however, is the invisible manipulation available to search engines. Both Google and Reddit have been quietly curating sources that they don't like, while subtly promoting handpicked viewpoints that may not conform to the actual opinions of their users, unlike what is expected behaviour with their autocomplete feature.

The clear concern here is about the death of discourse, from the precedents being set. This is, I feel, an area in which American classical conservatives have it spot-on: in general, if they disagree with or don't like something, they just don't do it; those on the other side, however, tend to insist that the government force everybody not to do it, and actively set out to shun and shame those that do not align with them. Fortunately, this attitude is coming under pushback in Great America, with an executive initiative towards free speech on campus - and not a moment too soon, given that the preferred mode of counter-rhetoric by students moves towards senseless disruption.

In the local context, the government reliably capituating to popular pressure - with Watain, Grande, Gaga, etc - looks like a loss of principles, and devolvement of policies to mob sentiment. The lesson, then, seems to be that if a group can muster enough outrage, they can get interpretations of rules bent in their direction - as we shall see in the following blockbuster:

#MeToo Arrives In Singapore

You've heard of it, of course - a randy, drunk chemical engineering undergraduate from NUS films a fellow undergraduate in her hall shower, gets caught, and is slapped with a semester's suspension, and a twelve-month conditional warning. Dissatisfied with the punishment, the victim publicized the case on Instagram, after she felt silenced. Shit exploded as the cybersphere gleefully doxxed the perp, who quit his insurance job after getting suspended as a result. Faced with snowballing outrage, the university's President was moved to pen a missive on sexual misconduct over the weekend, and they would hold a town hall on Thursday - not that it was particularly well-received, mind, with basically nothing said.

First off, it was interesting that the #MeToo movement was near-entirely unmentioned in online comments on the matter, given that it was the obvious antecedent. It should be noted here that I broadly agree with the exposure of previously-hidden cases of sexual assault; however, as always, there are caveats.

My university certainly hasn't been weathering the subject well, from how this has arrived so soon after concerns about increasingly-sexualized orientation games. However, in their defence, I'd say that the responsibility of law enforcement ultimately falls on the cops and legal system. NUS's options more or less extended to suspension or explusion, the latter of which one might suspect was what the victim was after. Anything further would be up to the police and AGC, who have since explained their sentence of a conditional warning as due to the perp's remorse and high chance at rehabilitation.

This decision to give a conditional warning, it should be recognized, is actually pretty consistent with that of comparable cases in NUS, of which there were at least eight in the past few years. Given NUS's hard-on for benchmarking themselves against the Harvards and Yales of the world, it might also be recognized that their previous best-practices seem largely the same as such hallowed institutions - suspension for voyeurism without physical assault, if only because they might not be left with much of a cohort otherwise. Given how the Education Minister has stepped in, though, one expects things to change, even as new cases pop up over at NTU.

The concern, then, is when accusations begin to get accepted at face value without critical examination, as #MeToo morphed into "Believe (all) Women" in the States - who can forget the ultimately baseless allegations flung against prospective Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, for having the temerity to like beer, and run for SCOTUS whilst Republican? Sadly, I fully expect such accusations to function as an on-demand political bludgeon, given the propensity for selective application by the "woke" left. Biden will be a hoot, I tell ya, but let's save this for the coming Democrat lineup review.

A telling revelation with the NUS case would be the early assertion that the perp's parents were "powerful people", which after being seized upon as further confirmation of the law working against the little people, turned out to be entirely false - his father is a taxi driver, and his mother, a housewife. That this question of background took on such significance might be considered as part of another emerging trend - the recognizance that hard work and ability are becoming less and less important in today's Singapore, as compared to wealth and connections.

The College Playing Field

There happens to be direct support for this view, from the recent college admissions scandal brewing over in America. These are not some second-tier outfits, mind; you've got Harvard, Yale and Stanford, various UC campuses, Georgetown and UT Austin, amongst others. How it happened was surprisingly simple - given the exalted position of U.S. varsity athletics, coaches had pretty wide latitude to admit valued recruits, who in these cases however had nothing to do with those sports. Oh, and there was outright cheating on entrance examinations as well.

The problem, one recognizes, was the method. No-one would have batted an eye, had an old-money scion simply pledged tens of millions for a new building or stadium or whatever, and had his distinctly-unscholarly offspring admitted. No, the first problem was that these upstarts were cheap, and the second was that they didn't bribe the colleges directly, as any gentleman worth the name would have done. People these days, no respect for tradition at all.

Two Docs

And, as a coda to the fading of free speech, we have an EDMW legend suspended from medical practice in Australia, for baring his mind online. Redditor response was, predictably, not to expose one's identity online, to avoid such trouble - it should be noted that the doctor's statements were arguably unremarkable by EDMW standards, and as such, the only issue was that the powers that be could put a face to the words. My own position on this, however, stays - people should speak, and not be cowed into not speaking, just for fear of offending others. Is there any sight more wretched than that of a supposed academic, who after dedicating decades to the pursuit of knowledge and the process thereof, clamming up like a mute?

While we're at this, it could be interesting to delve into Mahathir's background: supposedly, he got ostracized when studying medicine at the King Edward VII College of Medicine (now part of NUS), partly due to being allowed admission on lower standards (ironically, still the case in Malaysia), and never quite got over it; it remains to be seen how much that honorary doctorate might help to banish those memories...

In support of gender equality
[N.B. Yeah, He's definitely that kind of petty and vindictive]

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Next: Avengers: Box-Office Endgame

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