The Incredible Unlikeness of Being of The Sedition Act – A Critique on “Deregulating The Net.” Part 2

June 29, 2008

Q: So let me get it right; you’re saying Cherian and the blogger 15 do not understand the relevance of the sedition act from a legal operation standpoint? How does that measure up to my first question as to what Cherian claims; ‘we don’t need the government; this can be handled by the community?’

A: Missy Dotty:  I am sorry. I am not very good at giving interviews. This is my first time, so I need to keep telling myself that I shouldn’t allow my statements to fly off the handle.

No I am not for one moment suggesting Dr George does not understand the relevance of the Sedition Act. He is an eminently qualified scholar and I am certain he appreciates the gravity of the issues along with the likes of Mr Arun Mahizhnan who also happens to be an old hand at the wheel.

On that score I am certain. As for the others, I reserve comment. Perhaps the reportage in the Strait Times was incomplete; I would prefer to give the good doctor and the rest of the bloggers the benefit of the doubt. I am certain they all know about this.

What I am sharing after all is hardly specialized knowledge.

Having disclaimed myself; what is less certain is what does Dr George mean when he says:  

‘There is merit in civil society doing it on its own…’ Is he implying there’s no need to depend on the Government to regulate social values?’

I don’t know to be perfectly honest with you. Yes, sedition as a body of law certainly has an unsavory history; that’s undeniably; but bear in mind sedition laws are also frequently called social barometers, as they are reflective of what society is prepared or not to stomach i.e they are in effect, one the clearest manifestation of what ‘civil society’ is willing to tolerate – a very accurate and reliable of public sentiment.

That leads us to the question; if sedition laws are able to produce a story that manages to articulate the ‘collective’ chorus within our society: presumably to connect all the missing linkages to effectively make up our sense of identity, roots, and founding.

Then pray tell how contextually and substantively different can Dr George’s ‘higher principled’ instrument be to the current Sedition Act?

Do consider.

Nevertheless, once again, one should always give him and his associates the benefit of the doubt; they’re terribly intelligent after all to have come up with this whole idea.

Q: So Dotty can I say you are an unabashed supporter of the sedition act? You see nothing principally wrong with it?

A:  Missy Dotty:  No I am not an unabashed supporter of the Sedition Act.

As I took the trouble to point out earlier; I do have reservations and even misgivings concerning it’s less than savory  historical lineage.

If memory serves; I even described it as a “crude instrument” of soliciting compliance. However I do recognize the practical necessity of having the requisite latitude in law and the pressing need to act speedily and accurately when it comes to online hate speech. This I have described as the good side of the sedition Act. I am merely trying to point out that other side that may have been lost to the blogger 15 and our readers.

A: [Montburan cuts in] Allow me to add on to the operational aspects of the Sedition Act that Dotty shared.

What underpins the Sedition Act? Cherian and the 15 bloggers have not asked themselves this basic fundamental question.

All they have done as Dotty rightly pointed out is omit, bend, exaggerate, invent and embellish the account by claiming the Sedition Act is evil and off they go.

Do I support the moral position of the Sedition Act? No I do not, but as Dotty rightly pointed out; the Sedition Act remains effective in hate speech and in cases of sectarian and faith incitement, but just to defer with Dotty very slightly; it’s continued usage is really a function of necessity rather than any flowery rationale one may seek out in jurisprudence or any where else in the legal compedium. 

The rationale of the Sedition Act is NOT premised on the idea of stomping on the little Joe Public and denying his elemental right to free speech.

That may very well occur but its incidental to it’s main purpose of stopping hate speech dead on its tracks like an elephant gun.

Cherian sets out to argue the fairy tale that the government is not required. He does this with admirable finesse by appealing to our sensibilities that the sedition act is morally abhorrent. That’s obvious! No one disputes for one moment, it’s abhorrent; not even me!

But the account remains incomplete; as Dotty rightly mentioned how do we solve the operational side of tacking hate speech? This Cherian doesn’t share with us; we are not even told how this may be accomplished.

What if I said to you the Sedition Act has nothing to do with jurisprudential underpinnings; nothing to do with law even; and everything to do with mashing the gears of the machinery of justice.

This becomes all to clear when we look at how the Sedition Act works; Here the misgivings of Cherian becomes all too clear.

Firstly, he does say through Yawning Bread the entire process will be open and transparent when it comes to dealing with those who have run foul of social norms; but where offers no proposal for how evidentiary material  would even be obtained; tell me under what authority will service providers such as Starhub or Singtel release privileged IP information? They cannot due the need to comply with data protection guidelines. This can only be obtained by a court order. How will the evidentiary material be classified? Again the 15 bloggers offer no solution here as to how they might actually do that highly contextual, intra-executive task, which even lawyers and judges have historically deemed to be outside their purview and expertise, as this is handled by the law enforcement agencies.

So when we talk about the innards and guts of the Sedition Act it is a process. And what is the rationale of this process? Why does Dotty keep on harping on that it’s an operational rather than a jurisprudential argument?

Because the Sedition Act belongs to a genre of enabling acts like the ISA which best translates the principle of zero-tolerance into action – though no govt in the world can actually afford to have literally no tolerance at all – the whole intellectual nub goes back to an article that George Kelling co-wrote in Atlantic Monthly in 1981. Now at Rutgers University, in his article “Broken Windows” Kelling made public detailed research in the South Bronx area of NYC. If you broke one window there in a deserted block and mended it the following morning, the building would stay intact. But if you didn’t mend it, every window would be broken within 72 hours.

And here you need to ask yourself how many windows would have been broken by then? If the blogger 15 is given the luxury of time to dilly dally their way to bring the offender to task?

I really don’t believe they (the 15 bloggers or their friends) even know how to get on top of this problem of hate speech and racial incitement sensibly.

We are not talking about a simple matter of what is right or wrong here in the moral context as it remains a question of practical necessities: how do we hunt down and bring to justice the one hooligan who threw the stone that broke the one window – the goal is to keep it to only one and no more – that’s the real challenge the 15 bloggers would do well to consider deeper before they go about saying:

“’There is merit in civil society doing it on its own…There’s no need to depend on the Government to regulate social values.’

Closing statement by Missy Dotty: Thank you very much Y2K for giving us all in the read club a real voice to participate in this deregulation debate.

Baby Darkness used to shut us down regularly as he claimed (real or imagined) no one is interested to read the ruminations of read club members.

I remember this hurt me and the others terribly, but the boy general can be cruel.

My hope is we will be given a real voice by the newly created FILB. Indeed this is a very good start.

Thank You and I would like to wish the 15 bloggers and their associates good luck.

 

[Dear Valued Readers,

 

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Yen Kiat most people call me Y2K. I am the chief curator and director-general of the newly created Free Internet Library Board based in Primus Aldentes Prime.

 

I first proposed the idea of creating the library in the virtual to Harphoon a few months ago. I told Harphoon, I wanted it to be independent from the BP. The ideal hopefully is to integrate the many different knowledge based out there in blogosphere under one roof without fear and favor.

 

Hopefully this will one day all add up to a valuable epistemological account of what was once said in our beloved internet.

 

When I met Darkness he asked me only one question; why? I replied what we say in the internet is important not only today but also tomorrow. History remains our only means of making sense of who we are? It’s worth preserving.

 

What’s been recorded is our capacity to make sense of a fast changing world.

 

My hope is this effort can somehow supplement and even extend our understanding of how best to make sense of the challenges we as netizens face today and tomorrow.

 

Darkness mooted my idea in their Great Hall quoting my words even. I think it’s their parliament and within two days, they (the brotherhood) constructed a building. I am supposed to give it a grand sounding name and design the logo, but I haven’t really decided what and how it should look like or what it should ideally even represent.

 

The building looks stern like everything in Primus with its ordered columns and classical lines; I told Darkness, it could do with a courtyard with a few trees; he saw to that. He seems to share our vision.

 

As I walked alongside Darkness in Primus surveying this new building; he told me constructing anything in the virtual is the easy part. I remembered at one point in our walk, he took out an orb and created a period fountain in front of me in this new courtyard that I had specially requested; he said it’s a replica of the one he once saw in Palermo, Italy and it was faithful right down to the last brick. I was impressed, but he went on to say, this is the easy part the hard part is breathing life into it – getting as he said people to while away the day as they mull over life here.

 

He said, this was his gift to the FILB.

 

Little did I know a few days later the man called Darkness would walk right out of the game.

 

I thought it would be good to share this all of you.

 

Thank you for reading the FILB.

 

Regards

 

Y2K

 

[This interview series has been brought to you by the FILB courtesy of the IMG and the Mercantile Interspacing Guild – The Brotherhood Press 2008]

 

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