The Gazetting of TOC – The Confessions of a Liaison Officer

January 16, 2011

This is a secret conversation between the Council of the Wise and Singaporedaddy concerning the recent gazetting of TOC as a political party. This conversation took place at 89019 Primus Space time recently in the Great Hall of the People in Primus Aldentes Prime – this transcript carries an e-prom code: 8839-0028 DB.


“Singaporedaddy, do you know why the Council of the Wise has summoned you to Primus Aldentes Prime?”

“Council, I can only hope it has nothing to do with something I may have blabbered after downing too many cocktails..”

“Look here! We did not summon you all the way across the universe to make smart Alec wise cracks. We seek to understand these recent development – you were once the Internet Liaison officer who represented the Brotherhood in the site known as the online citizen aka TOC. We want your frank assessment about these latest developments.”

“With due respect Council seems to be asking me obliquely, whether that supposedly mad man who you all refer too as Darkness was correct in his assessment of TOC? As his latest article concerning TOC’s gazetting as a political entity seems support the contention that what was done was the right move?”

“Yes, perhaps 1st officer – but please leave out Darkness. We find the mere mention of his name  obnoxious in the Great Hall. You see Singaporedaddy, the rest of the tribes have asked whether we should remain neutral or throw our support behind TOC even if we have nothing in common with them in the name of defending free speech in the internet. Perhaps even instituting a measured response? We seek to understand 1st officer and we desire an accurate assessment as to whether this latest move by the government is justified. The rest of the tribes may have nothing in common with TOC, but some quarters see this as an attack on internet freedom. Do you see why your assessment is key?”

“My frank assessment is we should never be seen to support either this recent move by the government or for that matter commit ourselves to give any form of support to TOC – I believe why there may be rumblings amongst the tribes. May have something to do with TOC’s attempt to link this recent move by the government as a clamp down on freedom of speech in the internet. To put it another way TOC is capitalizing on this opportunity whip up populist support by selling the idea what has been decided upon is a clear and present threat to internet freedom.”

“1st officer, you mean to say they are trying to be a cause célèbre? Will they succeed, this is what we wish to know?”

“No! The possibility of TOC successfully fashioning itself as a cause célèbre Council stands as much chance as a tornado whipping through a junkyard to assemble a 747. I can assure the Council this is improbable – as for these rumblings by the tribes in the strangelands that you speak about – they only represent 0.001% of our community- these are merely technical tremors like meteors no larger than a egg that frequently criss cross the night sky. They are inconsequential.   As for this TOC business it is also a matter of profound indifference, not because the Government is seen to be justified or for that matter TOC is seen to be been treated in a draconian manner by a big bully that everyone is powerless to cut to size. If I may plead with the Council to raise the unspeakable name of Darkness that has always been a thorn in the eye in the Great hall to highlight the salient.”

“If you must 1st officer. But only if you use it to illustrate a point. The Council finds his name offensive.”

“Thank you. Councillors, we must be mindful of this fact, what Darkness wrote is not entirely without foundation concerning TOC. Based on my extensive interaction in TOC as an Internet Liaison Officer who represents the four houses of the Brotherhood – I concur fully with his assessment which I consider accurate: where he claims the outfit who runs TOC have through a period of time become so unhinged from reality, they may already be so delusional as to have lost all semblance of objectivity. Neither is the assertion that they see themselves as Kingmakers or as Darkness puts it as some mythical power broker like Prince Klemens von Metternich inaccurate either.”

“1st officer is there a danger of boiling over like the Mr Brown Saga?”

“The answer is categorically no! The Council need not worry unduly that this matter will boil over as TOC despite its seemingly large readership does not command a tenuous hold on the public consciousness in the internet. They used too, but today they have alienated virtually every segment of the class of writers who we have always considered dangerous.”

“The intellectuals?”

“Precisely, without the support of the intellectuals TOC cannot possibly be fashioned as a cause célèbre, anymore than if Emile Zola did not believe the state had committed a travesty of justice on Monsieur Dreyfus. The latter would have rotted down to his bones in some penal colony. We all know this only too well based on our experience in Primus how dangerous the intellectuals can be when they are rubbed the wrong way.”

“Elaborate please 1st officer.”

“This same Council once issued a warrant of arrest for Darkness and his crew. Consider this Gentlemen, what did he do to annul those charges?” 

“You are out of line 1st officer, may I remind you are addressing the Council!”

“May I respectfully inform the Council that I am the 1st officer of the Interspacing Mercantile Guild. You have asked me for an assessment. I am here to give it as a counsellari who represents the IMG, not the magic mirror to the evil Queen in Snow White and the seven dwarfs.”

“Alright, make it quick then 1st officer, we don’t have all day.”

“It was not my intention to bring up the name of Darkness to cause offense. Only it serves to illustrate succinctly how he managed to checkmate the Council by appealing to the sentiments of all the intellectuals of tribes that dot the universe. Darkness once wrote long mournful letters which he posted all over the internet. But Councillors they were read not by the masses. Only a few. But this did not alter the fact, only a few of these intellectuals were enough to cause such a ruckus they finally manage to unite the rest of the tribes to petition the Confederation to threaten withdrawing our mineral concessions and that Gentlemen was the reason why those charges leveled against Darkness was annulled. To put it another way, TOC doesn’t have that sort of bedrock support from the intellectual class.”

“We did not summon you 3,000,000 light years all the way here to talk about Darkness. What has that got to do with the events concerning TOC?”

“Everything! As I mentioned Council without a bedrock of support as Darkness once enjoyed from the intellectuals in Primus Aldentes Prime. Darkness and his crew would still be a renegade force today. In the case of TOC in the early days. They certainly enjoyed the support of the intellectual and eclectic class of readers and commentators. In those days, TOC’s online popularity was purchased by forwarding two ideas woven into its mission – first, by bringing to light compromising facts about social inequalities or malfeasance on the part of the Singapore Government. And secondly, that this torrent of criticism serves as constructive platform as it offered an all inclusive and exhaustive opportunity to trash out issues exhaustively in a level playing field. This they managed to deliver in the early days. 

But lately starting in the beginning of last year, TOC’s disposition changed. Not only did they impose a word count ban on some of their regular commentators. But they also censored, deleted and many cases abused the moderation feature by in some cases holding comments they considered “inconsistent” with their point of view. One can only draw the logical conclusion all these were designed to create some semblance of widespread support to lend credence to what they regularly forwarded as the “truth”? To exacerbate matters, TOC frequently used this fear of being pilloried through censoring and deleting of counter arguments in their comment section to perpetuate a third, patently self-serving agenda: that if you want your comments to be posted then you would better tow their line. Eventually these three myths that TOC once subscribed too added up to a perverse obfuscation of what really resides in the public consciousness. In short by the middle of 2010, TOC could not even by the most forgiving standards be considered a fair and impartial site any loner, let alone serve as a sounding board for most netizens. The rot had by this stage become so serious it seems only those who form the inner circle of their coterie were regularly given a platform to air their views. This is an executive summary of how TOC alienated the thinking classes.”

“You mean to say your masters foresaw this clamp down?”

“Council, that information is privileged. And even if that were the case, I would not be in a position to confirm or deny it. Let us just say, we considered the situation untenable and this gazetting of TOC was in every sense consistent with our assessment.”

“We understand 1st officer. But could there have been any other mitigating reasons for TOC’s policy of pursuing a policy of comment censorship?” 
“I have no doubt, if TOC is here to rebut these claims they would certainly suggest that by pursuing a policy of selected commentary approval and disapproval. They were merely ridding themselves of the lunatic fringe – However Council, I cannot see how intelligent comments which may not agree with what is written in TOC can in any way abet racism or pose a threat to stability and racial harmony to warrant comment censorship – in summary, when TOC pursued this relentless policy of censoring they stymied serious dialogue which would have lent credence to their case as a site that hopes to promote an all inclusive dialogue; instead when these Kingmakers stopped counter arguments from appearing in their threads. I can only conclude this was done to ensure that none of their articles could be discredited by netizens who may have had held different point of view. This explains why TOC is not in the business of creating a fully inclusive quorum that allows for free and open discourse as its so often inclined to represent to most netizens. If anything TOC was in the business of engineering consent using the power of the internet. Pray tell Councillors, how is it possible to create an all inclusive platform for deep spirited discourse – when momentous issues raised intelligently by commentators are brushed away? Could it not be said then not only does the discourse become one sided. But since the art of engineering consent promotes only a myopic examinations it can only lead to a skewered discourse. I suspect this was done in order to lend credence to whatever they had to forward as news worthy material. When that happens the first casualty is the truth. This is why they are not so different from either the ruling hegemony or the MSM. They are in the business of practicing the same nefarious tools of engineering consent. The Council would do well if they doubt my assessment to ask themselves ONLY one question, why is there is there so little public outcry for TOC’s gazetting as a political entity in blogosphere?”

“Point taken 1st officer.”

“Council would do well to remember this. When open and free dialogue is systematically eviscerated with a hidden agenda to engineer to consent albeit under the spurious guise of responsible blogging – it makes no measurable difference to the issue of whether the government was justified in gazetting TOC as a political party or not. Neither should this recent move by the government be aligned and confused with whether freedom of speech is under siege. In my assessment, I do not see how those considerations should even be pertinent in the decision making process. Such questions can only acquire the power of agency if we are called upon to decide upon a blog that promotes free and open discussion, and TOC is not such a site. I don’t discount the management of TOC will certainly try to link this recent gazetting as a political entity to the broader question of the how this poses a threat to freedom in the internet. But since TOC has already alienated so many in the thinking classes, even the task of garnering support from most netizens remains a remote possibility. 

“1st officer, what is your recommendation?”

“My recommendation Council is we remain neutral. Besides whether TOC comes or goes is matter of profound indifference to all of us or anyone else in the internet, except maybe their direct beneficiaries. Our primary concern should be remitted to only asking ourselves whether free speech in the Internet has been compromised by this recent government action. In my assessment that answer is a resolute no.” 

“Thank you 1st officer for your comprehensive assessment. Long live the Brotherhood!”

“Council – one is always glad to be of service – Long live the Brotherhood!”

This transcript was recorded by an auto-bot crawler built and operated by the IMG – a conversation with the Council of the Wise and Singaporedaddy – documented by the Chronicler of the Book of Ages 2011

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