The day after TOC got gazetted – The China Syndrome

January 19, 2011

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I have very little doubt with the recent gazetting of TOC as a political entity, the “happy hours,” is well and truly over (for them at least) – I am not saying TOC is going to keel over and die, stay and write on they certainly will, but no one can deny, the TOC that is likely to emerge from this episode will be different – and it would seem the right thing for all of us who truly value internet freedom is to regard this latest move by the Govt as an attempt to prune free speech in the internet – after all how can thinking people just accept this “intrusive” move at face value, without so much as a raised eyebrow or at least having the decency to make teeth sucking sounds?

But I am not so sure that’s the right take. Neither do I buy into the populist belief, this recent move by the govt necessarily corsets free speech anymore than I believe high tech barrages alone can stop Orchard Rd from turning into the Venice of the East. Question: is gazetting TOC a bad thing? – that proposition only holds water, if you believe The Online Citizen = the Internet. If so kindly move on to the next excellent article elsewhere, as you’re not going to enjoy this write up.

I don’t believe TOC is the alpha and omega of blogoland and I can even supply the proof. The contention is simple; firstly, reading is essentially a self selecting habit and its hard if not impossible to curb anyone from reading whatever and whenever they choose – not even the Chinese have been able to successfully corset the geography of the net despite building a Byzantine digital fire wall that is designed to exclude all other narratives except those handed down by their national leaders. Observation suggest, they have failed big time despite a decade of relentless harrying and spending an inordinate sum in ensuring that public discourse must remain “public” only in the sense of what the government considers kosher.

And how might all these relate to the recent gazetting of TOC? What is the correlation? What am I trying to say here? 

Put simply, this goes back to the idea why I don’t see these latest attempt by the govt to corset TOC, as something that could possibly threaten the idea of freedom of speech – I admit my conviction may have something to do with my belief; what the net is and isn’t or what makes it tick – to me, the attributions that make up the internet is essentially a loose aggregation of voices, it’s formless and contrary to the TOC it may even be purposeless i.e few blogs out there that I regularly read and respect aspire to emulate the MSM – I understand this may come as a great surprise to many regular blog readers and even blog owners, but that’s because they haven’t really learnt the art to search out the nooks and crannies where other voices so often rent out on our objects of interest – its conceivable the average blog reader is at best delegating his daily diet of reading material to only aggregation sites in the way one walks up to a soup kitchen without dwelling deeper into the question: have I really bothered to search out what’s worth reading out there? Wonder no more why these readers seem to be the only ones lamenting the demise of TOC. It stands the test of reason, if you’ve been living in a well all this time, take away that circular view of the the world and what you’re left with is the impression it’s the end of the world- I am here to tell you otherwise. I am also here to share with you that you have the power to choose what you want to read. And if you don’t choose to exercise that right and leave it all to just aggregation sites to lead you by the nose, you have no one to blame but yourself, if you’re missing out – contrary to populist belief freedom of speech is under siege – observation suggest what the internet may be experiencing with events such as TOC is simply a natural process that has coursed throughout history – the lessons can be summed up in a conversation that transpired between Tarkin and Princess Leia in the first episode of the Star Wars.

Governor Tarkin: Princess Leia, No star system will dare oppose the Emperor now.
Princess Leia: The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers like sand.” 

That is what happens whenever walls (it matters little what form they take) are erected to divide schools of thoughts and states of minds –  words, ideas and meaning will simply take another form and shape to convey those same thoughts that once cemented the relationship between readers and writers – as whenever, I hear others lament the passing of TOC is an assault on our freedom of speech; what they often discount wholesale is there’s a collective psyche that makes up the DNA of the internet ( for got sake the Internet has been around for the last 15 fucking years! So don’t tell it hasn’t developed an equivalent of a brain, kidney or liver in a digital sense) – and I am here to tell you that is not an easy thing to extinguish – as this idea I am describing is so versatile, elastic and malleable that it like s lizard’s tail, cut it off and another one will just grow right back – eventually what will happen is we will all simply learn to develop another way of getting the same message across albeit with lashings of similes, lemotifs and other syntactic variations – walls in whatever form they may take, I don’t doubt may short circuit the traditional pathways one usually conveys ideas and thoughts, but so long as that DNA of common experiences, beliefs and nuances still exist in the marrow of the community who make up the Internet – it is really only a matter of time when netizens will begin wordsmithing a new language to get around, under or though those walls in the hope of connecting writers and readers – that new variation of communicating ideas and thoughts may well be the digital equivalent of the nudge, wink and sardonic cluck of the tongue or even something like the Samzidat, that once flourished even under the harshest of conditions. But thrive it will, so don’t fret my friends.

If the China experience serves as any indication to predict how the new Singapore political scene is going to pan out in the future – the perverse result may well be the same irony where state sanctioned discouragement of independent thought – only creates fertile ground for political satire, humor and subtlety to take root.

Paradoxically these days despite ever more inventive and sophisticated ways to erect higher, wider and thicker fire walls in China – all it has managed to do is up the ante on satire and humor thats designed to criticize the Communist obliquely in innumerable tongue and cheek ways that’s virtually impossible to clamp down as it manages to circumvent the laws – the proliferation of mockery of traditional figures of authority in some cases has proven to be far more effective than traditional linguistic methods of expressing discontent in China where the state well known to be intrusive and callous when it comes to upholding free speech in the net. Since these unconventional methods of getting the message across frequently leverage on humor, wit and barded repartees, they cut across all levels of society, from the wet marketeers who ply their trade in the Hu Tongs, to assembly sweatshops workers to right up to cubicles where Western educated Chinese working for multinationals can’t resist giggling at govt faux pas galore. My point is all these aren’t in delivered inline MSM style but they’re brought forth by a polyglot lingua Franca commona – only this a language written in an alphabet that all netizens seem to be able to read and understand, except the custodians of power – and there in the palm of your hands lies the great hope.

Trust me the Internet will survive and it will be free!

It’s hard for me to express my thoughts and excitement concerning the changes that we will all eventually see in these next few years; even harder to put them into words – perhaps, the sentiment that best be sums up my feelings concerning this matter is the way a farmer looks on with a sense of trepidation and hope as one season bows out to the advent of a new dawn.

Long live the Internet! 

Darkness 2011


“What has the Great Chinese fire wall accomplished? Aren’t reports of corruption and abuses of power still echoing around their web. Look apprentice, when a drunk student whose daddy was a police top dog mowed down a student in Baoding city last October, that brainless wonder shouted “Go make my day, my father is Li Gang” – the web exploded, but not in Hua Yi or what we usually term Putong Hwa that you and I can read and understand, it is another language all together. The ASDF are studying this new crpytext – from what we can make out so far, the verbs, nouns and consonants that crisscross their net was able to by pass all their state filters; so those dumb communist had to do the censoring manually, like a cottage industry in the way you make handmade Faberge eggs. One day those communist morons are going to end up hiring 7 out of 10 Chinese just to make that decrepit wheel turn and they will all work guarding the not so great firewall – today when we talk about language in China, you have to be very clear apprentice, it is like kueh lapis, there are many layers of thoughts and each substrate is like a codex  – as when you talk about language in the internet sense whole thoughts, ideas and even disquisitions can even be compressed into plays, cartoons, poetry, music and even satirical tunes that gamers dance too, but this is serious apprentice  – as they are all designed to convey a very lucid and clear thought that Is as compact as a cyanide pill. The irony my apprentice is all the communist may have created despite their best attempts to maintain command & control of their Internet is to create innumerable variations on how to show the finger to their governments – have you ever asked yourself one simple question, how is it possible for “My dad is Li Gang,” to get over 40 million hits! That’s like telling me a whole regiment can walk through 100 miles of minefields and tripwires without losing a single man! The Chinese netizens have learnt a new way of talking to each other very soon they will learn to hunt in packs, then it will be like a 39 billion stealth fighter – if you can’t even see it, how the hell do you even begin to try to shoot it down……game over.” 

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