Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Films Act: Let us embrace ambiguity

(Does anybody have Richard Magnus' contact? I could be on the PFCC, serious. Just want to make some enquiries about the requirements and stuff.)

I partially applaud the partially lifted ban on party political films.

And what good timing too. I mean, who cares about political freedom in such bad (economic) times?

And when the Act does get amended, will it be in time for the next Elections, the date of which are as uncertain as always, and subjected to the discretion of the powers that be?

It is amazing how our leadership has been able to disguise greater iron-fisted oppression as freedom. This is a snail's sluggish crawl forward and an Olympic gymnast backflip-plus-somersault backwards, stiff headfirst crash-landing notwithstanding.

This is a blow for citizen journalism. Any one who takes a video of a political activity/procession, namely anything that is non-PAP (which citizen would take a video of a PAP procession any way?), may be liable.

We should call for a ban of news material and releases that distort information and intentions. They create what is government-approved 'fact'.

The idea of allowing party political films to be made by licensed broadcasters is plain ridiculous and tautological. After all, the government-linked agencies approve these licenses.

Surely, a leadership should be fearing that its people are not taken care of, rather than fearing its own mortality.

The (proposed) implementation probably has taken into consideration what Channel News Asia did a few years ago, when it profiled PAP members. This would now be considered legal.

The PAP governmental tactics and rhetoric still haven't changed. They are strategic and calculative in their political approach, ensuring that the execution of measures, constitutional and legal, will ensure their political stranglehold on the alleged democracy they call Singapore.

Knowing they can't control political discourse, they seek to control the spaces for discourse. If you are a Catherine Lim, join politics and make your noise. If you want to speak, go to speakers' corner and make your noise. If you want to make a video, get a license.

Different tactics throughout the years, but it is the same strategy and approach. The dictating of discursive spaces is a better way of control political discourse, rather than addressing political discourse directly.

Previously dispersed and inaccessible citizens who create political counter-discourses are now "captured" by the new system, fitting into an amusement park machine they call "whack the mole". Given the nature of the game, it is only a matter of time the mallet-wielding PAP government leaders can whack the mole they want. And this is simply because the mole is trapped in the machine.

The rhetoric of "creating new avenues" disguises the actual narrowing of avenues and increase in boundaries for political discourse.

The PAP government has also created a "get out of jail" card, in the form of ambiguous wordings (in the Act). Everything hinges on their discretion and interpretation, both of which are unambiguous in intention and ideology. They can decide what is in "public interest".

I say "Pfft" to the PFCC, the Political Films Consultative Committee. Are these people voters too? If you are a voter, can you not be neutral? Of course, unfortunately in the Singaporean brand of democracy, the kind that other countries will call authoritarian, some Singaporeans do not get to vote.

Whoever gets selected for the PFCC, should have their entire employment history and other demographic and professional background revealed to the public. Sure they may be from the private sector, but are they representative of the interests of the public. Are they representative of Singaporeans? Are they all going to be old fogies, or persons who are unconnected with the increasingly media literate generation of Singaporeans?

We see an improvement in the system of representation of Singapore on the one hand, but on the other, we see the slow and cunning destruction of participation. Our participation becomes blunted and impotent even though our voices and ideas get "represented".

Citizens are the eyes and ears of society and they also serve as watchdogs for any possible abuses of power or corruption of the system. And we are now creating new systems to restrict them.

It's strange and it's exasperating. All films are political. They create certain brands of politics and discourses that benefits some and oppresses others.

Is the National Day Parade not party political? Is the video montage of our "history" not party political? Is the participation of the PAP contingent in the march not party political?

To plug the social science, humanities and media disciplines, I believe the PAP government needs to get a social scientist, or a historian or a philosopher, or maybe a media scholar to make them look good and their policies/rhetoric less ambiguous. They are too obsessed with do-ers, too obsessed with getting musclemen who can row the boat, when they should be getting thinkers and getting people who can steer the damn boat.

Even if members of the PFCC feel a contentious film, say a Singaporean version of Fahrenheit 9/11, gets passed. Do they have to make justifications in the rhetoric of the government? (as in they have to elevate, or stoop down, to the language and logic of the ruling party?)

Moreover, will the decision-making processes of the PFCC, being an "independent" group, be made transparent to Singaporeans? And how can we be certain that there is no surveillance or intimidation, in any sense, made on the members of the PFCC? You know, the kind that will coerced/whip them into the "right" ideological state of mind. Is PFCC obliged to be in line with say Lui Tuck Yew and his ministry's views?

I think we will never know how all these will unravel. Unless, well, unless I am part of the PFCC and get to experience what being "independent" is like.

I am tempted to enquire whether a person like myself may qualify to be on the PFCC. After all, they need a "kid" to be on board. They might also appreciate someone who appreciates ambiguity. Does anybody have Richard Magnus' contact?

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