By Bryan Gan
The Media Literacy Council is one of the several organisations which has no business existing in a civilized country, and one of the ways which it immediately causes ‘offence’, the very thing it feebly attempts to prevent, is in its very name; the implication that anyone who is insensitive to other people is not literate in the usage of media.
This implication underwent a gargantuan display of irony and humiliation (which I am positive went completely over their heads) last year via the hilariously unsophisticated rantings and attempts at intellectual discussion by a Mr Calvin Cheng (who happens to be on this council) and the pathetically un-lettered attempts at damage control by himself and other parties involved. This includes that bush-beating, apologist and feeble apology statement that does not actually apologize.
Now, far be it from me to police everything I view as poorly written and fire a litany of lambasting barbs at them. But for an organisation that calls itself as such, it had better live up to that name at the very least. It is massively hypocritical and deliciously ironic when members of an organisation that directly implies the illiteracy of others have such clumsy and awkward prose and language.
Secondly, what it does is limit free expression on the Internet, terming again those who violate these limitations on a fundamental democratic right as ‘illiterate’. I seem to keep harping on this but it offends me greatly, and if it was not their intent, surely these very literate people could have selected a more appropriate title…or could they?
Now, this again disagrees with me precisely because it violates this human right, something that every sentient being requires for sanity. I can hear the tiresome, dead-horse flogging arguments already. “Why would you want to hurt people’s feelings? Can’t you say things nicely? If people’s feelings are hurt, they will riot and destroy our unique, one-of-a-kind multicultural society”. So on and so forth, rolls the fantastically ignorant machine of censorship arguments.
These reasons are either logically unsound or not empirically verified and all of them flat out wrong. But I’ve discussed these many times, and I wouldn’t presume to insult anyone reading this that they don’t already find this to be self-evident
But today, what I think I shall point out is a key concept that many people again seem to miss: does free expression include Mr Cheng’s infantile and putrid straw grasping? The answer is yes. Advocates of free expression such as myself criticise him but do not include calls for censorship in our criticism. I do not wish him silenced, not at all. I merely point out the hypocritical stance of the MLC in claiming to want to make online discussions ‘polite’ but cannot even bring itself to condemn Mr Cheng’s direct call to murder children. The latter’s exact suggestion was to murder the offspring of terrorists just in case they grew up to avenge the death of their parents, and also included another sentence asking others not to further complicate it. That is exactly why it received the condemnation that it did. Let us also make the distinction between verbal condemnation and criticism, and a call for censorship. A free speech proponent does not wish Mr Cheng’s post is taken down nor for him to be put behind bars.
The MLC posted an extraordinarily uncaring apology and stated that they would ‘counsel’ this person (if they counsel him like Amos Yee was counselled, I suppose that would be sufficient). I think most of us know that he will probably be sent a cautionary email to watch his words. This again highlights both the deficiencies as well as the hypocrisy of the MLC: they hold their own to different standards and instead police away content that disagrees with their narrative rather than those of their own who break their own rules. When the Council claims to have taken the follow-up blog-post that clumsily tries to explain away the original post in question, one cannot help but wonder if other cases will be given such benefit of doubt.
Policing of peoples’ expressed ideas is already a great evil in itself, but even worse is the double standard that it does this policing. We are told that there are certain things we may not say, but some of us can get away with it if we happen to be in the right places, so to speak. Those hallowed chaps might even be given more platforms to justify themselves on the radio! These two grand contributions of the MLC to the public sphere ought to arouse doubt regarding the necessity of its existence even in the slowest of minds.