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RI GP Y5 2016 / Media and Social Issues Copyrighted: Knowledge Skills Department, for internal circulation only, for educational purposes only



Units: Media & Social Issues (Terms 1 & 2, 2016)


Developed by: Mr Adrian Tan, Ms S Uma Rani, Mr Patrick Wong & Ms Masnidah Masnawi Updated by: Ms Sharon Chan & Mr Clement Cheng



Enduring Understandings And Essential Questions Past Year Examination Questions New versus Old Media




“Media” – Making sense of it all




Media and gender stereotyping


Values and Behaviour

3. Media teaches bad values to your children


4. Is media violence damaging to kids?


5. Can media really affect behaviour?


Privacy, Security and Surveillance

6. Why privacy matters


7. Fear big brother

Or firms' abuse of big data?


Censorship and Social Norms

8. Freedom from the press: Why the media are the way they are


9. Internet regulation A myth in Singapore?


10. Moral censorship Pulp Friction: Looking beyond the liberal/conservative divide


Media and Democracy

11. Je suis tired (I am tired)


12. Charlie and Theo


13. The New Fourth Estate


14. Politics and the media The tyranny of the Fourth Estate




Enduring Understandings And Essential Questions Past Year Examination Questions Gender Rights



15. Women are better off today, but still far from being equal with men


16. The challenge of closing the gender gap in developing countries


17. Leftover women: The resurgence of gender inequality in China review


18. Paid family leave: Nice, but costly


Family and Marriage

19. What is “family”?


20. Why DOMA (Defence of Marriage Act) is doomed


21. The flight from marriage


Ageing and Inter-Generational Conflict

22. South Korea’s subway seat fight


23. Economic opportunities in an ageing population


Education and Social Mobility

24. Same performance, better grades


25. The unequal ability to exploit opportunity


ASSSESSMENT Term 1 - 1 diagnostic essay Term 2 - 1 essay, 1 comprehension (w/o AQ) & 1 short assignment


RI GP Y5 2016 / Media and Social Issues Copyrighted: Knowledge Skills Department, for internal circulation only, for educational purposes only



Enduring Understanding(s):

What will students understand as a result of this unit?

1. All media are carefully manufactured cultural products that seem to represent reality but are, in fact, constructions of reality.

2. What is portrayed in the media influences the way we see ourselves, our aspirations and desires, and our perceptions of others.

3. The media have commercial interests.

4. The media have embedded values and points of view.

Essential Questions:

What are the essential questions of this unit?

1. How reliable is the media? Can the media ever be truly objective?

2. Should the media aim only to inform or should they attempt to shape public opinion?

3. What is the impact of the media on culture, values and choices?

4. Are the media responsible for the problems in our society?

5. Who has the greatest influence media conglomerates, consumers or the government?

6. How should governments balance the concerns of the community with the individual’s freedom of expression?

7. What is the impact of new media on mainstream media?

8. What is the impact of new media on politics, governance and democracy?

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1. ‘There is no such thing as bad publicity.‘ To what extent is this true? (Nov 15)

2. Consider the argument that the main purpose of television should be to educate rather than simply to entertain. (Nov 15)

3. ‘Books serve little purpose in education as technological developments become more sophisticated.’ How far do you agree? (Nov 15)

4. Do films offer anything more than an escape from reality? (Nov 14)

5. Consider the view that spoken language is more important than the written form. (Nov 13)

6. How far, in your society, should unpopular views be open to discussion? (Nov 13)

7. Is there any value in preserving minority languages in the world? (Nov 12)

8. In the digital age do newspapers still have a role in your society? (Nov 11)

9. The book has no place in modern society.’ Discuss. (Nov 10)

10. Assess the impact of foreign films or foreign TV programmes on the culture of your society. (Nov


11. ‘Nowadays, the pleasures of reading can never compete with the pleasures of visual entertainment.’

12. To what extent do you agree? (Nov 08)

13. “Advertisements are often entertaining, but they rarely affect consumer choice.” Is this your experience? (Nov 07)

14. To what extent do the newspapers and magazines that you read deal with what is trivial, rather than with what is important? (Nov 06)

15. How far do magazines or television programmes aimed at young people in Singapore have a positive effect? (Nov 05)

16. Advertising encourages a desire for products which people do not actually need. Discuss. (Nov


17. Can the media ever be relied upon to convey the truth? (Nov 03)

18. Should advertising be restricted in any way? (Nov 01)

19. 'A film has one purpose - to entertain.' Using examples, consider this view. (Nov 01)

20. ‘Freedom of speech is a basic right – as long as the speakers do not abuse it.’ Discuss. (Nov 98)

21. ‘Films which have the greatest appeal are usually those which have the least value.’ By reference to specific examples, consider how far this is a fair assessment. (Nov 97)

22. Compare the effectiveness of any TWO of the following as a means of news coverage: the radio, television, newspapers. (Nov 97)

23. ‘The media can largely be blamed for the world-wide increase in violence.’ To what extent do you agree? (Nov 96)

24. To what extent should the private lives of public figures be the subject of media coverage? (Nov


25. Television will eventually be the death of sport. Do you agree? (Nov 91)

26. Should the press be completely free? (Nov 91)

Raffles Institution

1. "Censorship protects the interests of the people." How far do you agree? (1988 Promos)

RI GP Y5 2016 / Media and Social Issues Copyrighted: Knowledge Skills Department, for internal circulation only, for educational purposes only


How do advertisements affect our ways of thinking? (1989 Promos)


"In a world dominated by electronic media, the newspaper has largely lost its relevance." Do you agree? (1989 Prelims)


Discuss the roles of censorship and the impact censorship has on society. (1989 Prelims)


What are the implications for society of the emergence of global television? (1991 Promos)


How far do the programmes you watch fulfil the beneficial potential of television? (1991 Promos)


"Television consists largely of mediocre programmes aimed at an easily satisfied audience." Discuss. (1991 Prelims)


''The mass media today provide little more than 'info-tainment'." Do you agree? (1992 JC2 CT1)


"Packaged rubbish for couch potatoes." Is this an accurate description of the television fare screened in your country? (1992 JC2 CT 2)


Is Television ruining our children? (1992 Prelims)


''The description of TV as the 'idiot box' has never been more appropriate." What is your view? (1992 Promos)


''The function of the media is no longer that of watchdog but of predator." Discuss. (1992 Promos)


Discuss the influence of television on politics. (1993 JC2 CT 2)


What effect does advertising have on society? (1993 Promos)


What characterises a good newspaper? (1993 Promos)


Are the fears of some countries regarding the introduction of satellite television justified? (1993 Prelims)


"Television commercials defeat their purpose as they only succeed in irritating viewers." Discuss with reference to your own country. (1994 JC2 CT 1)


"The best pictures are on the radio." Would you agree that the radio is a better communication medium than the television? (1994 JC2 CT 2)


''The US press used to boast that it would use 'all the news that's fit to print'; now, however, it is the news that is unfit to print that sells newspapers." Discuss. (1994 Promos)


Discuss the likely benefits and potential drawbacks of the introduction of satellite television. (1994 Promos)


The Mass Media: the bane or blessing of international sport? (1995 JC1 CT)


Should the Internet be banned? (1995 Promos)


What are the responsibilities of a national newspaper? (1996 Promos)


Is the private life of a public figure his own concern? (1995 Prelims)


People get the media they deserve. Discuss. (1997 JC2 CT 1)


"What the mass media offer is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten and replaced with a new dish." (W.H. Auden) Do you agree? (1997 Prelims)


What qualities are desirable in a good censor? (2001 Promos)


‘Reality TV caters to our worst tastes and is therefore of limited value.’ Do you agree with this view? (2002 Promos)


Consider the view that pop music has ‘…three great lyrical themes – sex, hate and a smarmy version of brotherly love.’ (2002 Promos)

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32. "Governments didn't build the Internet, they don't own it, and they can't control it; they will have to learn to live with this." What is your view on Internet censorship with reference to your own country? (2002 Y6 CT 1)

33. Why bother to read the daily newspaper? (2003 JC2 CT 1)

34. Do you agree that teenagers are unfairly portrayed by the mass media? (2003 JC2 CT 2)

35. What do you understand by the phrase ‘it’s a free country’? (2003 Promos)

36. “You deserve the media you get.” How true is this statement? (2003 Prelims)

37. Can a weblog ever truly replace a personal diary? (2003 Prelims)

38. "Advertising - a clever mixture of flattery and threats." Discuss. (2004 JC1 CT)

39. In what ways do you think your national newspaper could be improved? (2004 JC2 CT 1)

40. Do you agree that reality-TV fulfils a human need? (2004 JC2 CT 1)

41. ‘We are all slaves to the media.’ How far do you think this is true of our lives and experiences today? (2004 JC2 CT 2)

42. “The extent of state censorship reflects the level of maturity of a society.” Discuss. (2004 Promos)

43. Does the media ever tell the truth? (2005 JC1 CT)

44. Is it true to say that nowadays the choice offered on television is little more than a wide selection of trivial rubbish? (2005 JC2 CT 1)

45. “The curse of our age is the cult of celebrity.” Discuss. (2005 JC2 CT 1)

46. “Reality TV programmes have made television a more democratic medium.” Do you agree? (2005 Y6 CT 2)

47. Blogging and podcasting have little worth beyond allowing the individual to indulge in narcissistic exhibitionism. Do you agree? (2005 Prelims)

48. Is there any value in popular culture? (2005 Promos)

49. “The great power of the media should be balanced by an equally great sense of responsibility.” Discuss. (2005 Promos)

50. “Reality TV is all about style and not substance.” Do you agree? (2006 Promos)

51. “A profit-driven media is more vibrant than a government-regulated one.” Discuss. (2006 JC1 CT)

52. “Censorship is an insult to man’s intelligence” Discuss. (2006 JC1 CT)

53. “The mass media today is too heavily influenced by commercial interests.” Discuss. (2006 JC2 CT 1)

54. How far should the media be held responsible for the problems faced by young people today? (2006 JC2 CT 2)

55. “The greatest rival of newspapers today is the blogger.” Discuss. (2006 Prelims)

56. “Citizen journalism undermines the future of newspapers.” Do you agree? (2007 JC1 CT)

57. “You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.” (Norman Douglas) Comment. (2007 JC1 Promo)

58. “The media promotes empty spectacle and not true talent these days.” Discuss. (2007 JC2 CT 1)

59. “The Internet is the best thing that has happened to democracy in recent years.” Discuss. (2007 JC2 CT 2)

60. To what extent is cyber-gaming a healthy pursuit? (2007 Prelims)

61. Consider the impact of new media on the lifestyles of young people today. (2008 Promos)

RI GP Y5 2016 / Media and Social Issues Copyrighted: Knowledge Skills Department, for internal circulation only, for educational purposes only

62. ‘The mass media has distorted our understanding of what it means to be a true hero.’ Discuss. (2008 JC2 CT 1)

63. ‘Freedom of the press is no different from any of our so-called freedoms; it must be curtailed.’ How far do you agree with the statement? (2008 JC2 CT 2)

64. ‘The media have exaggerated the importance of sport.’ Do you agree? (2008 Prelims)

65. ‘New forms of the media have made mainstream media redundant.’ Discuss. (2009 JC1 CT)

66. ‘Advertising has evolved over the years, but not for the better.’ Do you agree? (2009 Promos)

67. Popular culture has destroyed the true meaning of love and marriage.’ Do you agree? (2009 JC2 CT 2)

68. The book is dead. Long live the Internet.’ Discuss. (2009 JC2 CT 2)

69. Style without substance.’ How far is this true of television programmes today? (2009 Prelims)

70. Should the arts ever be censored? (2010 Year 5 CT)

71. ‘New media has made us more self-absorbed than ever before.’ Comment. (2010 Year 5 CT)

72. ‘Pop culture is all about appearance.’ Is this a fair comment? (2010 Promos)

73. ‘Whoever controls the media controls the world.’ To what extent do you agree? (2010 Promos)

74. Should nation-building be on the media’s agenda? Discuss this with reference to your country. (2010 Year 6 CT 1)

75. ‘Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions.’ Discuss this with reference to your society. (2010 Year 6 CT 2)

76. ‘The media does not require more freedom; rather it needs to exercise more responsibility.’ To what extent do you agree with this statement? (2010 Year 6 CT 2)

77. ‘The media works best when it gives the masses exactly what they want.’ Discuss. (2010 Prelims)

78. Is there still a place for public libraries in your society? (2010 Prelims)

79. ‘Social media has changed the face of politics.’ To what extent is this true? (2011 Y5 CT)

80. Do you agree that the mass media should pursue responsibility and not profit? (2011 Promos)

81. To what extent does the media create mediocrity? (2011 Y6 CT1)

82. To what extent do you agree that the media has been a liberating force? (2011 Y6 CT2)

83. To what extent has new media changed the face of human interaction? (2011 Prelims)

84. ‘Advertisements truly reflect what a society desires.’ Do you agree? (2011 Prelims)

85. ‘New media is a new evil.’ Discuss. (2012 Y5 CT)

86. To what extent are young people in your society slaves to the mass media? (2012 Promo)

87. ‘Privacy is dead, thanks to new media.’ To what extent do you think this is detrimental to modern society? (2012 Y6 CT1)

88. Discuss the impact of new media on social cohesion in your society. (2012 Prelim)

89. ‘Advertising reflects the values of society but does not influence them.’(David Ogilvy) What are your views? (2012 Prelim)

90. ‘We should have the freedom to read and watch what we like.’ Comment. (2013 Y5 CT)

91. To what extent is social media a useful platform for change? (2013 Y5 CT)

92. ‘With the emergence of new media, there is a greater need for censorship.’ How true is this of your society? (Promo 2013)

93. Are bookstores still relevant in today’s world? (Promo 2013)

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94. Assess the impact of foreign films or foreign TV programmes on the culture of your society. (2013 Y6 CT1)

95. ‘Public campaigns are rarely effective.’ To what extent is this true? (2013 Y6 CT2)

96. To what extent do advertisements have a negative effect on society? (Prelims 2013)

97. ‘Censorship is both harmful and futile in today’s society.’ Comment. (2014 Prelim)

98. To what extent have people given up their freedom for comfort? (2014 Prelim)

99. To what extent is fame overrated? (2014 Y6 CT2)

100. To what extent has new media made us poor communicators? (2014 Y6 CT2)

101. How far is the media responsible for promoting democracy in your society? (2014 Y6 CT1)

102. Is there any value in horror films and books? (2014 Y6 CT1)

103. ‘The media is to blame for gender inequalities.’ Do you agree? (2014 Y5 CT1)

104. ‘There is no such thing as privacy today.’ Comment. (2014 Y5 CT1)

105. ‘The media needs to exercise more responsibility.’ Do you agree? (2015 Y5 CT1)

106. Are we overly dependent on digital technology? (2015 Y5 CT1)

107. ‘Personal privacy and national security cannot co-exist.’ Comment. (2015 Y5 CT1)

108. ‘Freedom of speech should be a privilege, not an entitlement.’ How far do you agree with this statement? (2015 Y6 CT1)

109. ‘It is better to be an entertainment celebrity than a politician today.’ What is your view? (2015 Y6 CT1)

110. With the rise of new media, censorship is needed now more than ever. Do you agree? (2015 Y6 CT2)

111. In the digital age do newspapers still have a role in society? (2015 Y6 Prelim)

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Reading 1: “Media” – Making sense of it all

This reading will help you:

Define “old” vs “new” / “mainstream” vs “non-mainstream” / “social” vs “new” media

Examine the validity of some beliefs that you may have about such media

More critically evaluate some key issues associated with such media

1a. “Old” vs “New” Descriptions about new media are often contrasted against what is seen as old media, including media such as newspapers, TV, radio, magazines, hardcopy books, ‘landline’ phones and movies in the cinema. The hype around new media suggests that ‘old media’ are becoming increasingly less relevant, as users have begun to ignore or change what were seen as everyday


practices reading the daily paper in paper form, watching commercial television, using the family phone to call a friend.

However, as these are media that still are very much present with us today and are also being integrated into forms of new and social media, it is perhaps better to refer to them as “traditional media”.

1b. Distribution makes the difference


Traditional media were and are analog forms of communication and require relatively complex forms of distribution. For example, the distribution process for a traditional newspaper (e.g. moving from the printing press to the delivery trucks to the local distributors) is a relatively resource-intensive process. And this is all for a product that remains the same and cannot be changed after being printed. The distribution for radio is not too different, with transmission


towers sending out content at one particular time with the potential that many people or no one is listening to it at all.

New media changes the distribution process. Forms of new media are necessarily digital, with communication broken up into digital bits and bytes and distributed through the internet, mobile phones, digital receivers, etc. This has drastically reduced costs for communication and


the time frame for receiving the communication, as well as allowing the potential for personalization. It has created significant problems for traditional media in terms of its audience and revenue, and all of these traditional forms are often desperately trying to catch up with and make use of new media.

1c. Is new media “better”? In the process of making information and communication digital, new forms of media have


made the ability to store, share and work with information easier. Computers have of course played an essential role in this, and it is the transition to technologies focused on use by the consumer (as opposed to the original use of computers at workplaces, for instance) that is a crucial element in new media.

These technologies are (relatively) affordable and simple to use, making the transmission of


information and communicating with friends, family and colleagues easy, fast, and reliable. People now have the ability to share and distribute a lot of information about themselves and their life, including personal information data and the music they listen to, videos of their friends to pictures of their cat, ideas they have and plans they are making, preferences for food, people, and music and places that they have been and are going.

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What’s important is to see that new media is a concept that incorporates all the technological devices and programs that have made this change to digital information and distribution. It includes Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, but it is also about e-books and downloading movies and paying your concert ticket on-line and using Bluetooth to swap photos and having your own website, things that may not necessarily be socialat the outset.

1d. “Mainstream” media


Do not confuse “old” media (i.e. media in analog form) with “mainstream” media.

Mainstream media refer to media channels provided by national or global networks that are run by established and relatively big corporations (e.g. BBC [UK]; CBS [US]; Singapore Press Holdings), typically operating with a legal licence. Such corporations tend to have a clear, hierarchical management structure and a large employee base (e.g. of journalists, marketing professionals,


human resource departments).

And far from using only “old” media, today’s mainstream media giants typically leverage on both “old” and “new” media platforms to deliver the news, provide advertising channels, etc. These companies continue to thrive by strategically using both media forms, often symbiotically. For example, traditional newspaper/TV/radio channels can provide key information and drive


readership/viewership to their online counterparts for additional content or for “interactive” feedback from their audience i.e. to “continue the story” online, as it were. Conversely, online posts by the public can lead mainstream media reporters to the “next big story” to be carried in the headlines of the next day’s traditional print/TV/radio news coverage. It is not a zero-sum game.

Activity + Discussion Based on what you’ve read so far, come up with a “media model” that includes the key components that are needed for communication (a key function of media) to take place.

1. How do these components differ between “traditional” and “new” media models?

2. Do these differences necessarily make new media “better”? In what ways might new media be problematic?

2a. Social media: Subset of new media


‘Social mediaare forms of new media, but not all forms of new media are social media. Of course, social media are part of the “digitized sharing” of information arguably the biggest and most influential part, in many ways but still just a part.

While new media allows for sharing, the development of social media and its interactive components has made the ability to comment, respond, share, critique, change and add to


information possible on a broad scale. It is the increased visibility of interaction, with largely unfiltered peer-to-peer communication that cannot be easily controlled, that is central to social media.

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Social media is necessarily interactive, focused on social connections. By this definition, a static website that only sends information out and does not allow for responses may be a form of new


media, but is not a form of social media. In contrast, a blog that can be commented on and shared with others is a form of social media.

Still, the distinction between new media and social media is not always very sharp. The fact that someone can take a picture with a camera on their mobile phone, and that this photo can be edited and put on a website, is a clear form of using new media. When the photo is put on Flickr


or Facebook, it is now a part of social media. The two are clearly interlinked, and more and more new media devices and programs have a more social character.

2b. Social media Are organizations losing control?


the two are so interconnected, why make this distinction? The reason is that the distinction

can be especially important for the strategic practices of organizations (which include businesses, even governments). The socialaspect of social media makes the intentions an


organization had for information more difficult to control and may require increasing attention and work.

Proximity marketing, for instance that is using geolocation services to market to consumers near one of your stores uses new media. The company has significant control over who gets that message and when (and obviously where). In contrast, attempting to create a viral


marketing campaign by making a humorous or clever YouTube video that is passed on from friend to friend is much less predictable. Plus it is easily subject to misinterpretation or creating


negative image for the company. Similarly, using Twitter for customer care makes these

practices far more public than traditionalresponses to complaint letters or even e-mail. To put


simply, using social media allows for some new and exciting possibilities, but it also limits the


control an organization has over its own practices including how and when and where its message and information is distributed. These become subject to a different set of socio- technicalfactors that are bound up in the systems and practices that surround social media.

Adapted excerpts from “New media and social media – What’s the difference?” by Jason Pridmore, Annelies Falk, Isolde Sprenkels


For discussion: Class

Do you agree that social media causes organizations to “lose control”? Can you think of situations where organizations can use/have used social media to their benefit?

For discussion: Small groups

To what extent can social media empower the individual? What issues might there be in such “empowerment”? – Each group can focus on one of these aspects:


Social activism


Political engagement




Consumer decisions


Leisure activities

RI GP Y5 2016 / Media and Social Issues Copyrighted: Knowledge Skills Department, for internal circulation only, for educational purposes only

Reading 2: Media and Gender Stereotyping

This reading will help you to:

Better understand the phenomenon and social implications of stereotyping

Examine the media’s role in influencing the gender stereotypes that we may hold

More critically evaluate the impact that such influence may have

2a. Stereotyping and its effects

A stereotype is a belief about a category/group of people that is over-generalized, inaccurate,

and resistant to change. This belief is usually a negative one, resulting in a biased perception (prejudice) that can lead to undesirable behaviour (discrimination) towards all persons of that



For example, if one holds the stereotype that “all students of ABC school are arrogant” (prejudice), one may make rude online comments about a student of that school or refuse to offer him assistance, say, when he injures himself in public.

In the worst scenarios, holding a stereotype of a certain social group may lead to unfair


treatment of a certain group, warped notions and expectations of persons belonging to that group, self-esteem issues among those who belong in that group, and even acts of hatred and violence against them. Such behaviour could have ripple effects on factors such as personal safety, social mobility, and even government policy that may impact a nation’s socio-economic and political stability, which in turn could have wider global repercussions.


It is therefore important to consider where we may derive stereotyped notions from, and research has shown that the mass media can be one powerful source of introducing and reinforcing skewed perceptions.

2b. Media (mis)representation of gender (i) Of women


both quantity and quality, there is still a long way to go for media representations of women.


terms of quantity, the media is still a long way from reflecting reality: women represent 49


per cent of humanity while female characters make up only 32 per cent of the main characters on TV, as shown by a broad survey done in 2008 by Maya Götz of the International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television. The media industry justifies this disparity by arguing that it is easier for girls than boys to identify with characters of the opposite sex. Götz argues that this argument reverses cause and effect, saying that it is the lack of female


characters on TV that leads to the higher popularity of male characters.

Quality-wise, the media still conform to a stereotyped image of women. Götz’s study identifies a number of gender stereotypes found around the world. In general, girls and women are motivated by love and romance, appear less independent than boys, and are stereotyped according to their hair colour (blondes, for example, fall into two categories: the “girl next door”


or the “blonde b***h”; redheads are nearly always conventionally attractive, thinner than average women in real life, and heavily sexualized (oddly, even as redheads are often portrayed as “tomboys”).

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Magazines are the only medium where girls are over-represented. However, their content is overwhelmingly focused on topics such as appearance, dating, and fashion.


Research indicates that these mixed messages from media make it difficult for girls to negotiate the transition to adulthood, with confidence dropping in the pre-teen years as they begin to base their feelings of self-worth more and more heavily on appearance and weight.

In a landmark 1998 study, American psychologist Carol Gilligan suggests that this happens because of the widening gap between girls’ self-images and society’s messages about what girls


should be like. Likewise, Children Now (a California-based advocacy organisation promoting children’s health and education) points out that girls are surrounded by images of female beauty that are unrealistic and unattainable. And yet two out of three girls who participated in their national media survey said they “wanted to look like a character on TV.” One out of three said they had “changed something about their appearance to resemble that character.”


In 2002, researchers at Flinders University in South Australia studied 400 teenagers regarding how they relate to advertising. They found that girls who watched TV commercials featuring underweight models lost self-confidence and became more dissatisfied with their own bodies. Girls who spent the most time and effort on their appearance suffered the greatest loss in confidence.


The hyper-sexualization of very young girls, most notably in fashion and advertising, is another disturbing trend, given that these stereotypes make up most of the representations of themselves which girls and women see in the media. The most cursory examination of media confirms that young girls are being bombarded with images of sexuality, often dominated by stereotypical portrayals of women and girls as powerless, passive victims. The pressures on girls


are exacerbated by the media’s increasing tendency to portray very young girls in sexual ways, with the fashion industry being a major driver of this trend.

As these girls become teenagers, many choose to tune out, but others maintain a hungry appetite for these messages. And research has shown that those who continue to consume such media images tend to have the most negative opinion of their gender.

(ii) Of men


Mainstream media representations play a role in reinforcing ideas about what it means to be a “real” man in our society. In most media portrayals, male characters are rewarded for self- control and the control of others, aggression and violence, financial independence, and physical desirability.

In 1999, Children Now, a California-based organization that examines the impact of media on


children and youth, released a report entitled Boys to Men: Media Messages about Masculinity. The report observes that:

The majority of male characters in media are heterosexual.

The media’s portrayal of men tends to reinforce men’s social dominance.

Male characters are more often associated with the public sphere of work, rather than


the private sphere of the home, and issues and problems related to work are more significant than personal issues.

Non-white male characters are more likely to experience personal problems and are more likely to use physical aggression or violence to solve those problems.

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A more recent study found similar patterns in how male characters were portrayed in children’s


television around the world: Boys are portrayed as tough, powerful, and either as a loner or leader, while girls were most often shown as depending on boys to lead them and being most interested in romance.

These portrayals are of particular concern when it comes to young boys, who may be more influenced by media images than girls. In the 2008 article Media and the Make-Believe Worlds


of Boys and Girls”, Maya Götz and Dafna Lemish note that boys tend to incorporate media content into their own imaginations wholesale, “taking it in, assimilating it, and then…dream[ing] themselves into the position of their heroes and experience a story similar to the one in the original medium”.

The portrayal and acceptance of men by the media as socially powerful and physically violent


serve to reinforce assumptions about how men and boys should act in society, how they should treat each other, as well as how they should treat women and children.

2c. Stereotyping of men in advertising In his analysis of gender in advertising, University of North Texas professor Steve Craig argues that women tend to be presented as “rewards” for men who choose the right product. He


contends that these commercials operate at the level of fantasy presenting idealized portrayals of men and women. When he focused specifically on beer commercials, Craig found that the men were invariably “virile, slim and white” (and the women always “eager for male companionship”).


University of Kentucky academic Susan Bordo has also analyzed gender in advertising, and agrees that men are usually portrayed as virile, muscular and powerful. Their powerful bodies dominate space in the ads. (For women, the focus is on slenderness, dieting, and attaining a feminine ideal; women are always presented as not just thin, but also weak and vulnerable.)

Clearly, just as traditional advertising has for decades sexually objectified women and their


bodies, today’s marketing campaigns are objectifying men in the same way. Research and anecdotal reports from doctors suggest that this new focus on fit and muscled male bodies is causing men the same anxiety and personal insecurity that women have felt for decades.

2d. Stereotyping of women in news coverage Women professionals and athletes continue to be under-represented in news coverage, and are


often stereotypically portrayed when they are included.

(i) Women, News and Politics Although there has been a steady increase in the number of women professionals over the past 20 years, most mainstream press coverage continues to rely on men as experts in the fields of business, politics and economics. Women in the news are more likely to be featured in stories


about accidents, natural disasters, or domestic violence than in stories about their professional abilities or expertise.

Women in politics are similarly sidelined. Canadian journalist Jenn Goddu discovered that journalists tend to focus on the domestic aspects of the politically active woman’s life (such as “details about the high heels stashed in her bag, her habit of napping in the early evening, and


her lack of concern about whether or not she is considered ladylike”) rather than her position on the issues.

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Quebec political analyst Denis Monière uncovered similar patterns. In analyzing 83 late evening newscasts on three national networks, he observed that women’s views were solicited mainly in the framework of “average citizens” and rarely as experts, and that political or economic success


stories were overwhelmingly masculine. Monière also noted that the number of female politicians interviewed was disproportionate to their number in parliament; nor, he noted, was this deficiency in any way compensated for by the depth and quality of coverage.

Inadequate women’s coverage seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. In 2006 the Association of Women Journalists (Association des femmes journalistes AFJ) studied news coverage of


women and women’s issues in 70 countries. It reported that only 17 per cent of stories quote women; one in 14 women was presented as a victim (compared to one in 21 men) and one in five women was shown in the context of her family (compared to one in 16 men).

Professor Caryl Rivers notes that politically active women are often disparaged and stereotyped by the media. When Hillary Clinton was still first lady, she was referred to as a “witch” or


“witchlike” at least 50 times in the press. Rivers writes: “Male political figures may be called ‘mean’ and nasty names, but those words don’t usually reflect superstition and dread. Did the press ever call Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, or Clinton warlocks?”

(ii) Women and Sports Women athletes are also given short shrift in the media. Margaret Carlisle Duncan and Michael


Messner studied sports coverage on three network affiliates in Los Angeles. They report that only nine per cent of airtime was devoted to women’s sports, in contrast to the 88 per cent devoted to male athletes. Female athletes fared even worse on ESPN’s national sports show Sports Center, where they occupied just over two per cent of airtime.

Duncan notes that commentators (97 per cent of whom are men) use different language when


they talk about female athletes. Where men are described as “big,” “strong,” “brilliant,” “gutsy” and “aggressive”, women are more often referred to as “weary”, “fatigued”, “frustrated”, “panicked”, “vulnerable” and “choking.” Commentators are also twice as likely to call men by their last names only, and three times as likely to call women by their first names only. Duncan argues that this “reduces female athletes to the role of children, while giving adult status to


white male athletes”.


Media images of women in sports are also very different from the familiar pictures of male athletes in action. Female athletes are increasingly photographed in what Professor Pat Griffin calls “hyper-sexualized poses.” Griffin notes: “When it was once enough to feminize women athletes, now it is necessary to sexualize them for men. Instead of hearing, ‘I am woman, hear


me roar,’ we are hearing ‘I am hetero-sexy, watch me strip’.”

















For discussion:

1. What gender stereotypes have you come across in other popular mainstream media forms (e.g. movies, TV shows, music videos)?

2. What other kinds of stereotypes (especially negative ones) do mass media perpetuate?

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3. What kind of wider impact (i.e. beyond the personal domain) do/might these stereotypes have on societies?

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Reading 3: Media teaches bad values to your children

Adapted from an article by Dr Jim Taylor, University of San Francisco (Huffington Post, 9 Nov 2012)

This reading will help you:

Consider the negative impact that media messages can have on values of the young

Evaluate the specific role of new media as a causal factor

Understand how such impact on values might have undesirable personal & social consequences

Note: This reading can be compared with the next (Kaplan) for reflection & class discussion.

How powerful and toxic are the messages about values that children are receiving from popular media today? According to a large body of research, the answer is "very". Though Im obviously making a judgment on what good and bad values are, I dont think many parents would disagree with the values that I believe arent healthy for children.

1. Success at any cost


An unsettling aspect of the medias perspective on success is its imperative that success must be achieved at any cost. This causes children to believe that they need to succeed in our culturally-defined ways to be esteemed by society, peers and, most sadly, by their parents and themselves. When that need is combined with growing up in a culture of greed, fraud and the absence of culpability, they learn that they can use any and all means to attain


that success.

This culture of avarice not only tolerates, but also encourages this “win at all costs” mentality by modelling and messaging dishonesty, cheating, manipulation and back stabbing. Examples of this distorted view of success abound in our culture. Reality TV relishes lying and deception. Sport has seen the proliferation of illegal performance-


enhancing drugs among star athletes who are revered by young athletes.

This “the ends justify the means” attitude is starkly evident among high school students. Recent surveys found that 75 percent of high school students admitted to cheating in the previous 12 months, as compared to only 25 percent in 1963 and 50 percent in 1993. The rationales that students use to justify their cheating are disturbing, for


example, “I actually think cheating is good. A person who has an entirely honest life can’t succeed these days”; "We know that we are almost completely judged on our grades. They are so important that we will sacrifice our own integrity to make a good impression"; and "I believe cheating is not wrong. People expect us to keep a 4.0 GPA, not go crazy and turn in all our work the next day. What are we supposed to do, fail?"



This "just win, baby" message can also be life-threatening. Recent research indicates that between four and 12 percent of high school male athletes said they had taken steroids. Pressure to make varsity teams, receive college scholarships, and pursue the dream of professional success compels many young athletes to take drastic steps to improve


performance. These athletes are heavily influenced by professional athletes who act as their role models. They see that the benefits of steroid use are significant and the consequences of being caught are minimal. The invincibility that many teenagers feel

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precludes them from considering the health risks of steroid use, including infertility, high blood pressure, liver damage and prostate cancer. Young athletes also ignore the


psychological and emotional dangers of steroid use, for example, hyper-aggressiveness or “roid rage”, irritability and, upon discontinuation, depression, lethargy and feelings of hopelessness.

Technology now enables young people to cheat more creatively, with less effort and with less chance of getting caught. For example, students can now plagiarize written assignments


with ease from the wealth of information on any subject they can find on the Internet. There are also websites from which students can purchase papers rather than actually write them.

Research has also found a "social contagion" effect in which young people are more likely to cheat when around others who cheat. Before the recent advancements in technology, the


circle of contagions to which young people were exposed was quite small (e.g. a group of friends or a sports team). The Internet now exposes children to a much wider and more diverse range of contagions, from peers to professional athletes to politicians to businesspeople. The messages from many of those contagions tell children that everyone cheats, its OK to cheat, and they must cheat if they are going to keep up with those who are


already cheating. And disturbingly, research indicates that those who cheat early in life are more likely to cheat later in life, for example, by lying to customers, bosses or significant others; overstate insurance claims; and falsify tax returns.

With so much of our culture sending messages through its technological conduits to your children that its okay to lie, cheat, steal, be irresponsible and act selfishly, how can your


children not come to the conclusion that such behaviour is not only perfectly acceptable, but absolutely necessary to find success in life?

2. Wealth and Materialism The pursuit of wealth and material goods for their own sake, or in the belief that they will offer something deeper and meaningful, is a fantasy foisted on parents and children alike by popular media to meet its own profit-driven ends.


Our culture does its best to convince people that wealth and materialism will make them happier, more attractive and popular, and of higher status. Yet, research shows that it has quite the opposite effect: people who value high financial success are less happy, have lower self-esteem, are more depressed and anxious, and have less healthy relationships. Unfortunately, in the battle between popular culture and the facts, popular culture is


winning and its influence has trickled down to children.

Children these days are inundated by media messages of wealth and materialism: from celebrity magazines that feature mansions and expensive cars, to start-up millionaires (and even billionaires) in their 20s, to reality TV shows in which ordinary people get rich with little talent or effort. Children get the message early and often that they way to distinguish


themselves is with money and “stuff”. These messages, combined with the “anything is possible” messages that children get from our culture, convey that wealth and material possessions are not only important, but also attainable. Its no surprise, then, that a recent survey revealed that 81 percent of young people rate "getting rich" as their first or second

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most important goal. There is not, however, any accompanying messages about what it


actually takes to make money or any discussion of the problems that come from valuing too much the acquisition of wealth.

Popular culture also has an impact on whether children come to value wealth and materialism. Most of the research has focused on television advertising, and those findings are clear: Children who are exposed to more advertising are more materialistic. They also


ask their parents to buy more things, and those requests lead to more parent-child conflict. Moreover, materialism is negatively related to pro-social values and behaviour and to self- esteem.

Strategies for marketing products to children using so-called “old media” notably television and radio, include repetition (e.g. repeating the same commercial during cartoons),


branded characters (e.g. Tony the “Frosties” Tiger, Capn Crunch), catchy slogans (e.g. "Theyre grrreat!" Tony the Tiger), merchandising tie-ins (e.g. SpongeBob SquarePants, Shrek), and giveaways (e.g. Cracker Jack: "A prize in every box"). The advent of new media in the last decade has allowed popular culture to create supersystems that include websites (e.g. Candystand sponsored by Kraft), YouTube videos, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, video


games, tracking software and spyware, online and video games and viral and stealth marketing that exposes children to even more undue influence on their values.

3. Fame A recent UCLA study analyzed the values expressed on the most popular television shows among tweens (children ages 9-11) every decade from 1967 to 2007. The results revealed little change in values presented on the shows between 1967 and 1997, during which time


the five most expressed values according to researchers were “community feeling”, “benevolence”, “tradition”, “image” and “popularity” and the five least expressed values were “fame”, “physical fitness”, “hedonism”, “spiritualism” and “financial success”. Only during the most recent decade did a dramatic shift in values occur. The new top-five values were “fame”, “achievement”, “popularity”, “image” and “financial success” (with “self-


centeredness” and “power” close behind) and latest bottom-five values were “spiritualism”, “tradition”, “security”, “conformity” and “benevolence” (with “community feeling” to follow).

An additional analysis of the data revealed a significant increase from 1997 to 2007 in the centrality of fame to the main characters in the television shows. Related values that also


increased substantially included “ambition”, “comparison to others”, “attention seeking”, “conceitedness”, “glamour” and “materialism”.

Given that the findings described in this research were not a gradual shift across the decades studied but rather an abrupt change only in that last decade, the results cant readily be attributed to demographic patterns related to increased wealth or education.


Instead, the most dramatic change, and the likely cause of these results, is the rapid and all- encompassing emergence of new technology that has given popular culture new and startling reach and influence.

The programming through which these value messages are being communicated to your children is growing by the year. Since that UCLA study, more televisions shows aimed at the

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tween audience are being produced, including Big Time Rush, True Jackson and iCarly. In fact, seven out of the top ten shows aimed at tweens are about teenagers who have achieved fame with careers in entertainment. Not surprisingly, all of these shows send the same message: fame is the singular goal and it can apparently be achieved with little preparation or hard work.


Of course, you could argue that just because popular media is sending value messages to children doesnt mean that theyre paying attention to them, much less internalizing them. Unfortunately, preliminary research by the same investigators examining this question indicates that children are getting the message from popular culture. According to this new study, fame is now the number-one aspirational value among children 9 to 11 years


old. Another survey of children under 10 years of age found that, among their ten favourite things, being famous, attractive and rich topped the list and being fat topped the list of worst things.

Should you be alarmed by this dramatic shift in the content of popular media? Absolutely! Is there any way for you to exert influence to reverse this destructive trend at a societal level? Probably not, as the forces supporting these messages are powerful. All you as a parent can do is educate yourself about these unhealthy influences on your children and do your best to limit their exposure to those messages and expose to them to positive values that will counteract the bad ones. And, perhaps most important, dont allow yourself to be seduced by these harmful messages.

For discussion:  Which of the 3 “toxic” messages was/is most prevalent in the media
For discussion:
 Which
 What effects mentioned in the article have you noticed among young Singaporeans?
 What factors in your society might be able to mitigate these effects & to what extent?

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Reading 4: Is media violence damaging to kids?


By Sasha Emmons (CNN, 21 Feb 2013)

In this article, you will learn about:

The impact of media violence on young people’s behaviour.

Problems with current research to determine whether media violence leads to real-life violence.

Is there a connection between violence in the media and real-life violence?

With every school shooting, like December's horrific massacre in Newtown, questions about guns in media and their connection to real-life violence bubble to the surface again. After all, there have been reports that Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza was a fan of the ultra-bloody Call of Duty video game series.


But almost 13 years after Columbine, the connection is still murky. What does research really say about the connection between our kids and the gun-heavy imagery they see on screens? What -- and how much -- should parents do to mitigate aggressive copycat behaviour?

THE "STAR WARS" PROBLEM It was not my proudest parenting moment. It was movie night and my 7-year-old daughter, Chloe, was begging for Star Wars. She'd seen it before and seemed to take its gore-free violence


in stride. The problem was my 3-year-old son, Julian, who through the movies' massive licensing reach, was already familiar with a galaxy far, far away. He already knew who Chewbacca was; would it really be so bad for him to see the actual movie?

He started pew-pew-pew-ing the next day.


Julian turned everything (Tinker Toys, tennis rackets, you name it) into a pretend gun and


started running around the house like a pint-size Han Solo taking down Storm Troopers.

With the events of Newtown still fresh in my mind, I was horrified. We purposely don't have any toy guns in the house, save a few squirt guns, but that didn't seem to matter. With just one exposure, my baby had morphed into a gun nut.

Was Julian just being a typical boy, or on the precipice of a slippery slope? "There's a certain


amount of cowboys-and-Indians-type play and sorting through good guys and bad guys that is very normal at Julian's age," says Gwenn O'Keeffe, M.D., CEO of Paediatrics Now and a member of Parenting's advisory board. "We have to allow for some normal child role-playing that lets kids sort out good versus evil and what's acceptable in society."

Sure, it's normal, but is it healthy? Researchers who study TV's effect on kids say this black-and-


white view offered by the TV world can cripple kids living in a grey real world. "If a child sees himself as the 'good guy,' then anyone who disagrees with him must be a 'bad guy' -- and this black-and-white thinking doesn't leave much room for trying to see it from the other side, or working out a win-win compromise," says Michelle Garrison, investigator at Seattle Children's Research Institute Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development. "On the other hand, if a


child starts seeing himself as a 'bad guy,' then it may no longer feel like it's about choices and actions that can change."

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It's virtually impossible to keep your kid in a violence-free bubble. "Ninety percent of movies, 68%


video games, and 60% of TV shows show some depictions of violence," says Caroline Knorr,


parenting editor for Common Sense Media, the online resource for vetting kids media. Kids 8 and under watch an average of 1 hour and 40 minutes of TV or DVDs a day; older kids watch an average of 4 hours daily. Most kids start playing video games around age 4, according to their



Yet for all that exposure, we don't know much about what those images do to kids' brains or


psyches. The research on the amount of violence consumed by kids is woefully out of date and incomplete, says Knorr. Could playing gory games like HALO or watching violent movies turn a kid into Adam Lanza? "The best we are able to ascertain is that there's no one single factor that can make a non-violent person act violently. But prolonged exposure to violence in media is a risk factor. And it's kids who have multiple risk factors who are likeliest to behave aggressively,"


explains Knorr. Media experts hope that the task force on guns led by Vice President Joe Biden, which includes discussions with the entertainment and gaming industries, could fuel more research.

TELEVISIONS AND MOVIES "With both preschool and school-aged children, studies have found that they are more likely to


imitate the violence they see on screen if someone they see as a 'good guy' is using the violence to solve a problem, especially if there are no realistic consequences for the violence," says Garrison. Think Spider-Man and a bad guy smashing into the side of a building, but both appear unhurt and keep on fighting.


new study published today in Paediatrics, the medical journal of the American Academy of


Paediatrics, found that viewing shows in which cooperation and empathy are emphasized (instead of shows that demonstrate aggression) can improve behaviour in 3- to 5-year-olds in just 6 months.

Scary images can spook kids even as they are drawn to them. "With toddlers and preschool- aged children, everything can seem much more immediate -- and so seeing violence on TV can


leave them feeling like their world is a scary place, where things like that might happen at any moment," says Garrison. "In our research, we've seen that sleep problems like nightmares and trouble falling asleep go up in preschool children even when the violence they're seeing on TV is comic cartoon violence, suggesting that there really isn't such a thing as 'safe media violence' at this age." Look for shows with a rating of TV-Y, which are virtually violence-free, on the


channel's web site or your local TV listings.

Quantity is key. Another new study from New Zealand, also published today in Paediatrics, found that excessive TV watching in childhood and adolescence (we're talking 3+ hours a day) is associated with an increased risk of criminal convictions and anti-social behaviour in young adults. The AAP recommends no screen time for kids under 2, and no more than 1-2 hours for


kids preschool age on up.

Age seven or eight is a turning point, what experts refer to as "the age of reason." While kids under seven have a difficult time distinguishing between fantasy and reality, older kids get that

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slapstick violence is funny because it's happening in a way that never could in real life, says Garrison (think Wile E. Coyote going over a cliff and emerging without a scratch in the next


scene). Although it can make parents squirm to see their kids giggle at someone getting hurt, it's the disconnect from the way things really work that makes it funny, and doesn't mean they'd laugh at a friend's injury in real life. Kids this age also grasp the concept of special effects. However, they're still not old enough to handle realistic depictions of violence, so look for shows rated TV-Y7. These shows feature only mild comic or fantasy violence, à la Wile E. Coyote.



The research on video games, especially first-person shooter games, is much more scarce since they have not been around as long as TV, making long-term studies difficult. A recent meta- analysis in 2010 of 12 earlier studies found a link between time spent playing bloody video games and violent behaviour later in life. A 2004 study in the Journal of Adolescence showed that video games, because of their physical activity and be-the-character interactivity,


desensitized kids to violence even more than TV. However, other studies have failed to show a link between violent video game exposure and aggression.

Also, most studies have focused on normal kids, not those with existing mental problems. A 2011 study found that gamers who had lower social competence and great impulsiveness had an increased risk of becoming pathological gamers. While playing video games can be a coping


mechanism for a child who's already experiencing depression or anxiety, the study's authors suggest gaming can also increase those problems. Like TV, more research needs to be done, especially on kids with risk factors like mental illness or violence in the home.

Cheryl Olson, author of Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games, believes many of the dire predictions about kids and video games are overblown. "Violent crime


has been decreasing for the last five years, according to the FBI. So why would we be seeing that if there was a monkey-see, monkey-do effect going on with video games, which are increasing?" she says.

For discussion:

1. The author suggests that more research needs to be conducted to determine whether there is a link between violent video games and aggressive behaviour (line 40). Read the article Shooting in the Dark by Benedict Carey (The New York Times, 11 February 2013) to find out more about the three types of research conducted today. Critically analyse the findings of these studies. Offer one criticism of the methodologies employed in these studies.

2. Media experts are hoping that politicians can influence greater research in this area (line 45). To what extent is the involvement of politicians desirable? Could there be a danger of the research evidence being divided down party lines?

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Reading 5: Can media really affect behaviour?

Adapted from the article “What If We Really Knew What Media Does To Us” by Marty Kaplan, USC Annenberg professor & Norman Lear Center director (Huffington Post, 5 May 2014)

This reading will help you:

Critically question whether media really has a direct, powerful impact on values and behaviour

Consider whether, conversely, our values influence how we consume media

Recognize the complexities involved in media regulation (which includes censorship)

What if we knew that the fictional rapes in HBOs mega-hit Game of Thrones caused real rapes in the real world? What if we knew that the portrayals of gay characters in Modern Family caused actual states to legalize same-sex marriage?

The catch, of course, is causation. Medical research can prove that cigarettes cause cancer,


but the best social scientists can do is to say whether there’s a “correlation”, or not, between media and behaviour. And sometimes even that isnt clear.

When you comb communication research for evidence for or against a correlation between violent video games and violent behaviour, for example, you can find enough on both sides to muddy any conclusion. Yet, this doesnt correspond with our experience. For example, as


Jane Mayer reported in The New Yorker, the dean of West Point, along with three of the most experienced military and FBI interrogators in the country, flew to Hollywood to tell the creative team behind “counter-terrorist” TV series 24 that his students, despite being told by their teachers and textbooks that torture is wrong and doesnt work, were learning the opposite lesson from Kiefer Sutherlands character, Jack Bauer.


There wouldnt be an advertising industry if people werent susceptible to messages. POM Wonderful 1 wouldnt rent billboards promising (falsely) to prevent prostate cancer; the fossil fuel industry wouldnt spend millions on spots claiming (falsely) to produce clean energy; candidates wouldnt fork over billions of dollars to local TV stations for (pants-on- fire) political ads if all their money could buy were some wispy correlation.


Anecdotes arent data, and theres always the risk that a confirmation bias a stacking of the evidentiary deck is at work in citing examples like these. But it would be odd to ignore what Uncle Toms Cabin did to abolish slavery; what On the Beach 2 did to increase awareness of the threat of nuclear war; what Fox News narratives are doing to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change.


Today, because so much content is consumed digitally and shared socially, and because there is so much data to be mined about our knowledge, attitudes and behaviour, there now exists an unprecedented opportunity to quantify the impact of media. It wont be a true science of cause-and-effect until neurobiology makes some big leaps forward, but the

1 A private company in the US selling beverages and fruit extracts. Its main product is pomegranate juice.

2 1957 post-apocalyptic novel by British-Australian author Neville Shute.

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methods and tools for measuring the differences that media make are dramatically evolving,


with consequences that are both encouraging and discomfiting.

What if it were possible to fine-tune the content, marketing and distribution of a documentary or news story to maximize its impact on a target audience? What if a soap opera or a telenovela, a Bollywood feature or a Nigerian video, a Chinese social media site or an American advertising campaign, were able to finely calibrate their effects on what


people knew, believed and did after they encountered them?

The answer depends on what moral and political values you hold. I think that family planning, vaccination, voting, access to health care, human rights, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture are public goods, and that promoting them makes the world a better place. If media can improve the odds that the societal needle moves in those directions, Im


all for it.

But other people may think that ethnic cleansing, consumerism, state censorship, fracking 3 , machismo, oligarchy and theocracy are good things; they would call the content I favour propaganda, and I would return the favour. One persons pro-social media is another persons psyops 4 and agitprop 5 . If you increase the power of media to move audiences, you


do it for white hats and black hats alike.

That worries me. Im also concerned about the potential consequences for freedom of expression, especially artistic expression. What would happen if data demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that parts of our popular culture were toxic that the connections between song lyrics and misogyny, video games and violence, rape on TV and


rape on campuses and in the military, were as strong as the connections between air pollution and asthma, coal ash and birth defects, fluorocarbon gases and skin cancer?

We have laws banning child pornography and marketing cigarettes to kids. How would we regulate entertainment found to be harmful without turning good intentions into a witch- hunt, without pulling art from museum walls and literature from library shelves? How would


we draw a line between news that covers violence and hatred, and news that incites violence and hatred? I do want a world where my kind of do-gooders have more tools to increase the good they do, but not at the cost of empowering algorithms that score media against someone elses idea of a moral yardstick.

I come down on the upside of this dilemma. Ive cast my lot with efforts to use media to


repair the world and to improve how we measure their effectiveness. But when it comes to the mystery of how words and images affect what people know, what they feel and how they behave, theres always something to be said for a little pre-emptive paranoia.

For discussion:

3 The process of drilling down into the earth and using high-pressure water to release shale gas from rocks. Despite revolutionizing the energy industry, fracking is controversial as it has prompted environmental concerns

4 Truncation of “psychological operations”, planned operations by the US military to convey information that can strategically influence emotions, reasoning and behaviour of governments, organizations, groups and individuals.

5 Truncation of “agitation and propaganda”, political propaganda propagated chiefly via literature, drama, music or art.

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Kaplan (in contrast to Taylor in the previous reading) asserts that media messages can be a means of encouraging desirable, constructive, pro-social values. Whose views do you find more compelling, and why?

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Reading 6: Why privacy matters

By Alessandro Acquisti (TED Talk, June 2013)

In this article, you will learn about:

The technologies used to infer sensitive and private personal information from publicly shared personal information

The trade-offs from giving away and not protecting our privacy on social media

The ways one can be nudged into disclosing personal data online

What would a world without secrets look like?

I would like to tell you a story connecting the notorious privacy incident involving Adam and Eve, and the remarkable shift in the boundaries between public and private which has occurred in the past 10 years. You know the incident. Adam and Eve one day in the Garden of Eden realize they are naked. They freak out. And the rest is history.


Nowadays, Adam and Eve would probably act differently:

[@Adam Last nite was a blast! loved dat apple LOL]

[@Eve Yep

Hey, know what happened to my wallet tho?]

We do reveal so much more information about ourselves online than ever before, and so much information about us is being collected by organizations. Now there is much to gain and benefit


from this massive analysis of personal information, or big data, but there are also complex tradeoffs that come from giving away our privacy. And my story is about these tradeoffs.

We start with an observation which, in my mind, has become clearer and clearer in the past few years, that any personal information can become sensitive information. Back in the year 2000, about 100 billion photos were shot worldwide, but only a minuscule proportion of them were


actually uploaded online. In 2010, only on Facebook, in a single month, 2.5 billion photos were uploaded, most of them identified. In the same span of time, computers' ability to recognize people in photos improved by three orders of magnitude. What happens when you combine these technologies together: increasing availability of facial data; improving facial recognizing ability by computers; but also cloud computing, which gives anyone in this theater the kind of


computational power which a few years ago was only the domain of three-letter agencies; and ubiquitous computing, which allows my phone, which is not a supercomputer, to connect to the Internet and do there hundreds of thousands of face metrics in a few seconds? Well, we conjecture that the result of this combination of technologies will be a radical change in our very notions of privacy and anonymity.


To test that, we did an experiment on Carnegie Mellon University campus. We asked students who were walking by to participate in a study, and we took a shot with a webcam, and we asked them to fill out a survey on a laptop. While they were filling out the survey, we uploaded their shot to a cloud-computing cluster, and we started using a facial recognizer to match that shot to a database of some hundreds of thousands of images which we had downloaded from Facebook


profiles. By the time the subject reached the last page on the survey, the page had been dynamically updated with the 10 best matching photos which the recognizer had found, and we asked the subjects to indicate whether he or she found themselves in the photo.

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So essentially, we can start from an anonymous face, offline or online, and we can use facial recognition to give a name to that anonymous face thanks to social media data. But a few years


back, we did something else. We started from social media data, we combined it statistically with data from U.S. government social security, and we ended up predicting social security numbers, which in the United States are extremely sensitive information.

Do you see where I'm going with this? So if you combine the two studies together, then the question becomes, can you start from a face and, using facial recognition, find a name and


publicly available information about that name and that person, and from that publicly available information infer non-publicly available information, much more sensitive ones which you link back to the face? And the answer is, yes, we can, and we did. But in fact, we even decided to develop an iPhone app which uses the phone's internal camera to take a shot of a subject and then upload it to a cloud and then do what I just described to you in real time: looking for a


match, finding public information, trying to infer sensitive information, and then sending back to the phone so that it is overlaid on the face of the subject, an example of augmented reality, probably a creepy example of augmented reality. In fact, we didn't develop the app to make it available, just as a proof of concept.

In fact, take these technologies and push them to their logical extreme. Imagine a future in


which strangers around you will look at you through their Google Glasses or, one day, their contact lenses, and use seven or eight data points about you to infer anything else which may be known about you. What will this future without secrets look like? And should we care?

We may like to believe that the future with so much wealth of data would be a future with no more biases, but in fact, having so much information doesn't mean that we will make decisions


which are more objective. In another experiment, we presented to our subjects information about a potential job candidate. We included in this information some references to some funny, absolutely legal, but perhaps slightly embarrassing information that the subject had posted online. Now interestingly, among our subjects, some had posted comparable information, and some had not. Which group do you think was more likely to judge harshly our


subject? Paradoxically, it was the group who had posted similar information, an example of moral dissonance.

Now you may be thinking: this does not apply to me, because I have nothing to hide. But in fact, privacy is not about having something negative to hide. Imagine that you are the H.R. director of a certain organization, and you receive résumés, and you decide to find more information


about the candidates. Therefore, you Google their names and in a certain universe, you find this information (image of a young woman). Or in a parallel universe, you find this information (image of a pregnant young woman). Do you think that you would be equally likely to call either candidate for an interview? If you think so, then you are not like the U.S. employers who are, in fact, part of our experiment. We created Facebook profiles, manipulating traits, then we started


sending out résumés to companies in the U.S., and we monitored, whether they were searching for our candidates, and whether they were acting on the information they found on social media. And they were. Discrimination was happening through social media for equally skilled candidates.

Now marketers like us to believe that all information about us will always be used in a manner


which is in our favor. But think again. Why should that be always the case? In a movie which came out a few years ago, "Minority Report," a famous scene had Tom Cruise walk in a mall and

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holographic personalized advertising would appear around him. Now, that movie is set in 2054, about 40 years from now, and as exciting as that technology looks, it already vastly underestimates the amount of information that organizations can gather about you, and how


they can use it to influence you in a way that you will not even detect.

So as an example, this is another experiment actually we are running, not yet completed. Imagine that an organization has access to your list of Facebook friends, and through some kind of algorithm they can detect the two friends that you like the most. And then they create, in real time, a facial composite of these two friends. Now studies prior to ours have shown that people


don't recognize any longer even themselves in facial composites, but they react to those composites in a positive manner. So the next time you are looking for a certain product, and there is an ad suggesting you to buy it, it will not be just a standard spokesperson. It will be one of your friends, and you will not even know that this is happening.

Now the problem is that the current policy mechanisms we have to protect ourselves from the


abuses of personal information are like bringing a knife to a gunfight. One of these mechanisms is transparency, telling people what you are going to do with their data. And in principle, that's a very good thing. It's necessary, but it is not sufficient. Transparency can be misdirected. You can tell people what you are going to do, and then you still nudge them to disclose arbitrary amounts of personal information.


So, in yet another experiment, this one with students, we asked them to provide information about their campus behavior, including pretty sensitive questions, such as this one, ‘Have you ever cheated in an exam?’ Now to one group of subjects, we told them, "Only other students will see your answers." To another group of subjects, we told them, "Students and faculty will see your answers." Transparency. Notification. And sure enough, this worked, in the sense that


the first group of subjects was much more likely to disclose than the second. It makes sense, right? But then we added the misdirection. We repeated the experiment with the same two groups, this time adding a delay between the time we told subjects how we would use their data and the time we actually started answering the questions.

How long a delay do you think we had to add in order to nullify the inhibitory effect of knowing


that faculty would see your answers? Ten minutes? Five minutes? One minute? How about 15 seconds? Fifteen seconds were sufficient to have the two groups disclose the same amount of information, as if the second group now no longer cares for faculty reading their answers.

Now I have to admit that this talk so far may sound exceedingly gloomy, but that is not my point. In fact, I want to share with you the fact that there are alternatives. The way we are doing


things now is not the only way they can be done, and certainly not the best way they can be done. When someone tells you, "People don't care about privacy," consider whether the game has been designed and rigged so that they cannot care about privacy, and coming to the realization that these manipulations occur is already halfway through the process of being able to protect yourself. When someone tells you that privacy is incompatible with the benefits of


big data, consider that in the last 20 years, researchers have created technologies to allow virtually any electronic transactions to take place in a more privacy-preserving manner. We can browse the Internet anonymously. We can send emails that can only be read by the intended recipient, not even the NSA. We can have even privacy-preserving data mining. In other words, we can have the benefits of big data while protecting privacy. Of course, these technologies

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imply a shifting of cost and revenues between data holders and data subjects, which is why, perhaps, you don't hear more about them.

Which brings me back to the Garden of Eden. There is a second privacy interpretation of the story of the Garden of Eden which doesn't have to do with the issue of Adam and Eve feeling naked and feeling ashamed. You can find echoes of this interpretation in John Milton's "Paradise


Lost." In the garden, Adam and Eve are materially content. They're happy. They are satisfied. However, they also lack knowledge and self-awareness. The moment they eat the aptly named fruit of knowledge, that's when they discover themselves. They become aware. They achieve autonomy. The price to pay, however, is leaving the garden. So privacy, in a way, is both the means and the price to pay for freedom.


Again, marketers tell us that big data and social media are not just a paradise of profit for them, but a Garden of Eden for the rest of us. We get free content. We get to play Angry Birds. We get targeted apps. But in fact, in a few years, organizations will know so much about us, they will be able to infer our desires before we even form them, and perhaps buy products on our behalf before we even know we need them.


Now there was one English author who anticipated this kind of future where we would trade away our autonomy and freedom for comfort. Even more so than George Orwell, the author is, of course, Aldous Huxley. In "Brave New World," he imagines a society where technologies that we created originally for freedom end up coercing us. However, in the book, he also offers us a way out of that society, similar to the path that Adam and Eve had to follow to leave the garden.


In the words of the Savage, regaining autonomy and freedom is possible, although the price to pay is steep. So I do believe that one of the defining fights of our times will be the fight for the control over personal information, the fight over whether big data will become a force for freedom, rather than a force which will manipulate us.

Right now, many of us do not even know that the fight is going on, but it is, whether you like it


or not. And at the risk of playing the serpent, I will tell you that the tools for the fight are here, the awareness of what is going on, and in your hands, just a few clicks away.

For discussion:

1. In what way do the technologies mentioned by the author alter our “notions of privacy

and anonymity” (line 24)?

2. How are current policies to protect us from the abuse of our personal information inadequate?

3. What is big data? What is the connection between big data and social media?

4. Discuss the ways in which social media users may “trade away… [their] autonomy and freedom for comfort” (line 135-136).

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Reading 7: Fear big brother

or firms' abuse of big data?

By Derrick Ho (The Straits Times, 19 Sep 2013)

In this article, you will learn about:

The extent to which governments around the world have access to personal data.

The laws allowing the Singapore government relatively easy access to personal data.

The ways in which data mining is carried out and its potential abuses.

Whether Internet users are aware of it or not, a good chunk of their most personal and private information is probably sitting somewhere on the Internet.

Like most netizens, I use Web services like Yahoo's Flickr to share vacation photos, and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share thoughts on the latest government


policies. On Google's Gmail, I e-mail travel plans and itineraries, some of which contain passport and banking details. Like most responsible netizens, I dial up my privacy settings on these platforms to a pretty high level, limiting my online pourings and photos to only those whom I intend them for. Or so I thought.

Over the past few months, each of these technology giants Microsoft, Google, Twitter,


Facebook and, most recently, Yahoo have all released reports, revealing that they have disclosed details of their users to governments which have demanded them. Facebook said it had acceded to almost three-quarters of the 107 requests for details on 117 individuals it received from the Singapore Government in the first half of the year. Yahoo disclosed user details in 75 instances to the Singapore authorities within the same period.


The companies claim that most of the data released concerned basic user information such as names and how long a user had been using their services. Yahoo revealed that it did disclose extracts of e-mail messages, contents of messenger chats and even entries in address books and calendars. All the tech giants have insisted that they released details only if the requests were valid ones: those pertaining to national security or the investigation of a crime. But what


exactly constitutes a matter of national security or a criminal act, and hence the decision of whether they accede to the requests, seems to remain at their discretion.

When asked about the nature of the Singapore Government's requests, a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman would say only that law enforcement agencies may request data from persons or organisations for investigations into criminal cases, "as part of the evidence-


gathering process provided for under the law".

The reports came on the heels of revelations earlier this year of the US government's top- secret surveillance programmes, which allegedly allow it to access data from major Internet companies.

Late last month, an Australian newspaper suggested that SingTel has been aiding a highly


secretive intelligence unit of the Ministry of Defence and its Australian counterparts in harvesting communications carried on a major undersea telecommunications cable between Tuas and Perth. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, this is part of a partnership between intelligence agencies in Singapore and Australia, which extends to the United States, Britain, New Zealand and Canada as well. When asked about the matter, SingTel declined to


comment. The Defence Ministry would not respond to any of The Straits Times' queries either.

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Wide access What does it all add up to for data privacy in Singapore? In short: There is none. Technology allows Internet companies and telcos to store and retrieve data. Laws allow the State to demand access to them.

In Singapore, broadly phrased laws such as the Criminal Procedure Act give the Government


wide access to data and communications such as SMSes, e-mail, call logs and websites you have accessed. It does not need a court order as laws allow it to directly obtain such information from firms. Similarly, under the Telecommunications Act, the Government can order telcos to provide any document or information related to an investigation.

The Singapore state seems to be an outlier in the wide powers it holds. While some


governments have managed to attain sweeping powers to gather user data since the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in the US in 2001, many are still in the midst of pushing for wider access. In Britain and Australia, law enforcement agencies still need a warrant to access a computer within their borders. However, lawmakers in both countries are now proposing to force phone and Internet companies to hold and surrender without a warrant in Britain's case records


of digital communications to track potential criminal activity.

In Singapore, the Government doesn't need a warrant. That may sound like scary Big Brother to some, but the truth is that the same can be said of companies and even individuals. Already, Google and Facebook track users' interests and online activity to earn money from targeted advertisements. Businesses can even buy data on where you live, how much people spend on


shopping and even their cellphone numbers. All of this is mined and harvested from a variety of sources lucky draw forms, survey forms and those name cards you drop into a bowl at product launches.

Then, there are hackers and cyber criminals who are increasingly eyeing your mobile devices, a treasure trove of intimate data. Earlier this year, I saw first- hand through an IT security


expert's demonstration how easy it is for a hacker to gain control of a phone with a single SMS. Once in, the hacker can instruct the phone to record audio or snap photos, all without the user ever knowing. In recent months, hackers have managed to infiltrate the systems of various organisations including Sony, Apple and Yahoo, compromising user names and passwords of customers.

The lesser of three evils


The bottom line: If someone has the will to get hold of your data, there will be a way to do so. Hence, it is worth asking yourself this: Who would you trust the most with your data the government, a company or an individual? Herein lies the politics of trust. Who has the biggest tendency to abuse your data and betray trust?

In the absence of checks and balances, there is a valid concern that a government may use its


powers to collect data for its own political agenda. For now, though, there is no evidence that the Singapore Government is collecting data for anything other than bona fide purposes. Conversely, citizens don't know this for sure. Until proven otherwise, citizens can only rely on trust and the State's goodwill.



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This same benefit cannot be afforded to profit-driven companies or deviant individuals. Time

and time again, they have proven that they will do anything to cash in on your data tech giants included.

A Pew Research Centre study released last month found that while the American public is

concerned about Internet privacy, they are far less worried about government snooping than

they are about their online activity being monitored by hackers and advertisers. In Singapore,

the Data Protection Act

is no saying what firms might do to bend it.

6 may already be in place to restrict companies' use of data, but there

The irony in all of this is that despite privacy concerns, people all over the world continue to share personal data online. Netizens make it easy for anyone to collect data about them by blithely sharing their details on social media sites.




Perhaps this invasion of privacy is the price to be paid for enjoying the convenience of staying connected via the Internet. And if you object to anyone knowing what you buy? Go to a brick- and- mortar store and pay in cash. The rest of us who want e-mail, Facebook and the convenience of transacting online continue to hand over our personal data to a myriad of individuals and companies daily.

Sure, the State can get its hands on that data. But you should probably worry more about nefarious companies crunching your data to sell you something you don't want, or criminals out to steal your identity or money, rather than a nefarious state out to get you because of your critical comments online.

In other words, don't be too alarmed about Big Brother. It's what companies and criminals do

with Big Data that's more unnerving.

For discussion:

1. Explain the backlash received by technology giants for disclosing “details of their users

to governments which have demanded them” (line 11).

2. Should the State be allowed access to personal data? Discuss whether or not this is necessarily a bad thing.

3. At present, enjoying the convenience of the Internet makes people vulnerable to the abuses of personal data. What measures can be put in place to further protect people’s right to privacy?

Cambridge questions

A. How far is it acceptable for technology to be used only for financial benefit? (2012)

6 Under the purview of the Personal Data Protection Commission, “a Singapore Government statutory body established on 2 January 2013 to administer and enforce the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (PDPA). The other roles of PDPC include undertaking public education and engagement programmes to help organisations understand and comply with the PDPA as well as to promote greater awareness of the importance of personal data protection in Singapore.

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B. To what extent has technology made an impact on both privacy and security in your country? (2009)

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Reading 8: Freedom From The Press: Why The Media Are the Way They Are

By Cherian George (, 25 Oct 2001)

This reading will help you understand that:

While Western democracies see the Press as the Fourth Estate, checking on the possible abuse of power by the government, in Singapore, the Press is seen as having its own interests which may not be for the good of the nation so it is the Press that needs to be controlled.

The press in Singapore is managed by legal restrictions such as the Internal Security Act, the Official Secrets Act, as well as Newspaper and Printing Presses Act.

The political ideology in Singapore, contrary to that in the West, is that of active support of the Press for those in power. This is achieved not entirely by coercion but also by consent and a record of good governance.

In some countries, when newspapers cannot say what needs to be said, they publish blank editorials in silent protest. Editors lobby for greater freedom of information. Press organisations rally behind journalists who are obstructed or harassed.


In Singapore, the most distinctive feature on the press scene is not the existence of political controls, for these exist elsewhere, but the newspapers’ seeming acceptance of their lot. Journalists’ responses range from stoic silence, as when The Business Times and its sister papers ran no editorials protesting its editor’s prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, to a masochistic turning of the other cheek, as when columnists join politicians in decrying Western-


style press freedoms. What accounts for this unique state of affairs? The answer lies in a system of press management combining watertight legal controls with a compelling political ideology that encourages not just obedience, but also active support.

The controls operate at two levels. The first, which is the older and more common, is made up of various licencing and national security laws. Press laws inherited from the British require all


newspapers to be licenced; licences can be revoked at any time, effectively killing a publication. Journalists must also beware the Internal Security Act, under which they can be detained without trial. They can be fined or jailed if they are judged to have breached contempt of court or of contempt of parliament laws. The Official Secrets Act deters reporters from being on the receiving end of leaks, while libel laws compel them to take extreme care with any information


that could hurt officials’ reputations.

The government wielded these powers most aggressively in the 1970s, when the licence of The Singapore Herald was withdrawn and four Nanyang Siang Pau pressmen were jailed under the I. S. A. The 1990s were less traumatic. The O. S. A. prosecution of Business Times editor Patrick Daniel, together with four other individuals, was apparently not intended to crush either him or


the paper but to signal to civil servants that leaks would not be tolerated. Daniel returned to work after being found guilty and paying a fine. One magazine was suspended: Woman’s Affair ran a feature on the PAP’s female MPs that included a few critical comments, and was judged to have strayed into political commentary in contravention of the aims stated in its licence.

This first level of laws provides the government sweeping powers to punish journalists and their


publications when they cross the line of acceptability, including the power to silence them completely. One problem with using these powers, however, is that the public is bound to notice, and levy some political cost. Besides, the PAP has never been content to have national institutions that are merely cowed into submission: it wants them to support positively its

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policies and programmes. The government’s second level of control addresses precisely this


point. More than 20 years old, it has been so effective in fulfilling its objective of behind-the- scenes control that most Singaporeans are not even aware of it, even though it is the main instrument shaping how the press operates.

The law in question is the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, which in an amendment passed in 1977, after the Herald was closed down empowers the government to determine the


composition of a newspaper company’s board of directors. Newspaper companies must be publicly listed, and their shares divided into ordinary and management shares. The government can select who holds management shares. Through the chairman and directors, the government can also ensure that the senior editors who serve as the main gatekeepers of the press are trustworthy. With this mechanism in place, the government needs neither to post its officials


directly into top newsroom positions, nor to nationalise the press. In that respect, its control of the press differs from the way it has managed, say, the trade union movement, or the universities. The Straits Times remains a newspaper edited by professional journalists and published by businessmen, as it has been for more than 150 years.

Contrary to popular folklore, the newsroom does not receive daily instructions about what to


publish, and sensitive articles are not submitted to government officials for vetting. Like all big newsmakers, government officials try to influence coverage of their particular portfolios through a mix of persuasive tactics, from offering the inducement of greater access, to dangling the veiled threat of legal action. Of course, the government is not just any newsmaker: it has more power than most to affect the livelihoods of editors and journalists. But, for the same


reason that it amended the press laws in 1977, it has not been trigger-happy in the use of its almost limitless firepower: the senior-most figures in the leadership prefer to have editors who independently come to the right conclusions even if they occasionally do not than to replace them with mere functionaries. As members of the establishment, newspaper editors are expected to have an instinctive grasp of Singapore’s national interests and how to protect them.


They interact regularly with cabinet ministers to keep these instincts honed. Most of the time, they get it right; but not always, which is why the press is the single establishment institution that is regularly chastised by government leaders for not being supportive enough of national goals.

Singapore’s press system is sustained not just by coercion, but also by consent. At the corporate


level, publishers can hardly complain about the PAP’s press model. Lee Kuan Yew has understood perfectly that the media business is, first and foremost, a business: that a press allowed to make money out of a system will support that system; and that publishers value their bottom line more highly than they do their editorial freedom. The news media industry’s regulatory barriers to entry may frustrate consumers and would-be competitors, but you will


not hear Singapore Press Holdings complaining. SPH, partly as a result of its monopoly, is one of the most profitable newspaper companies in the world. Its stable includes not just its cash-cow, The Straits Times, but also the once-wobbly Chinese press. The government put the Chinese dailies on a secure financial footing through a forced merger with the profitable English press. In the 1960s, the Chinese press was a headstrong and unpredictable institution; in the 1990s, the


Chinese division of SPH dreamt up a best-selling book and compact disk on Lee Kuan Yew.

Support for the ruling party and its programmes may not be as strong in the newsrooms as it is in the boardrooms, but it is significant and genuine. Editors see the press as having both a contributing role and a vested interest in Singapore’s success. In keeping with the national

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ideology, success is defined primarily in economic terms. The link to economic growth is tangible


and personal. With attractive pay and bonuses, and one of the earliest stock option schemes in the country, journalists in the national press have little incentive to jump ship to an anti- government vehicle, even if one existed.

The editorial positions of the national press have been described variously as prostitution and self-censorship, but editors believe they are practicing responsible and intellectually-honest


journalism. They point to the PAP’s record of good government, and say that it does not warrant the kind of negativity and cynicism that is second nature to journalists in many other countries. Indeed, one has to recognise that the PAP did not just deliver on its threats; it also delivered on its promises. It did not stop at silencing dissent; it went on to persuade the public of its ability to govern. It achieved decades of high economic growth with social equity. Unlike most other


authoritarian regimes, the PAP does not suppress the press in order to cover up corruption or hide its mistakes. It does so out of a conviction that the press has a narrow and short-term view of the public interest, and that this can obstruct good government.

Unfortunately for more independent-minded journalists, Singapore’s history supports the PAP’s view. The press has had a record of being out of step with the historic nationalist project that


saw Singapore emerge from colonialism, through messy merger, to independence. The Chinese and Malay media were slow to adjust to the new realities of a sovereign, multi-racial republic; they sometimes acted with immigrant, diaspora instincts, instead of media with a national vision. As for the English press, The Straits Times made the strategic error of, first, treating the opposition PAP as communist-leaning troublemakers, and then, transferring its headquarters to


Kuala Lumpur in preparation for the union with Malaysia. The newspaper’s initial anti-PAP stand and its 13 years in KL, from 1959 to 1972, meant that it could not draw on the prestige of having played a leading role in the country’s early nationalism. The Straits Times is remembered by Lee and the Old Guard as colonially hung-over thirds of passage, who quit when the going got tough. The assessment is unfair, given that even Lee worked hard for merger and shed tears when it


did not last. But the paper’s failure to “Singaporeanise” itself promptly in 1965 shows that it, like the Chinese and Malay press, grossly underestimated the resolve and ability of the PAP to wrest Singapore out of the past and establish it as a modern, developed, multi-racial society. The PAP view of journalists in Singapore is, not unreasonably, that it succeeded in spite of them. Lee said in his memoirs: "My early experience in Singapore and Malaya shaped my views about the claim


of the press to be the defender of truth and freedom of speech. The freedom of the press was the freedom of its owners to advance their personal and class interests."

This history explains the PAP’s twist on the principle of press freedom. In the classic liberal formulation, the press is seen as a pure expression of democracy. Thus, in the United States, the Constitution protects the press from the government, which, despite having been elected


democratically, is assumed by American political culture to harbour undemocratic tendencies. In the Singapore model, the formula is reversed. The elected government is the embodiment of democratic expression. Government, which expresses the will of the people, must be protected from the unelected press, which is prone to being swayed by private commercial interests, narrow ideological missions, or, at the very least, the hubris of journalists inflated egos. In liberal


democracies, it is all about freedom of the press from government; in Singapore, it is about the government’s freedom from the press.

The PAP therefore maintains that the press should be independent, but subordinate to an elected government. In practice, this means that the tone of stories is crucially important.

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Stories can be critical, but must be respectful towards the country’s leaders. They cannot


ridicule or lampoon, or erode public respect for those in office. If disagreement persists, it is the government’s duty to make a final decision, and journalists should not use their access to the public to continue plugging their contrary point of view. If they do, they would be judged to be engaging in politics, the proper place for which is in the electoral battlefield. Lately, the government has professed that there are few or no sacred cows? It is in the mood for creative


destruction of old ways, and finding new solutions for success in the new economy. Thus, the out-of-bound markers are being progressively widened.

However, it would be foolish for any journalist to assume that the PAP is diluting its core position, that the press must remain subordinate. The government continues to assert that only it can be in charge of the national agenda; and that the press must never confuse Singaporeans


or the world outside as to what that national agenda is. Thus, for example, The Straits Times could not possibly campaign against the government’s foreign talent policy and get away with it, even if it publishes the occasional critical column or letter. Nor can its overall coverage be sympathetic towards, say, gay rights.

The national media are not part of the avant-garde, and will not become so. Political controls


aside, and for purely commercial reasons, the press is not likely to stray from its safe, middle-of- the-road position. That, after all, is where the maximum market share lies. The national press is thus an establishment institution, along with the universities, the labour movement and other organisations that in most countries are crucibles for democratic change. But within Singapore’s corporatist context, the press is in fact probably the most plural of all national institutions. It is


in the pages of The Straits Times, more than anywhere else, that Singaporeans read alternative views and participate in public debate. Long-time readers detect a steadily more serious attempt to reflect various shades of public opinion.

This courtesy, however, is not extended to opposition politicians. The press does not seem to subscribe to the theory that the opposition is an indispensable pillar of democracy, and


therefore inherently newsworthy regardless of its quality. Instead, opposition politicians must satisfy editors that they are offering serious and credible ideas, before they are deemed worthy of more than minimal coverage. Also at work is the very Singaporean bias in favour of pragmatic ideas of immediate functional value, and an impatience with political ideals such as democracy and human rights. Since opposition politicians deal mainly in the latter, they are easily dismissed


as saying nothing new or of substance.

The press has also suggested that its unsympathetic treatment of the opposition is a fair reflection of public opinion, as expressed during general elections. This claim carries some weight between elections, but is somewhat suspect during the campaign. The point of an election being to determine the people’s wishes, media bias in election coverage cannot be


justified by an as-yet-unknown popular will, and indeed can be criticised as undermining the freedom and fairness of the poll. Editors defend their pro-PAP bias by pointing out that even newspapers in the West take sides during elections. Readers’ complaints that SPH, as a monopoly, has a moral obligation to be fair in its election coverage have not succeeded in changing editors’ minds.


Singapore’s newspapers did not help the PAP much in the party’s early years. They have since made up for it. The New Guard leaders have been able to count on a press that, in keeping with Lee’s vision, is pro-establishment enough to serve as a reliable partner, and professional enough

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to remain profitable. The editor of The Straits Times, Leslie Fong, has acknowledged, and tried to address, the obvious concern: of course, the danger for the ST is that working with rather


than against the establishment can become such a habit of mind that it would not recognise the need to break ranks even when that stares it in the face. And, yes, the status quo can become so comfortable that there would always be the temptation to rationalise itself out of doing anything which might upset it. It may or may not happen this way. But I would like to think that should the establishment turn rogue, the ST will not be found wanting. It will do its duty.


There is a certain pathos in this promise, for it assumes that editors who choose to break ranks can get away with it long enough to make a difference. It ignores the fact that the largely consensual character of government-press relations in the 1990s continues to be undergirded by massively one-sided legal powers. When consensus fails, the government can, if it wishes, instantly switch to the two levels of coercive control described above. It can remove editors


overnight, and replace them with individuals possessing the proper understanding of their duty? Detain offending writers without trial, and close down the entire newspaper, all with complete legality. The government has much latitude, in a system that upholds its freedom from the press.

For discussion:

1. Explain the various ways in which the press in Singapore is different from that in

Western democracies.

2. Explain how the various laws in Singapore ensure that the press is controlled.

3. What assumptions are made about the government of Singapore and the press in Singapore to justify the limitations on freedom of the press and the expectation that the press must support the government? How have these assumptions been challenged in recent times? And how has the press responded to these changes?

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Reading 9: Internet regulation A myth in Singapore?

By Yip Yee Hui Josephine (Singapore Law Review, 30 Nov 2013)

This reading will help you understand that:

Societies decide what is to be censored based on socio-cultural norms. Offensive remarks about race, religion and politics continue to be the focus of censorship in Singapore.

While technological measures are used to control new media in some autocratic countries, the Singapore government prefers to use legislation.

Self-regulation by users and the online community also play a part in managing new media’s content, and this is believed to be a more mature response than state censorship.

As with all other freedoms, freedom of speech is not without its limits, a principle deeply enshrined in article 14 of the Singapore Constitution. Racial and political issues remain particularly sensitive, and are thus the key targets of censorship here.

However, the rise of the Internet has dramatically narrowed the boundaries of state


regulation. While countries such as China and Iran have illustrated that extensive Internet regulation is not impossible with the use of technological measures to filter out undesirable content, Singapore has shied away from such an approach, preferring instead to adopt mostly non-technological ones. The question thus remains: with the ineffectiveness of technological measures, and the government’s purported commitment to a light-touch


approach, is Internet regulation now little more than a mere myth in Singapore? This article argues that this seems unlikely given the government’s continued attempts to regulate the Internet through new legislation, and the self-regulation by both individual Internet users and the virtual community.

The government’s role in regulating the Internet is largely moderated due to two main


reasons. The first is Singapore’s use of mostly non-technological measures. These include both laws specific to online content such as the Internet Code of Practice and the Class License Conditions, and more general ones such as the Films Act and the Sedition Act. Such regulations restrict online content with certain repercussions such as fines should they be contravened.


Yet, they are unlikely to have much effect in practical application. Without the heavy use of technological measures, the rapid propagation of information and the sheer volume of content on the Internet have made regulating objectionable content a mind-boggling challenge for Singapore. When MICA opted to retain its ban of 100 websites in 2010, it was ‘not so much for its functional usefulness, [but] rather as a symbolic statement of our


society’s values’. Indeed, Mr Lui Tuck Yew, then Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, acknowledged at that time that the ban was likely to be largely ineffective as ‘the technologically savvy among us will be able to circumvent this ban, and that there are many more than 100 such websites out there’. Additionally, the extensive online circulation of the political film Singapore Rebel 7 even before its ban was lifted in 2009 illustrates yet

7 A 26-minute documentary about Dr Chee Soon Juan, leader of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).

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another instance of how state regulation of the Internet is highly limited. By then, the film had already garnered a few hundred thousand views.

Moreover, Singapore’s commitment to a light-touch approach towards Internet regulation right from the outset has also played a role in limiting state regulation of online content. Since 1996, the Internet Code of Practice has required Internet Content Providers to remove


any content that were objectionable on grounds of public morality, order or security, and has called for certain content providers displaying political and religious content to register with MDA. However, the apparent harshness of these regulations was mitigated by the government’s reassurance that it would not attempt to remove all objectionable content but only censor 100 websites as a symbolic move, and that such registration was nothing


more than an administrative exercise aimed at improving accountability.

Despite these assurances, the regulations were still viewed as an attempt to ‘cover what is essentially an exercise of unchecked power’, and regarded as ‘the spectre of government surveillance and censorship’, according to several adverse comments made on a feedback page set up by the then popular Sintercom 8 . Yet these fears were proven to be largely


unfounded. In fact, in the decade after the regulations were first announced, fewer than thirty cases of state action against online content were reported. On hindsight, the government’s continued adherence to the light-touch approach hardly seems surprising, given the need to protect Singapore’s reputation as a technological hub. Also, this could possibly be the government’s attempt at distancing itself from the label of an authoritarian


regime, a label that is politically costly, both locally and internationally.

Even so, Internet regulation remains a reality in Singapore. Despite the limitations of non- technological regulations and the government’s commitment to a light-touch approach, it continues to play a key role in monitoring online content. A most apt example to illustrate this point would be the recently-enacted legislation governing online news sites which first


came into effect on 1 June 2013. Under these new rules, online news sites must be individually licensed if, over a period of two months, they report an average of at least one article per week on Singapore’s news and current affairs and are visited by at least 50,000 unique IP addresses from Singapore each month. Such sites will be required to remove objectionable content within 24 hours of being notified by MDA.


At first glance, it seems that the new regulations are unlikely to have as much impact on the online community as the 2,500-strong demonstration at Hong Lim Park, or the 24-hour blackout of more than 130 Singapore-based websites, would suggest. Despite the fact that MDA’s broad definition of ‘news’ could potentially subject countless websites to the new regulations, it is doubtful that the government will take a proactive approach towards


enforcing them. After all, the aforementioned motivations for maintaining a light-touch approach on Internet regulation seem all the more relevant today, as citizens become increasingly educated and politically aware.

Indeed, in response to criticism of the new regulations, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim stated that “MDA will be ‘judicious’ with Internet regulation”.

8 Acronym for “Singapore Internet Community”, an online community launched by Dr Tan Chong Kee in 1994, with the objective of providing a platform for free flowing discussion on various national issues.

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However, it may well be that having identified 10 websites such as, and that fall within the ambit of the new licensing scheme, the government could potentially have a real influence on what is produced on these few sites. The narrow focus on a very small number of websites would significantly reduce the volume of online content to be sieved through, helping the government to


overcome one of the main obstacles facing state regulation.

In addition, self-regulation by both individual Internet users and the virtual community also play a role in regulating the Internet. A main driving force behind self-regulation would be auto-regulation. In Singapore, terms in legislation pertaining to online content are usually ambiguously or broadly defined such that a vast number of online users could fall under its


regulatory jurisdiction. For instance, under the Internet Code of Practice, Internet Content Providers must remove any prohibited material if directed to do so by MDA. An Internet Content Provider, as defined under the Class License Conditions, is:

a) any individual in Singapore who provides any programme, for business, political or religious purposes, on the World Wide Web through the Internet; or



b) any corporation or group of individuals (including any association, business, club, company, society, organisation or partnership, whether registrable or incorporated under the laws of Singapore or not) who provides any programme on the World Wide Web through the Internet, and includes any web publisher and any web server administrator.

With such broadly defined rules, the authorities possess expansive discretionary powers to bring offenders to task. While the Government has unstintingly reiterated its stance of adhering to a light-touch approach, the deterrent effect of such regulations remain as online users have to be constantly wary of infringing upon these rules as they might fall


under their jurisdiction. In fact, many online users have likened the recently enacted legislation governing online news sites to the proverbial Sword of Damocles, where a climate of fear is created despite assurances from the Government. Thus, auto-regulation seems to play a significant role in Internet regulation.

Quite apart from auto-regulation, online communities have on several occasions


demonstrated an intrinsic propensity to self-regulate. Online comments that undermine Singapore’s social fabric are often lambasted by other users, prompting those who made the comments to remove them even before they are brought to the attention of the authorities. This was evident in the case of Amy Cheong, who made expletive-filled derogatory comments about Malays in a Facebook post. Her comments were rapidly


circulated around cyberspace and incited a flurry of disapproving comments on numerous social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, causing her to delete her comment shortly after. Similarly, polytechnic student Lai Shimun promptly deleted her Facebook and Twitter accounts after her racist post on Indians drew flak from the online community. Such incidents illustrate how even without government intervention, the Internet may still be


regulated through self-regulation.

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In conclusion, it is apparent that Internet regulation, whether in the form of state intervention or self-regulation, is here to stay. While a balance must be struck between the two, it is unclear if the right balance has indeed been achieved under the status quo. Adverse reactions to the recently enacted licensing framework for news sites seem to

115 suggest otherwise, and cases such as that of Amy Cheong appear to point to an online citizenry that is increasingly mature, thus paving the way for greater self-regulation. Although the government’s recent enactment of licensing framework indicates that it is not likely to relax its stance in the near future, perhaps there is room for the hope that Singapore will witness a gradual change in the time to come.

For discussion:

1a. Why do you think race/ religion and politics are the primary focus of censorship in Singapore? Do you think censorship is justified for each of these? Why or why not? Explore carefully using details relevant to Singapore’s social and political scene. 1b. The ban on 100 websites in Singapore is seen as a “symbolic statement of our society’s values”. How is this statement justified? How is this open to criticism?

2a. Do you think the recent ruling regarding the registering of “news” websites is necessary? 2b. For what reasons would critics argue that it is ‘an exercise of unchecked power’ of an autocratic government? Explain with close relevance to politics in Singapore.

3. The writer claims that “cases such as that of Amy Cheong appear to point to an online citizenry that is increasingly mature”. Do you agree that the public was mature in this instance and again in the recent Anton Casey incident?

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Reading 10: Moral censorship Pulp Friction: Looking beyond the liberal/conservative divide

By Cherian George (27 Jan 2015)

This reading will help you understand that:

While race/religion and politics remain key targets for censorship in Singapore, increasingly new areas of contention, such as homosexuality, have become the focus of state censorship.

Societies decide what is not acceptable based on the majority’s view, but societies also decide to censor out of respect for minority groups.

Greater tolerance for diversity will lead to less necessity for censorship.

Some will see it as a victory for a vocal minority of liberals. Others will declare it a conservative triumph. Perhaps, though, it was never about where the government landed on the left-right spectrum. What was really at stake were the principles by which a multi-cultural nation makes


decisions that will inevitably offend one community or another.

This specific controversy was over three children’s books meant to teach kids about non­conventional families. The National Library Board’s professional librarians had earlier decided they were suitable for acquisition, but some parents complained that the books were too soft on homosexuality. As a result, the books were to be discarded. Following a public outcry,


the government intervened, in time to save two books from pulping. They will not be returned to the children’s shelves, but will be made available in the adult section.

Compared with the earlier decision, this is a passable compromise. It concedes to the conservatives that the books should not be freely available to all children regardless of the moral objections of some of their parents. At the same time, it does not permit these parents to


dictate standards for all library users: adults interested in teaching their own children to be more broad-minded about what constitutes a loving family can still borrow the books.

What was striking about the earlier decision was not so much that it did not conform to liberal standards (nothing new there), but that it deviated from the government’s own principles. For

more than 20 years, it has been official policy to avoid censorship when classification would do.



totally laissez-faire approach to public morals would fall short of the fundamental societal

obligation to protect the young; it would risk treating children like adults. At the other extreme,

crude censorship approach treats adults like children, denying them choices that they are entitled to.


In contrast, classification maximises choice for consenting adults while protecting the


vulnerable. NLB’s original response to the conservatives’ complaints was inconsistent with this rational, well- established approach. The latest decision simply brings the practice more in line with the principle. Instituting a proper, transparent review process would have to be the next step. Expert judgments by professional librarians need to be shielded from shadowy complainants who are not prepared to come out to justify their positions publicly.


Even more disquieting was the fact that the decision to pulp was part of a wider pattern, of deciding cultural policy based on how offended people are. It is dangerous for the government of a multi-ethnic country to resolve disputes this way, even if they side with the majority. Once the referee signals that he will side with those who cry the loudest, some players will start outperforming the most talented World Cup actors.

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In football, at least, an eagle-eyed referee and slow-motion HD replays can discover the truth:

was it a real foul or did he dive? When it comes to religion and morality, however, it is all subjective. No amount of rational theological forensics can establish whether a believer’s outrage is justified. Governments that agree to play this game end up having to take community leaders’ word for it, that they are suffering intolerable indignity.


Around the world, religious leaders use this inherent uncertainty to their own political advantage. Claiming to be offended and then declaring battle against the real or imagined source of that offence is one of the easiest ways to galvanise your followers; gain a higher profile than your competitors; put opponents on the defensive; and play the state like a puppet. It happens in Malaysia; it can happen here.


Indeed, as the most religiously-diverse country in the world, Singapore is particularly prone to this risk. There is no limit to the offence that the intolerant can choose to take from what other communities do. Proselytization by Christians and polygamy among Muslims are just two examples of practices that some consider consistent with their faiths but that others find upsetting. Thus, restrictions based on the capacity to offend won’t just hurt secular liberals; it


will also backfire on the most devout.

In most countries, like Malaysia, the state simply sides with the majority community (it’s wrong, but at least it’s unambiguous). Here, where there is no religious majority, the state will find itself pushed this way and that. And the ultimate result will be the conclusive unwinding of Singaporean experiment in multi-racial, multi-religious harmony.


The only responsible approach for a society like Singapore is for the state to adopt a strong bias for tolerance, and suppress nothing other than the most extreme of speech. Adult Singaporeans need to be educated to look after their own feelings.

After decades of enjoying the dubious privilege of turning to a nanny state whenever one feels offended, many Singaporeans will find this a difficult adjustment. Indeed, by changing tack, the


government may lose more votes than it wins. But it is the only viable strategy for a crowded city- state whose greatest asset, as well as its greatest challenge, will always be its cultural diversity.

For research + discussion:

1. “[T]he decision to pulp was part of a wider pattern, of deciding cultural policy based on

how offended people are…” (lines 30-31) What other recent instances in Singapore can you think of that belong to this “wider pattern” that Cherian George mentions?

2. “Around the world, religious leaders use this ….to their own political advantage. Claiming to be offended and then declaring battle against the real or imagined source of

(lines 40-44) What other instances in Malaysia

that offence. It happens in Malaysia might Cherian George be referring to?

3. What is your response to the view that instead of resorting to calls for censorship Singaporeans need to be more tolerant of differences and for our laws to only suppress the most extreme of speech? What problems would this suggestion face?

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Reading 11: Je suis tired (I am tired)

By Nazri Eddy Razali (The Nanyang Chronicle, 12 Jan 2015)

This reading will help you understand that:

Freedom of speech is not an absolute right.

In society, one “freedom” may clash with another.

Freedoms especially in modern multicultural societies need to be carefully managed, but there is no simple solution that pleases everyone all the time.

As France tries to get back on its feet following its worst terror-related violence in years, we need to question if freedom of speech is indeed worth its price in blood.







The scimitar and pencil stand poised, facing each other. A few flourishes later, the pencil lies diced and defeated. After all, how could wood and lead ever hope to challenge the might of steel, fashioned to kill?

The scimitar’s victory is short-lived however; each fragment of the fallen pencil defiantly respawns as individual pencils in their own right, ready to face the tyranny of the scimitar again.

So it goes in the cartoon (right) drawn by The Straits Times’ cartoonist, Miel Prudencio Ma, in response to the terror attack

on the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo by three gunmen.

The attack, which took place on 7 Jan, left 12 people dead, including the publication’s editor, Stéphane Charbonnier. The trigger for the unfortunate turn of events appears to have

been the Parisian publication’s insistence on republishing a 2005 Danish cartoon that satirised the Prophet Muhammad, while creating another of their own despite having previously faced violent threats from Muslim extremists.

previously faced violent threats from Muslim extremists. Image: And


And it’s not the first time Charlie Hebdo has been a victim of terror attacks. As recently as

2011, their office was firebombed as a result of publishing a special issue containing content that mocked the Islamic faith. At that time, Charlie Hebdo remained unfazed. Such was their will to defend their freedom of expression that Charbonnier famously said, “I’d rather die standing up than live on my knees.”

As soon as news of the shooting broke, condemnations of the attack came swiftly. Author,

Salman Rushdie, whose own book The Satanic Verses resulted in him experiencing death threats, led the charge. “I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity,” he said.

Around the world, silent vigils were held outside French embassies. Aside from lighting

candles, placards with the words ‘Je suis Charlie’, which is French for ‘I am Charlie’, were

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also carried by crowds as a sign of solidarity with the victims. Even the Muslim world was quick to distance itself from the attack, with Saudi Arabia calling it a “cowardly terrorist attack that was rejected by the true Islamic religion”.

And while the world still reels from the attack, the question of whether freedom of


expression is really worth one’s own life is most definitely worth pondering upon.

Freedom through speech The ability to speak one’s mind has always been paramount in a liberally inclined country such as France. After all, how can other freedoms be protected if its expressions are stunted by communicative limitations?

The art of satire is largely built upon such a spirit. Through the use of humour, wit, and


ridicule, satire aims to highlight the shortcomings of its subject matters to the public, albeit without being overtly confrontational.

However, this can only work if the subject abides by the sensibilities of the satirists, and is willing to accept the criticism. This is clearly not the case in the Charlie Hebdo attack. The Muslim extremists’ stance was clear from the very beginning: do not publish the comics, or


face the consequences. Charlie Hebdo saw pandering to the demands of the extremists as a sign of defeat and a compromise of their freedom of speech, and they published the comics anyway.

It has become clear that many also feel the same way. One of the popular ways through which solidarity has been shown for the victims of the attack is through the reposting of the


contentious comics on social media. This act of defiance serves to show that the people would rather choose to assert their freedom and brave the consequences rather than to have their liberties curtailed by the spectre of extremists.

The other side of the coin The primary reason for the terrorists’ rage towards Charlie Hebdo was due to what has been perceived as flagrant disrespect for Islamic customs. In Islam, the depiction of the Prophet


Muhammad is forbidden as it encourages idolatry.

While there can never be a reason strong enough to justify the unlawful killing of another human being, it cannot be denied that the publication of such images has served to marginalise the Muslim community in France, both radical and otherwise. The irony here is all too glaring — in Charlie Hebdo’s attempt to defend its freedom of expression, the


freedom of others to feel respected has been infringed on.

As if the guilt of being associated with the errant few is not enough, the phenomenon of “moderate” Muslims having to denounce these acts of terror highlights their fear of being judged because they share the same religion as these Muslim extremists. Some Muslim individuals have taken to social media to denounce the actions of the gunmen, using the


hashtag #notinmyname to emphasise that the gunmen’s actions were not representative of the whole Islamic faith.

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It should be simple enough for others to comprehend that the actions of a very small minority can hardly be representative of a religion spanning 23 per cent of the global population. The majority shouldn’t need to feel ashamed for the few.


And now, the Muslim community is expected to also stand and watch as the images depicting their Prophet go viral, all in the name of making a political statement against those who misrepresented their religion to begin with. In our rush to condemn the atrocities committed by the few, it is easy to forget that hate can still implicitly be felt by the majority of Muslims.


Charlie Hebdo will be releasing a million copies for their upcoming issue which will be published this week, as opposed to their usual 60,000 copies. One of its columnists, Patrick Pelloux, said the decision will show that “stupidity will not win”.

Fighting stupidity is all well and good, but let us not forget that humans not only think, but feel too.

For discussion:

1. In asserting freedom of expression by publishing the comics, how is Charlie Hebdo ironically also infringing on other rights?

2. How is Muslim support of the reposting of the comics ironic?