Saturday, April 23, 2005

It’s only a joke 

Every now and then, Steven McDermott writes something that attracts the ire of Singapore bloggers. He’s done it again with the post “The Infantile Blogosphere”. Incidentally, I’m irate too, since he calls me “very old” — or “very mature” — or something like that.

But this post is not directly about McDermott’s post. Rather, it’s about the idea of using satire or humour in general to discuss issues about Singapore, as suggested by some.

In my opinion, satire is one good way to express one’s views on current affairs or government policies, especially the latter. As Anthony points out, a tongue-in-cheek approach helps keep the writer out of trouble without necessarily detracting from the underlying message. I think it also helps in getting the attention of readers who might otherwise not bother to read about weighty issues. Gilbert Koh shows very well how it can be done.

However, Singapore bloggers often use satire as disguised rants. Some of the implied criticisms don’t seem well thought-out, but because they are expressed in the form of a satire, readers are unlikely to point them out — the rejoinder “it’s only a joke” is too powerful — and the writers and other readers are poorer for it.

This makes satire not a good substitute for serious discussion.

So if McDermott is complaining that there is not enough serious discussion about political issues in Singapore, he has my sympathy. As for what people want to blog about, I trust that he would be among the first to agree that freedom of expression is something to be respected.


Point taken, and acknowledged flaw in my own argument - I assume everyone's of the same competency level with satire.

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