Bread. September 2006
Minister tries to explain censorship of gay expression
According to the blog called Snapshots
of Life, the Senior Minister of State for Information, Communication and the
Arts, Balaji Sadasivan, said that a concert was banned because the
organisers refused to accept an R21 rating. This struck me as quite
different from the events as I understood them at the time. Was it so? We
shall examine the details further on.
Balaji was giving a speech explaining the rationale behind Singapore's censorship regime on 15 September 2006, at the Ministerial Forum 2006 held at the Singapore Management University (SMU). It was quite a small gathering with about 50 persons in the room.
The part about the censorship of gay
expression is the subject of this article. This is what Balaji said,
according to the blogger, Soulgroove:
There are three points in there that I wish to take up: Nurture-bias, Indignation, and lastly, the concert. But before that, I wish to remind readers to always bear in mind that Soulgroove might have misheard, or that the report might have left out a point of two that Balaji might have made. So in this discussion, everything is contingent on the accuracy of the report.
Balaji himself is familiar with the latest scientific research about how heterosexuality and homosexuality comes about. He made a speech back in 2002 (See the article Junior minister notes gay sheep) mentioning research that produced homosexual rams.
The Sunday Times quoted him as saying (with reference to humans),
In other words, some people are born gay, just as others are born straight. There is a growing mountain of research that points to this, which he himself acknowledged in the 2002 speech. In contrast, science has produced not a scrap of evidence to support the "nurture" belief, despite 100 years of well-funded, ideologically-driven attempts in pursuit of this explanation.
If there are tons of evidence that the Earth is round and not a scrap of evidence that it is flat, what are you supposed to believe? Of course there'll be people that will say, "What evidence?" and continue to insist that their belief is as good as anyone else's. But just because they're ignorant of the evidence doesn't mean that the evidence doesn't exist.
Coming back to Balaji's 2006 speech, he made it clear that the State itself is resolutely refusing to take into account scientific evidence, preferring to think that "The jury is still out on whether it is NATURE vs NURTURE," as reported by Soulgroove. [See also addendum 1]
Furthermore, the State assumes that
"impressionable" minds can be turned homosexual through exposure
to the very idea of it, and this is the basis for censorship. But when the
basis for censorship is so flimsy, and yet that censorship is insisted
upon in violation of others' right of free expression, it is undeniable
that the State is driven by discriminatory intent.
It was a bit of a surprise for Balaji to mention IndigNation, for I had thought that the government would have wanted to avoid acknowledging that it existed, especially as People Like Us is behind it.
On the other hand, it is true that the Media Development Authority (MDA) which comes under the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts, had explicitly given their approval to 3 of the IndigNation events this year: an art exhibition, a dramatised play-reading and a poetry recital (the last for the 2nd year in a row), so I suppose, pretence is no longer necessary. (Other IndigNation events did not require permits).
All three of these approved events were rated R18, which is quite usual when arts events have gay themes. This brings me to....
I believe Balaji was referring to the Affect05 concert featuring singing duo Jason and deMarco (picture below) when he made his speech at SMU. I have previously written about this issue in 2005. See the essay Sirenes who will turn you gay.
In the latest speech Balaji implied (assuming the blog report is accurate) that the MDA offered the organisers an R21 rating for the concert, but the organisers rejected it, ostensibly on the basis that tickets had already been sold to some people under 21. It was therefore alleged that the organisers brought the ban upon themselves by rejecting MDA's compromise.
I am informed by the organisers that this is not true. In their communication with the MDA in March 2005, MDA officials made no mention of the possibility of an R21 rating. A perusal of the appeal letter that the organisers sent to the MICA minister, Lee Boon Yang, (see appendix) supports this contention. You'll see that it contains no discussion of R21 either.
Secondly, as far as I know, there is no such thing as an R21 rating for arts events. R21 only exists for film. For the arts, the highest rating is R18, which includes events with gay themes. So how could the MDA have offered the concert organisers an R21 rating, as Balaji implied, when such a classification does not exist?
I wrote to Balaji on Monday night (18 Sept 2006) seeking his comments, which I would have wished to include here. Perhaps he was misquoted, I asked? It is now Wednesday night (20 Sept 2006) as I am writing this, and I have not yet had a response. I will add it as an addendum when received.
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