Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Things You Say.

Let's start this particular session with me saying first-hand that I don't think Mack is dishonest.

That's off my chest. I don't think his opinions of the latest flavor-of-the-week is in any way right, but I just realized that ‘dishonest’ is inaccurate — as a matter of fact, using it is sort of provocative and confrontational, and not conducive to talking.

On the plus side he commented on my blog. Before anyone starts passing out the ad hominem attacks, do note that you're several months too late.

Anyway. So what did I really mean, then, when I commented on his post about the whole fiasco? Hmm.

I believe, as I still do believe, that he, and a fairly significant proportion of other bloggers linked and related to the Malaysian and Singaporean blogosphere, are highlighting the wrong thing.

It was never about the nudity, ladies and gentlemen. Face it, you and I have access to nude pictures from the Internet on a daily basis. It's not impossible to find; they've been around since the Internet was able to carry pictures. Just because the naked woman [NSFW] we see on the Web could be the same woman we see on the street every day does not make a difference. She's not brave or unusual — brave or unusual would have been if she had bared all in the fifties, or the Victorian Age. Nudity, ladies and gentlemen, is old hat.

What is of concern is that she bared all in a public commons. Sure we can find pornography on the Web. Sure we can find tasteful nudes on the Web as well. But before we're allowed to sample the delectable delights, we must go through a time-honored ritual: the “This Material is For Consenting Adults Only, No Minors Allowed Past This Point” Page.

It's there for a reason, folks. You use it to warn people who can't take freeform nudity into their consciousness. You use it to warn them that the thing you're going to see isn't exactly something that isn't exactly kosher. It separates the border between a public commons and a private gallery. It informs users about what they see, and gives them a choice.

It matters not that it isn't art — while I'm sure you can bend the rules for Venus de Milo and David, but those are cultural icons. While the SPG is many things, a cultural icon she isn't yet.

That's what the press is highlighting. They're not after bloggers this time, lads and ladettes. They're after a woman who couldn't be bothered to warn her users that what she's posting may not be palatable to some. And look at how we're portraying it. Another David and Goliath metaphor? Aren't you guys tired of that same old yarn?

It's something that crops up every once in a while, in the wonderful world that is Malaysian blogging. Once in a while, we must find justification in ourselves and our work by portraying ourselves as oppressed and marginalized by Daddy Media. Once in a while, that's true. Not this time.

A blogger made a mistake, and is paying the price. The press plays unfair because they reported and editorialized? Wow, can they ever do anything right?

Sometimes things aren't as clear-cut as it may seem.

Blogger Shryh said...

I disagree with you on one point: that the SPG blogger "made a mistake". I don't think she is obliged to warn anyone about the explicit header on her blog since its contents aren't pornographic. All that separates her from the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is a few scraps of cloth. To me, they're no different, and there isn't a warning sticker on SI. Or Maxim. Or FHM.

That said, I'm with you on the point that she is *not* a victim of the media and should not be viewed as such. The photo of her in her birthday suit is very provocative and she has to bear the consequences of public reaction, be it outrage or approval.

The media and the uncles and aunties can "editorialize" all they want, since free speech is not the exclusive domain of victims. But until SPG is forced to shut her site down by Senior Minister Lee for reasons to do with morality, the present fuss is really much ado about nothing. Nobody has the moral high ground here... yet.

11:45 AM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

The thing about Maxim, SI and FHM is that is generally harder to get a copy of those than it is to go her her site. It's an URL. You don't have to pay money to visit it.

Thing is, her site by itself doesn't really people to make a decision on whether you want to see her naked or not. You either get the whole deal, or nothing at all.

That may not be wrong, per se… but it tweaks me in just the right way to waste immense amounts of time talking about it.

11:59 AM  
Blogger A. Zulkifli said...

Fair enough t-boy. It's rather commendable of you to come out in the open and I respect that. Opinions may differ but if we are willing to discuss it, no bad will arise.

Thanks for clearing the air, cheers buddy.

3:00 PM  
Blogger |^2Sane| said...

I don't think being 'easy accessible' is an issue. Sites like '' would be very explosive to any muslim countries and by god, it is 'damn easily accessible' to anyone with an internet access. They don't carry a warning too.

The point? You're just giving the burden of responsibility 'to warn people' to SPG. Why should she? Why should she bear that responsibility?

I believe the issue is never about her.

I think the real issue is what people like to see and what they don't like to see and the concequences of ignoring that fact. The media by reporting it just highlighted the problem that already existed in our conservative society.

I still disagree with how the media potray the issue though. It just lack quality and is totally horrendous. They could do better and criticizing them about it is just so healthy!

4:10 AM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

I don't think being 'easy accessible' is an issue. Sites like '' would be very explosive to any muslim countries and by god, it is 'damn easily accessible' to anyone with an internet access. They don't carry a warning too. isn't a blog at all, and is the collaborative work of a group of people. Also, it's a site with a political and social agenda. They always offend someone. It's irrelevant to the discussion.

I believe the issue is never about her.

You're right. It isn't about her. It's about bloggers fudging responsibility for one of their own because we perceive that Big Bad Media wants to smush us all into obscurity again.

It's not about her. It's about responsibility. We're dodging it, for the Jihad.

Which is, frankly and crudely speaking, bullshit and stupid, because we're sacrificing our integrity for some damn woman's perceived right to tittilate us with her nipples.

And you wonder why nobody takes us seriously?

9:24 PM  
Blogger |^2Sane| said...

Responsibility to what? Dodging what? Our opinions and thoughts express in our blog will always offend at least one person in this world. Being online just made it more easily accesible. My point of posting the site is to show that a lot of undesirable thoughts are online. Being a blog or a site doesn't make a difference. Maybe it is a bad analogy in the first place. But I think 'easily accesible' is a non-issue.

They don't have to take us seriously. That is their right to do so. I find it odd that bloggers should live up to a standard. The only standard they have to live up is themselves. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I don't think anyone of us is sacrificing our integrity so to speak if we criticize the media because of this. Some of us do have merits. Maybe it would be foolish to some and maybe some just join in the bandwagon due to the the chicken little effect. But thats just normal.

I guess we are just stereotyping the media and the blogs ourselves.

Besides I don't disagree with you entirely. I'm just expressing my opinion. =)

11:43 PM  
Blogger Shryh said...

"The thing about Maxim, SI and FHM is that is generally harder to get a copy of those than it is to go her her site. It's an URL."

Debatable. You need to know about her blog, have a computer and an internet connection to begin with, whereas with magazines, you just have to walk into an urban chain bookstore. For porn sites, I think they have warnings to cover their asses, so parents can't sue them when their 11-year old gains access to their content.

As for viewers having no choice when they visit their site, well, tough. The freedom the internet affords us practically guarantees that we will come across pictures or ideas that offend us at some point. Defining "offensive" can be incredibly tricky; some people may be more outraged if I joked about bayoneting babies on my blog than if I put up a nude picture (god forbid) of myself.

So, my point is, saying when one should or should not warn viewers in advance is a bit of a slippery slope. =) But if you elicit a reaction, you're not a victim until your life becomes unbearable or is in imminent danger as a result.

3:46 PM  
Blogger HANI said...

Picture offense is different from ideas and wordy offense. Here's the scenario: You're at work, and you take a moment's break to open your RSS feed reader. Check the news, check the blogs... Your boss doesn't mind.

You click open a blog, not knowing what's been posted. And lo, behold! Your boss sees naked piccie. Your boss looks over your shoulder, as he occasionally does. He doesn't care what black and white text is there, regardless of how offensive. But NIPPLES?!

Or what about parents behind you at your computer at home. And you click on blog. NIPPLES?! No more blog reading for you at all, my child! You just don't know what they post!

And that is why PICTURES need WARNING.

6:05 PM  
Blogger |^2Sane| said...

Hani, your scenario just show how misguided someone could be thats all.

The difference between audio, pictures and text which is really a non-issue in my opinion.

Slapping a warning just because it's a picture and a blog is just too extreme for me.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Shryh said...

Misguided? That's harsh.

There is a difference between pictures and words. Pictures prompt a more immediate, dramatic reaction compared to words. Not everyone can read, but everyone can and will respond to a goatse picture.

As for offense, however, it is one and the same even if pictures are more blatant than text. My mother would be taken aback if she were to sneak up behind me as my browser is open to the SPG blog, but she would be equally shocked if she caught me reading The Story of O online. Offense is also highly subjective: the reporters who checked out the SPG blog may have been horrified, but I dare say a great many visitors were tantalized, amused, or indifferent.

I don't think the SPG blogger needs to tag her blog with a warning because the ambiguity of the offense, and also because I felt that the picture complemented the content. It's not a family blog, and its name, URL suggests as much. It would have been very different if the picture was found on , because then it's misleading and irresponsible.

3:28 PM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

I just smirked as |^2Sane| made his latest comment. I was tempted to argue with his latest reply, but I didn't need to; he had already proved my point.

Now Shryh, on the other hand… yes. I can see where you're going. The issue is, though, at least for now, that blogs are perceived as a monolithic enterprise by people not familliar with them.

Hence one standard tends to apply to all bloggers. Which isn't fair, I know. But there's not much you can do about it for now, since most people unfamilliar with the movement in this region cannot differentiate between the SPG and, say, me.

Maybe I should talk about how important diversity in form for blogging is. But not today. Today has been tiring.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Whitney Hawks said...

Rather disputable.

4:50 AM  

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