He probably puts the milk in before the tea, too

Foreign Policy has taken a break from its usual schedule of Hillary: She’s Less Awful Than You Think pieces, to tell us about a heinous crime:


Vladimir Putin Doesn’t Actually Care About Saving Leopards 

A high-profile, Putin-backed campaign to protect the habitat of Persian leopards has been quietly abandoned, clearing the way for the country’s richest man to expand his ski resort…


Now I’m about as pro-fluffeh as political analysts get, but I’m still not 100% convinced that when Putin finally stands before the Pearly Gates, his attitude towards Persian leopards will be the number one item on St. Peter’s charge sheet. It may not even feature in the top five.

Which is a moderately interesting reaction in and of itself. If I had run into this same article on one of the many animal rights sites to which I subscribe (I wasn’t kidding about the pro-fluffeh item – you should see the amount that poorly battery hens and downtrodden milch cows have had off me over the years), I would – right now – be searching for the “donate” button with suspiciously watery eyes.

Reading it on FP, however stirred not a shred of sympathy for the sadly afflicted kitties, merely cynical irritation at the idea that someone felt this was high-quality negative PR.

Seems like Facebook feels much the same way:

Alas, poor leopards. Choose your media outlets more carefully next time.

(P.S. If the political fannying about hasn’t soured you on the idea, you can donate to the leopards here: https://ptes.org/grants/worldwide-projects/persian-leopards-in-iran/ or here: http://www.worldlandtrust.org/projects/armenia/save-caucasian-leopard)


They’ve got you too!

No one can accuse Singapore’s government of not being responsive to public opinion.

We’ve covered the use of cat pictures by ordinary citizens wishing to make potentially risky political statements before, here and here.

Well now the gahmen is fighting fire with fire, bringing out out its own feline battalions:

Rise of the felines

We’ve covered feline subversion here before. To a certain extent, it’s unsurprising: the internet loves cats and trolling, so it was only a matter of time before they were brought together. Here, for example, or here or here.

The trend effectively undermines the cute cats theory of censorship by combining apparently innocuous cat pictures with political satire.

The latest incidence comes from Seoul:

Park Sang-hak, head of Fighters for Free North Korea, and a defector activist who launched leaflets to the Northern side, admitted that he removed tore down a poster on a university campus for “praising” Kim Il Sung.

Park, who is currently studying at Korea University’s graduate school of policy studies, said he damaged the poster and reported it to the local police for praising the North Korean national founder.

In recent days, the controversial poem entitled “All Praise Kim Il Sung” has been circulating on Korea University’s campus, in the context of protesting against limits on freedom of speech.

The poem, originally authored by Kim Soo-young in 1960, gave the work its title to make the point that even distasteful speech must be allowed in order to foster freedom in South Korean society.

“This is not a poem. Is it reasonable to praise dictator who start the war?” Park told NK News, when told that the poem’s purpose was not to praise Kim Il Sung but serve as social commentary.

The student who designed the poster was present when Park damaged it.

“I was embarrassed rather than angry. He threw my paper down and trampled it,” she told NK News, on the condition of anonymity.

The poster is credited to “cat,” and reads: “I am a cat. Dear judge, I wrote this. Don’t arrest my owner. I will bite the police if you make a phone call to the campus.” The “cat” byline has become a popular online in South Korea for when people leave negative comments about the authorities.

The student wrote with her left hand to simulate a “cat’s writing” and intentionally made typos.

“I attached it at about 1 a.m. to maintain anonymity,” she said.

“I intended to show self-censorship, which implies the highest level of oppression. At the same time I wanted to respond in a cheerful way, against this violent situation.”

After the incident, she attached follow-up note which reads, “Please return my writing. I can write it again,” with a footprint of a cat.


Cats and free speech in Korea

Cat free speech protest Korea

Cats of Singapore, Part II

calvin cheng 4

Recently in Singapore, two teenagers were caught allegedly plotting to assist ISIS. Since racial and religious disharmony is what terrifies our politicians most, and they have generally done a very efficient job of stamping down upon it in the past, this was a big deal.

Calvin Cheng, a former NMP (‘nominated MP’, under Singapore’s insanely complicated electoral system), took to Facebook with the above post, suggesting that pretty much anyone who says anything he disapproves of should be detained under the Internal Security Act (which allows for detention without trial when national security is at stake).

Alfian Sa’at writes controversial plays about what it is like to be Malay in Singapore, often highlighting discrimination. In fact, far from being a religious conservative, he is way out on the liberal end of the spectrum, and threatened to sue Cheng if he did not take down his post:

alfian sa'at

And then he ran into a problem. As we’ve mentioned before, Singapore’s laws against racism and discrimination also have the effect of making complaining about racism and discrimination extremely difficult indeed. Something that Cheng is well aware of:

alfian sa'at

And at this point, Cats of Singapore joined in. This page has been covered here before, for the interesting way in which they manage to get around censorship laws. A Malay complaining about anti-Malay discrimination is, as we have seen, on very shaky ground. A cat complaining about anti-cat discrimination, however, is impossible to object to:

Statments that would be likely to suffer the wrath of the Sedition Act enforcers if coming from a human, are effectively legalised when put in the mouth of a cat. Any attempt to shut down Cats of Singapore would be laughed out of court.

Equally, while it is extremely difficult for Alfian Sa’at to argue back against Calvin Cheng wihtout risking legal troubles, a cat can do it with impunity:

In fact, one commentor on the page objected to the political statements, and the owners pointed this out, while having some fun at his expense:

calvin cheng 2

From this point, the story was picked up by one of the many ‘new media’ news sites (blogs that walk a fine line between being popular and organised enough to attract readers, and becoming so big that they attract government attention and are obliged to abide by Singapore’s famously restrictive press laws), which summed it up thusly:

calvin cheng 3

P.S. The internet has also found a way to wiki-troll Cheng without having to worry about possible libel suits:

calvin cheng 4

Cats of Singapore

Singapore is widely hailed as a successful example of a multicultural society. There are two main reasons for this:

1. It is extremely rich.

2. The authorities ruthlessly repress any behaviour likely to threaten racial harmony.

This is done by means of the Sedition Act:

3. —(1) A seditious tendency is a tendency —

(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Government;
(b) to excite the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure in Singapore, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;
(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Singapore;
(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore;
(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore.
  • (2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), any act, speech, words, publication or other thing shall not be deemed to be seditious by reason only that it has a tendency —
    (a) to show that the Government has been misled or mistaken in any of its measures;
    (b) to point out errors or defects in the Government or the Constitution as by law established or in legislation or in the administration of justice with a view to the remedying of such errors or defects;
    (c) to persuade the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure by lawful means the alteration of any matter in Singapore; or
    (d) to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and enmity between different races or classes of the population of Singapore,
  • if such act, speech, words, publication or other thing has not otherwise in fact a seditious tendency. 
  • (3) For the purpose of proving the commission of any offense under this Act, the intention of the person charged at the time he did or attempted to do or made any preparation to do or conspired with any person to do any act or uttered any seditious words or printed, published, sold, offered for sale, distributed, reproduced or imported any publication or did any other thing shall be deemed to be irrelevant if in fact such act had, or would, if done, have had, or such words, publication or thing had a seditious tendency.

Obviously, this legislation is so flabbily worded that it theoretically makes just about every form of political speech illegal (she says, in clear violation of the aforementioned act), but  in practice it is generally used to go after low-level racial and religious kvetching.

People do, in general, take the threat of the sedition act pretty seriously, and if you make even relatively inoffensive comments about particular racial groups ([Redacted] can’t queue, [Redacted] boyfriends are cheap etc. etc.) you will quite often find people rushing to change the subject.

Rather more seriously, the law also prevents people from pointing out that Singapore’s native poor are disproportionately Malay Muslims, and not just people who might wish to criticise them for it. The poor Malay Muslims are themselves effectively prevented from complaining about their situation.

One online group has, however, found an intriguing way to get around the rules.

Cats of Singapore started out as a simple Humans of New York pastiche, pairing pictures of Singapore’s street cats with profound-seeming quotes attributed to them. You know the drill.

Gradually, however, the contributors realised that complaints that could be risky to voice aloud for a human could quite safely be put in the mouth of a cat. The fiction is that cats are an ethnic minority group, with humans being the ethnic majority. Often the cats’ perspectives are loosely based on Malay viewpoints, but other groups’ perspectives do get mentioned, and – it’s worth pointing out – the vast majority of posts contain no clearly defined ethnic or religious message. It took me a good half an hour sifting through quotes from cat-businessmen, cat-schoolkids and cat-sportsfans to pick out these few examples.

(For more info on SAP schools, see here.)

(Kao peh kao bu = make a big fuss, Thaipusam = Tamil festival)

(Kebayarobics = Indonesian zumba, makcik = aunty, tudung = hijab)

(Cheena = Singapore Chinese who speaks no or bad English)

(Malayan Cats Party = Communist Party of Malaya)

(That last one refers to the graduate mother scheme, one of the less glorious episodes of the island’s history.)

I guess that if a cat may look at a king then it may also bitch about PAP policies…