On 21 September 2020, New Naratif Managing Director PJ Thum was interrogated for four and a half hours, had his mobile phone and laptop seized, and his home invaded by the Singapore police.

Today, he sits down with Sean Francis Han to explain what exactly the Elections Department of the Prime Minister’s Office is accusing New Naratif of having done, how this is an abuse of the law and demonstrates the accuracy of New Naratif’s criticisms of Singapore’s People’s Action Party (PAP) government, and how this is part of a long-standing campaign of harassment and intimidation by the PAP government against New Naratif.

For more on this case, please see https://newnaratif.com/new-naratif-under-attack/.

This episode is a collaboration with Wake Up Singapore. You can find out more about them online on their website, Facebook and Instagram.

Transcript

Sean Francis Han:

Alright, so I’m sure everybody knows about what’s been going down. It’s a really, really frightful disgusting situation and thankfully I’m in the interviewer’s chair now, for a change. I’m going to be interviewing PJ.

PJ Thum:

I’m a guest on my own show.

Sean Francis Han:

I’m going to be interviewing PJ about what just happened to him. This whole debacle, this mess. So just to give some context, I’m going to open up with a little bit of context, right? So the Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) has filed a police report against New Naratif for publishing paid advertisements, which mounted to the illegal conduct of election activity under Section 83(ii) of the Parliamentary Elections Act. That’s basically what happened. So everything began during the GE period where on 3rd of July, the Elections Department issued a take down on a post.

PJ Thum:

Yes.

Sean Francis Han:

And they say something along the lines of, I have it here, “on 4th of July New Naratif publicised the take down.” So one day after the take down, “New Naratif publicised the take down and then continued to publish other paid advertisements.”

PJ Thum:

Yes.

Sean Francis Han:

So what are these other paid advertisements?

PJ Thum:

Okay. So first I want to clarify the first post was the satirical video called “Discretion”. A cologne advertisement where the satirical ad argued that Singapore’s laws were written so broadly that it virtually criminalises all legitimate political expression in Singapore, and then leaves discretion in the hands of senior politicians or civil servants or appointed officials to then take action selectively.

Sean Francis Han:

I got to say, this is all very ironic, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

PJ Thum:

Well that’s the point we then made in the next day. On the 4th of July, the post that we put up said, this is an exact demonstration of the point we made because there are other people running boosted posts during the election, but do they get their posts taken down? Do they get targeted? No. So the point of the 4th July post, which publicised the take down was to say, look, they have proved exactly the point we’re trying to make. Now, we then respected that. We didn’t rerun the Discretion cologne ad, but we then boosted other posts during the election period. And none of them had any direct bearing on the election. I have to add at this point that the Elections Department has not seen fit to tell us exactly which posts are the ones – cause they say there are another four, I believe. They have not told us which four are the ones. I wish they would come out and state clearly, which posts they’re referring to. But, I looked back on our posts and as far as I can tell, they’re all either a list of previously published articles on New Naratif or previously published videos on New Naratif or advertisements for our watch parties or previously published comics. So it wasn’t anything even new, it wasn’t news, it wasn’t commentary. It was just, here’s a list of previously published stuff on New Naratif, which we run all the time.

Sean Francis Han:

So that’s a little bit odd, right? Because the phrasing of this press release makes it sound like there’s this idea that “we told you to stop, but you put out more stuff, you didn’t care. You just went ahead with it.”

PJ Thum:

You know, I also don’t understand because there’s no consistency after the Discretion ad, if you’re going to say specifically, okay, the Discretion ad is wrong, we didn’t then do it again.

Sean Francis Han:

Yeah. You didn’t post anything that would be similar to that discussion. You didn’t post more satire, more “attacks”.

PJ Thum:

Nothing we did featured any PAP or opposition, any political candidate. The other thing is the articles that we posted, sorry, the lists of articles that we posted, looking back as far as I can tell, we boosted them all. Some of them were accepted and not taken down. Some of them were rejected or accepted and then taken down. I don’t understand the pattern. I don’t understand the consistency. If you feel that a list of articles is election advertising surely you should take them all down. So I don’t even understand the rationale on which, but that’s the point. It’s entirely arbitrary. This law is entirely arbitrary.

Sean Francis Han:

Just really up to their discretion. So this whole issue started to come up when on 18th September the Election Department issued a statement and a press release that, which I have right here, saying, Oh, this is what the police report was filed for. This is what happened. This is what you did and then also interesting to bring up, that’s the day that the elections department also cleared Ong Ye Kung’s name. Like as a kind of, I don’t know if it’s irony or a kind of serendipity or just an insult to the face of common sense, but Ong Ye Kung himself was cleared on that day. So Ong Ye Kung, I think if you don’t know, made a very, very, very questionable video during the election where he was speaking to a little boy and kind of did this odd thing where he asked the little boy, what are your favourite places in Sembawang and the little boy says this place and that place. And then Ong Ye Kung goes on to say, “Well, you know, there was nothing here before MP Lim Week Kiak decided to make this a nice park.” Right. And you know, if that’s not like using a child to do propaganda. I don’t know what is.

PJ Thum:

The Online Citizen Asia actually has a list of 10 other advertising or violations of election rules that the Elections Department has not addressed, including PAP MP Sun Xueling’s campaign video, featuring school children, PAP campaign posters with no ELD stickers. One of the PAP candidates for Aljunied GRC giving out gifts. There was a report, which I believe a police report has been filed about, about migrant workers working for town council, doing work on behalf of the PAP and carrying bags with PAP logos and so that itself is illegal – doubly illegal – because it’s not just advertising, but these are foreign citizens. And so why aren’t all those cases also being investigated?

Sean Francis Han:

So, I mean, not only is this just a blatant double standard and thank God that somebody has documented all of the cases, but it really shows that even when they at least posture to say, rule of law is equal and they issue something against, Ong Ye Kung, it’s ultimately dropped. I don’t think he got his place ransacked. He didn’t get, called in for questioning. He didn’t get his stuff confiscated.

PJ Thum:

Yes, you’re absolutely right. Unequal application of the law of the enforcement of the law, because for an offense like mine or Raeesah Khan, you get interviewed, you end up at a police station for several hours. In my case, of course, they seized my phone. They invaded my home to seize my laptop. Whereas, Ong Ye Kung was just dismissed or the police reports against Heng Swee Keat or the blogger Wendy Cheng (XiaXue) also just dismissed. So there this general sense that I get is that there is double standard, not just in whether or not a police report is filed or a complaint is filed, but then in how the police choose to investigate and enforce these complaints.

Sean Francis Han:

And I have to say also that what Ong Ye Kung did is far more damning than anything that New Naratif posted, because this is straight up propaganda. That’s not okay. Using children in a video that’s very –

PJ Thum:

It’s explicitly prohibited in the law to use children for a video.

Sean Francis Han:

Yeah that’s a case where it’s explicit. Here, they are bringing to bear this Section 83 of the Parliamentary Elections Act, which is so vaguely worded and then kind of twisting it to sort of catch you or to get at you. Whereas this is a case where it’s direct, it’s in the law. It’s codified, you know?

PJ Thum:

Yeah. To be fair, I think Ong Ye Kung did take down his ad straight away and did apologise for it. Yeah. So I think we have to be clear on that. Yes. But I think that there definitely is a double standard and that has been demonstrated over and over again in how, as I mentioned, Raeesah Khan versus other racially charged statements versus the treatment of people on cooling off day, for example. We remember the last two elections, the same pattern where people who posted pro PAP things on cooling off day were not investigated or they were merely given warnings. Whereas, Teo Soh Lung had a home raided, Roy Ngerng was interrogated and got into a lot of trouble. And I understand that there are postings from this past election on cooling off day, which were not investigated as well. And these were pro PAP postings by senior civil servants or former retired senior civil servants. There’s, there’s more details on the Online Citizen Asia but again, it’s just a blatant, double standard.

Sean Francis Han:

Yeah. Well, so right after the Election Department issues the statement, New Naratif releases a counter-statement and then very quickly after that the International Press Institute or IPI issues a statement urging Singapore to withdraw the police complaint. So I think it’s quite nice to see that we are getting checked at least by international organisations who are stepping in saying this is wrong and you can’t get away with this stuff. It’s going to be seen, it’s going to affect your image in the international community. Great news to hear that there are people speaking out about this.Right after that, on the 21st of September, you get brought in for questioning at 10:00 AM. And then —

PJ Thum:

Yesterday, we’re recording this on the 22nd of September,

Sean Francis Han:

And then brought home at about 3:00 PM where your laptop and phone got confiscated.

PJ Thum:

Well, my phone was confiscated at the police station. And then they said, we also want your laptop. And then for some reason they needed four police officers in two separate cars to come over with me, to my home, to then seize my laptop.

Sean Francis Han:

Why four?

PJ Thum:

Well, you’ll have to ask them. I don’t know.

Sean Francis Han:

That’s a bit intimidating.

PJ Thum:

Do I look very dangerous to you? (laughs)

Sean Francis Han:

So they come into your place, seize your things.

PJ Thum:

Right here, actually we’re recording this in my living room, so right here.

Sean Francis Han:

Okay. I don’t know. This is just, it’s just depressing, right. I mean, is that necessary? I mean, you have the posts, right. You clearly have — anybody has access to the posts, right. You could go onto Facebook and do a little bit of snooping, which I did and you’re able to find the posts. What do you need the damn laptop for? Apart from, you know, just intimidation, harassment, like how does it help in the investigation? I don’t know. I get very frustrated by these abuses of common sense.

PJ Thum:

And also, what they did was they asked me to sign across some seals and then stick the seals over all the ports and over the end of the laptop which opens. So if they’re going to go through all this trouble to seal the laptop, to show that it has not been tampered with, it suggests that they’re not going to open the laptop immediately. I think Terry Xu of The Online Citizen Asia has said that what it’s actually for in these cases is that if it goes to trial, the laptop can then be introduced in court to show that it was not tempered with and then can be opened up. Whatever evidence that’s inside can then be used. So it’s actually, if this is the case, it’s actually not even for this investigation, it’s merely to confiscate my laptop, inconvenience me for a significant amount of time, for a scenario which may or may not happen and for evidence, which they actually probably already — I mean, can access online. I should note at this point that Rachel Zeng, her laptop was seized in 2016 for a case, which has already been all the way gone through the courts – concluded, finished, and I understand she has not had her laptop returned to her. I think there is a clear design desire to abuse and intimidate and harass as part of this.

Sean Francis Han:

Yeah. And part of that intimidation and harassment also comes in the form of the charge and the penalty that you’re looking at right now. So if you’re charged, you do face a fine of $200 and or 12 months jail.

PJ Thum:

I think it’s $2,000.

Sean Francis Han:

Sorry, $2,000 and/or 12 months jail, which is, I mean, certainly something that I can’t imagine staring at. That’s quite a substantial amount, but I think one of the things also that is important to note here is what exactly the law is, what exactly is written in the section that is being brought to bear in this case, right? So the important sections are section 83(2) which states that no person shall conduct any ELECTION activity, emphasis on that word, unless he is in possession of a written authority and such authority shall be issued only on or after the day of nomination. So that’s the section that’s being brought to bear. Now, of course, the key thing to define here is what is election activity? Because that term just sounds really broad. So you hope that in the following section, they give you a nice definition of it, which they “do” which comes in Section 8, which says “for the purposes of this section election activity includes any activity which is done for the purpose of (a) promoting or procuring the electoral success at any election for one or more identifiable political parties, or (b) prejudicing the electoral prospects of other political parties, candidates are groups of candidates at the election.” So it remains just as vague. It may as well have just left this bit out. So, I mean, how could this not be used to apply to a meme or an opinion piece? I don’t understand what’s happening here. Can you shed some light on this?

PJ Thum:

Well, you know, this is the whole point of the discretion video. All our laws relating to political activity, over time have been expanded to the point where it basically criminalises all political activity, right? And this allows the government to then say that legitimate political activity is illegal and the discretion to apply it against their opponents while letting their supporters off the hook. So if you look at the law, there is also a specific clause under the election advertising. Under the law, election advertising in particular is defined extremely broadly. Cause remember, I discussed in another of my videos on the show, that information control is really, really key to PAP authoritarianism. So if you actually scroll up to the definition section of the Parliamentary Elections Act, it says “election advertising means any poster, banner, notice, circular, handbill, illustration, article, advertisement or other material that can be reasonably regarded as intended (a) to promote or procure electronic success, blah, blah, blah, or (b) otherwise enhance the standing of any such political parties, candidates, groups, candidates, et cetera.” And then this is the most important bit, it says, “and such material shall be election advertising, even though it can be reasonably regarded as intended to achieve any other purpose as well.” And “even though it does not expressly mention the name of any political party or candidate, but excludes any button, badge, pen, pencil balloon, or any other thing prescribed by the Minister by notification in the Gazette.” So basically anything, literally anything, any public statement falls a foul of this act, anything — the moment you comment on politics over WhatsApp, for example, on the internet forum, on your Facebook page — that is election advertising. There is nothing in here that says that it has to be paid. There’s nothing in here that says that it has to actually be demonstratively in favour of any certain party. It could be anything. And you could intend it entirely for any other purpose and it would still run a foul of this act. And of course, as with PAP laws, there’s a loophole where the Minister can then gazette something as not being election advertising. But why is it the minister? Again, it’s a very political politicised act and it’s run by the Elections Department, which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office. So it’s completely political.

Sean Francis Han:

I think it’s also extremely scary to have laws that are so really vague and unclear. I’m just thinking right now, you have a bunch of these very vague and unclear laws, so blanket that they could really apply to anything or anyone. And I’m thinking about all of the pages that are coming up right now on Instagram or on Facebook. Where you have sort of young activists doing investigative journalism, posting think pieces or opinion pieces, explainer series, insta slide shows instastories that are commenting on things. All of that is not exactly very far off from what you’re doing. And that just strikes fear in a lot of individuals because what then gets to be counted as this election activity, that is chargeable under the law, right? And a lot of us, a lot of these new pages, which are wonderful–

PJ Thum:

including yours.

Sean Francis Han:

Thank you.

PJ Thum:

WakeupSG, check it out!

Sean Francis Han:

— and a lot of these pages are run by students, run by young individuals who can’t deal with having their laptop taken away. That’s your assignments, that’s your finals there, right? That’s your source of income. They can’t deal with 12 months in prison. They can’t — and not even to speak about the family issues, just how when the police show up at your place. You know when the police showed up at my place when I was investigated my mom nearly had a heart attack and she was just devastated. I think the whole family was devastated. The neighbours as well. It was just a very surreal and very traumatic experience. And that’s going to put people off from producing the kind of robust discourse and discussion. Especially at the election time where you really need it. Especially in this election, which was online, where we really needed, that online discussion to help us make our minds up, where you needed to see all of the perspectives. Now they’re coming in and using this law and saying, “nah we get to decide. It’s our discretion.” I mean, that’s just — it’s scary on many, many, many levels. And I think there’s a certain precedent here that’s being sent. There is something I think very, very horrifying that’s being set here.

PJ Thum:

Again, so first point, this is how Singapore works, right? This allows the government to say that there is rule of law, but actually there isn’t and there is abuse of law. There is abuse of power. And they can say, Oh, it is not illegal to walk down the street or stand in the street and take a photo or make a statement online or express your opinion peacefully until it is. And then they can use the Public Order Act or the Parliamentary Elections Act or POFMA. Or the Vandalism Act. Let’s not forget. The Vandalism Act is crazy because it criminalises public transmission of information. You don’t actually need to damage public property or private property to run a foul with the Vandalism Act. That’s how crazy the Vandalism Act is. Nothing of what we reasonably can conclude to be “vandalism” needs to happen for you to run a foul of the Vandalism Act. So that’s the first thing.

PJ Thum:

The second thing, and this is why New Naratif is fighting so hard, is that if we don’t push back and show how hypocritical and ridiculous these laws are, the PAP government will use these laws to severely constrain our free, legitimate political expression. And as citizens, we have the right and the responsibility to express ourselves peacefully about political issues, but the PAP will use all these laws to intimidate us and make us scared so that we self-censor. And then the PAP government can say, “Hey, we didn’t stop them from saying. If they don’t want to say, what can we do?” That’s the goal. It’s to make us fear and this is why New Naratif is going to fight this every step of the way and fight really, really hard to keep this public space as broad and as open as possible for the fundamental rights of Singaporeans.

Sean Francis Han:

Well, we can’t talk about this issue without talking about it and situating it as part of a larger campaign of continued harassment against New Naratif. So can you tell us a brief sort of history of this long and seemingly never ending cycle of abuse and harassment against yourself and New Naratif?

PJ Thum:

Well…

Sean Francis Han:

I’m sorry for like forcing you to relive the trauma, but I think–

PJ Thum:

yeah…

Sean Francis Han:

–there is an importance to it.

PJ Thum:

Yes. To understand some of it, New Naratif was founded 2017 by three Singaporeans, but we take an explicitly Southeast Asian-wide view because we understand that Southeast Asia cannot be defined entirely by one country and vice versa. That Singapore cannot be understood without reference to our neighbours. And in that context, we set up the company and wanted to register it in all the various Southeast Asian countries, starting with Singapore. But in the wake of the Select Committee, which I don’t think needs any explanation or recounting here. The ACRA, the registry of companies, denied our registration and uncharacteristically put out a press release saying that New Naratif was an avenue for foreign interference in Singapore, was taking part in international conspiracies. Wild, crazy accusations saying that we were foreign funded. I mean, half of Singapore’s economy comes from companies which are at least 51% owned by foreigners. So, you know, the whole country is foreign funded. I’ve made this point in my videos, what is foreign funding in this day and age when money comes into Singapore–

Sean Francis Han:

I mean, it’s the 21st century. Globalisation has been a thing for about a hundred plus years, right?

PJ Thum:

Yeah. I mean, what is colonialism, but enforced globalisation. You know, make forcibly integrating us into a global economy, whether we like it or not.

Sean Francis Han:

Yeah. Right. I mean, this is like sociology, economics basics, right. It’s a global economy. Our money is international. Our economy is international. What on earth are you talking about foreign funding?

PJ Thum:

And New Naratif was very clear. We revealed who funded us, where money was coming from, and we leave it up to the people to decide. If you think that we’re some sort of conspiracy theorists or whatever, just ignore us. We’re very transparent. You can go to our website, newnaratif.com/transparency. So after that there was a long series of attacks either on Kirsten, my co-founder, Kirsten Han, check out her work, fantastic work, and myself and on the organisation by the government of Singapore. And in particular, by the Minister Law and Home Affairs, Mr. Shanmugam who mentioned that, in various places, that we were foreign funded. That we were avenues for foreign interference, etc, talking about the need for a law to prevent foreign interference. And then of course, again, after we had the temerity to meet Prime Minister Mahathir in Malaysia, attacks on us as traitors, anti-national, evil, trying to subvert the country. Again insane. I mean, just because I meet someone and try and convince him to be a Democrat in his country, and let’s not forget New Naratif’s headquarters is in Kuala Lumpur and we’re registered in Kuala Lumpur. Somehow I’m therefore a traitor to Singapore and I’m inviting him to invade and like take over Singapore. Nonsense! Never, never did that. Never said any of that, but all of that’s been imputed on us and, Seah Kian Peng, the MP, put it on his Facebook page, accusing me of being a traitor, which is again, nonsense. I mean, if I meet Lee Hsien Loong, does suddenly mean that I’m a patriot? I love the country? I mean, if I meet Jokowi… I’ve met politicians from plenty of places, suddenly I –And of course, it’s ridiculous. You can’t say that New Naratif is in a conspiracy with George Soros and then in a conspiracy of Mahathir at the same time. The two men hate each other.

Sean Francis Han:

How many conspiracies are they going to throw out, at this point, but, alright. So what happens after that?

PJ Thum:

After that, there’s been more attacks, especially by people we believe to be government proxies. And of course there’s POFMA. We campaigned against it, we warned very much of the consequences, many of which are spoken about already today. And of course POFMA was then used against us twice. No surprise there. We made very clear our opposition to it – that we’re contesting, we’re fighting. What’s more, we’ve actually, I think, really humiliated, embarrassed the government over their use of POFMA and shown what a facile authoritarian– ridiculous law it is, designed purely to ensure that the PAP government has a monopoly on the truth. That brings us up to today. So here we are. And yet another attack on New Naratif and on the right of the people of Singapore to express themselves politically.

Sean Francis Han:

Yeah. And I think also as a concerted effort against an independent news site, an independent journalistic site, it’s particularly scary, right? Because these are sort of the underdogs, these are the alternative perspectives. And on the other hand, a separate set of alternative perspectives are being sort of allowed to sort of slip through the cracks, right? You have Calvin Cheng, who 3 to 7 July, ran this voter education series. And also boosted their ads, also did paid advertisements. And that’s horrifying because you’re allowing some appearance of independent commentary. But really you’re censoring the independent commentary that doesn’t align with you. And then allowing there to be this kind of mock agora this mock, sense of discussion and debate, but it’s all on one side. You know, I think the state, the powers that be, whatever it is, is very happy to kind of have a bunch of these independent commentators, like Critical Spectator and Calvin Cheng nitpick about policy details, pragmatics. But they don’t want anybody to challenge the idea that there may be historical, structural and systemic issues with the way the entire thing is set up. And it may have something to do with the way that the party is run, has been run and will continue to be run because of its direction. So I think it’s particularly insidious in this case. I think we’re really looking at a case here that would see us have elections that really don’t look like elections. I mean, I can’t imagine what is an election going to look like? A bunch of people arguing policy details and pragmatics? Critical Spectator and Calvin Cheng going off on a “debate”?

PJ Thum:

That’s the thing. Remember our elections are not free or fair, right? It’s not just Singaporeans or New Naratif saying this, but the ASEAN Parliamentarians of Human Rights. So it’s not even like some sort of Western NGO or government. These are MPs from the rest of ASEAN, looking at Singapore and saying your elections are really, really unfree and unfair. Which is very embarrassing as a Singaporean to know that your country is falling short. So drastically short of accepted regional standards of good behaviour, that even your neighbours look at you and express such a negative opinion. It’s very sad. And this is part of it, right? The report by the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights detailed the use of the law against dissenters, against critics, against opposition politicians. This is very much part of how our elections are run. And also to address your earlier point. Absolutely, that if we have a law, it must be applied equally to all. So if tomorrow, the police reports were filed by the Election Department against some of those other people you mentioned, then they will also investigate the way I was investigated, then I would say, okay, that’s fair enough. But if they don’t, then we’re going to keep fighting this as an abuse of the law and as an injustice.

Sean Francis Han:

And also talking about fairness here. Let’s put this into perspective here. New Naratif, ran a series of ads that totalled $341 if I’m not wrong. So clearly– yeah, $341 from September of 2019 to September, 2020. So it’s you’re sort of a far cry away from being like a Super PAC using your money to influence the elections. Let’s put that into perspective. Calvin Cheng, it’s on Facebook. He ran ads for the year from September, 2019 to September 2020 totalling over $7,000. I mean, if there’s somebody who’s coming close to influencing our political decisions by the use of money, which I’m sure we can all agree is a poor show for any democracy, then, you know, $341 is not going to buy you an election. And then let’s look at the power differential here as well. Calvin Cheng’s page has 55,000 likes. It’s been around for a while and your Facebook page has 11,000 likes. If you’re talking about Facebook sponsored ads. Using Facebook to hack an election, that’s the domain of Calvin Cheng. He primarily operates on Facebook. New Naratif is primarily a website with a member-based, subscription-based service of content providing. So even when we can see that the law is not being equally applied, it’s not even a fair comparison because not only is it not equal, but one of the parties here is just so much more powerful and so much more connected and so much more relevant to this law. Since we are talking about Facebook ads, right? This is where this is the area of relevance. This is somebody that is really spending the money, really getting the views on that particular site. So it’s really quite something I have to say.

PJ Thum:

I want to add that if Calvin wants to do this, that’s his right as a citizen to be able to do this. And I have no problem with him posting online, writing his opinion. I have a problem with some of his opinions of course, but his right to post an opinion and then boost the posts and say, that’s voter education, I have no problem with any of that. We just want the law to be fair and to be just. But instead, what we get is that the law is wielded, as we’ve seen very recently, in other cases, the law is wielded on behalf of those, with power and against those who don’t have power. And that that’s a fundamental, very deep rot in Singapore.

Sean Francis Han:

Yeah. And I have to just say, there’s one last aside here. It’s particularly scary, I think, the insidious nature of the way that this system is being run. That these harassments and these attacks are being run because they aren’t direct or straightforward authoritarianism, not direct or straightforward fascism. There is a kind of weaving sideways, crab walk. I’m going to put out the law and it’s vague. And then I use my discretion, come up with some arbitrary reasons, write a strange press report, go after you. There’s a kind of posturing of equality, right? Reports sent out against Raeesah Khan, report sent out against XiaXue. There is a posturing. Report sent out against New Naratif. Report sent out against, Ong Ye Kung. Posturing. But at the end of the day, what comes back? Certain people get attacked. Certain people are made to pay and suffer and other people get off scott free. And they continue to do their work. They continue to thrive in this online environment. And the whole facade, or charade of a free and independent democracy with robust and vibrant conversation and independent news sources is propped up. Oh, we can have Calvin Cheng debate with Critical Spectator. We can have XiaXue chime in on the whole thing. What is the point, man? Like it’s the same people, right. In different clothes, arguing with each other about how much, or how little they agree with [each other]. It’s the same thing, right? It’s, it’s a circle jerk at that point, right? I mean, how can you have a robust democracy if you’re not going to have people who are going to challenge the narrative? Challenge the underlying issues? I think even satire, right? I mean I come from a literature background, right? Satires is incredibly important. It points out things. It makes people feel, it gets people upset. It provokes that interest in politics and discussion. It makes it fun and not just facts and data and stats. It makes it fun and lively and a little bit polemic. How can you have a democracy without the other side? How can you have a democracy without satire? I don’t — I think we’re really, really looking at elections that will no longer look like the elections that we remember or that we think about when we use the word elections. And that this insidious approach is particularly damaging and particularly damning.

Sean Francis Han:

Yeah. I’m sorry, man. I get very riled up about these stuff.

PJ Thum:

This is upsetting and you should be upset. This is a fundamental challenge against our rights as individuals. Our political rights, our human rights. And definitely this is what you get riled up about.

Sean Francis Han:

Well, okay. I think before I go on any further rants, I’m going to have to thank my guest, PJ for talking to me, for explaining and talking to me about this entire situation. I mean, PJ, thank you so much. It’s been really enlightening having you on your own show.

PJ Thum:

Thanks, Sean.

Sean Francis Han:

I hope you guys enjoyed the show. Thank you so much for tuning in.

PJ Thum:

Thanks everyone. We’ll keep fighting. Don’t worry.

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