I recently learned that the President of the Consumer’s Association of Penang wrote a letter that was published in The Star calling for Malaysia to follow Thailand and ban the Grand Theft Auto games. Anyway, I sent off an e-mail in reply. Here’s the full text, though I doubt that the CAP will care much about what I write.
To: S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS,
Consumers Association of Penang.
I have writing in response to your letter published in The Star on the 8th August 2008 calling for a ban on a video game you call “Grand Theft Auto”. I disagree with your letter in its entirety and take issue especially with the implicit stance that it is necessary, even desirable, for a government to restrict the freedoms of its adult citizens for their own purpoted good. However, I realize that I am not going to win any arguments against you on this matter, and so I shall concentrate on the factual errors in your letter.
- You write that the said game has been banned in Thailand. To the best of my knowledge, the game has not in fact been banned by the government of Thailand, instead its distributor has voluntarily withdrawn it from being sold.
- You refer to the incident in Thailand as a copycat crime. After reading a report of the incident published in Thailand (http://www.bangkokpost.net/040808_News/04Aug2008_news002.php), it is evident that it is not a copycat crime. That article contains errors as well, referring to the game in question as an online game when it is not, but it is nevertheless clear that the game is merely being used by the criminal as an excuse to rob taxis for money. Apparently he mentioned needing the money to play GTA every day, which makes no sense because GTA is not an online game which requires an ongoing subscription to play.
- You write that violent video games have previously been linked to expressions of violence and aggression in young people. You have not cited specific research papers in support of this point but I concede that it is true that many research papers have noted correlation between real-world aggression and video game playing. However, correlation does not equal causation and the correlation may exist simply because people who are already aggressive naturally gravitate towards violent video games. Read this Wikipedia article for an overview (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_controversy).
- You write as if officially banning the game in Malaysia would have any effect at all. It would not, since the vast majority of games in Malaysia are pirated. Ironically, by writing about this in a local newspaper you have just raised the game’s profile and ensured that many more people will be inclined to check out a pirated copy of it.
- By citing by the game’s undue influence on young people, you imply that young people are the target audience. The game carries a Mature rating by the ESRB in the United States. If no equivalent ratings system exists in Malaysia, then that is a failing that should be rectified, but this is does not amount to justification for banning the game entirely. In fact, like many other non-gamers, you seem to labour under the misconception that games are for the young and hence must be regulated in that manner. This is not true. For example, in the U.S., the average gamer is aged 35 (http://www.theesa.com/facts/index.asp). As an adult gamer, and being proud of it, I resent your suggestion that you have the right to determine what is or is not good for me.
Wan Kong Yew
Tibet has been in the news for two weeks now so I thought I should probably write a post about it. I’ve abstained from it thus far because it’s hard to write intelligently about what is undoubtedly a complicated situation with which I’m not very familiar and I’ve already had an argument with my wife over it. As someone with liberal views, it’s no surprise that I broadly sympathize with the Tibetans’ cause. I believe firmly in the principles of democracy and self-determination and strongly feel that no population should be forced to be ruled by what is essentially an undemocratic and unrepresentative government. Whatever progress China has made in the past few decades, there is no doubt that China is not a democracy and its government does not rule with the mandate of its people.
On the other hand, the historical evidence is that before communist China essentially annexed Tibet in the 1950s, Tibet suffered under an even more brutal dictatorial regime under the Dalai Lamas who ruled the country as priest-kings, so it’s arguable that the PRC has actually improved the quality of life for the average Tibetan by taking over their country, even if they don’t like to admit. In the same vein, the current troubles in Tibet is not a popular uprising against the PRC government but appears to consist of riots and acts of violence against the Han population in Tibet. There is no excuse for the disgruntled Tibetans’ taking out their frustrations on civilians even if it’s unclear what else it is they could do to gain international sympathy for their plight.
Continue reading The Tibet Question
Before the elections, I expressed some doubt about the governing experience of the opposition parties, especially the DAP, and unfortunately, it seems that I’m being proved right. The opposition so-called Barisan Rakyat has shown a crack just days after winning historic gains in the election when DAP leader Lim Kit Siang publicly spoke on behalf of the DAP Central Executive Committee to state that they disagreed with the decision of the Regent of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah to appoint Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin of PAS as Menteri Besar of Perak and even called for the DAP to boycott the swearing in ceremony. Their grounds for doing so is that PAS won the fewest number of seats in Perak and that they would be happy to accept either DAP’s or PKR’s candidate for the post instead.
This is a ridiculous stand to take when even Ngeh Koo Ham, the DAP candidate for the post, had already stated that all three candidates from the DAP, PKR and PAS would accept whichever one of them that the Regent picked to be Menteri Besar and that all three parties would cooperate to govern the state properly. It looks like Lim Kit Siang is determined to make a liar out of his Perak state party chief. Predictably, MCA Perak state chief Ong Ka Chuan is trying to widen the crack as much as he can by saying that if DAP allows a PAS member to become Menteri Besar, they would be betraying the trust of the Chinese who voted for them.
Continue reading After the Malaysian Election
Ok, here’s another round of China bashing by me. The Chinese government has just banned actress Tang Wei, who is of course best known for her role in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, from all media in China. The kicker here is that although Lust, Caution was understandably controversial in China, the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) had already approved it for release last year after its producers cut some footage from it. It seems however that the release of even the censored version offended someone higher up in the government so it has put pressure on the SARFT and the film’s producers and this is the result.
What really angers me about this, aside from the issue of a government handing out an approval from one hand and taking it away with another, is that the Chinese government chose to ban Tang Wei and only her. Why not slap a ban on co-star Tony Leung as well? What, it’s okay to show a Chinese man having sex but it’s not okay to show a Chinese woman having sex? Why not ban Ang Lee as well? After all, no one is more responsible for what happens in a film than its director. Of course there’s the little fact that both Tony Leung and Ang Lee are internationally renowned artists and who can forget how gushingly proud all Chinese were when Ang Lee won an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain despite its very politically incorrect content in Chinese eyes.
Meanwhile, Tang Wei is just an unknown starlet who took off her clothes in front of a camera for the whole world to see, embarrassing China in the process, so it’s perfectly alright to censure her for it. Good job, China.
So, it’s Election Day in Malaysia today, so I thought it would be appropriate to make a post about it. To tell the truth, I’m aged 32 this year and I’ve never registered as a voter, let alone voted in any election in Malaysia. My excuse is that I’ve never been in Malaysia whenever there’s actually been an election since I left for France immediately after finishing high school and have spent most of my time outside the country since then.
Still, as you can see from the screenshot above, even I can’t run away from it entirely. I was surprised to see a political advertisement for the Barisan Nasional while reading some oddball news about an Israeli researcher who claims that Moses was high on drugs when he saw God on Yahoo News. Since I don’t think that advertising like this is exactly cheap, I suspect that this is a sign that the pressure this year really is getting to the ruling coalition. The buzz from blogs like the one by Jed Yoong and Taiping Coffee also confirms that the people of Malaysia is highly unsatisfied with the coalition that has ruled the country since independence. When you read about stuff like the Chinese stating their willingness to vote for PAS and opposition party rallies attracting crowds of thousands of people while BN rallies have mere handfuls of them, you can’t help but feel hope for real change.
I can’t claim to know much Malaysian politics, given how out of the loop I’ve been. On the one hand, it seems clear that the BN has been busy enriching themselves at country’s expense and more disgustingly, playing up racial and religious differences in a crass attempt to keep power at all costs. On the other hand, I can perceive that Malaysia is still a highly unequal and inhomogeneous country with a wide disparity between rural and urban areas. The incessant complaints of the rising cost of living for Klang Valley residents for example feel out-of-place when you consider how undeveloped many parts of Malaysia still remain compared to the Klang Valley. I also have serious doubts about the competence of many opposition party politicians, especially on economic matters, given the populist and simplistic campaign promises some have been making.
I of course heartily agree that the BN needs to given a good drubbing to wake them up a bit, but I must confess that the idea of DAP or PKR running the country makes me nervous given how inexperienced they seem. Ironically, it’s PAS that might be best at running the country given their experience in Kelantan and previously other states. And don’t count out independent candidates like this 89-year old grandmother!