Guy Rundle writes:


Con George-Kotzabasis (Crikey, 21
November, item 36) accuses me of undermining my own argument regarding
the cultural character of fear and its relationship to terrorism and
terror laws. But I don’t think he’s clearly understood what I was
saying. Con argues that if the risk of terror is slight (as I suggest),
it would not haunt people. But that is precisely what fears do, when
they have cut loose from their moorings. It is because the estimation
of the threat of terror has a large dose of irrationality that it can
actually be talked back to, both with a hard look at the stats, and a
reflection on the deeper fears that such events awake in us. What most
effectively reduces the risk is effective policing within existing
frameworks – what most effectively addresses the irrational fear is the
lie that the all-powerful state will save you from harm.

Nick Tymms writes:
For
someone who claims that the Singapore media has barely touched the
Nguyen story, Jane Grant must have been listening to one too many
‘expat’ stories (Crikey, 21 November, item 5). Both TODAY and Straits Times newspapers have run front-page stories on the saga in addition to other pieces. I for one was published the other day in the TODAY
newspaper running a rather critical piece on the Singaporean approach
to the death penalty. Ok, it may not have been up to the level of
debate Jane is used to in Australia, but by Singapore standards it’s
been an impressive debate for a media that rarely touches on the death
penalty. Remember, that while the media plays a role in state affairs
in Singapore, it’s also operating as a fair mirror to society. And this
society really doesn’t care too much for debating the death penalty
because the majority are clearly in support of the penalty. Rightly or
wrongly, at least you know where you stand with these guys. Most
informed expats do know what’s going on here and we don’t need a
company course to keep up. Maybe if Jane spoke to a few of the locals
she’d know too. We know when Amnesty release a report, we know when the
international press has a go at Singapore (because the Straits Times
reports it!) and we also know what Singaporeans are saying about the
government by going onto the rather active chat rooms. While I’m not
sure of the circumstances surrounding her friend’s arrest and charge,
it sounds like Jane’s maybe been hearing too many stories from
‘white-folk’ in Pleasantville rather than finding out what this place
is really about.

Hugh Cameron writes from Beijing:
May
I take issue with your somewhat hasty description of Singapore as an
uncivilised autocracy (Crikey editorial, Friday 18 November). Most
historians report that drug use in East Asia was coerced by foreign
powers on peoples of the Far East about two hundred years ago. The
result of this caused wars, human suffering and massive humiliation in
the loss of sovereign territories, temporarily to foreign (largely
Western) powers. Singapore is a successful Confucian society. Human
rights has two sides. We as Westerners have little to be proud of in
our longer histories in the way we have treated humans whom we
perceived as different. The death penalty is used widely in East Asian
countries. Any travelled person must be aware of this. It is the
sovereign right of Countries to determine for themselves the methods by
which they handle their problems within their own borders. The
exceptions where we really do know best need to be handled with wisdom,
restraint and very careful diplomacy. Having spent much of my life in
Asia , I recognise their right to govern their own societies. I am
pleasantly surprised at the very low crime rate in the PRC where I now
live. Most foreigners here would not agree with the death penalty , but
our hosts must have the right to govern as experienced locals who know
their societies better than we do . When asked here recently whether
the death penalty works as a deterrent, a senior police figure replied
thoughtfully ” Not sure, but it has a significant effect on second
offending.” Many Asian societies are relatively free of many crimes we
experience in the West. They do not usually tell us how best to govern
our societies. I oppose the death penalty and have sympathy for the
family of the young man on death row but I do think it is time we
stopped name calling and telling Asian countries how to run their
affairs .

Peter Mansour-Nahra writes:
Re Nguyen
Tuong Van. The majority of civilised societies do not embrace capital
punishment, and can put forward powerful arguments against it. Contrary
to the view of one correspondent, our whole world uses persuasion to
bring nations around to a set of particular values. That is actually
how civilisation developed. So we are entitled to encourage Singapore
to share our view of the sacredness of all human life. Look at the
gut-wrenching horror almost everyone felt when confronted with the
Terrorists beheading civilians on video in Iraq! If we were to attend
and view the hanging of young Nguyen Tuong Van I can see no difference
in the horror of such cold-blooded killing. Of course we must plead
with Singapore to turn from its capital punishment regime (for all
prisoners), in the name of humanity and civilised decency. That is our
response conditioned by our values.

Jim Hart writes:
If
you found it a little bit weird that our PM was talking to his
Singapore mates about a Qantas-SIA merger last week while washing his
hands of the death penalty, consider these other gems from the weekend
papers.

1. Singapore is looking into alternative methods of
execution because they can’t get anyone to take over from their
septuagenarian hangman.
2. In full-page ads we are all invited to
get on board for a 49% float of SPAusnet – the electricity distribution
company owned by Singapore Power.

Wasn’t it Thomas
Edison who invented the electric chair about 100 years ago? I think
there is now a unique opportunity for every little Aussie battler and
his super fund to invest in the war against drugs.

A former Financial Review hack writes:
Re: How the AFR dodged redundancy bullet (Crikey, November 21, item 21). As a former AFR
employee I can tell you that these people are devastated there will not
be forced redundancies. So many people are unhappy there that they had
been hoping, praying, for a nice termination package to fall out of the
sky. This is acknowledged in your report by Scott’s comment that:
Fairfax Business Media, especially AFR, already has such high staff turnover that the cuts can be achieved from attrition and not filling jobs after they are vacated.

Debbie Turner of Channel 7 Brisbane writes:
Just
like to point out a small error in Glenn Dyer’s shorts and TV ratings
yesterday (Crikey, November 21, item 20). In the “News and Current
Affairs” section Glenn wrote “Sunday night and Nine News won everywhere
but Perth,” which is incorrect. In Brisbane on Sunday November 20: BTQ
Seven News won with a peak of 279,100 and averaged 275,300 viewers
while QTQ Nine News peaked at 250,600 with an average viewing audience
of 237,600. Seven News in Brisbane often wins on both Saturday and
Sunday.

Alex Can writes:
Charles
Richardson’s attack on David Irving (Crikey, November 21, item 15) as a fraud is risible given
Crikey’s history of defamatory behaviour. He is not a Holocaust denier
(yes despite the rigged court case) but simply disagrees on what
constitutes the holocaust. The true Holocaust is actually the Armenian
genocide of 1915-16 which is denied by many groups and governments yet
no one throws those Holocaust deniers in jail. It seems that
journalists and cartoonists are quite happy for sedition laws to affect
Muslims as long as it doesn’t affect them. The current restrictions of
our hard won rights stems directly from the Irving decisions of the
early ’90s. Yet Israel, a terrorist state with weapons of mass
destruction, a war criminal as its head and which flaunts international
law does all this without a word of criticism. It is time that
journalists were registered so serial defamers could be removed from
the industry and fearless defenders of human rights could practice in
the fearless fashion that is required.

Peter Fray

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