I just saw a news clip in the Today newspaper, which said that Mr Louise Ng, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency (GRC), was being investigated by the police for holding up a “smiley face”, encouraging people to support their local hawkers.
It goes without saying that part of the reason why the police are investigating Mr Ng is the fact that The Online Citizen, one of our socio-political websites, asked if Mr Ng had obtained a public licence to do so and whether he’d be charged for holding up a smiley face in public if he had not. This is a particularly pertinent question, especially when it comes right after an activist called Jolvan Wham put Singapore on the map by getting charged for causing “public disorder” for holding up a placard of a smiley face. So, in fairness to The Online Citizen, it was important to raise the issue whether there were any “double standards” in how the law was being applied to an MP and an activist.
However, what I find particularly interesting is why the smiley face has become a symbol of public disorder. There is, as far as I know, no evidence of any terrorist group that has resorted to using an emoji, let alone a smiling face (😊), as its symbol. The smiley face, 😊 as far as I know, is a symbol of happiness.
So, what did the authorities find so threatening about Mr Wham and Mr Ng holding up a smiley face in public? Mr Wham’s case is particularly interesting in as much as he was charged with “public disorder”. What exactly was the public disorder that he caused? Did he cause any damage to property? Did he harass members of the public? Did he hold any symbols glorifying racism like the Nazi or Confederate flags? Mr Wham’s crime was the fact that he stood in public holding a smiley face 😊. How exactly was that “public disorder”?
Look, nobody is against laws to protect public order. Even the online media, which is more “anti-government” in its slant, has not gone after the government when it canes vandals. What people do question is why the smiley face 😊 has become such a threat to the established order. One might suggest to the powers-that-be in Singapore that, by not allowing someone to stand there holding up a smiley face in public, they are only going to drive the symbol underground but, more importantly, turn a symbol of happiness into a symbol of anarchy. It is a sign of internal weakness when you see threats in the most innocent of things.
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