Three Books, The Book and Barbra Streisand

I was told yesterday morning about a press conference that the NLB was holding to address the book removal issue that became a thing the day before.

Up until Today Online started covering the conference, I was trying to figure out why they wanted to hold a press conference when a) they already released a vague statement reiterating their stance on the issue, and b) the lady who first gaffed on NLB’s part (and whose name most of the first responders just couldn’t get right initially), Assistant Chief Executive and Chief Librarian Ms Tay Ai Cheng was still on leave (and won’t be back until next week).

As it turned out, nothing much was said in the new statement that wasn’t already said in the last statement (reproduced below), except for a few clarifications on how many requests they receive on average (about 20 book titles are challenged every year) and how many actually get cut (about a third; this year, it was only And Tango Makes Three, The White Swan Express and Who’s in My Family, all 3 challenged by the same complainant(s) who started this whole mess).

What I see just about every single report immediately latch on, though, was that (quoting Today Online) “(t)he three titles will be pulped in accordance to library policy…

Oh for the love of penguins.

You do not tell a group of people who write for a living that you, the largest book repository in the country, destroy books. I am so lost for words, probably because NLB pulped them.

Other media outlets decided to use other synonyms (I saw the words trashed and destroyed on separate occasions), but none tried to play down the fact; the sentiment was felt all round – you might as well have said you burn books.

But It Has Never Been About the Books

I cannot understand how a statutory board (or 3 seeing as NLB says it follows MSF and MDA family policy) allowed this moved so quickly from pissing off the LGBT crowd, to pissing off the non-conventional family unit crowd, to pissing off the literary and journalistic crowd. I honestly thought the press conference was engineered to spite those who disagreed with the action, until I found out from a reporter who was there that it was a question thrown from the floor – a question the poor lady who had to take over her colleague who was on leave simply wasn’t prepared to answer.

I really would advise the NLB to please stop doing or saying anything else at this point because at the rate you’re going, you’ll only have the We Are Against Pink Dot in Singapore group left on your side, and honestly, that’s actually not a lot of people, and from what I hear from a choice number of my other pro-family theistic friends, also not quite representative of who they say they represent.

The speed at which this incident has gained traction has also left some confused; all this over 2 (now 3) books? I would have gone into a good few paragraphs about how this had never been about the books, and how even the so-called “pro-family” activists should be very very worried about what they started, but Remy Choo beat me to it (and he even pulls a Luke 6:31 with a legal case involving the Bible), so allow me to just quote:

“Is the National Library Board’s (NLB) removal of two titles for being insufficiently “pro-family” the first step down a slippery slope to controlling publicly available information for narrow and sectarian ends?

I hope not.

The prospect is frightening, and it really should concern all right thinking Singaporeans, gay or straight, religious or atheistic, pro or anti-government.”

The Streisand Effect

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The Streisand Effect (or the unintentional drawing of the exact kind of attention one doesn’t want) has been mentioned in discussions about the PM vs Roy Ngerng, and now here. All this talk about the books has gotten me, a cheapskate blogger who can get meals, toys and entry to events for the price of about 800 words each, to plonk down a grand total of $50.53 on Amazon to purchase 3 kids’ books that were probably all just gonna read once and leave to collect dust in a shelf for until the authorities decide to check our homes for pulpable material. More importantly, it’s getting us to talk to our children about sexuality and complex family units more readily than had we never gotten wind of what happened.

But there’s a dark side to the Streisand Effect as well, which the Mother of Xander raised in our after-dinner conversation last night: instead of getting us to not teach our children about homosexuality, we’ve now grown extremely unwilling to discuss certain religions with our children. We cannot explain the hate emanating from some of the people that represent it, and no children’s book of the subject currently exists that can help us.

The only solace we can take from all this is knowing the actual penguins involved don’t even know what the hell’s going on. And I believe they honestly don’t care. Maybe that’s something we all should really learn.

Update 18/7/2014: Looks like the voicing out worked.

The Blogfather’s first post on the issue here.

4 thoughts on “Three Books, The Book and Barbra Streisand”

  1. Hilarious, insightful and right on the money. I wish those blinkered NLB staff could take a step back and look at the overall picture and see how silly their words and actions have been. But spare a thought for NLB book buyers – I can only imagine what hell they are going through now for all their efforts to broaden our literary minds

    1. When you’ve got a KPI of a million items to purchase a year? At most I’d be concerned about the feelings of that one or three book buyers that picked up the book for inclusion… if they remembered whether they were the ones that picked it up.

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