Blah blah black sheep

These are not good words to hear about a neighbouring country:

Malaysia detains ‘dissent’ writer

A prominent anti-government blogger in Malaysia has been detained for two years on charges of insulting Islam.

Raja Petra Kamarudin has been held without trial under controversial internal security laws which could see him detained indefinitely.

He was arrested on 12 September as part of a crackdown on dissent by the Malaysian government, which is facing a mounting challenge from the opposition. …

Under the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA), Raja Petra can be held for two years, a sentence which can be renewed indefinitely.

The order can only be overturned by the home minister, not a judge.

Political groups both within the ruling government coalition and outside it have criticised the ISA and the inherent potential for abuse.

Indeed. And yes, Singapore also has an ISA, which has been put to use. Woe betide the day it’s wielded by wholly selfish hands.

Here’s something that makes me feel better — three paragraphs of good, solid, dependable words to hold on to (the third one’s my favourite):

The patron saint of charlatans is again spreading dangerous misinformation

Does Moore’s law now apply to human civilisation? In 1965 Gordon Moore observed that the density of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years or so, and predicted this would continue. Similar laws now seem to apply to every aspect of computing. And, perhaps, to the rest of the world. The information available, the scale of human interactions, the detail involved in financial deals and trading relationships and political decisions appear to be growing exponentially. We are drowning in complexity. To be good citizens we must understand what is done in our name. But how?

We lean ever more heavily on experts. But who can we now trust? Corporate PR has become so sophisticated that it’s almost impossible for most people to tell the difference between genuine science and greenwash, or real grassroots campaigns and the astroturf lobbies concocted by consultants. PR companies set up institutes with impressive names which publish what purport to be scientific papers, sometimes in the font and format of genuine journals. They accuse real scientists of every charge that could be levelled at themselves: junk science, hidden funding, undisclosed interests and inflated credentials.

If journalists have any remaining function, it is to help people navigate this world: to try to understand the crushingly dull documents that most people don’t have time for, to smoke out the fakes and show how to recognise the genuine article. But we mess up too. The most we can promise is to try not to make the same mistake twice.

Words for some braveheart to build a career on, methinks.


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