In Singapore, sometimes news is no news. By this I mean, news that is news elsewhere, is strangely not news within this small island. I have always found this a very revealing phenomenon for it says much about the nature of the society. What puzzles me, however, is how the "masters" of this nation can delude themselves into thinking that people don't notice. They do...and it tells them much about what is really going on in their country.
A recent example concerns my son, Ainan
. Now, as you probably know, child prodigies are famous for being the most narrow of specialists. Almost always in history, a prodigy excels in but one subject. Ainan
, however, has recently shown himself to be unusual in that respect, in that he is showing gift in two areas (well, more, actually...but more of that another day). Not only is he studying Chemistry at Singapore Polytechnic and in his spare time, at a high level - but he is studying Physics, too. Recently, he passed the Physics O level (at the age of nine years and one month), making him not the only the youngest to do so, but also the only child to do so in both Chemistry and Physics, significantly underage. This shows that he has the makings of a binary scientific child prodigy - that is, a prodigy in two areas of science. This is very unusual, since all the historical examples of scientific child prodigies are in one area only. So, given the rarity of this circumstance one would have thought it news. Well, it was...in Malaysia...but not so much so in Singapore.
I shall expand. In Malaysia Ainan's
recent achievements were front page news on the Harian
Metro, and The Borneo Post and prominent in the Malay Mail, The Daily Express and the New Sabah
Times. That is quite a lot of interest considering that Ainan
is Singaporean (though one of his grandmothers is actually from Johor
, in Malaysia). So, how did Singapore respond? Well, the ONLY newspaper in Singapore
to remark on the situation in their print edition, so far, is the Lianhe Wanbao
- a relatively small Chinese daily newspaper. The Lianhe Zaobao
, followed suit, in its online editio
n once it saw that Wanbao
had run with the story...other than that, ALL the major media in Singapore have maintained an odd, unaccountable silence on the issue of Ainan's
continued achievements. I find this peculiar, for reasons I shall explain.
You see, two years ago, there was a Chinese PRC family living in Singapore who distinguished themselves academically. One son of the family had done his O levels at FOURTEEN years old. Now, this story appeared on the same day that Ainan's
O level achievement at 7 was recognized in the press as a world record. Guess which story was on the front pages, and which story was buried deep within the newspaper? Yes...you guessed it: Ainan's
story was completely buried, in the newspaper, and the Chinese boy who was TWICE as old, was FRONT PAGE news on the Straits Times.
So, the situation here, in Singapore is clear. If you are a Chinese NON-Singaporean PRC, Singapore will esteem your achievements so highly as to put you on the front pages, to provide a distraction from the achievements of a half-Malay boy whose story will be buried deep in the newspaper. Now, we could not help notice this odd prioritization of stories, by the Straits Times, two years ago. The half-Malay story was buried, the Chinese PRC story was given prominence. However, the Straits Times has improved its game since then. Now, they DO NOT EVEN PRINT THE HALF-MALAY STORIES AT ALL. That is right. The Straits Times now ignores Ainan's
Now, don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that the Straits Times should cover anyone in particular. I am saying however that, if they cover a fourteen old boy who does O levels, from the PRC, then they are OBLIGED to cover ANY boy or girl of ANY race who does O levels at 14 or younger - out of fairness/impartiality. They have set their own standard of what is front page news. A fourteen year old doing O level is front page news: that is their own standard. So, why, then, is my son's achievement at 9, of doing O level Physics, while taking Chemistry at Singapore Polytechnic, NOT NEWS AT ALL? There are three differences between the boys that are pertinent. Firstly, the Chinese boy is NOT a Singaporean; Ainan
IS a Singaporean. The Chinese boy is 14; Ainan
is 9. The Chinese boy is Chinese...Ainan
is half-Malay and half-Irish. Now, my question is this: which of these three differences has invalidated his news story? Why is he less newsworthy than the Chinese boy? Is it because he is five years younger? That would seem strange...in all countries, more youthful achievement is more newsworthy. Is it because Ainan
is Singaporean: are Singaporeans inherently less worthy of news coverage than non-Singaporeans? That may be so, given Singapore's strange fascination with all things PRC. Is it, dare I ask, because the other boy is Chinese...and Ainan
is half-Malay? If it is this latter reason, then the national media of Singapore have some explaining to do.
At this point, I do not know the reasoning that has led the editors of all the major media in Singapore to ignore Ainan's
achievement - whereas the Straits Times feted the Chinese boy. I do know this, however: it seems a shameful thing, indeed, for Singapore, as a nation, that overseas countries should be showing LESS bias towards a Singaporean, than Singaporean media are. Ainan
is front page news in Malaysia, but largely not news in Singapore: were the Singaporean media as impartial as the overseas media, this would not be so.
I am not upset at this. I am, in fact, grateful for the way in which the state is telling me its priorities. After all, we have to make decisions concerning where Ainan
will make his contributions later. Surely, he should make them in a country which shows him welcome? The Singaporean media are hardly showing such a welcome. They are showing something else. They are showing that Singapore's news priorities depend on the identity of the person. A Chinese PRC will get more prominent coverage than a half-Malay Singaporean. That, to me, is a very serious matter. It shows that Singapore has yet to grow up, as a nation state. It also shows that Singapore is not being fair to all its citizens. Ainan
is a citizen of Singapore; the PRC boy is not...yet the PRC boy is courted in a way that Ainan
is not. I puzzle at this. To me, it looks a lot like this is a nation that doesn't know how to appreciate its people and their gifts. Of course, a nation which does that, loses those very people...and will end being nothing more than a transit point for temporary foreign "talent" on their way to a better job elsewhere. Perhaps, of course, that is just what the "powers-that-be" want. They would rather have a Singapore staffed by relatively mediocre PRC imports...than to encourage home-grown talents to stick around.
The funny thing about this behaviour of the media is that it is a clear declaration to the world, of what sort of nation Singapore is...and they don't even realize that they are giving such a clear picture of their nature and intent. To see this kind of thing at work, all you have to do is consistently read the Straits Times. It won't be long before the news prioritization becomes clear. Especially, if you read other news sources at the same time, to make a comparison. Singapore's media is playing strange games with what is to be seen as important and what is not.
It seems that the excellence of one half-Malay child is not to be given much attention. However, the excellence of any PRC import, must be accorded front page status. This is the game. The only question is: why are they playing it? Can't they see the self-defeating nature of such games, in which you "diss
" your own people and ass lick the foreign PRC? What sort of nation "disses" its own people...and butters up foreigners? I find myself quietly shocked.
When I first saw the Straits Times do this, I was appalled. Now, however, I am so used to what they do, that my wife and I actually make a point of PREDICTING what the Straits Times will do, to spoil the story/distract from the story/bury the news. You know what: we are right each time, about how the Straits Times will approach the situation. Yet, our predictions are never "nice" in character. Nor are they fair. Yet, they are what the Straits Times does.
There is one possibility of course. Perhaps this apparent "bias" is unconscious on the part of the editors and journalists. Perhaps they are not self-aware and not able to see the inherent oddness of their choices. Maybe they just don't know that they are marginalizing the half-Malay boy - and elevating the Chinese PRC one. That is, of course, being generous in assessing the situation. However, whether unconscious or not, the fact remains that the Straits Times has odd news priorities that don't reflect the true importance of the news items in question. More important news items can get buried - and less important ones raised to prominence. If one was being impartial this kind of thing would never happen.
So, this week, the big news for me, is that Ainan
was NOT news in The Straits Times...nor in the Berita Harian
, ostensibly the newspaper of the Malay community. It was not a surprise to me that Ainan
would not be in the Straits Times, because the Straits Times has ignored him before, or practised "news burying"...however, it was a surprise that the Berita Harian
didn't write about him. The Berita Harian
is the voice of the Malay community, but, this time around, it ignored Ainan
. It has never done that before. However, there might be reasons for that. Since Ainan
was last in the news in Singapore (well over a year ago), ALL the staff who had had contact with us, previously, have moved on. They now have different writers....people who have never met us and don't know us. Perhaps that played a role. Then again, perhaps even the Berita Harian
, is not truly covering the Malay community, in the way it should be. It seems odd to ignore the Malay community's most unusual young boy. One would have thought they would be proud of Ainan
...in the way that the Straits Times (with a Chinese editor) is proud of the Chinese PRC boy. However, apparently not.
Singapore is an interesting place to live in. It is filled with the unexpected. For me, discovering that the Berita Harian
won't necessarily cover the unusual achievements of a Malay boy was one such surprise. I wonder what that says about what we get the chance to learn about, in Singapore, about what is going on. Perhaps we don't get to hear lots of things that are going on in the Malay community. I know that no-one in that community got to hear directly of Ainan's
achievement this time...what else are they never hearing? What do we never get to know?
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan
, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan
, five years exactly, and Tiarnan
, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html
I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind
, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino
We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting
, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/
is the Internet Movie Database for film and tv
professionals.If you would like to look at my IMDb
listing for which another fifteen credits are to be uploaded, (which will probably take several months before they are accepted) please go to: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3438598/
As I write, the listing is new and brief - however, by the time you read this it might have a dozen or a score of credits...so please do take a look. My son, Ainan
, also has an IMDb
listing. His is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3305973/
My wife, Syahidah
, has a listing as well. Hers is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3463926/
This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley
. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)
Labels: Berita Harian, censorship, front page news, Lianhe Wanbao, Lianhe Zaobao, news priorities, Singaporean media, strange omissions, The Straits Times, the truth is what we don't get to hear