This is a guest post by Alan Bao.
Last month, we posted about Amos Yee:
He’s the 16-year-old Singaporean YouTuber who had been arrested and convicted of “wounding religious feelings” and “obscenity” after making a video that lampooned Christianity and Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kwan Yew.
Since then, he’s been sent to prison for re-uploading the offending materials and now waits for the court to decide on whether or not he should be sentenced to “Reformative Training” — an ostensibly “rehabilitative” sentence that would involve being held in a prison for up to three years:
A stint at the Reformative Training Centre lasts between 18 and 30 months, and includes structured rehabilitation programmes, foot drills, and counselling. Offenders will not have contact with adult prison inmates.
Yes. Up to three years in prison. For “wounding religious feelings.” In a Youtube video.
If this all sounds creepily Orwellian to you, that’s because it is. Singapore has had a long history of speech restriction and censorship — a nervous holdover from its formative years, when racial and religious riots caused plenty of bloodshed in the country. The current World Press Freedom Index ranks the island nation #153 out of 180 countries surveyed.
So, while none of this is particularly surprising, it’s still a depressing reminder of what happens when religious vanity eclipses individual freedom. 16-year-old Yee is now a political prisoner because fully-grown adults couldn’t handle snark on the Internet. Instead of encouraging potential rioters to express their religious discontent in non-murderous ways, the authorities have opted to try to scrub society clean of dissent and offense instead.