Swiss graffiti artist to be caned in Singapore.
June 25, 2010 9:23 PM   Subscribe

Swiss graffiti artist to get three whacks of the cane in Singapore. Hasn’t this happened before? Yes and no. Unlike American teenager Michael Fay, Swiss national Oliver Fricker and British citizen Lloyd Dane Alexander planned their graffiti raid very carefully – they broke into an SMRT train depot and tagged several SMRT train carriages. Graffiti of this scale is so unheard-of in Singapore, commuters thought the graffiti was part of a marketing campaign. Last month, Fricker was apprehended. This week, Fricker was sentenced to five months’ jail and three strokes of the cane.
posted by micketymoc (130 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
"cruelandunusual" tag? Really? Corporal punishment like this is practically the norm in the United States. Actually, three whacks of the cane is getting it off easy.
posted by shii at 9:26 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Spanksy.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:27 PM on June 25, 2010 [33 favorites]


'artist'
posted by signal at 9:28 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The "cruelandunusual" tag might be misconstrued as editorializing, though I expect some mefites may strongly agree with it. If you don't mind, I'll remove it.
posted by micketymoc at 9:29 PM on June 25, 2010


I'd feel more sympathy for them if their work was something cool, ala Banksy. It's just graffiti tags.
posted by graventy at 9:40 PM on June 25, 2010


He's lucky his graffiti was so innocuous. He'd have gotten more than three strokes if it had been political. That's what the Singapore anti-graffiti law is really aimed at.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:41 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"cruelandunusual" tag? Really? Corporal punishment like this is practically the norm in the United States. Actually, three whacks of the cane is getting it off easy.

Hamburger...?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 9:41 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Banksy wouldn't be such a chump to get caught by the Singapore police.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:41 PM on June 25, 2010


Corporal punishment like this is practically the norm in the United States.

Please link me to even one example of a person being sentenced to corporal punishment in the US.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:42 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's the very least taggers deserve. At least there is some merit to Banksy's work.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:45 PM on June 25, 2010


Please link me to even one example of a person being sentenced to corporal punishment in the US.

C'mon. It's the widely acknowledged public consensus in this country that prison time should involve violent rape.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:46 PM on June 25, 2010 [18 favorites]


Please link me to even one example of a person being sentenced to corporal punishment in the US.

Corporal punishment is not practiced in the U.S. But honestly, won't five months in prison in the U.S. cause many things substantially worse than caning? (Not that Singapore's prisons are better or worse, I really don't know there.)
posted by JHarris at 9:47 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jail is much more cruel and unusual than caning, at least I would choose the caning and get it over with.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:47 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Tazing, and then violent rape. USA! USA!
posted by everichon at 9:54 PM on June 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Why did he do this?

He went into another country and threw his culture and art all over their public transport in a way that the locals wouldn't appreciate.

If only McDonalds and Starbucks could be caned for doing this shit.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:54 PM on June 25, 2010 [14 favorites]


I've been to SINGAPORE more than I wanted. It's good for shopping and the street food is incredible- but it's like living with your mother...when you're 50.
Be that as it may, I hate graffiti. Art is different. Graffiti is just putting your name up. When you do that enough, on other people's buildings? You'll regret putting your name up so much.
posted by flowerofhighrank at 10:01 PM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hard to get too upset over someone getting punished for intentionally going to another country to vandalize their trains while breaking through security. If the planned their raid that carefully they had to have considered the consequences. I'm certainly not for caning, but its just hard to get all outraged over this.
posted by An algorithmic dog at 10:04 PM on June 25, 2010 [11 favorites]


Singapore: This is what happens when your founding fathers are kinksters.
posted by Avenger at 10:08 PM on June 25, 2010


William Gibson's old article about Singapore: Disneyland with the Death Penalty.
posted by Kattullus at 10:13 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, doesn't the real Disneyland have the death penalty? I mean, It's in California.
posted by longsleeves at 10:28 PM on June 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


I was in Singapore RIGHT after the Michael Faye incident. I remember seeing a cafe in Singapore called "Cane's" and realizing that nobody saw the humor but me.

I also remember that one of their most popular t-shirts was "Singapore is a fine country. You get fined for this, you get fined for that." Naturally, I'm against vandalism and thought Michael Faye made a punk decision... but I found that in Singapore you'd also get seriously busted for not flushing public toilets, sitting in a park, jaywalking, littering, spitting, smoking, or bringing gum into the country (although now they allow people to buy gum in pharmacies for "medicinal purposes only.") I mean... I was amazed because I was there the week they were having a big city-wide "Cleanest Block Contest" where each neighborhood competed against each other for their street's lack of visible bric-a-brac. But, from what I could tell it appeared Singaporeans were into it... it's a very community-based and organized country. They want to think of themselves as very western but Singaporeans seemed very into the whole group culture mindframe that permeates Asia. I've rarely seen so many people wearing uniforms.

I also remember being invited to a party in some fancy Singaporean house and realizing people were smoking pot. Knowing that drug use was punishable by death, I suddenly had this fear that the cops were going to bust the house for drugs and take all non-locals away. I thoroughly annoyed my friends by choosing to spend my evening standing in the driveway so that I could run if I saw the cops coming. Paranoid, yes. Yes, I was. That was 1994 and to this day I'm still not totally sure whether I was a total fucking paranoid idiot or being really smart and responsible.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:30 PM on June 25, 2010 [27 favorites]


Hitting him with a stick three times is just a minor distraction. They are hitting him with a sentence that takes five months off his life.
posted by pracowity at 10:38 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


That was 1994 and to this day I'm still not totally sure whether I was a total fucking paranoid idiot or being really smart and responsible.

Put your mind at rest, it was the latter.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:38 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Uh, guys? Caning is incredibly painful and leaves permanent scars. It's not being hit with a stick. It's like being whipped, very hard, with a very hard whip. Your skin opens up. Once is enough to make you pass out. I guarantee you that is the longest three those people will ever count to in their life. It is brutal. It results in sickening pain.
posted by oneironaut at 10:49 PM on June 25, 2010 [14 favorites]


Please link me to even one example of a person being sentenced to corporal punishment in the US.

"Sentenced"? As if! It would be a rare show of honesty if we sentenced people to rape, tazing, brutality, torture, etc. instead of simply carrying it out. As I was saying, this is fairly lightweight by American standards and we shouldn't engage in hypocrisy.
posted by shii at 10:54 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


So unlike Michael Fay, they are actually guilty of the crime?
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:57 PM on June 25, 2010


"Sentenced"? As if! It would be a rare show of honesty if we sentenced people to rape, tazing, brutality, torture, etc. instead of simply carrying it out. As I was saying, this is fairly lightweight by American standards and we shouldn't engage in hypocrisy.

I dunno, I read the blog of that one guy who got sentenced to jail and prison in Arpaio country in Arizona (I forget where it was now.. I think his name was Jon?). He blogged from behind bars for a few years and it seemed like prison rape was pretty much unheard of and for the most part anybody there just minding their own business was pretty safe.
posted by floam at 11:00 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Found it.
posted by floam at 11:02 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I should point out that it becomes immediately clear reading that blog that jail and prison — especially under Arpaio — is absolutely no cakewalk and all sorts of bad things happen. I was just referring to rape and outright violence.
posted by floam at 11:06 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"cruelandunusual" tag? Really? Corporal punishment like this is practically the norm in the United States. Actually, three whacks of the cane is getting it off easy.


What? What? In what court? Where? When?


(not that some things they do do might be worse.)
posted by Some1 at 11:14 PM on June 25, 2010


**Caning is incredibly painful and leaves permanent scars.

**It's like being whipped, very hard, with a very hard whip.

**Your skin opens up.

**Once is enough to make you pass out.

**It results in sickening pain.

Best laugh I've had all day. And I read the The-perfect-lives-of-catalog-people FPP just below this one.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:34 PM on June 25, 2010


I think the caning has more to do with the fact that that had to be among the most uninspired and boring graffito I've ever seen.
posted by crunchland at 11:36 PM on June 25, 2010


Caning is incredibly painful and leaves permanent scars.

Think of the scars as graffiti.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:37 PM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why would graffiti even be a problem in Singapore? Wiping down with gasoline, wouldn't it come right off all the iron ore?
posted by LionIndex at 11:38 PM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Best laugh I've had all day.

...

Warning: Very Graphic Images of what caning wounds on the buttocks look like. 1 2
posted by CarolynG at 12:19 AM on June 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


i knew some fellas that found out michael fay worked somewhere at the mall of america. they would buy something for the express purpose of standing in line for his register and try to fit the word cane into conversation as much as humanly possible.
posted by andywolf at 12:26 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Beautiful as a rock in a cop's face.
posted by basicchannel at 12:34 AM on June 26, 2010


I'm torn. Caning is indeed barbaric, I don't care how good a deterrent it is--an intelligent, forward-thinking society just doesn't do that. On the other hand, this idiot was in Singapore, and the caning policy they have is pretty infamous. If this guy was truly ignorant of the consequences, then I can only pity him. If he simply thought he could get away with it, then I don't have any pity at all.
posted by zardoz at 1:47 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Swiss graffiti artist to get three whacks of the cane in Singapore

I notice the BBC headline is, "Swiss graffiti man faces Singapore caning". Having seen the graffiti, I'm not sure "artist" is the word I'd use.

I'm Singaporean and I oppose corporal punishment (and capital punishment - I'll get back to it in a moment) but as many other posters have pointed out, he planned and executed it very deliberately - it wasn't some kind of youthful hijinks. And he didn't have the good sense to not get caught, unlike his British accomplice.

It's similar to the whole idea that you'll get the death penalty if you bring illegal drugs into Singapore. (15g of heroin or 30g of cocaine or 500g of pot will get the death penalty; less, and you'll be fined S$20000, jailed, and/or caned, depending on the drug in question and the amount). You're told about it multiple times and hear about it every year. But if you do it and get caught, well, you're going to die.

Same goes for this guy - he knows about it, he's heard about it, and he actually went ahead and planned it out and executed that plan. What was the point? So he could brag about it to admiring friends later? Well, now he can brag about his scars to his admiring friends.

Plus I don't like graffiti anyway so that's even less sympathy for him. I'm quite happy with the lack of tagging here. Not so happy with the political climate, but that's another debate which none of you are going to particularly care about.

I oppose corporal and capital punishment but I'm not sure this guy deserves any more sympathy than a local who gets caught and suffers the same punishment. I don't see anyone up in arms about that.

zardos: an intelligent, forward-thinking society just doesn't do that

That is exactly correct. I think we have some very intelligent people here, but too many are conservative, nanny-state advocates who think there is no better business than ensuring everyone's good and contented and docile, for the "greater good", that the few liberals we do have are stifled and frustrated and occasionally sued to hell and back for trifles like 'libel'. Pfft. Either that or the incumbent ruling party co-opts the smart ones by offering them a way into the ruling class. Take your pick. Intelligence, we have; forward-thinkingness? HA.
posted by WalterMitty at 2:14 AM on June 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


miss_lynnster: That was 1994 and to this day I'm still not totally sure whether I was a total fucking paranoid idiot or being really smart and responsible.

I'd say you weren't being an idiot at all but the smartest thing to do would to not have been a mile within the place at all. Consumption of pot here nets you 10 years' jail, caning, and a hefty fine, whether you're a local or non-local. We plebeian locals don't get a free pass on drug consumption.
posted by WalterMitty at 2:21 AM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've been to SINGAPORE more than I wanted. It's good for shopping and the street food is incredible- but it's like living with your mother...when you're 50.

I'm a little younger than that but that's singapore for me. I lived there with my parents for a couple of years a few years ago.

What Walter Mitty says so eloquently.

Regardless of our opinions, if you're a guest in someone's home and they have a rule that you smoke outside the house, would you then go into their living room and light up a cigarrette adn stub it out on their best carpet adn expect to walk out scot free?
posted by infini at 2:22 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uh, guys? Caning is incredibly painful and leaves permanent scars. It's not being hit with a stick. It's like being whipped, very hard, with a very hard whip. Your skin opens up. Once is enough to make you pass out. I guarantee you that is the longest three those people will ever count to in their life. It is brutal. It results in sickening pain.

And yet it was a standard punishment in schools, administered at the teachers (or even senior students) discretion across much of the English-speaking world.

Here in New Zealand we've even got some vocal calls to bring back the cane, presumably so middle-aged men won't be forced to stab children to death and then have your lawyer suggest the dead kid's family were faking their grief.
posted by rodgerd at 2:23 AM on June 26, 2010


Having seen the graffiti, I'm not sure "artist" is the word I'd use.
Point taken, Walter, but let's put it on the record that Mediacorp in SG calls its performers "artistes", even if Phua Chu Kang does not by any means fit the definition of "art". Eh, PCK still funny, lah.
posted by micketymoc at 2:44 AM on June 26, 2010


shii: Actually, three whacks of the cane is getting it off easy.

Well, easy if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by bwg at 2:47 AM on June 26, 2010


micketymoc: Mediacorp in SG calls its performers "artistes"

Fair enough, but two things: (a) I haven't watched local TV productions for years, not even the propaganda daily specials they call 'news', because the acting is atrocious and the writing is worse; and (b) I don't think anyone else would call Mediacorp's productions 'art' or its employees any variant of 'artist'.

While I haven't been able to stomach local TV for years, every time I see glimpses of it in passing, whether in electronic stores' displays or when visiting, my prejudice is confirmed and reinforced. FWIW.

tl;dr? local TV = pukeworthy.
posted by WalterMitty at 2:54 AM on June 26, 2010


ocal TV = pukeworthy.

except on the bus, when its riveting :)


btw, found details of the rotan (cane) system for Singapore and Malaysia, including pix of the way they do it when its formal punishment
posted by infini at 3:05 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


32 years old? softwear consultant? c'mon guy. grow up...
posted by billybobtoo at 3:47 AM on June 26, 2010


And yet it was a standard punishment in schools, administered at the teachers (or even senior students) discretion across much of the English-speaking world

And as a punishment used on children, it was still inhumane and cruel. Even so, it was rarely used hard enough to actually permanently damage the child, physically at least.

The cane used was also a different weapon; a supple thin cane used with light force used to sting, not wound. Unlike the thick, hard cane delivered with heavy force, aimed to wound (NSFW) used in Singapore.

You might as well compare the use of a whip in BDSM to the whipping punishments delivered in the British army and navy which could cause death from blood loss, infection or damage to organs such as the kidneys.
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:05 AM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


32 years old? softwear consultant? c'mon guy. grow up...

Exactly. Fay was what, 18?
posted by R. Mutt at 5:17 AM on June 26, 2010


but I found that in Singapore you'd also get seriously busted for not flushing public toilets, sitting in a park

Sitting in a park? Why are you not allowed to sit in the park?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:22 AM on June 26, 2010


The people in this thread blithely comparing caning to US prisons are making me feel kind of ill. Horrible, inexcusable things can and do happen in US prisons-- I am very aware of this, and do what I can to change it. Yet that's not the same as a system in which streaks of flesh (at the minimum) are routinely torn from people's bodies using a blunt, imprecise weapon, followed by almost no medical attention and lifestyle that involves squatting and re-splitting the type of wounds that common sense says should be braced and stitched closed. This is what you're laughing at.
posted by zennie at 6:36 AM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Horrible, inexcusable things can and do happen in US prisons-- I am very aware of this, and do what I can to change it. Yet that's not the same as a system in which streaks of flesh (at the minimum) are routinely torn from people's bodies using a blunt, imprecise weapon

I'm not sure, though, that streaks of flesh being ripped away are worse than years of one's life being ripped away, along with the post-imprisonment difficulties in finding gainful employment. That is: even ignoring prison-rape and other non-officially-sanctioned outcomes of the US prison system, I'm not convinced that the basic idea of US prisons -- locking someone away from regular human society, with a bunch of other criminals for company, followed by a societal stigma -- is actually NOT cruel and unusual.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:33 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the laughing at the barbarity and inhumanity of caning is nauseating and it makes me suspect that most of you have no idea what you're talking about. Caning isn't temporary pain. It leaves permanent wounds.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:36 AM on June 26, 2010


I think caning is barbaric. I also think tagging is vandalism. There may be some artistic merit in the work, but tagging trains is a form on pissing on territory. This story is Lose:lose.
posted by Mom at 8:03 AM on June 26, 2010


Singapore has notoriously harsh laws against vandalism. But suppose they didn't... would Fricker and Alexander still have painted that train?
posted by ryanrs at 8:11 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm really unable to produce any outrage here.

"Hey, you know that country which is infamous for caning people for vandalism? I traveled halfway around the world, planned a big thing of very public vandalism, got caught, and THEN they caned me!?!?"

is basically like:

"Hey, you know how bees tend to sting when you mess with their hives? I looked for the the biggest hive I could find in the state, stripped off my clothes, lubed up my junk and rammed it into the hive, THEN I got stung?!?!"
posted by yeloson at 8:24 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Singaporeans are not mindless animals.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:38 AM on June 26, 2010


"Regardless of our opinions, if you're a guest in someone's home and they have a rule that you smoke outside the house, would you then go into their living room and light up a cigarrette adn stub it out on their best carpet adn expect to walk out scot free?"

If you are a graffiti artist (IE:vandal) then stubbing out your cigarette on the carpet is situation normal.
posted by Mitheral at 8:46 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Corporal punishment is not practiced in the U.S.

Oh, really?

Corporal Punishment in U.S. Schools
More than 200,000 kids spanked at school
Corporal punishment seen rife in U.S. schools

I guess when it happens to children, it's invisible. Or your definition of corporal punishment is special.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:47 AM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


We could have an interesting debate about the purpose and validity of harsh sentences for minor crimes. Do they serve as a deterrant, or are they just punishment? Is it a good idea to sentence minors to prison terms for crimes of small consequence? Is it better to focus on rehabilitation? But that's not the focus of this post.

I think caning is pretty harsh for graffitti (I'd prefer a sentence of cleaning every single train in the yard, perhaps), but I have zero sympathy for the guy in this case.

Honestly, has there ever been a more idiotic crime done by someone who isn't mentally ill? There have been some stupid things done by western people in foreign countries lately (remember the guy who tried to swim to North Korea to try to talk to Kim Jong Il, or the fellow who went to Pakistan to try and kill Osama, or the missionaries who tried to abduct/adopt kids from Haiti), but this one really takes the cake.

I'm generally not in favor of punishing stupidity, because it's usually a case of someone who is mentally unstable or having a crisis, but this? This is just sheer idiocy, done by two completely sane and reasonable and fully competent adult men who planned and researched this very carefully and who knew exactly what the risks and punishments were.

Might as well complain that burning is too harsh a punishment for putting your hand on a hot stove. Yes, the flesh is cauterized, and yes, there's extreme pain, and yes, there could well be permanent disfiguring scars, but you put your hand on a hot stove.

Honestly, folks.
posted by math at 8:55 AM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Singapore was notorious for its severe punishments when I was a kid. One of my father's close friends was an(other) oilfield services guy who lived in Singapore, and his friend's daughter ended up in Swiss boarding school in the late 70s because she liked to smoke pot. It was too risky back then.

I think Singapore's caning practices are barbaric--if I hadn't before, those photos would have convinced me--but the laws are what they are. Why anyone would risk that punishment knowingly is beyond my understanding.
posted by immlass at 9:05 AM on June 26, 2010


"Singapore has launched an international hunt for the 29-year-old Briton, Lloyd Dane Alexander"

what
posted by orme at 9:41 AM on June 26, 2010


I don't know what the current US policy on corporal punishment is, but the public school I attended in Pittsburgh assigned that duty to the Vice Principal. They didn't physically wound the students, but it was part of a drawn out ritual, bent over a chair with pants pulled down, that was meant to be anxiety-inducing.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:47 AM on June 26, 2010


I'd argue the way to approach this is not sympathy for the guy, but sympathy for people living under a faulty system, one that presents bodily harm as a punishment. The guy could be seen has having made an informed choice, but not everyone can move out of Singapore, and you can bet caning happens to people for other offenses, onces that even people in our jaded, decadent state might find questionable.

Those above who complain that it is disingenuous to compare this to the U.S. system should realize that both are bad, that the fact that we can even mention both in the same breath is a terrible step the United States has taken on the road to being a third-world nation, entirely due to its own apathy towards those it considers less than people.

And of course, even if the U.S. doesn't promote corporal punishment, it practices capital punishment all the time.
posted by JHarris at 11:30 AM on June 26, 2010


I don't know if this guy was trying to make a political statement with his action, but the Singaporean state is making a political statement with their response.

Singapore has a very repressive government that has strong restrictions on speech of any kind. Graffiti is one of the few ways that opponents of the regime can communicate with the public at large, and that is why the punishment for it is so harsh. This guy, like Michael Fay, is being made an example of, in order to point out the total power that the state has over every life in Singapore.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:47 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The US and Singapore both have fairly cruel penal systems, Singapore probably more so. One big difference though— Singapore is clean and has a really low crime rate. Unlike the US prison system, Singapore's draconian punishments appear to be a rational and effective policy choice. Your everyday Singaporean derives a significant benefit from their country's ruthlessness.
posted by ryanrs at 12:04 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The US and Singapore both have fairly cruel penal systems, Singapore probably more so. One big difference though— Singapore is clean and has a really low crime rate. Unlike the US prison system, Singapore's draconian punishments appear to be a rational and effective policy choice. Your everyday Singaporean derives a significant benefit from their country's ruthlessness.

You're making a pretty huge assumption about the chain of cause and effect, there. It's equally possible that both the prison system and the crime rate in both countries stem more from the local culture than they do from each other. If that's the case, Singapore would probably still be clean and low-crime whether or not they caned anybody, and America would still be dirty and high-crime if we did cane everybody.

IMHO, it's possible to change behavior through punishment to some degree, but that degree is rarely as great as penal advocates seem to think it is. Culture and environment largely determine behavior; punishment can only redirect it.
posted by vorfeed at 12:43 PM on June 26, 2010


IMHO, it's possible to change behavior through punishment to some degree, but that degree is rarely as great as penal advocates seem to think it is. Culture and environment largely determine behavior; punishment can only redirect it.

Well, let's see. Singapore is often described as a nanny-state, and that's pretty accurate - everything should be assumed to be regulated unless told otherwise, and the government sees it as a natural thing that it try its best to guide its subjects to a particular standard of behaviour - namely, one that is compliant, politically apathetic and easily led. The presence of caning as a punishment for many seemingly minor crimes (including robbery, vandalism, and foreigners who overstay their visa by 90 days or more) can be seen as an extended metaphor for the mentality of the Singaporean-at-large; with the political maturity and developmental age of a child, it's only fitting that our judicial system heavily utilize the punishment normally reserved only for children - spanking.

Why is the Singaporean so developmentally retarded as a citizen and a participant in the political process? Simple - 40 years of the same ruling party, with the same political philosophy, run by the same man who once said, "I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless." Those 40 years have shaped the psychology of modern Singaporean society into the blubbering child you see today, unable to see the forest for the trees, focusing on the unimportant details and fussing over the most inconsequential of bagatelles, because those who've been trying to change the important things have suffered for it. We're trained well.

So, yes, I agree that culture and environment largely determine behaviour, but punishment is part of that environment and helps shape future behaviour by creating an environment hostile to particular forms of behaviour.

I'm a gonna get off my high horsey now.
posted by WalterMitty at 12:58 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


: I'm not sure, though, that streaks of flesh being ripped away are worse than years of one's life being ripped away, along with the post-imprisonment difficulties in finding gainful employment. That is: even ignoring prison-rape and other non-officially-sanctioned outcomes of the US prison system, I'm not convinced that the basic idea of US prisons -- locking someone away from regular human society, with a bunch of other criminals for company, followed by a societal stigma -- is actually NOT cruel and unusual.

I don't see anyone disputing the fact the US "correctional" system is completely messed up. It is. We put a larger percent of our population in jail than any other country in the world. But to talk as though it's equivalent to Singapore on a human rights level? Maybe what irks me is that kind of talk only makes it more difficult for human rights proponents to be heard-- and believed. If people believe the hyperbole enough to check facts, they inevitably think, "oh, well, the situation is actually much better in X,Y,Z, and Q ways," and feel better, when nothing has actually changed.
posted by zennie at 12:59 PM on June 26, 2010


Don't we kill people for crimes in the US? and lock people in cages for years because they smoked pot?
It seems to me that many of you are spitting on graffiti because of its negative connotations. Even Banksy merely sprays his name down sometimes. Keith Haring owed his inspiration largely to subway vandalism. Personally, a colorful and creative styling of a name adds to the appearance of a cold, industrial subway. If you can appreciate typography, then should not skillful graffiti should make your heart proud? Nearly every bit of empty space on the streets is filled with boring, inane and offensive advertisements. I pray that resourceful street artists cover every inch of that urban scourge with their vandalism. There is plenty of ugly graffiti and plenty of irritating graffiti. There is also Thomas Kinkade.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 1:00 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


KotW, graffiti is a scourge and it deserves its negative connotations. Let me tell you a little story.

I used to work at a graphics bureau right across the street from Melrose High in Los Angeles. Next to our shop was an empty storefront, right in front of the bus stop where kids waited for public transport. The kids had just discovered diamond tip glass cutters, and were etching their tags on everything. Over a few weeks, the glass in the abandoned storefront became quite cloudy with the overlapping etched tags, and was severely damaged.

So, one day one of my favorite clients came into the office, a designer of international renown. He was, as usual, carrying his hard disk drive, this time it had the final designs for his latest project. We printed out his proofs and we were all so proud of his work, and our part in it. I worked especially hard for him, I wanted to make his work look as good as possible, as good as it deserved to be. Then we rolled up his prints and put them in a tube. With great satisfaction, he picked up his hard drive and his materials, and walked out the front door.. and right into disaster.

There were a bunch of kids waiting at the bus stop, school had just gotten out. He walked between them and the storefront, but the kids surged forward to board the bus, and pushed him into the glass. The plate glass was so weakened from all the graffiti scribing with glass cutters, he fell right through the glass, which fell down on him in big jagged shards. He dropped everything and staggered back into our shop, bleeding profusely from his neck, chest, and arms.

Everyone in the shop was in a panic. We rushed to stanch his bleeding and someone called 911. We thought he would bleed to death before the ambulance arrived. But here he was, our client and friend, on the brink of death due to stupid graffiti vandals, and instead of worrying about staying alive, he was begging us to go back out into the street to recover his dropped hard disk, prints, and car keys.

Unfortunately, his hard drive and prints were gone. His just-completed project would never get delivered. Also his car keys were gone, and we later found out from the Police that someone used his keys to steal his car too.

Our poor friend was in the hospital for months, recovering from such a massive blood loss and subsequent complications. He was unable to return to work and we heard he had to move to an assisted living facility. Our favorite client was out of business, and barely alive.

So do you get it? Graffiti doesn't just destroy property. It can destroy peoples' lives.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:34 PM on June 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Anyone who doesn't think it's grotesque to mutilate someone like this: shame on you. I don't care what you think about graffiti. Or about the inexorability of the law. Or any other justification. There are no circumstances under which judicial torture is okay. Never mind funny. The people cracking jokes should be ashamed of themselves.

On a more practical note, does anyone know if there's any kind of petition on this man's behalf? I had a look round but was unable to find anything.
posted by Kit W at 2:48 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Joking about judicial torture is foul. Please stop it.

Anybody who is arguing - or implying - that because they personally don't care for grafitti, it is somehow justified to mutilate someone... I don't know what to say. This is something horrible that is actually going to happen to a real person.

As for the law in Singapore being what it is - the law is not a force of nature. The law is made by human beings and can and should be held to ethical standards. This law and this process are a disgrace and disgusting.
posted by lucien_reeve at 3:02 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


[few comments removed - caning jokes really not appropriate here, perhaps MetaTalk would be more to your liking?]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:18 PM on June 26, 2010


So do you get it?

I don't get it. A lot of things had to go wrong for your friend to have suffered such a terrible accident. Fixating on the vandalism part is just arbitrary.
posted by Ritchie at 3:45 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


People don't just go through plate glass windows, even if they're pushed really hard. If the windows hadn't been damaged by graffiti from diamond tipped glass cutters, they would not have broken. He would have bounced off.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:53 PM on June 26, 2010


Yeah, but in the chain of events that led up to that you might as well have blamed the local council for putting plate glass on a bus stop (presumably they are as aware of the effects of vandalism on plate glass as you are), or better yet the schoolkids for pushing him.
posted by Ritchie at 4:08 PM on June 26, 2010


So do you get it? Graffiti doesn't just destroy property. It can destroy peoples' lives.

Is this supposed to be some sort of Brass Eye-style blatant handflapping overstatement meant to lampoon anti-graffiti nuts? Because that's what it reminds me of.

("One young kiddie on Cake cried all the water out of his body! What a fucking disgrace!")
posted by dunkadunc at 4:27 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


People don't just go through plate glass windows, even if they're pushed really hard.

Yes, they do:
Daughter falls through plate glass window at bowling alley; mother sues
Man falls through plate-glass window.
Student falls through school window

Is today erroneous assertion day, or what?


posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:30 PM on June 26, 2010


So do you get it? Graffiti doesn't just destroy property. It can destroy peoples' lives.

The shark! You completely cleared it!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:56 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Or your definition of corporal punishment is special.

Why, Kirth, my dear fellow! Surely it must have escaped your notice that the context of this discussion is judicial punishment of adults for crimes. So, you see, your allusion to the spanking of children in schools is, well, tangential at best. I ascribe this to a lapse in attention on your part because, well, I'm sure that misusing MetaFilter by attempting to derail a discussion and redirect it to a topic that we all know MetaFilter does not handle well must be the farthest thing from your mind. Please forgive me for alerting you to the fact that other less charitable souls might be inclined to misinterpret your intent.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 5:08 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


^^^
Eponysterical

more importantly As for the law in Singapore being what it is - the law is not a force of nature. The law is made by human beings and can and should be held to ethical standards. This law and this process are a disgrace and disgusting.
-this
posted by KingoftheWhales at 5:48 PM on June 26, 2010


As someone who routinely doesn't commit the offenses they penalize people monetarily for in Singapore, much less does anything so stupid as to justify actual caning, it's hard for me to have much sympathy for people determined to screw around and do illegal stuff over in someone else's country.

Also, the caning pictures don't tell the full story.

Specifically, that arse belonged to a offender who got 18 strokes and 14 years in jail for repeatedly harassing women on trains, and who had previous convictions for drug and sex-related crimes. That was an extremely severe caning punishment for Singapore, as most caning offenses have a maximum of 10 strokes.

Three whacks with a cane is bad, sure, and could potentially break skin, which may leave a permanent mark, unless they're going a bit easy on a foreigner, which they tend to do... but the level of damage you're likely to see between 3 whacks for a foreigner and 18 **WHACKS** for a sexual predator is like the difference between a 5.0 and an 8.2 on the Richter Scale. Orders of magnitude in difference. One gets your attention. The other seriously messes with your day.

In the meantime, well... all I can think is that any American who complained too much about this level of punishment has clearly not been around too many BDSM dungeons back in the US, where skin is broken frequently with various implements, including canes, sometimes leading to permanent scarring. Not that there's really much difference in terms of the level of pain for bad beatings that break skin and those that don't.

Reminds me of this story of someone I know with a single tail whip who accidentally hit a partner just right/wrong, right on top of a very sensitive piercing. Ow. And there are whole fields of BDSM play that deal with scarification, branding, cutting, needleplay, cellpopping, etc.

"The presence of caning as a punishment for many seemingly minor crimes. . . including robbery"

Being stalked and preyed upon by another human and forced to basically give them whatever they want, at threat of lethal violence? One of the leading causes of longterm psychological trauma / PTSD?

The thing is, if you look at Singapore's crime rates, it would be pretty easy to determine that something that they do does, indeed, discourage repeat criminal offenses. One of the things that caning does, as an institution, is that it allows for youth-related "gateway" criminality -- such as vandalism -- to be punished in a way that is both fear-inducing, humiliating, and that will leave a lasting impression on those so punished.

From "Sociology" by Shepard, "until the mid-1960s, social scientists generally rejected the idea that punishment deters crime. . . More recent research has led to a reevaluation . . . some research indicates that the threat of punishment does deter crime if potential lawbreakers know two things: they are likely to get caught and that the punishment will be severe."

It seems to me that Singapore does, in fact, use punishment to deter crime in an effective way.

The complaints we're seeing in the US about how inhumane deterrence is remind me of the complaints we see against the invasive nature of CCTV monitoring programs in the US, to the point that cities like S.F. have neutered, ineffectual programs, with millions paid for cameras that use low-quality images in areas without proper lighting, without prominent public notice of people being watched... in part because such cameras aren't even reviewed until after a serious crime has been reported... and of course, the information provided is oftentimes inadequate to provide identification and conviction!

They do everything wrong... and then groups like the ACLU -- which I do support 99 times out of 100 -- use those stats to discredit the practice in toto... and meanwhile, those places that do everything right see major, livesaving, community saving changes.

Are there potential negative issues with beating people? Yes. Are there potential negative issues with video surveillance? Yes. With increasing light levels? With hiring more police? With anything you do to discourage criminality? Yes, yes, yes.

However, the only thing worse than these negative issues are what happens to society -- and to law-abiding citizens -- when you don't.
posted by markkraft at 6:12 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


er... when you don't do anything. (End of sentence!)
posted by markkraft at 6:15 PM on June 26, 2010


Just to clarify, the guy is also going to jail for five months. This isn't an "either/or" thing, he's getting the cane AND jail.

Also, I'm kind of amazed by the people who seem to think this is just fantastic. I honestly have no idea why people freak out so much about graffiti. It would be a huge problem if there were so much of it that it couldn't be managed, but a moderate amount gives a place character. The tags are pretty standard (if huge), I think the only way you could say they were ugly is you hate all graffiti, which obviously some people do. But this visceral hatred is kind of bizarre. It just makes no sense whatsoever.

(Also, from what I read on other threads, people in Singapore agree with the punishment -- primarily because he's also being charged with breaking and entering, not just graffiti. But at least one person said that a lot of people there actually like the artwork itself)

Best laugh I've had all day. And I read the The-perfect-lives-of-catalog-people FPP just below this one.

Wtf?
posted by delmoi at 6:38 PM on June 26, 2010


In the meantime, well... all I can think is that any American who complained too much about this level of punishment has clearly not been around too many BDSM dungeons back in the US, where skin is broken frequently with various implements, including canes, sometimes leading to permanent scarring. Not that there's really much difference in terms of the level of pain for bad beatings that break skin and those that don't.


Have you noticed how some people like to climb mountains or run marathons, and yet, I bet that if you were forced to clime a mountain or run a marathon at gunpoint it would be pretty terrifying and painful. Funny how that works! BSDM people use safewords and can stop anytime they choose. There's a huge difference psychologically.
As someone who routinely doesn't commit the offenses they penalize people monetarily for in Singapore, much less does anything so stupid as to justify actual caning, it's hard for me to have much sympathy for people determined to screw around and do illegal stuff over in someone else's country.

And yeah, I don't spend a lot of time around BSDM dungeons. Since I don't, I guess I shouldn't feel any "sympathy" for people into that lifestyle who might get executed in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, right? Their country their rules, right? Are you a homosexual? If not I assume you don't have any sympathy for homosexuals who meet the same fate, right? After all, it doesn't apply to you, so no big deal? Plus their county, their rules. Of course, all the people who have no say in the way Singapore is run and actually have to live there, well, let's not worry about them. After all, they're not us so who cares? (Singapore is a 'democracy', but the ruling party controls the courts and sues anyone who talks crap about them, effectively making any kind of opposition politics impossible)

Frankly, people who have 'no sympathy' for other because they don't share whatever trait is causing the problem suck.
posted by delmoi at 6:46 PM on June 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


"It would be a huge problem if there were so much of it that it couldn't be managed"

I think we are well into the can't be managed range. EG: graffitti on rail cars approaches 100% of rolling stock; some of it is tagged within hours of coming out of the paint shop.
posted by Mitheral at 7:03 PM on June 26, 2010


The shark! You completely cleared it!

Yeah, yeah, think whatever you like. It doesn't change the fact that a guy whose artwork is IMHO worth more than every graffiti vandal on earth combined, had his life destroyed due to getting pushed through a graffiti vandalized window. And don't start with the objections that the windows weren't up to code, or some other lame rationalization that it wasn't the vandal's fault. These were very thick, full height plate glass windows, the graffiti vandals tried to outdo each other, cutting deeper and deeper cuts into the glass so their tags were on top of everyone else's and more visible. I will reiterate: if there had been no graffiti etched into the glass, he would not have gone through the window, he would have bounced off. Nobody realized the scribing was a problem, sure it was ugly but if we had the slightest idea that it could break, we would have called the landlord to get it replaced.

I'll give you another story from almost exactly the same time.

Ever heard of Chaka? His tags were all over LA in the 1980s. They said he was the most prolific tagger ever, you couldn't miss his tags, huge ones, even on freeway signs suspended high above the road. They say he did hundreds of thousands of dollars of property damage. So the LAPD was determined to catch him. And they did.
So of course, he became a cause celebre for the pro-graffiti idiots. Oh if only he could go straight and use his "talents" for good instead of evil. So they collected enough money for a lawyer, and made a deal. They raised enough money for a scholarship to a Otis/Parsons art school, if he would stay out of trouble, possess only artists materials suitable for art school (no graffiti tools) and he would do community service cleaning up his tags (which could be several lifetimes worth of cleaning, he could only do but a token cleanup) he could complete probation in 4 years and have his record expunged.
So he agreed to the terms in court. And on the way out of the courtroom, he scribed his tag on the doors of the courtroom elevator with a diamond tip glass cutter. A deputy saw the tag within minutes, and he didn't even get out of the courthouse before he was arrested for probation violation, and he was thrown back into jail, no art school scholarship, no expungement of his record, instead, a felony conviction with hard time. He couldn't even resist the urge to tag despite everything he had been offered. He destroyed his own life instead.

There are similar stories all across the country. For example, in 2006, Borf in DC got sentenced to months in prison for similarly profuse tagging. Same deal, offered an art school scholarship and probation in exchange for no tagging and community service. Got caught tagging again. Did his jail term.

So do you start to get it now? Graffiti even destroys the lives of the people who do it. They would rather go to jail for felony vandalism, than stop it for a free ride to art school. These people are not artists, they are vandals, they live to destroy.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:06 PM on June 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I honestly have no idea why people freak out so much about graffiti. It would be a huge problem if there were so much of it that it couldn't be managed, but a moderate amount gives a place character."

Because it's illegal, it damages and destroys property, it promotes crime, and it's a gateway crime?!

I used to manage a record store in an inner-city neighborhood. Our profits per year -- which were hard to make, frankly -- were only about $40,000 a year after rent, salaries, and everything else.

We spent about $8000 a year -- a fifth of our profits -- on dealing with vandalism. Why? Because, when we and our fellow businesses didn't, we found that it increased all sorts of other negative things, such as drug dealling, criminality, break-ins, etc. all throughout our neighborhood. We'd get brand new $600 panes of glass, only to have them etched into and tagged repeatedly within just a few days. There were many a times when we caught shoplifters... and ironically enough, more often than not, they were also carrying sharpies, glass etchers, spraypaint, etc.

The fact is, most kids graffiti because it's illegal and because they can get away with it... this in an environment like where there are already public art / graffiti projects that practically anyone can contribute to. A lot of these kids are societal basket cases growing up undereducated and with institutional neglect in dysfunctional home environments. They like to f*ck with sh*t, because they want to feel empowered, and that is the easiest way to do so, even if it's asking for negative attention. A lot of them dislike police, businesses, and the system that, more often than not, have sent their friends and/or relatives to prison. And so, they follow in their footsteps, from vandalism and petty crimes, into gangs, assaults, robbery, carjacking, etc.

You seem to labor under this delusional idea that there are no victims to graffiti, but at the same time, you ignore the basic premise to crime prevention I mentioned previously...
"The threat of punishment does deter crime if potential lawbreakers know two things: they are likely to get caught and that the punishment will be severe."

What illegal graffiti does, basically, is put a big "You can get away with crime here!" sign on an entire neighborhood, even if you don't personally interpret it as such. This hurts businesses. It damages property. Scares away customers. It helps get people living in those neighborhoods robbed or raped or killed.

And as someone who has lived in some pretty dangerous neighborhoods in the past, and who has seen people who have been stabbed, and who has had to walk around the body of someone shot in the middle of the sidewalk while minding his own goddamn business, well... let's just say I don't care much for inviting *ANY* crime into my neighborhood, even if you happen to think that's a cool thing.
posted by markkraft at 7:15 PM on June 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


"BSDM people use safewords and can stop anytime they choose. There's a huge difference psychologically. "

Thank (insert deity) that the victims of that repeat sexual offender who got caned were able to use their safewords, then, to stop the scene when they were being sexually harassed.

Oh, hey, wait...

You tell me... why should just the innocent be the ones traumatized? Why shouldn't the convicted criminals know that "they are likely to get caught and that the punishment will be severe", if that is what the evidence says will deter repeat offenses?!

Incarceration is inherently inhumane. More so than being caned, even. Criminality should have punishments... the surer, the better. And this, in aggregate, is a good, just, fair thing compared to the alternative.
posted by markkraft at 7:27 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


"And yeah, I don't spend a lot of time around BSDM dungeons. Since I don't, I guess I shouldn't feel any "sympathy" for people into that lifestyle who might get executed in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, right? "

Um... we were discussing caning in Singapore, right? With examples cited that range from a few strokes for graffiti, to a metric buttload for sexual harassment?

...and now we're talking about people who are executed in Iran for being gay?!

Oh, please. Wny not Pol Pot? Wouldn't it be more on topic? Besides, I hear he hated taggers.
posted by markkraft at 7:36 PM on June 26, 2010


Unfortunately, his hard drive and prints were gone.

Did the graffiti people steal them
posted by Greg Nog at 8:11 PM on June 26, 2010


*clambers back onto high horsey* "I thought I was out... but they pulled me back in."

And this, in aggregate, is a good, just, fair thing compared to the alternative.

I would completely agree with you - if the judicial system was a perfect thing, meting out perfect justice only to those who deserve it.

What happens when the judicial system is open to manipulation by people with the right connections? Then you've got punishments being meted out to people who don't deserve it while those who do deserve it get away completely scot-free. Or the judicial system could simply be wrong. We're living in the 21st century but the investigators in any case are still mere humans - they'll get things wrong, charging the wrong people while missing the actual perps.

Logically, if you were correct about severe punishments being justified in the name of crime prevention, then the only course would be to execute everyone found guilty of a crime. That way, you'd remove all chances of rehabilitation and would greatly deter anyone from following suit. But we don't! And one of the many reasons why we don't is that people get things wrong sometimes, and we can't (or shouldn't) chance the taking of a life. (I oppose capital punishment too, but hey I'm Singaporean and we hang people here at the drop of a hat.)

Then there's the human rights argument - when you deny anyone his basic human rights, regardless of what you did, where do you stop?

However, the only thing worse than these negative issues are what happens to society -- and to law-abiding citizens -- when you don't.

What if the laws of a society are wrong or evil or just misguided? I like your point, and I wish it were true, but we don't live in a perfect society, and being a law-abiding citizen isn't a good thing under certain circumstances.

I leave you with a poem, with apologies to Martin Niemoller.

-----

In Singapore they first came for the stubborn drunk drivers,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a stubborn drunk driver.

Then they came for the prostitutes,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a prostitute.

Then they came for the extortionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade extortionist.

Then they came for the vandals,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a vandal.

Then they came for the fireworks salesman,
and I didn't speak up because I was a firework salesman.

Then they came for the visa overstayers,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a visa overstayer.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

*All these offenses are punishable by caning in Singapore. Yes, including the sale and transport of fireworks.
posted by WalterMitty at 8:18 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bah my editing skills suck. Trade extortionist?
posted by WalterMitty at 8:25 PM on June 26, 2010


More details on Chaka, the tagger mentioned by charlie don't surf. He spent a considerable amount of the last seventeen years either in jail, on probation, or doing community service, including over a year of time on top of his graffiti convictions for shoplifting.

Now in his mid '30s, he finally got his first public art showing, but he's basically thrown away his youth, his talent... and presumably hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, both to address his graffiti and to deal with him in the legal and criminal system.

This article from '94 goes into Chaka's uncontrolled behavior, and also documents that the tagging community was also involved with gang violence, etc.

"These days I carry a knife sometimes . . You have to carry something -- a shank, a gun, a bat. There's more and more fights with other crews and sometimes with street gangs that aren't into tagging. Mostly I just try to use my fists. Some of my buddies have been cut. But our crew hasn't had a shooting, not yet." 'That's Sort of the Thrill

Why continue to tag if tagging has become violent, with crews now carrying names like Chosen for Krime and Shoot to Kill?

"Well, . . . that's part of the thrill, too. I mean, like you tag this wall with spray real fast -- sizzzzt! sizzzzt! -- and nobody catches you, and then another crew sees what you've done and tries to tag over you and you have to go after them. Hey, like I say, it's a rush."

Meanwhile, back in '94, city and county governments in the Los Angeles area, along with homeowners, businesses and neighborhood associations, spent an estimated $50 million a year to clean up graffiti. That's more than a tenth of Los Angeles' current city deficit for the entire year... adjusted for inflation, it's more than enough to cover the cost of all the work furloughs for all city workers for the next fiscal budget, who are being forced to take nearly a month of forced time off.
posted by markkraft at 8:32 PM on June 26, 2010


Yeah, yeah, think whatever you like. It doesn't change the fact that a guy whose artwork is IMHO worth more than every graffiti vandal on earth combined
Bansky is a graffiti vandal, therefore the value of his work cannot eclipse that of every graffiti vandal on earth, Q.E.D.

You are a confused person.
Because it's illegal, it damages and destroys property, it promotes crime, and it's a gateway crime?!
Gateway crime. LOL. Since every Crackhead once chewed gum, we should definitely ban gum. Hey, and Signapore totally did that.
Thank (insert deity) that the victims of that repeat sexual offender who got caned were able to use their safewords, then, to stop the scene when they were being sexually harassed.
Which has nothing to do with graffiti, obviously. Your so overflowing with hilarious rage that you're not even bothering to keep track of the thread.
Incarceration is inherently inhumane. More so than being caned, even. Criminality should have punishments... the surer, the better. And this, in aggregate, is a good, just, fair thing compared to the alternative.
And again, this guy is being both caned and imprisoned. I'm not sure why that's so hard for people to understand. He's getting five months in prison.
So do you start to get it now? Graffiti even destroys the lives of the people who do it. They would rather go to jail for felony vandalism, than stop it for a free ride to art school. These people are not artists, they are vandals, they live to destroy. -- charlie don't surf
So what? These people were obviously compulsives, like kleptomaniacs. The graffiti itself didn't destroy their lives, the fact that they were imprisoned did. They should have been given psychiatric assistance. The fact that the courts want to treat everything as if was a rational choice rather then a compulsion that needs treatment is what 'destroyed' these particular people.

These two taggers in Singapore only did two tags in that entire country.
posted by delmoi at 9:23 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bansky is a graffiti vandal, therefore...

Ah, sorry you were talking about someone else. Someone upthread mentioned banksy saying his work was different then these guys. Never mind.
posted by delmoi at 9:28 PM on June 26, 2010


Oh, I missed this:

Did the graffiti people steal them (my client's disk, prints, and car).

Well, the graffiti was done by school kids waiting at the bus stop. And the stuff was stolen by school kids waiting at the bus stop. I don't know if they are the same kids who vandalized the windows, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were.

Now after markkraft brought up more details about Chaka (and his repugnant "art" exhibit) I figured I should describe what happened at the BACK of the shop where I worked. Every day, the back wall of our shop would get spray painted. Sometimes tags, sometimes huge murals. We had a big bucket of "Chapparal Brown" paint, the City of LA gave it out free so people could cover graffiti, and gradually large parts of the city became that ugly shade of brown.

Well anyway, I used to spend a few minutes with a paint roller, every time I went out on a smoke break in the alley, or was headed out to lunch, and found new vandalism. Oh I just loved covering up that visual pollution, we liked a nice, clean look, inside and outside our studios.

Now it was quite common that I'd go out for a break and I'd find high school kids actually painting on the wall. And I wouldn't say a word, I'd just get the bucket of paint and start rolling right over it, right in front of them. I figured I'd get a lot of threats, but instead, I got a lot of bluster and bullshit. These kids would claim I was suppressing their right of free speech. I told them that this is private property and free speech doesn't apply, unless it's MY free speech, and I want to express that with my blank wall. Then they'd object that they were artists, and I was spoiling their artwork. Now that was my cue, my favorite gambit.

I told them that I was an artist, and just being able to paint doesn't make you an artist. What makes you an artist is that your work connects with other artists. So I challenged them, I said that if you can name one artist and describe how it connects with your "artwork," I would not just leave your graffiti alone, I'd protect it from other vandals. But the deal was, they would have to cite a non-graffiti artist, I couldn't tell if you they just making it up (although I might have given an exception to Basquiat). Week after week, I must have done this with maybe 20 or 30 kids, and not one single kid could name a single artist.. until one day, a kid mentioned Leonardo. I suspect he had heard my gambit from other taggers, and had prepared this answer. So I asked him how his work was inspired by Leonardo, and I was so stunned that he actually got this far, I was prepared to be liberal in what I'd accept. But the kid got a scrunched up look on his face, then turned around and stomped off without saying a word. And I painted Chapparal Brown right over his big mural. Eventually the vandals got tired of seeing their work covered before the paint was even dry, and they mostly gave up tagging our wall.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:33 PM on June 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


"What happens when the judicial system is open to manipulation by people with the right connections? Then you've got punishments being meted out to people who don't deserve it while those who do deserve it get away completely scot-free."

So, you're saying basically that because wealthy people can afford the kind of legal representation that we wish most of us had, society wouldn't be better off, in aggregate, as I said, if criminality didn't have "punishments... the surer, the better"?

A mostly just criminal system is worse than none at all, with criminals free to commit crimes without fear of imprisonment? Do you feel the same about healthcare, I wonder? Would we all be better off without immunizations? Should we start by burning down the hospitals, the local clinics, or the small medical offices?

And also
"Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

*All these offenses are punishable by caning in Singapore."


I didn't know you being yourself was an offense punishable by caning. I do, btw, have an American friend who lived and worked in Singapore for years. Believe it or not, he never got caned. He did, however, have to leave the country as per the terms of his visa, so that he could officially reapply. The reason they have this requirement, apparently, is because a fair amount of drug smuggling and organized crime was found to be linked to people coming in illegally.

Also, I believe you'll also find that for most every crime you mentioned, caning is not a mandatory sentence. It certainly isn't for overstaying your visa.

In fact, it isn't a mandatory part of sentencing for all sorts of very serious crimes, such as:
Piracy
Homicide
Attempted murder
Assault or criminal force while attempting to commit theft
Kidnapping -- even if the intent is slavery or murder
Rape
Attempt to cause an explosion with the intent to endanger life or property
Third or subsequent offenses of drunken or reckless driving

So, really, the idea you have of "caning overstretch" in Singapore seems kind of... well... unsupported?!

Is the problem just that you fundamentally do not believe crime should be punished, or that you don't believe the evidence that Singapore's legal system, by and large, works better than in the US, with a lower rate of repeat offences than in the US?

For exampe:
"The total number of people arrested on charges of possession, use, or trafficking in drugs (in Singapore) has been dropping since 1994. In 1998, the trend continued, as the number of arrests dropped 19 percent. Of those arrested, the number of first time offenders rose, but the number of repeat offenders fell.

Apart from the "zero tolerance" policy for trafficking, Singapore uses a combination of punishment and rehabilitation against first time offenders. Many first time offenders are given rehabilitation instead of jail time. The prosecution rate has remained steady at one-third of those arrested over the past two years. . . Halfway houses and job placement programs exist to help addicts successfully readjust to society. At the same time, the GOS has toughened anti-recidivist laws. Three-time offenders now face mandatory longer sentences and caning."


Compare that to the US, where far more than 1/3rd of those arrested are convicted, and where more first-time drug offenders are imprisoned than in Singapore, only to go on to commit more crimes... oftentimes with victims other than themselves. By all appearances, the Singaporeans make it quite easy to avoid a conviction, presumably by, in many cases, entering treatment instead.

In what sense is this tough system not more just and successful, on the whole, than in the US? Do you have any reason to suspect that other applications of Singapore's laws, especially those involving caning, aren't equally nuanced and effective?

Please, take a bit to rethink your argument's basic premises and get back to me, 'k?!
posted by markkraft at 9:39 PM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Someone upthread mentioned banksy saying his work was different then these guys.

Oh, apropos of my previous post: I would just love to paint out a Banksy stencil. Especially one that's really famous. And I would tag it with my own tag, I would tag it "Bankrupsy," in small, aesthetically pleasing lettering, about 1/2 inch high, at ground level. I thought I might consider this my own artwork, in the tradition of Rauschenberg's "Erased deKooning" but that would be an insult to deKooning.

The most hilarious thing I ever heard about graffiti was a story about how people in NYC were all upset because someone was vandalizing graffiti murals by splashing paint on them. They call him "The Splasher." He's destroyed more than one banksy. I love him.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:44 PM on June 26, 2010


Markkraft, you haven't addressed my point about when a legal system is unjust or has unjust laws. The legal system here is occasionally used to suppress dissent. Caning is one of the punishments available to deal with illegal assembly, a charge that's been regularly used both for gang fights and opposition party publicity events. Good? Bad? You tell me.
posted by WalterMitty at 10:17 PM on June 26, 2010


Stop putting words in my mouth. I've never said that it's better to have no justice system. That sort of rhetorical sleight-of-hand should be beneath you.

Let's make this clear: I'm generally happy with the judiciary here. I'm not happy with the backwardness of our thinking re punishment, nor with the political climate (but that's a discussion for some other time).

My point is this: in a world where no justice system is perfect, the most severe punishments should be reserved only for cases where there is no doubt. Caning as practiced in here is indisputably a very severe punishment. Is it a punishment that should be used today? What happened to enlightenment and being civilized?

Singapore caned, I think, 6000 convicts in 2008. That's not a small number. It's a big number. A Biiiiiig number. Were they ALL indisputably guilty?

Anyway. I'm Singaporean - not a legal expert, but I've lived here all my life. The judiciary is generally competent, but I'm amused that you have such faith in our legal system. Caning and death penalties aside, our libel laws are far too often used as a sledgehammer to beat dissent into a pavement smear. Just because the system in Singapore works better than the broken US one doesn't make it a great one - the bar the US system sets isn't terribly high.

Gateway crime. LOL. Since every Crackhead once chewed gum, we should definitely ban gum. Hey, and Signapore totally did that.


Ugh, gum. It's fine initially, but after a while it's just a wad of rubbery goo - gross. Oh, and gum was banned here because idiots kept smearing them on train doors, causing them to malfunction and leading to lots of people being late for whatever they would actually have been punctual for if not for idiots smearing gum everywhere.

It's kind of ugly too - one of the things I noticed in other major metropolitan areas is the little black gum stains peppering the pavements. It's frankly quite ugly. And people putting gum in hard-to-see areas for the unsuspecting to stick their fingers into? That gum is (generally) banned here is a good thing.
posted by WalterMitty at 10:52 PM on June 26, 2010


Well, the graffiti was done by school kids waiting at the bus stop. And the stuff was stolen by school kids waiting at the bus stop. I don't know if they are the same kids who vandalized the windows, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were.

Case closed. I'm only surprised you didn't go out there and shoot a bunch of those hooligans.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:34 AM on June 27, 2010


Why, Kirth, my dear fellow! Surely it must have escaped your notice that the context of this discussion is judicial punishment of adults for crimes. So, you see, your allusion to the spanking of children in schools is, well, tangential at best. I ascribe this to a lapse in attention on your part because, well, I'm sure that misusing MetaFilter by attempting to derail a discussion and redirect it to a topic that we all know MetaFilter does not handle well must be the farthest thing from your mind. Please forgive me for alerting you to the fact that other less charitable souls might be inclined to misinterpret your intent.

Sir, it seems to have fallen to me to bear the sad news that your mind-reading skills are insufficient to the tasks of both discerning my intent and divining the reactions of other persons on this forum. Since the only person who has had anything to say about my comment is yourself, I suggest that perhaps the result of that divination is what the psychologists label "projection."

In the future, please maintain the style of discourse used in your original comment, with the obscenities and the name-calling, so that those who see it before it is deleted can most acurately judge the worth of your opinions.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:38 AM on June 27, 2010


Anyone who thinks that BDSM canings are in any way relevant to judicial canings - can I assume you'd be behind a judge sentencing someone to rape for graffiti? After all, people have sex consensually, right, so it can't be that bad?

(Anyone who brings up prison rape as a counter-argument: prison rape is a crime. The fact that it's tolerated, never mind laughed at, is a grotesque violation of human rights. Just like judicial caning. The fact that something bad happens does not mean it's okay for something else bad to be done. We do not live in a just world here.)
posted by Kit W at 9:08 AM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Markkraft, you haven't addressed my point about when a legal system is unjust or has unjust laws. The legal system here is occasionally used to suppress dissent. Caning is one of the punishments available to deal with illegal assembly, a charge that's been regularly used both for gang fights and opposition party publicity events. Good? Bad? You tell me."

Let's admit it... one of the huge problems with Singapore is that anytime someone starts to form a credible opposition party to the ruling party, the law is used against them in about a hundred different ways. The party is outlawed, its leaders tried for supposed crimes, etc.

That is very bad, of course. That said, caning is not the cause of this, nor is it the problem. It's not even a particularly major offender in that regard.

As you cited, the worst example of caning being used in this regard is the possibility of using caning to punish illegal assembly. This, of course, does not happen often at all... but arguably, it doesn't have to either. The fear of it is meaningful in itself.

From my perspective, though, the issue isn't whether people are punished with caning, or a guillotine, or bullets from a gun. The issue is whether doing any of the above deters serious crime / repeat offenses. And the evidence suggests that yes, it does.

What it ultimately comes down to is that the current party that dominates Singapore will have to be brought down to earth... either by the country's judiciary, or by its people. This very well will result in people getting hurt, but that is the price of getting rid of a dictatorship... even if it happens to be a relatively benevolent one.

"Ugh, gum. It's fine initially, but after a while it's just a wad of rubbery goo - gross. Oh, and gum was banned here because idiots kept smearing them on train doors, causing them to malfunction. . . That gum is (generally) banned here is a good thing."

I chew gum all the time, though I always make a point of putting it in its wrapper after I am done and throwing it away. I, like many Americans, see less justification for criminalizing chewing gum than there would be for using caning. But the point is, if I went to Singapore, I could most certainly do without my gum while there. Why? Because it's your law, and is, by and large, the way you and your fellow Singaporeans want it.

If Singaporeans really didn't want caning for illegal assemblies -- or their defacto one-party government anymore -- they would find a way to protest against it and get rid of it, would they not?!
posted by markkraft at 10:09 AM on June 27, 2010


"prison rape is a crime. The fact that it's tolerated, never mind laughed at, is a grotesque violation of human rights. Just like judicial caning."

Do you really believe that judicial caning -- a non-lethal, medically monitored punishment which, when properly and sparingly used seems to deter crime -- is just like prison rape?

You already said that there was a clear difference... one was illegal and criminal, and one was not.

So, your argument seems entirely based on one question. Is caning a "grotesque violation of human rights"?

Well, not according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.... which excludes "pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions". This covers a wide variety of physical punishments, all the way up to death. (What *would* make caning a human rights violation is if it were used as a form of torture... which is not the case. I will also overlook the fact that Singapore does, unfortunately, have political prisoners, which *IS* a violation of the aforementioned declaration.)

Again, though, if what works to deter crime is to have severe consequences with a high chance of getting caught, caning is certainly one part of that equation... and statistics seem to indicate that it works.

Does it work because it's a serious punishment that is, in its own way, similar in general outcome to some of the crimes it punishes? I would argue yes. It's effective, in part, because it deters almost to the point of traumatizing its recipient. It's a non-consensual form of suffering that can't be avoided... similar in physical impact to some of the crimes it punishes.

The message being: if you cause pain for others, you will reliably get it back in return.

And the evidence suggests that message means something and can deter crime... but only if properly implemented, and if potential criminals reasonably expect they might be caught. Given that it does deter repeat offenses, I can't see how a usually not-so-severe caning is a worse, more inhumane thing than the crimes on innocent people that it deters.
posted by markkraft at 10:45 AM on June 27, 2010


I'm still kind of caught up by what appears to be a broad consensus that stuff like this does not happen in the United States, even though it does. I realize this thread is getting old now, but the cognitive dissonance going on is fascinating. Why does the unofficial nature of corporal punishment make the reality of the punishment somehow better? If one of you guys went to talk to a person who had suffered a heart attack because of an unjust Tazing, would you say to them "don't worry, we live in a democratic and humane society where we refuse to admit that stuff like this happens?" Is that supposed to make people feel better?
posted by shii at 11:03 AM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you really believe that judicial caning -- a non-lethal, medically monitored punishment which, when properly and sparingly used seems to deter crime -- is just like prison rape?

No, I don't. I think it's different, except insofar as both of them are cruel and should be the kind of things that the law prevents. Which is the relevant issue.

I brought the subject up because some people seemed to feel that the fact that some people get raped in prison proved it was okay to use physical trauma as punishment, and because people were bringing in BDSM, which is a sexual issue. Personally I don't think prison rape is in any way relevant to judicial caning; I was trying to dismiss that relevance.

However, the fact that it's 'non-lethal' and 'medically monitored' seems to prove in your mind that it's not cruel, inhuman or degrading. Because what? Something has to kill you to be cruel? People don't die of prison rape either, on the whole. People don't generally die of torture, but it's still torture; non-lethal, deliberately inflicted pain is kind of what torture is designed to be. Being medically monitored proves it's okay? Doctors aren't angels whose presence automatically sanctifies a procedure. They're human beings, and human beings can participate in a corrupt system.

I clicked your link to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here's how they define torture:

"any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as ... punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed ... when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiesance of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity".

How you can conclude from that that the Declaration doesn't consider caning to be torture bewilders me. The clause you quote is poorly worded and hotly disputed; the primary definition is clear. Deliberately inflicting severe physical pain on someone for a punitive purpose is torture. I can't believe any human being with any claims to reason or decency could argue otherwise.


I can't see how a usually not-so-severe caning is a worse, more inhumane thing than the crimes on innocent people that it deters.


Because painting some pictures on the side of a train totally causes as much pain as having your ass and thighs torn up with a blunt instrument. What kind of a fantasy are you living in?
posted by Kit W at 12:20 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Again, though, if what works to deter crime is to have severe consequences with a high chance of getting caught, caning is certainly one part of that equation... and statistics seem to indicate that it works.

The source you quote to support this idea, earlier, actually proves nothing of the sort. It very cautiously concludes that the "evidence is inconclusive" - this is clearly an ongoing debate and I would be wary about taking too seriously the opinion of an entry level textbook that hedges its bets by saying only that "some research indicates" the point that you are making.

Even if this were true, the deliberate torture of another human being is still wrong.

If I threatened to torture to death over a period of weeks anyone who robbed my house, that might have a deterrant effect. Let us say that it did.

If I then actually did vent my sadism on some unusually unwise robber in this way, the courts would rightly judge my behaviour as psychopathic and a threat to decent society. This is because some actions are not a reasonable or proportional response - they are cruel and unusual.

Whether something is legal is really not the point. Trial by ordeal used to be legal. Slave holding used to be legal. Whether or not something is legal, morally speaking, does not matter. Sometimes the law is wrong.
posted by lucien_reeve at 12:39 PM on June 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because it's your law, and is, by and large, the way you and your fellow Singaporeans want it.

Given that the Singaporean government tends to torture, imprison, and kill dissenters, I don't think that that's a supportable statement.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:48 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your Holiness, those two statements are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
posted by micketymoc at 5:09 PM on June 27, 2010


I just don't think that an environment in which dissent is ruthlessly suppressed is one in which accurate statements can be made vis a vis the citizens' opinion of said environment.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:45 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just one data point: I grew up a "Martial Law baby" in Ferdinand Marcos' Philippines, and I worked in Singapore between 2002-2004.

The Philippines' legal system in the 70s was probably worse than SG's is now, but even then there was this undercurrent of dissent that was clearly visible even to ordinary Filipinos. There was an active "mosquito press" that made sure dissent lived on even in the least favorable circumstances of Martial Law-era Philippines. The situation was clearly not accepted by most citizens, even if dissatisfaction could not be safely expressed through normal channels.

What struck me about Singapore when I was living there, was that the citizens I met and worked with accepted the political status quo, and did not feel that it was repressive at all. I think at a grassroots level, the Singaporeans are satisfied with the fruits of the politically straitjacketed but economically progressive government they've had since the 60s. Dissent exists in SG, but it's far more an outlier than what I experienced growing up in the Philippines.

You might say the Singaporean government is repressive to dissidents, but I think most Singaporeans are happy with the status quo, because the flip side of the coin is cheap housing, reliable services, efficient transportation, visa-free international travel, relatively high salaries compared to the rest of the region, and political stability that can be easily contrasted with the situations in the Philippines and (until recently) Indonesia.
posted by micketymoc at 6:20 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit torn about this, unfortunately. While my opinion probably stands a whelk's chance in a supernova of being useful, I'm curious as to how I'm going to puzzle it out. So, I apologize up front for this particular bit of masturbatory rumination.

It's one thing to commit deliberate acts as a form of protest against draconian laws or punishments in one's own country. I'm American - civil disobedience is as necessary as apple pie here, and I'm expected to accept the consequences of my actions. I can fight against the imposition of those consequences, yes, but in the end I have to take responsibility for my actions. Cruel and unusual punishment is something against which one must take a stand here. Sometimes, you have to suffer through the punishment as part of the act of civil disobedience.

It's quite another to travel to another country with the premeditated intent of breaking that country's laws, knowing full well the consequences of such actions, and then attempt to appeal to the rest of the world instead of accepting the consequences of those actions. If the country has applied its laws upon that person as stated, without prejudice, then that person should understand that they're going to have to suffer through the punishment as part of their actions.

Personally, I detest graffiti. Not because it's "unsightly" or some such, but because the people who do so without permission just told someone else that they're going to have to pay to clean it up. It's as if someone decided to spray-paint my car or my house, and then had the gall to act surprised when I became pissed off about it. The self-entitlement of graffiti artists who perform such acts without permission is appalling to me. (The "without permission" bit is important - if it's a public or private surface, and the folks responsible for that surface give permission, then by all means, graffiti artists, create! There simply isn't enough art, even bad art, in the world.)

I also detest brutality - not corporal punishment, mind you, but the excessive application of it. Sometimes, doing time or charging money just isn't going to do the job. As much as I like to claim membership in an enlightened, forward-looking society, we're still human and, on occasion, an ass kicking is in order. Caning can be brutal, especially when performed with the explicit intent of causing lasting harm. Singapore uses corporal punishment as a deterrent in this situation, and it appears effective - I don't know if it qualifies as "brutality."

Given the scale of the offense - this wasn't some trivial tagging, but two foreigners who decided to cause thousands of dollars of damage despite being told it was illegal and knowing the consequences of their actions - he got off lightly according to their laws. Do I find the penalty offensive? Yes. Do I find their actions offensive? Yes. Can I resolve this into a "black and white" issue? No, not from my standpoint, and that's, I guess, the source of my tearing.
posted by FormlessOne at 7:59 PM on June 27, 2010


Given that the Singaporean government tends to torture, imprison, and kill dissenters, I don't think that that's a supportable statement.

... Let's be fair. I think dissenters haven't been outright killed here. Yes, they've been driven into bankruptcy, Singapore very nearly got the record for the longest-serving political prisoner - for somewhere which prides itself on being the best in so many things, I'm surprised they didn't go for the record - and we have a small exile community who have been forced to leave the country more-or-less permanently for political reasons. But they haven't been killed.

I think micketymoc has a pretty accurate summary of the situation here. People grumble about things, sometimes, and there's a small, vocal group which agitates for reform, but most people are happy with the way things are. Ask the man on the street and he'll tend to say: "Well, things could be slightly different, but they could be much worse." Economically, Singapore is doing fine, and we have many neighbours who are, politically speaking, much worse off, e.g. Thailand, Myanmar, or the Philippines. Economic stability promotes political stability.

Political stability is also helped when the incumbent government uses every tool it has at its disposal (save outright killing) to ensure it stays in power. Pork-barrel politics, gerrymandering and censorship are just the tip of the iceberg.

I'm going to stop talking about politics in Singapore now, since it's at best tangential to the discussion here and I don't want to say anything I'll regret later.

We've been trained well.
posted by WalterMitty at 8:03 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damnit I can't stop. Rrr. That's twice I've said I'll stop blabbing about this and twice I've been drawn back.

Trial by ordeal used to be legal. Slave holding used to be legal. Whether or not something is legal, morally speaking, does not matter. Sometimes the law is wrong.

This. Caning belongs in the past. Just because the definition in the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) says that

[Torture] does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

doesn't give a state moral leeway to inflict any and all kinds of suffering on convicts in the name of punishment. Cutting hands off robbers is one kind of punishment that UNCAT would not condone. Whipping/ caning is another. Being pedantic about the precise wording of UNCAT ignores the spirit that UNCAT was made in.
posted by WalterMitty at 10:45 PM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why is there this assumption that the use of judicial torture is what creates a low crime rate or stable economy in Singapore? Crime rates and economies are affected by a multitude of factors, and even professional sociologists and economists find it difficult to say exactly how cause and effect interact. Anyone who wants to claim that caning creates stability needs some massive evidence to back it up. Absent massive evidence it sounds like magical thinking to me: 'If we just punish the bad guys and make everybody scared, everything will be okay...'

And on the subject of the fact that the artist knew he was breaking the law - so what? Judicial caning shouldn't happen to anyone no matter what they did or who they are. We regulate punishments based on whether we want to be a brutal or a humane society, not based on whether we like the people they're done to.
posted by Kit W at 2:26 AM on June 28, 2010


Kit, nobody here is claiming that Singapore's economy and stability is underpinned by "judicial torture". I for one have simply pointed out that the Singaporeans I've encountered are satisfied with the status quo (which includes restricted free speech and free assembly rights, among other things), because the government has delivered a better standard of living to its citizens.

I'll be the first to admit that determining cause and effect isn't an exact science where governance is concerned, but speaking as a Filipino whose government grants me far more rights on paper than Singaporeans get from theirs, I find it exceedingly interesting that Singapore's social contract seems to have delivered far more in terms of concrete gains for its citizens, restricted rights and "judicial torture" (among other things) considered.
posted by micketymoc at 4:24 AM on June 28, 2010


nobody here is claiming that Singapore's economy and stability is underpinned by "judicial torture"

You've read MarkKraft's comments, right? For instance:

It seems to me that Singapore does, in fact, use punishment to deter crime in an effective way.


As to economic stability - well, you calling it 'interesting' does imply you think the two may be linked.
posted by Kit W at 5:00 AM on June 28, 2010


I find the entire social contract between SG and its citizens interesting, which should by no means be misconstrued as support for caning or restriction of civil rights. Other parts of their social contract I find personally interesting involve their policies on language, religion, media freedom, and immigration, none of which have anything to do with getting whacked on the ass.
posted by micketymoc at 6:10 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find the entire social contract between SG and its citizens interesting, which should by no means be misconstrued as support for caning or restriction of civil rights.

Then I don't think we're in disagreement.
posted by Kit W at 6:37 AM on June 28, 2010


media freedom

Media freedom? What media freedom?

immigration... which [has nothing] to do with getting whacked on the ass

Actually, it does - a foreigner who overstays his visa by more than 90 days may be caned for it.
posted by WalterMitty at 12:22 PM on June 28, 2010


An interesting article on whether the death penalty deters crime:

Deterrence. Does the death penalty deter? It is hard to prove one way or the other because in most retentionist countries the number of people actually executed per year (as compared to those sentenced to death) is usually a very small proportion. It would, however, seem that in those countries (e.g. Singapore) which almost always carry out death sentences, there is generally far less serious crime. This tends to indicate that the death penalty is a deterrent, but only where execution is an absolute certainty.

Anti-death penalty campaigners always argue that death is not a deterrent and usually site studies based upon American states to prove their point. This is, in my view, flawed and probably chosen to be deliberately misleading.


This not only agrees with the findings suggested by sociological research -- that punishment deters if it is severe and hard to avoid -- it also ties in nicely with the reason why CCTV monitoring is sometimes extremely effective if properly implemented and yet its opponents are able to point to situations where it's not very effectively implemented, with only limited gains.
posted by markkraft at 12:41 PM on June 28, 2010


Media freedom? What media freedom?

Such as it is. Last I recall, the local news shows throughout the spectrum all had the same news, in quite the same order, presumably because they all received their orders from the same government office. I stand corrected on the immigration issue.
posted by micketymoc at 3:37 PM on June 28, 2010


Fair enough. The news outlets here can report anything they want as long as it passes muster by the censors; a former deputy prime minister is the chairman of the biggest newspaper company, Singapore Press Holdings, which tells you all you need to know about editorial independence.

I lived in the UK for a few years, and one of the few things I miss about it is the vibrant newspaper and media scene. The Singapore one is the tepid Bud Lite to their microbrewery marquee. I can barely stomach the thought of reading it. :(
posted by WalterMitty at 2:28 AM on June 29, 2010


MarkKraft: this thread is about judicial caning, not the death penalty. Dragging in a 'And we should execute people too!' assertion when it isn't relevant is just bloodthirsty.
posted by Kit W at 3:32 AM on June 29, 2010


There are other arguments against the death penalty aside from its questionable effect wrt deterrence, not least the cost when you get it wrong. No judicial system is perfect, and any life taken due to judicial error is one life too many. A counter-argument is that the deterrence caused by the presence of the death penalty *may* save lives, but to me that's one conjecture too many.
posted by WalterMitty at 8:32 AM on June 29, 2010


There's also the fact that the death penalty is murder to consider, but fuck, let's only consider the effect that it has on crime and not consider the effect it has on our selves.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:54 AM on June 29, 2010


"this thread is about judicial caning, not the death penalty"

From my perspective, the link I mentioned wasn't specifically about the death penalty, but rather, about whether severe punishments deter crime.

I linked to it because it indicated that Singapore's crime levels may be significantly lower, in part, because they catch a fair amount of criminals, and are not afraid of tough, mandatory punishments.

Saying "the death penalty is a deterrent, but only where execution is an absolute certainty" isn't much different than saying, as I previously mentioned, that "research indicates that the threat of punishment does deter crime if potential lawbreakers know two things: they are likely to get caught and that the punishment will be severe."

So basically, not only the base crime statistics, but also another source entirely, highlights the fact that Singapore's method of deterring crime seems to work.

The question, really, is to what extent state brutality, when applied legally and in a relatively fair manner, is justified. Jail time, in itself, is brutality. Unfortunately, all too often, it's ineffective brutality, in that it doesn't deter crime. To what extent does our willingness to try to make something inherently inhumane humane actually cause more pain and more suffering?
posted by markkraft at 2:56 AM on July 3, 2010


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