After the National Library Board (NLB) in Singapore pulled three Children’s books from their shelves, the Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim has come out to defend NLB’s decision.

In particular, one book, “And Tango Makes Three”, a book based on the true story of how two male penguins in a New York zoo raised a baby penguin has been the representative book on the controversy. Now, what is this book about? Here’s the synopsis from Wikipedia:

The book is based on the story of Roy and Silo, two male Chinstrap Penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo. Roy and Silo were observed performing behaviors typically seen in penguin couples, such as bowing to one another. Roy and Silo made a nest together, and seemed to be trying to hatch a rock that resembled an egg. When zookeepers realized that these two males had formed a couple, they gave them an egg to hatch. This egg was obtained from a male-female penguin couple, named Betty and Porkey, who had two eggs and could not care for both at once. Roy and Silo took turns sitting on the egg, and eventually it hatched. The female chick was named “Tango” by the zookeepers.

Minister Yaacob’s core point, according to Channel NewsAsia is that:

“the Government’s approach with regard to the National Library Board’s (NLB) decision to withdraw three books for not being “pro-family”. He said NLB’s decision was based on “community norms”.”

I can understand why certain material may be deemed offensive or imparting wrong values- after all, that’s the reason why most people would agree that we should not carry porn in the public libraries but the problem I have is when that is used as a cover for overreaction to everything.

Think about it- does a true story about two male penguins caring for a baby penguin have more to do with a) the scientific fact that some animals/species have natural tendencies to form homosexual partnerships that function as a family unit or b) that kids reading such a story will turn out homosexual?

The reason that NLB has faced much controversy over this is because of the pulling of these books basically send a message that: “We don’t care if there is any factual basis in these books. If we think your kids shouldn’t be reading them then we won’t have them around. Oh, and to show how wrong we think the message in these books are, we’re going to destroy the books rather than just take them off the shelves.”

Sorry NLB, the only message you are sending is:

1) You think your customers are immature idiots.

– To counter Minister Yaacob’s comments on how children may accidentally pick up the book and read it because some reading goes unsupervised, why not actually do an experiment to see what the probability of a child picking up the book is?

– Even in the Minister’s scenario of  a child reading the book unsupervised, what is the issue? Does it matter that a child knows of the existence of gay penguins successfully raising a baby penguin or that some families have same-sex parents? Or, to play devil’s advocate, does it just make a fundie religious parent’s job harder to explain why such a thing is “wrong”?

2) You believe that censorship and a heavy hand triumphs dialogue and reason

– The books were pulled after complaints from a “pro-family” group complained of the existence of the books. Rather than sound out what neutral parties had to say about those books, a review committee unilaterally decided that being “pro-family” was more important than having access to information. Last I checked, 20-something thousand people out of 4 million does not make a majority. I pay taxes too you know. Are you sure your review committee’s decisions reflect my views?

– Pulping the books hark back to an era of dictatorship where books are destroyed because knowledge among the masses is a dangerous thing. Which era comes to mind? Qin Shi Huang’s. And we all know how that turned out.


Lastly, the Minister may not have a choice since the damage had already been done when NLB decided to pull the books but I seriously wonder if he believes what he is saying about these books (promoting that “homosexuality is normal” message) not being “pro-family”.

Extra-marital affairs, divorces, single-family households, children born out of wedlock is surely more damaging to the Minister’s traditional notion of family than the LGBT community and yet I don’t see the Minister doing anything about those.

I really wanted to stay out of the whole “pro-family” vs LGBT thing because they have their own idiots and agendas (although it seems to me that the religious fundie quacks are more retarded- think Lawrence Khong) but now that it has involved the freedom of what someone can or cannot read, this has truly become insane.

PS: I still love the NLB- free books, wide selection, convenient. Just don’t touch my favourite business section now.