From ‘Beware of websites run by anonymous owners’, 20 July 2013, ST Forum
(Tan Ying San): SINGAPOREANS should be concerned about websites run by anonymous owners, as many of these sites serve to divide us (“TRS website popular but ranks low on credibility”; Thursday).
These sites may be run by foreigners and foreign agencies who wish to do us harm.
After all, there have been reports of foreign agencies setting up websites to promote certain causes and regularly editing entries in Wikipedia to favour certain viewpoints (“CIA, Vatican and Howard’s office ‘edited Wikipedia’”; Aug 29, 2007).
Many less-discerning Singaporeans believe whole articles on such websites simply because parts of them are true and the message resonates with them. They forget that the best liars do not lie completely. Many of these sites are not only anti-government but also anti-Singapore and highly defamatory. Singaporeans who write the occasional credible anti-government article may lend a certain credibility to such websites, and influence netizens into believing that the sites are reliable.
As an ‘anonymous’ blog owner, I do not profess to post the gospel truth, nor is it my intention to ‘do anyone harm’. I welcome flaming if a post deserves to be flamed, and as much as I accept that people will be offended no matter how hard I try not to start a turf war, it doesn’t mean that web ‘anonymity’ gives me the freedom to write whatever I please, as past records of nameless bloggers getting arrested for racism prove. It doesn’t matter if you put your entire CV on your website or blog under the moniker of a random street cat. It’s only a matter of time before you’re hunted down by the authorities. Anonymity is only as ‘protective’ as putting on a condom while performing cunnilingus on a sex worker.
The writer’s idea of anonymity is that of a bank robber wearing stockings over his head committing villainy. There are, however, those who choose to be anonymous like how a superhero adopts a secret identity, or like how a celebrity wizard-fantasy author ghost-writes as a crime novelist. While I’m not in the business of fighting injustice to describe this blog as the equivalent of a Batman mask and suit, let’s just say my preference for anonymity is like how a date first presents himself to contestants on a matchmaking TV show, with a question mark obscuring his face, hidden for no reason other than a vain attempt at exuding an air of mystery and intrigue (The REAL reason is I may put my job on the line if my employer thinks I’m a member of #FreeMyInternet) . Besides I’ve done this for so long, it just feels, well, WEIRD to expose myself now just because some people think having a face online gives you instant credibility and balls. Anyway, I beg to differ.
Opinions of anonymous bloggers have been harsh. In 2009, faceless critics have been compared to BACTERIA, while people like Alex Au, Choo Zheng Xi were deemed ‘brave’ enough to show their faces to the world. But to be fair, just because you’re a known, even celebrity, blogger doesn’t mean you don’t make irresponsible posts online like the rest of us spineless, faceless, no-good, hand-wringing, grumpy keyboard shadow warriors. Sometimes the most emotional, inflammatory things are said out of good intentions rather than mischief or spite, so the writer’s accusation that such sites are out to torment the innocent is bewildering. People have been driven to suicide because of Facebook cyberbullying, and the culprits are usually ANYTHING but anonymous. They could very well be your next door neighbour for God’s sake, not to mention ‘foreign agencies’.
Here are some examples of what bloggers (I include people who post notes on Facebook, because that’s just a lazy way of blogging) who display their names proudly have done to upset people. And not all of of them are ‘anti-government’ either. The ones who are ‘anti-Singapore’ make bomb threats, hack government websites, subscribe to the Taliban forum and are beyond the scope of this argument.
- Just recently, Ravi Philemon posted a note quoting a friend suggesting that 9 million N95 masks were stockpiled and reserved only ‘certain people’. This rankled director of MCI Peer M. Akbur, who called Ravi’s ‘seeking clarifications’ argument ‘astonishing’ and that he was insinuating that the Government only keeps the good stuff for the ‘privileged’ (Blogger’s explanations are astonishing, 20 July 2013, ST Forum). First off, the blogger was quoting someone else (A certain MP got into similar trouble with ‘quoting’ someone else, see below). Secondly, did anyone watch ‘Deep Impact’ where only SPECIAL people get to be saved from Armageddon? Are we so naive to think that if a comet comes hurtling towards us, the Government is NOT going to think of themselves and their families first?
- Alex Au of Yawning Bread has riled not just the government and the courts, but even got the Archbishop‘s frock in a twist.
- PAP supporter Xiaxue posted pics (with accompanying insults) of people who had flamed her online out of vengeance.
- MP Zainudin Nordin posted a quote ‘Gang rape is, after all, democracy in action’ on Facebook. Nobody found his explanations of the quote being ‘taken out of context’ ‘astonishing’.
- ‘Allison Goon’ posted on Facebook spreading panic about PRCs on a kidnapping spree. Not sure what became of this panic-button presser, but it were a ‘blogger’ instead of an ordinary citizen with a Facebook account, he/she may not only be shamed, maybe even charged for disseminating false information. Because that’s what bloggers do: They lie, they cheat your feelings and don’t have a life.
- New Nation editor Belmont Lay apologised to TNP for concluding that one of their published photos on ‘rogue cyclists’ was fake. Celebrity blogger and cycling enthusiast Mr Brown fell for their analysis too, with some unkind words for those involved in the shot.
Eh, sorry to MyPaper and New Paper for calling you scumbags for the not-photoshopped bicycle photo. I shall now give myself 20 lashes.
— Kinmun Lee (@mrbrown) May 10, 2013
And then, of course, there’s the state-endorsed monstrosity that is ‘citizen journalism’, where ANYBODY, anonymous or not, can post privacy-invading trivialities or elaborate hoaxes like the STOMP MRT train door incident, which itself is ‘highly defamatory’ to SMRT. Shouldn’t we be wary of such online paparazzi too? Maybe more so since they’re spreading dubious information on an SPH AND MDA-regulated platform.
Not all named bloggers are heroic voices of the masses, nor do all anonymous bloggers want to blow up MBS or post pictures of their genitals, and not all ‘netizens’ who run amok on the Internet are even necessarily ‘bloggers’ in the first place (Some do it through e-mail). Instead of prosecuting the purveyors of falsehoods, how about empowering the gullible for a change? Shouldn’t we equip the ‘less discerning’ public with skill sets that apply not just to lying bloggers, but misleading advertisements or email scams? If we want to call for a fair and objective online community, this persistent ‘blogger bias’ which conveniently ignores the other unpalatable aspects of netizen behaviour on email groups, forums, Facebook, Twitter and even the MSM must end.