SIA’s post following MH17 crash insensitive and classless

From ‘ SIA says sorry for insensitive post on MH17′, 19 July 2014, article in CNA

Singapore Airlines (SIA) on Saturday (July 19) apologised for its social media postings following the crash of Malaysia Airlines MH17. “We are aware that our Facebook and Twitter update on Friday morning may have come across as insensitive to some,” an SIA spokesperson said in reply to queries from Channel NewsAsia. The post was in response to requests from customers who had asked for information about the airline’s flight routes, the spokesperson said in a statement.

…Following the MH17 crash, SIA had posted on Facebook and Twitter a single-sentence message which said: “Customers may wish to note that Singapore Airlines flights are not using Ukraine airspace”. It posted another message an hour later, which said: “Our thoughts are with the passengers and crew of MH17 and their families.”

But the first post had attracted a storm of criticism from netizens by then, who called the post “inappropriate” and “opportunistic”.

Facebook user Michael Reit said in a post: “How about at least acknowledging the terrible event and sending condolences to those families and friends involved instead of this cold, classless update?” Another user, Su Sripathy SIA, wrote: “Your posting was just tacky….and inappropriate at a time like this.”

That’s the problem with the 140 word Twitter limit. If SIA had combined the condolences and reassurance in a single post, it wouldn’t have drawn such flak, though practically speaking the info on re-routing planes in flight, in my opinion, was more useful for the purpose of placating the loved ones of their airborne customers than expressing shock and sadness at the catastrophe. It was a close call for SIA still, with SQ351 just 25km away from the ill-fated MAS airline, and even if they wouldn’t post it, executives in the boardroom must have been thanking their lucky stars that it wasn’t their plane that was at the receiving end of a surface-to-air missile. SIA’s post was ‘cold’ and restrained because it HAD to be. They’re in the business of sending people to places, not wreaths and well-wishes.

Even if I had lost someone on that plane, I would understand the purpose of SIA’s announcement. What I would find ‘insensitive’ and upsetting would be news of people escaping the tragic flight by the skin of their teeth, like ‘Phew, thank God I wasn’t on that plane’, rubbing salt on my wound. Or jokes for that matter. Malaysia’s own Chef Wan posted a ‘distasteful’ joke about a missing door of MH370 he found in Perth. American comedian actor Jason Biggs asked if anyone wanted to buy his Malaysian Airlines frequent flyer miles after the MH17 disaster. Until today, most of us only knew him as the guy who stuck his dick in a pie. Notorious parody Twitter troll SMRT (Feedback) couldn’t resist either.

Then there’s ‘satirical cartoons’, like this from the London Times.

The downing of MH17 is also conspiracy theory fodder, with some reports suggesting that the CURE FOR AIDS could have been on that plane following the demise of 6 top AIDS researchers on their way to a major conference. TNP went for a ‘spooky coincidence’ angle, pointing to the number 7 as an ‘uncanny’ recurrence, ignoring the fact that there is no 7 in the number of people dead. Where’s the public outcry here? Excuse me while I check the winning 4D numbers for this week (7949, 19 July 14). Gasp!

Of course, those people slamming SIA for being ‘insensitive’ and ignoring anyone else joking or garnering attention at the expense of hundreds of deaths are themselves doing absolutely nothing for the bereaved other than fighting for sympathy online. They’re probably never going to take MAS for the rest of their lives, nor will they petition the international community to bring the killers to justice. In times like these, it’s probably better to leave the condemnation and justice-seeking to the governments, and engage in more important things like spending time with your loved ones instead of complaining to the press about SIA’s ‘inappropriate’ post.

 

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Man sacked for insulting PM Lee on Mother’s Day

From ‘Man fired after posting vulgar reply to PM’s Facebook post’, 15 May 2014, article by KC Vijayan, ST

A FACEBOOK user who posted vulgar abuse in response to Mother’s Day wishes by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been sacked from his job. Mr Ridhuan Abdullah, 30, had identified himself as a security officer at “Keith Morton” on the post, which triggered the move.

The security firm’s owner, Mr William Morton Jr, said yesterday that such conduct cannot be condoned, particularly from security officers who are expected to uphold basic standards of decorum.

“He clearly breached our company’s code of conduct and we cannot tolerate this,” he said.

Keith Morton Security, a private security firm that does mostly security work for private buildings, is based in Upper Changi Road and employs about 90 staff. Mr Ridhuan, who was last deployed at a condominium complex in the Holland Road area, was given his marching orders on Monday, the day after he wrote the post.

From the 'Fabrications About the PAP' FB

From the ‘Fabrications About the PAP’ FB

Everything is wrong with Ridhuan’s approach to social media. He has his FACE on his profile, actual name, place of work, location and uses the cliche ‘School of Life’ to imply that every living, breathing moment holds valuable lessons to be inspired from. And then he cusses at the Prime Minister. Welcome to the Principal’s Office of Life, you silly man.

You don’t have to insult the PM’s mother, or swear at any specific person to lose your job. Amy Cheong called Malay weddings cheap on Facebook and got sacked from NTUC. Anton Casey mocked the poor unwashed masses and got kicked out of CrossInvest Asia. So maybe it’s time this ex-security officer start looking for openings in Perth. Or just go for plastic surgery and start life anew without Facebook forever.

I doubt our PM will file charges for disrespectful behaviour, him being thick-skinned and flame-proof and all. Insulting a JUDGE on the other hand, may not just get you fired, but JAILED for contempt. Former Singaporean and now US citizen Gopalan Nair accused judge Belinda Ang in his blog of ‘prostituting herself’ to PM Lee and his father during court proceedings whereby they were testifying in a defamation suit against the SDP. He got slapped with a 3 month jail sentence. Leslie Chew, cartoonist, was charged with scandalising the judiciary after mocking the system in his comic strip Demon-cratic Singapore.  Both cases suggest that you can get away with dropping F-bombs on WORLD LEADERS, but not High Court judges. Or maybe not quite. DPM Teo Chee Hean once invited JC student Reuben Wang over for a chat after the latter blogged ‘Fuck you, sir’ in response to the Minister’s handling of questions at a seminar. The kid apologised overnight.

So this knee-jerk dismissal of Ridhuan may be a ‘missed opportunity’ for our PM to show some grace under fire, to invite Ridhuan over for some kueh lapis and tea, show him the YPAP recruitment video, and turn his angry soul into one with a passion for servant leadership. School of Life indeed.

 

 

 

DJ Chris Ho calling for ‘fckn’ Singaporeans to be killed

From ‘Radio DJ apologises for Facebook post’, 5 April 2014, article by Walter Sim, ST

A MEDIACORP Lush 99.5FM DJ apologised yesterday for a controversial Facebook post in which he called for Singaporeans to be killed. Mr Chris Ho commented on an army recruitment advertisement on the social media platform on Thursday.

The campaign, launched last December, bears the slogan: “How far would you go to protect our home?” The Singaporean wrote in response: “How far…? Let’s see… I’m with you foreigners! Kill the **** Singaporeans but not my friends, can?”

His comment caused fury among netizens and was reposted on citizen journalism portal Stomp. Contributor Tee Seng said: “What kind of joke is this? If he hates Singaporeans so much, why is he still here? I used to be a fan of his but he has gone too far.”

Mr Ho told The Straits Times yesterday he was surprised by the response. “It is such a far-fetched statement that I’m shocked that Singaporeans are taking it so seriously,” he said, adding that the “satirical” message was meant to mock the campaign slogan. “Hello, Singaporeans, you mean you need people to give you a wake-up call to defend the country?” he asked.

“Why should the question be put forth as such? Singaporeans who love the country would know what to do.” He said he wanted to allude to the rising levels of anti-foreigner sentiment here. The ex-Straits Times rock columnist added: “I think Singaporeans are looking for a new Anton Casey… I’m not advocating genocide.”

How far? Too far for some, apparently

How far? Gone too far for some, apparently

It took me a while to ‘get’ the humour behind Chris Ho’s jibe at the SAF ad, and thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks he’s ‘too cheem’ for me. It’s also hard to tell when he’s sarcastic or furious when he and New Nation bickered online over the post where the latter made fun of Chris ‘falling’ for a satire piece about ‘Man dying in a protest against foreigners‘ (which wasn’t even very funny to begin with). I don’t know what experts on wit think of either example of this ‘satire’, but in my book, satire should have universal appeal, is spontaneous, and actually funny to someone other than the creator. Or maybe it’s just me.

As for the ad, I don’t see anything wrong with asking someone ‘how far would you go’ to defend the nation, even if any response other than ‘I’ll fight to the death’ will be deemed unacceptable. It’s like asking ‘Will you die for Singapore?’, or ‘How much would you give to society?’, a pedantic rhetorical device to remind you of your duty, where an actual answer isn’t expected because we don’t want to hear the ugly truth.  But there’s a double meaning here too if you interpret ‘how far’ in terms of literal DISTANCE, which is more likely to be the case here, looking at the mountains in the background. It sounds sensible at first, referring to overseas stints from Brunei to Afghanistan to get you all geared up for military operations, but if you think about it, the further away you are, the SLOWER you are in coming back in the event of a real ATTACK back home. Either way, the slogan is bound to get criticised, and Chris, or X’Ho, is no stranger when it comes to controversy or criticising his home country.

Dj-ing for Lush aside, Chris is a local music icon who in the early 80’s performed as frontman for Zircon Lounge and is today revered as the counter-cultural antithesis to more ‘wholesome’ ambassadors like Dick Lee.  He also dabbles in ‘spoken word’ album territory, and from his 1999 album ‘X’ with an X’ came a track called ‘Singapore is Not My Country‘, his take on Alfian Bin Saat’s ‘ode’ to the nation (the full transcript here). In the 2000’s, Zircon Gov.Pawn Starz was formed. The album ‘Follywood’ features the track ‘Mouthless Fish‘ about people ‘barely breathing to make ends meet’, with BigO magazine rating it as the ‘most fucking punk rock album we have ever’. Check out this ‘punk rock’ album cover!

Majulah SingaPawnStarz

The ‘shock jock’ has even been filmed getting his PENIS tattooed. In THAI. A Today review of 2008’s Baphomet Sacrum describes him as ‘Singapore’s unfavourite son’.  Anyone unfamiliar with ‘dark wave’ or goth would think track titles such as ‘Satan’s Blood’ and ‘Her Soul’s Demise’ off the Lucifugous collaboration album were devotional hymns of the occult.  ‘No Ordinary Country’ has the refrain ‘Majulah Fearless Supremacy’ and its album cover has lightning logos on it. There’s even a song about the Blogfather himself called ‘Excuse Me Mr Brown’, where Chris calls Brown the ‘next Talking Cock big time’. ‘Talking cock’ being, well, the lingua franca of social media most of the time anyway.

So the first question that came to mind was: What did this multi-hyphenate (author, singer, DJ, film director) celebrity, being Singaporean and all, actually DO IN NS? According to a 2006 Interview with Today, he said he ‘has done everything he could think of to get into the Singapore Armed Forces MUSIC AND DRAMA Company’, and eventually spent 2 years as an actor after BMT. Like, who wouldn’t right? How far then would you go, Chris Ho, to protect this country that you love-hate so much? A question that wasn’t addressed in his FB apology, or maybe it was hidden somewhere so deep and lost in ‘satire’ that I couldn’t detect it with my radar for low-brow fart jokes and all.

There was a time when the man actually made seriously good pop music, without the Singapore-bashing and ‘satire’ getting in the way. Unlike his current ‘uneasy listening’ work, ‘Deeper’ (1992) is heartfelt and uncharacteristically melodious, and no surprise that this came before the ‘Punk Monk Hunk’ days, where spiritual awakenings mean getting your genitals pricked and scarred in the name of art. Pubic hair snipping? Amateur!

Which suggests that Chris is capable for much more than just ranting against the Government or NS, or participating in the Berlin Porn Festival. It would be nice to see that good ol’ innocent side of him once more.

Indranee Rajah defending uncle with holey moley shirt

From ‘Indranee Rajah stands up for man mocked for hole in shirt’, 22 March 2014, article by Goh Chin Lian, ST

People still do not appreciate enough that their actions can have unintended consequences for others, especially on social media, said Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah in a Facebook post on Saturday. The Tanjong Pagar GRC MP was defending a resident in her ward whose attire Miss Singapore Universe 2013 finalist Jesslyn Tan had mocked in a recent Facebook post.

Mr Koh Hee Huat, 55, was asleep in the MRT and wearing a T-shirt with a hole in it. Ms Tan, 25, posted a photograph of him on Wednesday with the caption: “Holey moley. Sibei trendy worzxxz.”

…”If anyone merits a boost, it is this quiet, hardworking, unassuming man. He may not be sibei trendy but he is definitely ‘SIBEI HO.'”

Before she took part in MSU, Jesslyn was a 2012 FHM model, and when asked what superpowers she would like to have in an interview segment, she replied that she wanted Wolverine’s healing powers. Not to mention razor sharp claws so that she can take a vicious swipe at innocent passengers on a train. She probably thinks it’s a better idea to have Invisible Woman’s powers now.

01102011_batman1

Jessyln’s intrusion of privacy and insensitivity is one thing, but as a MSU wannabe, poking fun at someone’s dress sense and suggesting that he can’t afford to buy new clothes is against the image of a compassionate, world-peace loving beauty queen that every contestant aspires towards. Imagine sending a representative like Jesslyn to help rebuild a school for impoverished kids, only for her to spend more time commenting on the kids’ shabby uniforms (or lack of) rather than do anything remotely charitable.  It also takes some serious cheek to comment on others’ outfits considering the kind of fashion abominations that MSUs have had to put on over the years. Oh, and THAT spelling. I can’t tell if ‘worzxxz’ is a typo or the language of an alien insectoid race.  She happens to be a Bachelor of Communication graduate too, maybe one who specialises in exotic languages.

MP Indranee was quick to come to Koh’s rescue, explaining why he wears ‘holey’ shirts to work and how he works his ass off till 3 am at Ye Shanghai Teochew Muay stall. Koh was apparently so affected by the post that he thought of quitting the job, and if an aspiring MSU can’t be bothered to come forward to apologise personally or even buy him some new shirts out of goodwill, then it’ll take an MP to soothe some nerves and offer protection. Thankfully for Jessyln, his salvation comes in form of Indranee, and not some furious kopitiam friends out for revenge who also happen to be Ah Long associates.

Or this guy.

This guy knows Teochew Muay Thai worzzxxzzz!

If I ever get verbally abused by Stompers for wearing ugly Crocs on the train, I doubt my MP would speak up for me, even if I threaten to kill myself because I got cyberbullied by a beauty queen. In fact, people get ruthlessly mocked for the way the dress all the time, the sloppy uni student, the aunty with a bucket on her head, the oversexy bareback with bra showing. Where were our MPs then?

There are many people like Koh out there, of course, sweating it out to earn a living and having to tolerate snobs like Jessyln Tan. They may not have holes in their clothing but have deeper holes in their pockets than most of us. If they weren’t sensationally victimised like Koh here on social media, would our MPs share real-life sob stories so readily with the rest of us outside of election rallies where such anecdotes are potential speech (and vote) winners?  You don’t need a beauty queen shooting her mouth off before you realise people like Koh exist and celebrate them for making sure we have porridge supper to eat at 3am. I’m also not sure if there’s an unintentional pun with Indranee describing Koh as ‘SIBEI HO’ following this ‘HOLE’ in a shirt saga. It sure was ‘SIBEI SUAY’ for Jessyln to get caught, though.

Well, if you do drop by for supper at Mr Koh’s Bukit Merah stall (thanks to his MP’s free publicity), try to refrain from inspecting his shirt, or it’d look like people are flocking to Ye Shanghai just for a glimpse of the famous hole like it were national treasure rather than the Teochew Muay. Meanwhile, it’ll probably be a while before we see Jessyln participating in any kind of pageant whatsoever, nor should she even think of going into fashion consultancy. I’d also suggest that she think twice before appearing in public wearing ‘trendy’ ripped jeans, before someone goes up to her and says: Hey Jessyln! HOLE SAY BOH??

NUS Malay Studies Prof calling lesbianism cancerous

From ‘NUS looking into complaints over prof’s views on homosexuality’, 28 Feb 2014, CNA

The National University of Singapore said it is looking into a complaint from two alumni and a student on a professor’s views on homosexuality. In their letter to university authorities, the three took issue with two Facebook posts by Professor Khairudin Aljunied from the school’s Malay Studies Department.

They claimed that Professor Khairudin had described “alternative modes of sexual orientation” as “wayward”, and as “cancers” and “social diseases” to be “cleansed”. One of the posts has been removed while the other has since been edited.

The FB post from Prof Khairudin ended with the fiery, call-to-arms salvo: ‘Make the pure message of Islam VIRAL to cleanse the IMPURITIES of liberal Islam and lesbianism. Together we will stop these CANCERS in their tracks!’ Ironically, there’s nothing more ‘viral’ than monotheistic faiths, which in the course of history have done its fair share of genocidal infidel ‘cleansing’ of its own. PERGAS (Singapore Islamic Scholars & Religious Teachers Association) were more subdued in their disapproval, calling the HPB FAQ’s merely ‘insensitive’. Fellow NUS staffer and Law Prof Thio Li-Ann thankfully has nothing further to add on the gay issue. YET.

Incidentally another zealot Lawrence Khong had this to say today in response to Minister Gan Kim Yong defending the same FAQs, in particular about the common level of ‘commitment’ required between two lovers regardless of their sexual orientation:

That is like telling our young they can pump themselves up with illegal and harmful drugs as long as they self protect by not sharing needles. (Pastor hits out at Health Minister’s reply on homosexuality FAQ, 28 Feb 13, ST)

So one Christian pastor compares homosexuality to crack, while a Muslim professor and scholar brands it, rather flippantly, as a debilitating disease that affects millions of people all over the world, including Christians, Muslims, atheists and yes even homosexuals. It appears that in religious texts ‘cancer’ is still synonymous with a vile scourge, but we’ve long left that medieval stigma of cancer as a biblical plague behind us. As someone who’ve seen good, perfectly kind people fight a losing battle against the dreaded disease, I find the Prof’s use of metaphor, given his position in academia,  unfortunate and dehumanising.

An inclusive society has no room for the Prof’s ultra-conservative ‘school of Islamic thought’. In Indonesia, we’re already seeing moderate Muslim scholars adopt a more compassionate stance towards homosexuals, that all beings are equal in the eyes of God. At the other extreme, a ‘Teachers Foundation’ in Malaysia has organised seminars and published handouts on how to spot a gay child so you can nip the homosexual ‘problem’ in the bud early. A gay boy would be wearing ‘tight, light coloured clothing’ while a lesbian has ‘no affection for men and like to hang out and sleep in the company of women’. You also can’t make a movie about gay people in Malaysia unless the gay protagonist converts into a ‘normal’ heterosexual. Meanwhile, in smack-in-the-middle Singapore, films about gay love among Muslims like ‘A Jihad for Love’ remain completely banned. You can, however, download the entire film off Youtube, and no you won’t get cancer after viewing it.

In a 2012 interview with kita.sg, Prof Khairudin divulged that he ‘always wanted to be a celebrity of some sort’. If his FB anti-gay post goes ‘viral’, he may very well become one. For all the wrong reasons.

Cannabis awareness website banned by MDA

From ‘CNB objects to cannabis promotion website; MDA orders its removal by Wednesday’, 18 Feb 2014, article by Hoe Pei Shan,  ST

The owners of a website with information on what they claim to be “productive uses of cannabis in Singaporean society” have been told to remove the contents entirely after an assessment by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, CNB confirmed that it had reviewed the Singapore Cannabis Awareness website and found it to be objectionable.

The Media Development Authority has ordered the owners to remove the website by Wednesday as it “contains material that promotes or tends to promote the use of a prohibited substance”. By Tuesday afternoon, the website appeared offline, but the Singapore Cannabis Awareness Facebook page was still live.

CNB said in its statement that the website “undermines Singapore’s efforts in drug preventive education and erodes our society’s resilience against drug abuse”. “Singaporeans enjoy a safe and secure environment because of our firm stance against drugs and crime, and central to this is our ‘zero-tolerance’ approach against the drug menace,” it added.

The website also makes claims about the purported benefits of “medical cannabis”, said CNB, despite a lack of “properly conducted and validated clinical trials to show that the purported benefits of this drug outweigh its risks”. CNB advised those who claim to have evidence of its medical properties to submit such evidence to the health authorities, rather than promoting the use of a prohibited substance to the public.

You don’t need a Singaporean website to tell you how awesome marijuana is. Just ask US Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton, who both used to smoke pot, or you can drop by Denver Colorado for a spliff, where recreational use of cannabis has been legalised. The ‘zero tolerance’ approach is invariably a stuffy, close-minded one, and CNB was quick to divert any enquiries on medical marijuana to ‘the health authorities’ whilst inadvertently acknowledging that there might be some pharmaceutical potential in pot after all. To the Ganja Regulatory Association of Scientists Singapore (GRASS), perhaps?

Of course, no matter how miraculous a shot of cannabis has been proven to improve the quality of life of a terminal cancer patient, it would probably take ages before drug companies get past the legislative hurdles and red tape in order to sell a cannabis in a capsule locally. We could harvest it like a ‘prescription herb’ for far cheaper but the pharma industries would not have medicinal weed eating into their market share of blockbusters. But then again, there’s always MORPHINE,  itself a derivative of OPIUM, the stuff old Chinese men used to smoke all day keeping busy instead of visiting prostitutes or getting into gang fights. It is probably a matter of time before Cannabis becomes the next Morphine, but with ‘zero tolerance’ as a guiding principle, we’d have deprived scores of patients in dire need of an alternative, affordable drug when that happens, one that you could practically grow in your own backyard. You wouldn’t arrest an end stage lung cancer patient for smoking to death with tobacco but will charge him for drug abuse if he stashes ganja to ease the pain. What a crackpot irony.

The Cannabis FB page makes an argument against blockbuster drugs with safety complications including cardiovascular deaths like painkiller Vioxx, since withdrawn from the market because it was killing people instead of treating them. Supporters of pot also draw comparisons with another potent drug, one allegedly deadlier and far more accessible. A drug that has been cited as a ‘contributory factor‘ for the Little India Riot: ALCOHOL. Imagine if the would-be rioters weren’t drowning themselves in liquor but chilling out on ganja instead.

Nowhere in the page does it promote the use of cannabis as a ‘fun’ drug. There’s also a lack of ‘properly conducted and validated clinical trials’ to show that the benefits of ‘recreational’ caffeine outweighs the risk, but nobody would ban me if I start a ‘Caffeine Appreciation’ or ‘Weight Loss Fat Burners for Life!’ webpage. But these aren’t ‘addictive’ you say? Go ask an anorexic about her slimming pills, or the disgruntled office worker without his morning cuppa. How about the less sensational abuse of prescription drugs for ADHD like Ritalin to improve academic performance in students? Many ‘legal’ drugs today are used in a seemingly ‘illegal’ manner, yet CNB only seems to care about the illicit stuff that screws with your mind. Ritalin, incidentally, is related to methamphetamine, or ‘speed’. Try promoting that to save tuition fees or score for PSLE and see if MDA or CNB gives a hoot. By the way, it does mess up your mind with inappropriate use too.

The Cannabis site creators should be thankful, though, that they aren’t yet charged under the ‘Undesirable Publications Act’, like how you may be caught for selling ‘drug-themed’ T-shirts with pictures of cannabis leaves on them. Since we’re regressing into ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’(banned in 1963 for promoting marijuana) territory, why not ban Mary Poppins  for secret ‘drug references’ too?

PM Lee unfriending SBY on Facebook

From ‘Singapore PM Lee unfriends Yudhoyono? Indonesian media duped by spoof’, 12 Feb 2014, article by Zakir Hussein, ST

WHEN a satirical website weighs in on a serious bilateral dispute with the potential to escalate, expect some to fall for it. Several Indonesian media outlets, under pressure from a 24/7 news cycle, ran a spoof by Singapore’s NewNation.sg headlined: “PM Lee unfriends Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Facebook, untags him from photos”.

And at least one afternoon daily, Harian Terbit, ran a page one article on Wednesday on the supposed virtual rift, headlined: “Singapore PM-SBY cut off friendship”, with a prominent Facebook logo between pictures of the two leaders.

…While both countries’ leaders have active public Facebook pages – Prime Minister Lee has more than 271,000 followers and President Yudhoyono more than 1.8 million – neither leader maintains a Facebook account, at least not one that’s public, that enables them to befriend and, in Facebook parlance, unfriend, another user of the social networking site.

…Several of the online news websites soon realised their mistake, rewrote their stories and ran corrections. And at least two ran reports on how some, themselves included, fell for the hoax. The VivaNews website headlined its piece: “Singapore PM unfriends SBY, Indonesian media fell for the hoax”. The website of the largest national newspaper, Kompas, was also taken in. It later amended its headline to “KRI Usman-Harun controversy: Satire on Singapore PM blocking President SBY’s Facebook spreads”.

In a correction below that report, the website reproduced the erroneous version it ran a few hours earlier, based on the New Nation spoof. But some on social media had yet to realise the satirical report was a hoax. A commentary on the hardline site, voaislam, seemed to take the spoof for real, saying the reported action “has crossed the boundaries” and calling on Indonesians to be brave in standing up to Singapore.

But a reader on a Kompas forum commented: “This is a severe hoax. How could something concerning ties between two countries become a laughing matter? If taken seriously, the consequences could be fatal.”

New Nation aspires to be the Singaporean version of The Onion, the original news spoof site that has a reputation for fooling despot governments into taking their news seriously. Iranian media lapped up a fake story about rural Americans willing to vote President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over Obama. China was convinced that Kim Jong Un was voted the Sexiest Man Alive. Bangladeshi journalists believed them when Neil Armstrong reportedly admitted that his moon landing was a hoax. New Nation have even conned our own nation’s biggest troll site, Stomp, with a fake article about a woman fainting at a nomination centre for ‘opposition unity’, and seem mighty proud of it. And now our Indonesian neighbours have just been hoodwinked by a joke about PM Lee breaking up with SBY on Facebook. Problem is, the New Nation article wasn’t very funny to begin with. And maybe they didn’t actually ‘fall for it’ but deviously planned this all along just to aggravate matters between the two nations.

It is a fact that both leaders have Facebook accounts, and to have one ‘unfriending’ another after years of painful name-calling in a final act of political tit-for-tat isn’t THAT far fetched.  New Nation’s article was eerily similar to a post by Mr Brown semi-jokingly calling for PM to ‘unfriend SBY on Facebook’, accompanied by a comic portraying the leaders engaging in a juvenile tiff. I’m not aware of any country that has waged war on another over a silly parody, but this embarrassment comes right after our ministers have been seemingly appeased by Indonesia’s proclamation that they bore ‘no ill will’ towards us after naming a navy ship after a couple of ‘state actors’, possibly the worst euphemism for terrorists ever.

It also doesn’t help if your ‘spoof site’ has a title that dozens of ‘serious’ news organisations share as well. Like ‘New Nation News‘ and UK’s New Nation (‘number 1 black newspaper’). Maybe editor Belmont Lay (also part of the Mothership.sg) should change the tagline back to ‘50% REAL news’ from the current ‘50% lucky news’ (50% unlucky that the Indonesians thought it was for real). Or consider something other than ‘New Nation’ altogether. Like ‘The Chap Chye’ or something.

Whether or not the Indonesian media were plain suckers or were deliberately provoking a reaction, this isn’t exactly the best time to prank a country in a position to curb the impending haze and cooperate with their neighbours, especially so after we ‘uninvited’ their top brass from our airshow. I’m not sure if by starting a joke about bilateral ties being severed over Facebook we risk letting the Indonesians have the last laugh while we tear not from the unintentional comedy of their journalists, but eventually, if the winds of change don’t blow in our favour, from their smog in our eyes.

Tan Cheng Bock uninvited from Istana CNY party

From ‘PA withdraws Istana party invite to Tan Cheng Bock’, 8 Feb 2014, article by Robin Chan, ST

FORMER MP Tan Cheng Bock, who quit the People’s Action Party to contest the 2011 Presidential Election, sparked a debate yesterday about the motives of the People’s Association (PA), which had withdrawn its invitation to him to a yearly Istana party. Dr Tan, an MP from 1980 to 2006, said he had been going to the Chinese New Year party for former and current grassroots leaders since 1980.

This year’s event will be held tomorrow afternoon.It is not the same party as the one to honour the pioneer generation. Yesterday, Dr Tan wrote about the incident on Facebook, prompting PA to issue a public apology for what it said was a mistake. The error arose because an old invitation list was used instead of a new one, PA’s deputy chairman Lim Swee Say said.

Dr Tan’s post, which garnered more than a thousand likes and shares, said that he received the invitation on Dec 27 last year. Twelve days later, on Jan 8, Mr Lim, the labour chief and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, called him to explain that a change of policy required the invitation to be withdrawn.

“He conveyed (that) to me by phone and e-mail. There was a change in ‘policy’ to invite only those ex-advisers to grassroots organisations, from the immediate past GE (2011). I did not fit into this category as I stood down in 2006,” Dr Tan wrote.

Replying, Mr Lim said in a statement that it was “most unfortunate that PA made the mistake of using the old list instead of the updated list”. The list is periodically reviewed, he added, to let a wider base of people attend. It was last reviewed “a few months ago”.

…Mr Lim took issue with Dr Tan’s post: “I was heartened that Dr Tan very graciously accepted my explanation over the phone. So I am surprised he now brings this up publicly as an issue.”

The last time a politician made a Facebook fuss over having an invite withdrawn was WP’s Chen Show Mao, who was denied attendance to a Hungry Ghost dinner back in 2011. Clearly, the PA hasn’t learned from the social media repercussions of the last high-profile ‘uninvite’, which explains Lim Swee Say being taken aback by TCB complaining about it on FB. Withdrawing an invitation is embarrassing for both parties, but more so for an organiser who should really know better, even if there’s a ‘policy’ to hide behind when telling the uninvited the bad news. As for TCB’s dismay, it’s not surprising either considering that during his presidential campaign, he suggested ousting the PM from the Istana in  ‘Queen of England‘ fashion. But speaking of hungry ghosts, where exactly has Chen Show Mao been to lately?

Not sure if TCB was given a spot on the actual pioneer party. That depends on how our PM defines ‘pioneer’, and how the hosts of the pioneer party feel about this awkward incident (They include Heng Swee Keat, Lawrence Wong and, and to no one’s surprise, Lim Swee Say).  Like the definition itself, this year’s pioneer invitees appear to be a mixed bag. They include Hooi Kok Wah of yusheng fame, opposition veteran Chiam See Tong and former MP Ong Ah Heng. Incidentally, MP Ong himself once admitted in 2010 to replacing elderly cleaners, fellow ‘pioneers’ even, with younger, fitter foreign workers upon receiving complaints by a family.

More than a decade ago, a pioneer generation was described as one who ‘grew up with Singapore’, called upon to sweat it out in factories and shipyards, or be among the first to serve the army. In 2007, PM Lee described the pioneer generation of public servants as ‘the last of the Mohicans‘. A survey on familiarity with Singapore ‘pioneers’ in 2012 included ‘founding fathers’, i.e political heavyweights like Devan Nair, LKY and Goh Keng Swee. In the Reach portal, they are those who built Singapore from her infancy, even if they’re today ‘scavenging for food to eat, tin cans and cardboard to sell’. It seems that anyone can be regarded a pioneer as long as you’re old, Singaporean, and worked almost your whole life to feed your family. If you’re an afterthought to the PM’s party, you probably haven’t contributed that much. Or contributed TOO much, stepping on the party organisers’ toes in the process, like TCB was known to do. You’re also unlikely to find billionaires in the list, because you don’t usually associate rich folk with out-in-the-sun back-breaking work that the image of a ‘pioneer’ summons, even if they’ve started out in life doing exactly that to become what they are today.

As symbolic as the 1500-strong party is supposed to be, those who believe they have served the nation beyond the call of duty but didn’t get the invite will be wondering ‘Why not me?’, just like being left out of any hip party hosted by the most popular person in school. Granted, it’s intended to span all walks in life and you can’t accommodate everyone, though by not making its criteria explicit it begs the question of how the PAP determines your pioneer value. But if you’re a true-blue pioneer, it shouldn’t matter if you’re remembered or not. And you wouldn’t complain on FB insisting that you’ve been mistakenly taken out of the invite list.


People are all ‘tulan’ with Anton Casey

From ‘We can afford to forgive this arrogant twerp’, 26 Jan 2014, article by Chua Mui Hoong, Think, Sunday Times

…To be sure, he sounded like an arrogant little twerp. But what accounts for such anger towards him? When I mentioned to a taxi driver that online reactions to Mr Casey were getting nasty, he nodded and said: “Yah, people all tulan” – a Hokkien word whose metaphorical meaning refers to being vexed beyond tolerance.

He went on to recount some of his own “Anton Casey moments”. In his case, it was expat cyclists: those who hog a lane, or two. Who expect right of way everywhere: pedestrians to make way for them on pavements, and motorists to make way for them on the road, who dart across traffic light junctions when the light isn’t in their favour, expecting cars to avoid them.

…In any case, if his latest apology is sincere – unlike the earlier one issued through a public relations company – he is having his own personal epiphany. What about us Singaporeans? Perhaps we too need to do some self-reflection.

Can we be a little less prickly when others poke fun at us? Can we learn to fight back online, without resorting to personal attacks, vulgarities or threats of harm? Do we have the grace to accept an apology and forgive?

And to say: This man, who is our guest, has returned hospitality with insult. He has done us wrong, but he has apologised and is paying the price. Enough is enough.

twerp

In 2012, PAP hottie and selfie king Baey Yam Keng had to apologise for a controversial remark he made about Singaporeans having to ‘reflect upon ourselves’ after PRC scholar Sun Xu said that ‘there are more dogs than people in Singapore’. Chua Mui Hoong is clearly living dangerously here, saying that Singaporeans can be over ‘prickly’ when foreigners mock us, and that we need to do some ‘self-reflection’. She has also jumped on the ‘spare Anton’ campaign bandwagon after SKM chairman William Wan called for tolerance and empathy, except using the less subtle approach of slamming the guy as an ‘arrogant little twerp’ (the kind of insult that Joe Pesci’s bungling burglar would use on Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone) and then calling for forgiveness later.

The strangest bit about her ‘opinion’ piece is describing Anton’s downfall as him ‘having a personal EPIPHANY’. Is he getting canonised in Perth as we speak or what? The worst thing that could happen now, with people wanting to make pandering statements by straddling the fence between condemnation and forgiveness, is if Anton Casey becomes not just a ‘poster-child’ of Singapore’s expat millionaires, as fellow expat and ST contributor Rob O’Brien put it elegantly (Anton Casey is not every expat, 26 Jan 2014, Sunday Times), but God forbid, victimised to the point of anti-hero and martyr. Enough is enough already.

But reflect I shall. Not if we’re being too harsh on Anton, but rather if this backlash that could be felt all over the world would mean that netizens and online vigilantes are creating a climate of social media phobia for themselves. Fear of saying the wrong things and losing your job over it because someone started a chain reaction of Facebook ‘sharing’. Whether the brouhaha has led to some form of self-censorship, where we’re afraid to touch on matters like race, religion, or class in a non-PC way because you never know when a random post gets blown out of proportion. We may be forced into playing it TOO safe, leading to an ironic state of affairs where the government could kick back and never need to monitor hate speech because we have inadvertently stifled our ‘freedom of speech’ ourselves, more wary of Stomp and Facebook users than the actual media police. Will social media be dumbed down because of the tyranny of the mob, that we’re so careful with being ‘responsible’ that we decide it’s safer to shut up than say something remotely provocative?

Then again, there’s always Perth. Scoot managed to take the AC case to new heights of absurdity. Once vilified as scum, he’s become a running joke. And his family isn’t spared. There’s no letting up on this guy is there? Curiously, this ad reminds me of the ‘Get Lost’ ad used by STB to promote our country in Australia. And get lost he did. He must be praying that no one in Perth says the same to him.

New scoot mascot

On a separate note, I’m rather taken aback that the ST allowed the word ‘TULAN’ in a national newspaper, while other times they’ve been known to censor ‘b**th’, a** and even ‘cr*p’. Tulan is a crude Hokkien term for ‘exasperation’, or literally ‘pig’s dick’. In other words, a vulgarity, like ‘Singaporeans very TULAN cos that ang moh Anton Casey SIBEI GUAILAN (very obnoxious dick)’. Similan (what the dick)?

Keep Calm and Willian Wan

From ‘Anton Case case: Where has all our empathy gone?’ 24 Jan 2014, article by William Wan, ST

…Justice should be meted out, but in a civilised society, one need not gloat at the fallen. To maintain a largely civil society, punishment should not be celebrated. That one would revel in another’s punishment, whether deserved or not, reveals a nature which lacks empathy, a very important property of graciousness.

Empathy for your fellow human being, no matter how bad that person, is a large part of what makes us humans. To be fair, while a large portion of the community felt good about the “punishment” for Anton Casey, many also called for forgiveness since he has apologised. So the feeling of gloating when someone gets his come-uppance isn’t exactly unanimous.

It is, however, significant enough for us to ask ourselves if we are losing touch with our empathetic nature. It is indeed hard to reach for empathy and understanding, especially when one gets swept up in the emotions that such offensive conduct invariably brings out in us. Yet we must do so, to resist the tide of least resistance that would sweep us into concurring or even celebrating the condemnation of others who offend people like us.

Keep Calm and William Wan. As general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movment, Mr Nice Guy William Wan feels that it is his job and duty to tell haters that we’re overreacting and taking this Anton Casey bashing a tad too far. Perhaps it’s an exaggearation to say that we’re ‘celebrating’ his ‘punishment’ when what most of us are doing is merely gloating silently at some twat’s misfortune, someone who happened to be white, drives a Porsche, and has a Ms Singapore Universe for a wife. To most people, this is a perfectly normal response. Mass disapproval in all its forms is a mechanism that has evolved as a penalty for anyone who flouts the unwritten rules of basic human decency. Anton was a consummate tosser, and needed to be put in his place. Issuing death threats, however, makes you as much as a ‘wanker’ as he is.

Personally I didn’t bang my screen or hurl my mouse across the room like an angry keyboard warrior when I saw what Casey wrote on FB. In fact, I’m wondering what if the inverse happened and I walked into a posh golf club and posted ‘Daddy who are all these rich filthy bastards?’ and ‘Normal service can resume. Once I wash the stench of atas consumerism off me’. I did not pump my fist in sweet victory when he was forced to make a public apology. I may have chuckled at a few memes and lame puns here and there, but I wouldn’t make a police report or throw eggs on his front porch and all over his ‘baby’ Porsche. I also wouldn’t go to the extent of saying ‘Hang in there, buddy’. That’s like giving someone comforting last rites before an execution. I can, however, IMAGINE what it must be like to be him right now. That is empathy. Absolving him of sin, calling for a group hug and singing Michael Jackson’s ‘Heal the World’ is another matter altogether.

We enjoy seeing powerful, obnoxious characters fall from grace; it feeds our lust for poetic justice, and as social animals, this ‘herd mentality’ isn’t a vile contagion to be exorcised with a sermon about attaining Mother Teresa levels of compassion.  It is simply human nature in all its ugly, irrational glory. It’s the same herd mentality that makes us vote a certain ruling party into power, sing the National Anthem during the NDP, or mutter gibberish in church. To feel good about bad behaviour being penalised is itself a manifestation of empathy; we empathise with the common man who has to put up with arrogant swine. If we didn’t care about the well-being of total strangers, we wouldn’t go out of our way to put  serial murderers behind bars for life and thank God for it.

He did escape to Perth eventually, citing ‘threats to his family’ (Briton and family leave for Perth amid threats, 25 Jan 2014, ST). Perhaps he could meet Amy Cheong there and talk about the ‘greatest mistake of his life’ over a spot of tea. Anton also offered to volunteer his time in ‘community projects’ in repentance. He could start by reaching out to the MRT-riding ‘poor’ that he so flippantly mocked (My house is in need of spring cleaning). Or help knit arm warmers for the sick and elderly. He’s got plenty of time for that now that he’s FIRED from CrossInvest Asia.

If William Wan walks the talk, he’d go up and give the bloke a magnanimous hug and a ‘I feel you, bro’. ‘Fight fire with water’ he would say. Except that in this case, he’s trying to extinguish a forest fire with a shower hose. Wan means well and who knows, the world might be a better place if we weren’t so eager to dish out this ‘social media justice’ over some silly, insensitive gaffe. After all, anyone of us could be as careless and unfortunate as Anton Casey was, like the proverbial saying about casting the first stone goes. There is, perhaps, a fine line between online vigilantism and cyber-bullying. In both cases, the instigator always feels that the other ‘deserves’ it. Hating on Anton is fashionable while forgiving him is naive. If you haven’t heard of him by now, you’re living under a rock. Which approach gives a better social payoff is a no-brainer.

Instead of just chastising our hostility as the workings of a crazed mob, let’s think about the positive aspects of this whole saga instead, despite it turning one man into cannon fodder.

1) Singaporeans are willing to rally together when push comes to shove, though some more zealously than others. Given the right reasons, this could be a force to reckoned with.

2) It serves as a deterrent against antisocial behaviour and no stone goes unturned no matter how rich and influential you are.

3) We are proud to defend our MRT as a carrier of the common man, even if it does stink when it comes to breakdowns at times.

4) That the Anton story has gone global serves as a lesson against expat chauvinism everywhere.

5) If Anton does become a changed man after this ordeal, commits himself to lifelong penance through prayer and abstinence and becomes a champion of the destitute, we’d view social media more than just a platform to brag about babies, but one with the power to change lives. Arguably for the better.

6) Singaporeans know better than to extend Anton’s bastardry to ALL expats.

7) Despite Anton on the verge of becoming more hated than Mas Selamat, there are still angels and Bodhisattvas like William Wan to exercise magnanimity and console us if we one day ever find ourselves in Anton’s (Louis Vutton?) shoes.

8) Don’t ever think of migrating to Perth.

I believe Wan isn’t the only person advocating empathy for Anton as a cure to humanity’s ills. Maybe the Dalai Lama has heard of him by now. Others are taking the more practical approach of ‘turning the other cheek’ and ‘just let it go already’, without being swept away by this bashing frenzy or playing Jesus. Alas, now that he’s lost his job, calls to chill are probably too little,  too late. I guess the question on William Wan’s mind now would be: ‘Are you people happy now?’

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