Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Beware, Beware, When You Speak On The Singaporean Web

After the great Heather Chua incident, followed by a slightly less infamous Stephanie Koh, we now have have another talk of the town in Singapore's online world. He's none other than Mr Anton Casey, a foreigner in Singapore who made a grave mistake in posting comment online that poked fun at Singaporeans, and falling under the radar of SMRT Ltd (Feedback).


the source of all the anger that washed over the singapore internet yesterday


Just a day after news of his rants surfaced on The Real Singapore, with Singapore netizens asking for his blood (literally, with some making death threats to him), and after the guys at SMRT Ltd (Feedback) decided to release details of his work and such, Anton Casey has gone into hiding with his family, claiming that death threats were issued against him, and the earlier video of him made allegedly in response to the situation was actually an unrelated video that was made few weeks prior (I have been searching Youtube for the said video to verify the times stamp to no avail).



The fact that his wife is Bernice Wong, a former Miss Singapore that made comments about Singaporean guys not making the mark seemed to make the entire issue worse.


his supposed latest reply to the entire situation


Death threats? Is there really a need to?

Shall not comment too much too since I am not in the best position to, but somewhat I feel that the entire reaction to this event has been a little bit extreme. Yes, I understand that he may have been a little bit arrogant in posting the tweets, and it may have come of as insulting, but going to the extent of destroying his life and his livelihood in one night just seemed a little bit uncalled for, no?

With Heather Chua, I understand that the guy was asking for it, repeatedly posting comment on his profile challenging SMRT Ltd (Feedback) and keeping up with the racist rants, but with Anton Casey the case was slightly different. He was not given ample time to respond and if it's true that the supposedly "response" video was made a few weeks earlier, he was certainly slandered.

I cannot help but draw comparison of this to the incident of the Twitter user "iamclarena", who posted not so nice remarks about the Indian community on her Twitter. SMRT Ltd (Feedback) too picked up on it, and in the end she closed down her Twitter account, and a police report was made. Imagine, just because you posted a tweet at the heat of the moment, your entire life and future just got ruined.


the tweet that probably destroyed her entire life


To be honest, I find this new trend to be somewhat worrying, especially with the turn of current events.

At first it was funny with Heather Chua of how two of them squared off together, but after the few recent events, it has become sort of normal for Singapore netizens to go to SMRT Ltd (Feedback) and ask for some form of retribution. And the retribution is not just for an apology though, with some asking for him to quit his job and relocate his family and stuff. Some even want them to be jailed. Of course, the fact that he is not a local is not helping. But even with Heather Chua and clarena, netizens wanted the same thing. To completely eliminate them.

It's like witch hunting, except it is done online. In Anton's case, even his address got posted, and that meant there's a risk that the zealous ones would really go to his house, and god knows what people will do.

Perhaps the question I want to ask is this, is it really logical to destroy someone's life, to hold someone accountable, over an off handed remark online?

To be honest, when it comes to racism and such, I doubt that all of us are entirely holy. Before the dawn of internet, people frequently made racist comments in coffee shops or to close friends. And even with people like Anton Casey, I doubt he's the only ang moh who hold these kind of thinking inside him. And I doubt that people who called for Heather Chua's blood too are entirely not racist either. I think both of them just made the mistake of making their thoughts public, which is online.

Kinda ironic, isn't it, to have people complaining about the lack of freedom of speech in Singapore, when in reality we ourselves do not let others voice their thoughts too? Instead of engaging them in a dialogue first, most of the netizens go into overdrive mode and demand for the people to be arrested, to be fired and to be forever banished if possible. It seems to be that we can be so much nastier when we're online, not caring about the effects that our actions may bring to the people whom we are condemning.

After all, we may think that we might just be posting one comment and forgetting about the issue soon after (take Heather Chua for example, where people keep posting angry comments but eventually moving on to a new target like Anton Casey, while the guy behind Heather Chua is most probably going to jail), but we do not realize the lasting effects of the one trend on the internet one time. How our comment may have just ruined someone's life.

To be honest, it may be very fun to sit on the high horse and to condemn and judge, but often there's a chance that people may just fail to take into account the factors that are going on when someone choose to post an angry tweet. In Heather Chua's case for example, we are the ones who were giving her attention, and in a way our attention towards Heather Chua in a way got him in jail. If we ignored him, there would be no big hoo-haa and Heather Chua will eventually get bored, and no one will end up in jail. We are the ones who indirectly caused a 22 year old guy to be arrested.

Of course we can argue about whether "Heather Chua" deserved it, and I could argue about why it's stupid to get so worked up over online comments, but that's a whole different story together and not the focus of this blog post.

So where does this whole incident leave us now?

Certainly before you post your tweets or status updates now, make sure to think twice. You never know when your post, tweet or status update may offend someone, and before you know it, you'll have people coming after you. It is interesting to see how the Singapore online scene has become sort of pseudo self-regulating, with chances of your comments, posts, tweets and updates getting screenshot by someone, then posted unto Stomp or other websites, or worse, having all your details released without you even knowing it.

One thing is for certain though. When you want to vent your anger online that has something to do with race, religion, culture, class or the Singaporean identity (or anything that touches sensitive topics like the foreign talent policies), be careful. Be very very careful.


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