SO many legal letters flying into the blogosphere it is so not funny. I have lost count of the number of PAP ministers who have served letters of demand on online sites or online commentators. I keep asking myself what I would do if something like that happened to me. Say, I ahh misspoke…and all of a sudden I get a legal love letter from Davinder Singh, then…how?
a. If I had really mis-spoken, mis-written out of sheer carelessness and not because I meant it, I would fall on my knees and say sorry. I’ll probably add that I didn’t get a lawyer to proof read the post first, or an editor or sub-editor to point out the pitfalls. But I guess that’s no excuse.
b. If I meant what I said, but have no proof to back it up, then I am not doing an honest job of reporting or commenting on the basis of facts. I guess I will grudgingly say sorry – because I put out an irrational point of view. I would probably add that I was really angry, upset and that I was having a bad hair day that day.
c. If I am making an honest interpretation of the facts, and am reaching a conclusion that everybody else in his/her right mind will come to, I would have to think harder. Maybe it was a choice of words. Too harsh? Too personal? I hurt people’s feelings by being too blunt? I suppose I will apologise if feelings were hurt, but not for what I said. Hey, no hard feelings, ok?
d. If I am not making a comment but asking what I believe to be legitimate questions, will I get into trouble too? I suppose someone who is bloody-minded about closing a big mouth can frame something along the lines that the questions asked were intended to make the person lose his reputation and standing. Gosh, if that happens, then no one can ask ANY question, especially hard-hitting ones. (In my past life, I have found it’s not good to ask too many questions because the answer will be another question: What is your agenda?)
e. If I ask (nicely) that something should be investigated by the authorities because something doesn’t look right or that something should be changed for the greater good, will I be accused of alleging impropriety or some kind of criminal act on the part of someone or some group? I sure hope not. If we think something is wrong, we must speak up and get some satisfactory answers. We shouldn’t always wait for the G to initiate everything. I mean, what if it doesn’t? We shouldn’t just be a caring, sharing and productive society – but also a questioning one. Harder to govern but, hey, that’s one of hallmarks of an educated people!
f. If I say someone is stupid and dishonest, then I better have proof of both qualities, or it will be me who’s stupid and dishonest. But if I ask if someone is stupid and question his honesty, then how? Well, I think I am not so stupid as to phrase it that way. Perhaps, I will say this: “Will so-and-so explain why he did this because the normal/usual way would have been this…’’ and ask for some kind of evidence as well…
You know, if all the online people who have been at the receiving end of those legal love notes had decided to fight it out, we’d have some interesting days in court. Maybe, the Chief Justice will decide that for the sake of the greater good, there would be no litigation but an inquisition instead, as he seemed to be proposing for family justice matters. Or maybe not…Inquisition brings up visions of being burnt at the stake as a witch.
I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me that Davinder Singh is going to be very busy. Libellous or contentious comments are not about to go away. I can see more of them in the future. It’s just the way it is when so many forms of expression are opened up to the people. Whether you get a love note will probably depend on who you are, I suppose.
An anonymous poster isn’t worth anybody’s time, but an established site or blogger might be viewed as opinion shapers who can sway their audiences. I am actually curious about what the potential damages could come up to…surely, not as much as if the comments were made in MSM with their larger audience? Or no?
No one should be surprised if the online community is outraged at the legal moves of the G. They would be viewed as a clampdown, a scare tactic or some sort of thought control. It’s odd given that we are now trying to have a Singapore Conversation to bring different strands of people of different ideologies and backgrounds together – and we have love letters flying about.
It’s not even Valentine’s Day.