“It becomes like pack behaviour. You scold, you swear, you curse. All the wrong instincts get fed and in a group, there’s a certain group dynamic and it is like a pack of hounds hunting, which is bad,”
That’s probably Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s best impression of his father, Lee Kuan Yew, who resoundingly said years back that Singaporeans need to get the “spurs stuck in their hides”.
Both statements sound pretty upsetting to their intended target audience, and both appear to be a lack of tact from our dear leaders and top politicians. While we can criticize and condemn Lee senior and Lee junior, both men do make a fair point.
Prime Minister Lee was referring to the extremism that goes on on online media, which sometimes borders on fanaticism. We see instances of keyboard rage towards public figures which at times speaks of blind fury rather than thought-out discourse.
Prime Minister Lee raised the instance of Mr Anton Casey, the foreigner who got driven to exile arguably by the strong sentiment roused by keyboard vigilantes. The man made a mistake and without a doubt he sounded like a total prat. But did the punishment fit the crime?
And of course, there’s the rants often targeted at our government figures by netizens on alternative news websites such as Temasek Review Emeritus (TRE) and The Online Citizen (TOC). There are sound comments full of wisdom, and progressiveness.
On the flip side, many comments are unrestrained, unwieldy and untempered tantrums. The government should pay attention to such comments, as they signal an underlying rage that cannot be expressed in its entirety of being. Still, many of them appear to be emotionally-driven personal attacks, and if we can hardly stomach such treatment in our everyday lives, how can we expect any less from the next man, even if he is an authority figure?
If we should need any reminders, people have killed themselves because of online social media pack attacks. It’s called cyber-bullying, it’s unkind, and it’s unjust. Reflex – that’s what moves animals. Humans work on reason. Such vitriol is unreasonable.
So while it stings to be fingered and chastised, we might do well to remember Prime Minister Lee’s words. Let’s have reasonable discourse – discussions based on facts and not ego. It was a tough statement, and it’s pretty uncharacteristic of Prime Minister Lee to adopt such a standpoint (after all, we remember all the apologies from the last GE). But this time, he’s right.
The future of the nation shouldn’t bend to the politics of the day.
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