Monday, February 22, 2010

Comments to media on allegedly racist Facebook and Rony Tan cases Part 2

This is part two of: Thought I should post these comments, since very little of what I said was actually used, as is usual because of space constraints in the paper.

Phone Interview with Mr Leong Wee Keat of Today newspaper.

The article "Reason pastor is not arrest" published on 10 Feb is here.

Q: Is community policing an ideal?

A : "We have been suggesting that the community as a whole, together with the media and opinion leaders, be involved in the process of setting the moral tone on what people should be allowed to express publicly on these kinds of matters. In fact, we would think that a process when individuals, like those three boys get into that kind of trouble they get, should not just involved the Government and these three boys. The community, through the press or other panels, can come in and one of the thing that press can do, or institutions can do, is to condemn roundly, if the boys are indeed guilty. So, I find it very strange, instead of saying outright that they are appalled by the racist behaviour of boys, their polytechnic declined comment. And I find that rather irresponsible. They can say, 'Most of the boys are not like that and we do have educational programs but the boys do not seemed to learn it and we want them to go through the program again'. I would hope the parents, former teachers and religious teachers should be interviewed and condemn these kind of behaviour. Opinion leaders, people in positions of authority, institutions should come into the game and say this is wrong, instead of leaving it a matter of between the police and the three boys. After a while, people will know that it is not just saying it and getting away, if not ending up in jail, but rather the whole society do not approve of this. And this will develop a social immune system against racist behaviour and hate speech."

Q: Does community policing go against the grain of Internet which is freedom of free speech.

A: "I don't think you should have complete freedom of speech on Internet, even though it is very hard to police. The existence of these things (hate videos and speech) is problematic. But if its roundly condemn by society, especially institutions and opinion leaders, there is a vaccine against the virus of hate speech. The opinion of society is very critical, not just of individuals but opinion leaders and institutions. Unfortunately, it seems churches are keeping silent on this. This has become Buddhist criticising Christians, but rather should be Christians criticising this pastor. This would be a more potent weapon against such talk. It is a failure that media do not go out and talk to churches and seek their responses. Of course, the Buddhists will be angry.

I want to another point. Unfortunately, it seems to get the small guys and let the opinion leaders relatively free with an apology. The right approach is, if he is an opinion leader, he ought to be more severely dealt with than if he is just a small individual. The opinion leader has more influence. I think the pastor is let off too lightly."

Comments to media on allegedly racist Facebook and Rony Tan cases

Thought I should post these comments, since very little of what I said was actually used, as is usual because of space constraints in the paper:

Interview with Mr Chua Hian Hou of The Straits Times on the allegedly racist Facebook users.

The article "Facebook user made police report" published on 9 Feb 2010 is here.

Following are my comments to Mr Chua on 4 Feb via email:

Please, start by saying that “Tan Tarn How, a senior research fellow who studies media at the Institute of Policy Studies, calls such a group racist and hence deplorable.”

Q: Are you surprised this has happened again, and it's not that long after the arrests of the racist bloggers.

A: Not surprised. Firstly, because while you can reduce racism, it is unfortunately almost impossible to eradicate. Second, while legal actions are sometime necessary, not enough effort is spent on educating people and in nurturing values such as sensitivity to the other and in arriving at a wide and public articulate consensus about how to behave with sensitiviy. People need to be given consistent and multiple messages via various means, from the legal to the social, that is kind of thing is not done in a modern civilised society. This means not just government or the police getting involved, but also opinion leaders (especially those from the communities that the guilty parties come from), and the media (which can interview the opinion leaders, and also the parents and teachers or bosses of the offenders so as to help draw line on right and wrong). ((The above answers most of your questions below too. See my column a couple of years ago on social immune system.)

Q: Will this be the last time something like this is going to happen?

A: No.

Q: What are your thoughts of the reaction - arresting the three youths (not sure male or female) - how appropriate is it?

A: In the most extreme cases legal action is necessary, but the other measures I describe above have unfortunately not been used.

Q: After news broke about the arrests, 200 more people joined the group (absolute numbers, net increase of 200+, so some could had dropped, while others came in). How would you interpret this?

A: That is exactly the problem in that there is not enough signals from different sources that what the group is doing is wrong.