Monday, February 22, 2010

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.



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