March 9th, 2010
New media practitioners in Singapore reacted sharply to condemn the online hoax regarding Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s health yesterday. The hoax had caused a significant buzz in the blogosphere over the weekend.
Dissident blogger Gopalan Nair had posted an entry stating that the Minister Mentor had suffered a serious heart attack on 6 March 2010. The blogpost also mentioned that there were pockets of civil unrest in Singapore following this development and that investors were scrambling to pull out of the country. Yesterday, Nair posted an entry saying that his previous post was a hoax and that “it was a deliberate attempt to highlight how tenuous Singapore is”.
Socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC), which had expressed its skepticism about Nair’s post on its Facebook page on Sunday night, launched a scathing condemnation of the California-based lawyer within hours of his revelation that his earlier post was a hoax. TOC’s editor-at-large Remy Choo Zheng Xi asserted that such deliberate misinformation ran contrary to the culture of community moderation that websites such as TOC practised.
In a facebook entry, TOC’s Andrew Loh bemoaned that Nair had “shot us all who are in the alternative media in the foot”. Loh further pointed out that Nair had a duty to act “more responsibly and with a little more thought” when airing views about Singapore. Elsewhere, prominent political blogger at Sgpolitics.net Ng E-Jay called for the Singapore blogosphere to “boycott and castigate” Nair’s writings. Ng, who recently returned to the TOC core team as its political editor, also expressed his optimism that an informal self-regulating mechanism was taking shape in Singapore’s blogosphere, judging by how netizens had reacted to the hoax.
Bloggers were not the only ones expressing their anger at Nair’s bizarre behaviour. Popular forums such as HWZ and Sgforums were rife with regular netizens’ critical commentaries against him. The Straits Times reported the controversy today (9 March). It noted that the stock market had not been taken in by the rumour and was unaffected.
In a sign that Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew remains in the pink of health, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that he would be visiting the United Kingdom from 9 to 12 March to meet business and political leaders there.
Nair however, has not elicited any form of remorse despite the widespread condemnation of his actions by the Singapore blogosphere. In a postscript to his latest post, he expressed hope that the “stress and tension” of the episode would lead to a deterioration of the Minister Mentor’s health.
Click here for Journalism.sg’s coverage of Gopalan Nair’s run-in with the authorities in the past.