What’s a man to do when someone defames him online? I’m sure that many of us have been at the receiving end of insults, bullying and gossip online, and humanity in general has found a way to work with the new communication frontier of the Internet. When faced with defamation online, most people, regardless of our station, simply refute, engage or ignore it. Some of us descend to a tit-for-tat flame war, but even then, nobody is thinking of suing anybody. After all, this is the Internet, and we don’t live in lawsuit-happy America.
Not so our dear PM. Link the wrong words to his name and it’s off to court we go. I’m not sure of the man ever did try to speak to Alex Au nicely about the defamatory statements, like, “Dear Alex, could you please delete the part where you insinuated that I was corrupt?” I don’t know if he did ask nicely first, but on the face of it (and based on common practice for PAP defamation suits) it doesn’t seem like Lee did, and chose to send in the lawyers first.
So there is a picture of a man who isn’t walking his talk, or to be more specific, isn’t engaging in the National Conversation. I won’t argue about whether Au did defame Lee or not, since Au has already taken down his post and agreed to apologise, and is no stranger to lawsuits like these, but I would have expected PM Lee to, in the spirit of engagement that he so publicly promotes, engage first, then sue if conversation fails.
I won’t deny PM Lee’s (or anyone’s) right to protect their reputations using due process of law, but as one who is supposed to be a 君子 (gentleman/noble), I would have expected less “legal thuggery”, and a more measured, patient, engaged approach to dealing with petty slights to his honour.
So this is a step backwards – bloggers and citizens will have lost trust in the PAP government to deal “man to man” about any differences we may have. Talk about the Men in White the wrong way and you can be sure they will “whack first, talk later”. Engagement fizzles, the National Conversation is over, everybody loses.
In the meantime, the AIM saga remains unsatisfactorily addressed, and also poorly engaged.