It was for me, a tremendously moving moment to be there to experience it. And as it continues to be so as I read the comments to this photo and the shares. As it always has been when I meet him with my friends when he shares his thoughts and views.” Mr Tan Chuan Jin, Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Manpower.
2012 NDP was one of emotional relief. You could literally hear the national heave a sigh of relief if you listened hard enough on that evening. Even the international news outlets had picked on this sense of social catharsis.
Why? Because rumors that MM Lee had passed away had sprouted along the wild frontiers of the Singaporean sector of cyberspace during the lead up to national day. These unsubstantiated rumors eventually spread offline and had literally captured the heart of the national conversation. It even got to the point that my own Internet illiterate relatives were calling me up and asking me if the rumors were true. I also received suggestions from different quarters that I should pen an eulogy for Mr Lee based on the rumors just so I could be the first to out scoop the other news outlets. I refused to entertain these “well meaning” suggestions.
I rebuffed these requests on the ethical grounds that news reporters do not pronounce people dead. That is the role and job of a doctor. I even went as far as to ask the various individuals who rehashed the claim that MM Lee had indeed passed on to name me two sources: Someone or something that could verify their claims.
“Show me the body or someone who has actually seen and examined the body, otherwise you are just perpetuating the distribution of misinformation by people with self-serving dubious motives.” That was typical challenge I put forth to anyone who tried to claim that Mr Lee had passed away. There was no one within my circle who could pass that test and so till this day, the eulogy for Mr Lee remains unwritten.
I was vindicated when the news broke that Mr Lee was alive and well and had made an appearance at the parade. I too was relieved. Not because of any misplaced feelings of reverence for the elder statesman. I was comforted in the fact that whoever had started that despicable groundless rumor had finally been discredited.
We may never uncover the originator of that rumor. But two things are for certain:
1. Whoever started that rumor has a deep hatred of Mr Lee. The hatred runs so deep that the rumor monger has literally wished death upon a fellow human being.
2. The originator of the rumor is definitely hiding behind a claim of freedom of speech. That it is their God given right to say whatever they want. It would appear that this individual does not seem to understand that freedom of speech also comes with a responsibility to not misinform and mislead people.
This entire incident represents a learning moment for Singapore. Singaporeans need to learn to be a lot more discerning of what they read online and question the motives of the disseminator of the information they read. If our people can learn to do this on their own then there will be no need for the newly formed media literacy committee or the rumored online code of conduct. If we had more critical thinkers within our midst, then we would not need to worry about wild rumors perpetuating on the Internet.