I am someone who reads stuff carefully, even the footnotes. So you can bet that I went over Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam’s ministerial statement on hate speech yesterday with a fine tooth comb. There were two references to what I wrote in my blog, Bertha Harian, on March 13 which was re-produced in Yahoo News.
You can read the blog post, Watain: Do Unto Others? here.
The first reference was on Page 59, when Mr Shanmugam said that he recognised that some Singaporeans disagreed with the G’s decision to stop the black metal band, Watain, from performing here.
For example, Ms Chew Wei Shan, a former teacher, has set out
her views articulately in a post. There were also others. They say
the Government is “self-righteously” trying to govern other people’s
lives and decisions. They say the audience can listen to metal
music without being influenced by a band’s beliefs. NCCS and
churches can advise their members not to go to the concert, so no
need for a ban.
The footnote to this paragraph is this: Chew Wei Shan’s Facebook Page. 2019. Facebook, 7 Mar 2019; The Online Citizen article
“Watain Ban: Rock Music or Religious Cult against our Public Order?” by Joe Sekular, 9 Mar 2019;
Facebook post by Andrew Loh, 13 Mar 2019; Facebook Comment by Marc Wang in response to
CNA report titled “’I can’t see how we could have agreed to it’: Shanmugam on Watain performing
in Singapore”; Facebook post by Khan Osman Sulaiman, 11 Mar 2019; Facebook post by Martyn
See, 11 Mar 2019; Facebook post by Ravi MRavi, 11 Mar 2019; Facebook Post by Joshua Ip, 12
Mar 2019; “Watain: Do unto others?”, Bertha Henson, Hertha Harian, 13 March 2019; Facebook
Post by Mint Kang on 8 Mar 2019, subsequently shared by All Singapore Stuff, 11 Mar 2019.
Beyond the fact that it got the name of my blog wrong, I couldn’t see where in my blog post I had said that the G was being “self-righteous” about the band.
But it was the reference on Page 68 that really got me riled up. This is what Mr Shanmugam said in his speech:
Now, some commentators online have also made dark suggestions of a Christian conspiracy. “They have a hold on the Government, the Government bows to their power, and there is an over-representation of Christians in institutions of power”. They tried to turn it into a “Christians versus Others” debate. These people are nasty, opportunistic, and dangerous.
This is the footnote for the above paragraph:
Facebook post by Andrew Loh, 13 Mar 2019; Facebook Comment by Marc Wang in response to CNA report titled “’I can’t see how we could have agreed to it’: Shanmugam on Watain performing in Singapore”;
Facebook post by Khan Osman Sulaiman, 11 Mar 2019;
Facebook post by Martyn See, 11 Mar 2019;
Facebook post by Ravi MRavi, 11 Mar 2019;
Facebook Post by Joshua Ip, 12 Mar 2019;
“Watain: Do unto others?”, Bertha Henson, Bertha Harian, 13 Mar 2019.
Now, I am not someone who likes being called nasty things. I took a good hard look at my column to see if I had made “dark suggestions” of a Christian conspiracy.
This, I thought, was the closest:
Online, the reaction is mainly negative. The prevailing view is that the G had succumbed to hysterical moral panic from conservative Christians. The band, after all, would be playing to a small crowd of 150 people, aged 18 and above, and it had agreed to strictures set by the IMDA. You can be sure the lyrics would have been sanitised to be inoffensive and the performance would be sans carcasses and blood.
Maybe I was wrong to report the prevailing view. People would think that I shared the view too. (I don’t. I think the G should have pulled the plug even earlier)
Still, I don’t think I can be described as “nasty, opportunistic and dangerous”. (I would like to make clear that I am only speaking for myself and not the rest named in the footnote.)
I am not someone who takes such comments lying down, even if they are opinions. Opinions must be based on the facts or an ordinary man’s reading of the article in question.
So I asked Mr Shanmugam this morning why was there a reference to me.
He looked at it and said it was an error to have referred to me. He had originally, in his speech had referred to something I had said in my blog, and responded to it. But then in the final speech, he decided that it was not necessary to do so. He thus took out his response to me from the text of the speech. But the footnote referring to me was ( erroneously) not taken out. So I was unfortunately lumped with others whom he specifically responded to.
The Minister apologised to me for the error. He said none of his comments were intended to refer to me.
Well, that was gracious!
I have always prided myself on taking the middle ground in my columns and to be more centrist in my arguments. I thank the minister for his response and would like to ask that this post be shared liberally to clarify the matter.