I am not a fan of Mr. Roy Ngerng and his heart truths. In fact a group of us had gathered virtually on Saturday, selected four of his commentaries, and planned outlines of our ripostes to them.
Yet there is something to be said about some of our reactions to the news that he had received a letter of demand from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, calling for a blog post to be removed. I say our, because I thought Mr. Ngerng’s initial response was foolhardy and self-righteous. Foolhardy, because he appears ready for the legal ramifications (against the odds). Self-righteous, because this martyr can do no wrong. In the past months my peers decried the misinformation propagated and his careless use of statistical data, and this potential lawsuit seemed like a good solution to the drivel of a demagogue.
Across the Internet others were happy to indulge in ad hominems, making needlessly crude references to his sexuality and questioning his supposedly “foreign” surname. Shame.
The blog post in question is a curious one. With charts Mr. Ngerng drew comparisons between the case against City Harvest Church, the Central Provident Fund scheme, and the PM’s alleged complicity, which led PM Lee’s lawyer Senior Counsel Davinder Singh to pen “[t]his is a false and baseless allegation and constitutes a very serious libel against our client, disparages him and impugns his character, credit, and integrity”. Substantiating the implicit proposition that the PM is guilty of criminal misappropriation is going to be a tall order.
One could, in retrospect, argue that the writing was on the wall. Last month Factually – the government’s myth-busting online portal – made specific reference to a post on Mr. Ngerng’s blog, contending that “CPF monies are your money and this is a fact. You can use CPF monies for housing, healthcare, and investments … Blogs such as The Heart Truths have made allegations about our CPF monies that are inaccurate or outright false”. It is not clear whether the planned #ReturnOurCPF protest at Hong Lim Park on June 7 will go on.
This episode could do Mr. Ngerng some good (that is, if he removes the article, and the resulting compensation, costs, and expenses are not too hefty). After the run-in with the Attorney-General’s Chambers last year Demon-cratic Singapore’s Mr. Leslie Chew has become more nuanced with his comic strips, even if they remain as critical as before. It might run counter to the temptations of sensationalism, but with Mr. Ngerng’s increased following – and if he is more receptive to feedback – he could then reach out to a wider readership.
Readers, however, are not blind to the appeals to emotions and prejudices. The many comments and opinion pieces against Mr. Ngerng’s proclamations point to that sensitivity.
Perhaps for a man of the PM’s repute the allegations could not go unnoticed. How should the rest of us react though? As it is with misinformation and disinformation readers must be more discerning, and in the long run avoid or counter sites which add nothing to discourse. Tiresome in the face of staunch opposition – for instance, of Mr. Ngerng insisting that all dissenting opinions were misguided – but it is an ideal we should all strive for.