Zero tolerance for intolerance? Try STOMP

So the Straits Times had this article (below) in its Saturday edition (31 March 2013), written by Tessa Wong:

ST 300313 a

On the same day, in the same paper, there was another article about some so-called “10 cyberspace commandments” preached, no less, by a member of the recently installed Government-appointed “Media Literacy Council”:

ST 300313

The two articles were preceded by a speech made by PAP MP Hri Kumar on 11 March in Parliament, which was given much prominence by the Straits Times:

hri kumar

And more recently, just last week in fact, some bloggers were invited by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) to participate in a session on the topic of “corrosive” online speech. Officials from the Media Development Authority (MDA), I understand, were also invited to the gathering. I declined the invitation because of how the whole thing was framed – that it focused on “corrosive” online expression, something which has already been talked to death already, in fact. Ad nauseum. I would have liked to see scrutiny of the mainstream media and the general media landscape in S’pore discussed and explore ways to open it up further, rather than this dichotomous, ad nauseum finger-pointing at the online space incessantly.

Which brings me to this posting.

Again, the finger is pointed at some in the online community, that they are fanning xenophobia, and that they indeed are xenophobic. Tessa Wong’s article is one in question. Personally, the article to me is a rubbish article but I won’t spend time arguing her points. I think they have already been addressed anyway. I would point you to this response by New Nation. I thought that was an apt response, given how laughable Tessa Wong’s article is: “Tessa Wong cures Singaporeans of xenophobia.”

Having said that, and in the spirit of what Tessa Wong called for – for the community/public to speak up against xenophobia – I present the following, from Tessa Wong’s own Straits Times which she works for and writes for – that great bastion of “citizen journalism” called STOMP.

“STOMP” stands for “Straits Times Online Mobile Print”. Whatever that means. It is an arm of the Straits Times itself.

In June last year, I highlighted the seemingly anti-foreigner postings on the website, here: “STOMP – a cesspool of disgrace to citizen journalism.”

A cursory Google search with the terms “STOMP foreigner” threw up these articles with the very notable headlines:

stomp

Notice how often – in every instance, in fact – the word “foreigner” is used in the headlines?

My article was written in June 2012. So, I went to do another search 2 days ago (29 March 2013), just to see what has transpired since then.

And these were what I found, postings on STOMP from July 2012 till Dec 2012:

311212 291012b 290912 220712 251012 260912 261112 280912 201012 181112 161012 160712 131112b 111212b 121012 121112 121212 131112 111212 101112 091212 091112 021112

And here are those from Jan 2013 to March 2013 (so far):

110213 140113 170313 180313 200113

And here’s one which would throw the Straits Times itself into a fit – if this posting were on any other website:

310313
In fact, the Straits Times seemed rather proud of the posting – it promoted it in its print edition, headlining it as top story in its “top citizen journalism stories” column:

Straits Times, 1 April 2013
Straits Times, 1 April 2013

Remember: these postings are from a news agency whose editors speak of  “journalistic ethics”, “operating procedures”, “professional ethics”, “ethical behavior”, “credibility of our content”, “upholding.. duty”, “to do right by our readers”.

So, what am I saying? The same thing I have said before: That a one-sided view about online-postings, a view which points the finger only at non-establishment or non-govt-related websites, is not going to help anyone. For it gives one a distorted view of the issue at hand.

If we want an honest dialogue, or a genuine look at how to improve our media space as a whole, then we need to start being honest and not pretend that one side is holier than the other when, clearly, it is not.

Now, with that rubbish coming out of STOMP, will we see the Straits Times do something about it? If not to prevent any potential of STOMP fanning xenophobic sentiments, then in the very least to adhere to its own claims and boasts of professional conduct?

The way things are going, however, I am not holding my breath, in spite of the evidence presented before us.

Calling for the community to speak up against anti-foreigner expressions or xenophobic sentiments is all well and good. But let’s see the Straits Times and its writers do the same, and they can start by taking a look in their own backyard.

Will they?

I am quite surprised that no one – the mainstream media, ministers or MPs – has mentioned the stink which has been coming from STOMP as far as fanning xenophobia is concerned.

I know of no other website which has used the word “foreigner” or “foreign” in so many of its headlines so frequently. But I guess maybe I am missing something here.

“Singaporeans should speak out against xenophobia even if it’s currently the unpopular thing to do,” says Tessa Wong.

Maybe she should speak out against STOMP even if it’s not the popular thing to do (seeing how she is also an employee of the Straits Times which owns STOMP)?

7 thoughts on “Zero tolerance for intolerance? Try STOMP

  1. Without a vibrant media, we cannot have a vigilant populace.

    Unfortunately, also powerful is misinformation, as it engenders a misshapen world view. For how can people make correct decisions regarding what policies and politicians to support if they aren’t given correct information? Why would they defend the good if they were lead to believe it was bad and fight the bad if they were lead to believe it was good, consistently from a one-sided point of view, with selective data?

    Some may say that since the media deny us the information necessary to render good decisions, it’s not fair to claim that people get the government they deserve. But it must be remembered that people get the media they deserve too.

  2. Here’s my 3 simple commandments to ST

    Commandment #1: Thou Shalt Not Turn Mainstream Media Into Thine Own Personal Pulpit

    Commandment #2: Thou Shalt Not Pretend Thou Art CNN, AlJazeera, or BBC

    Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Not Share Information That Maketh Sense Only to Thyself or Thy Party

  3. Andrew, we are all too familiar with the M.O. of this govt. Such occasions are usually created to pursue its on self interest, viz., it is out to tame the online reports, comments and blogs before GE2016.

    The intention has never been to have broad and balanced discussion of any topic or subject, it is purely to pursue its own objective of suppressing free speech and comments that are seen as a threat to its dominance esp. when such comments exposes the truth and hypocrisy of the govt.

    Just look at the tribulation of Cherian George. He is obviously being subjected to pressure to ‘heel’.

  4. Simply change the word “foreigner” to any ethnic group and the repeated highlighting of ethnicity will undoubtedly, most assuredly, guaranteed to land the website in court for sedition. So why is it different when it repeatedly points fingers at foreigners? What is its agenda, milk the sentiment of the day? Why go after cowboy towns when this cesspool is right in your garden?

  5. I’ve only experienced the riots (anti-colonial-, communist-, racial-related etc.) in the 50s and 60s via history books, and I’m glad we as a society have progressed further and further away from that poisoned state of mind.

    Before resentment and prejudice ever descend into hate again, sometimes I think that instead of tiptoeing around the issues or taking the moral high ground (like what the mainstream media has clumsily done), maybe we should just be open about it, and set an example for everyone else.

    In NS, my platoon mates jokingly called me “chink”, and I responded in kind readily with “mat” and “apuneh”, and then we all played soccer and cleaned the cookhouse together afterwards. Bring everything out into the open and let’s celebrate diversity.

    Question is, do you think it’s okay for people to have these kinds of conversations in the streets?
    Singaporean/Foreigner: “Wah, why do you people always behave in this way?”
    Singaporean/Foreigner: “Haha, it’s because back home, we XYZ”
    Singaporean/Foreigner: “Oh I see! You ABC-people are so ABC “

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