Calvin Cheng is an acquaintance of mine. I even had him on my Facebook “friends” list. But not anymore. I removed him after his latest Facebook posting which insinuated that the writings or work of playwright Alfian Sa’at were such a potential threat that “the Government should watch commentators” like Alfian “closely”.
He then accused Alfian of “irresponsible rhetoric”, and likened Alfian to “domestic agitators”.
Read in context, these unsubstantiated claims and their insinuations are obvious.
Many have taken Calvin Cheng to task, and I shall not go into arguing against the points in his posting.
They are clearly pure nonsense.
What I am more interested in is Calvin Cheng’s membership in the Media Literacy Council (MLC), a government-appointed outfit which advises the Government on “research, trends and developments pertaining to the Internet and media, and appropriate policy responses.”
The MLC also “[develops] public awareness and education programmes relating to media literacy and cyber wellness”, and it seeks “to promote an astute and responsible participatory culture.”
“Through our work, we aim to… encourage users to be more reflective about the ethical choices they make as participants and communicators and the impact they have on others,” the MLC website says.
The MLC consists of 26 members, headed by professor Tan Cheng Han of the Centre for Law and Business, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore .
Calvin Cheng is a council member. (See here.)
On the council’s “Media Literacy Council Core Values” page, the council states several “key areas” which it “seeks to address”.
These include “uncivil behaviours online” which, the council says, “refers to behaviours that are anti-social, offensive, irresponsible or simply mean.”
Do note the last word – “mean” – which the council considers as undesirable “uncivil behaviour”.
The Media Literacy Core Values “encompasses a set of values and skills that … are indispensable to conducive and positive living especially in the digital age,” the MLC says.
“The Media Literacy Core Values will underpin the Council’s public education and outreach programmes.”
If you turn to the “Best Practices” page on the MLC website, you see a tab titled “Values and Social Norms”.
What are these?
They are four sets of advice which, the MLC says, will help you keep your friends and not make enemies.
One of the ways to achieve this is to “win people over with your objective arguments and logic” because “hysterics will not get you anywhere.”
“There is no need to make personal attacks as everyone is entitled to their own views,” the MLC says. “Make out your case politely and objectively. You might find that you will get a few converts instead of enemies.”
It also urges participants to reject and report “bad or bullying behaviour”, as this means “you are helping to create a better cyber space by propagating positive social norms.”
The MLC uses words such as “empathy and graciousness”, “respect”, “responsibility and integrity” to describe the values and social norms it champions.
So there. The MLC has laid out, basically, what is good online behaviour which will foster a positive environment for everyone.
What then of those, especially those in positions of influence (no matter how limited), who behave in ways which run against what the MLC is promoting?
Indeed, what if the behaviour of MLC members themselves betrays the MLC’s very own core values and best practices?
Insinuating that someone is responsible for some misguided terrorist group’s potentially harmful actions in Singapore because one raises concerns about minority race issues is just plain irresponsible itself, no?
And accusing someone of being a “domestic agitator” in that context is not only devious, it is also highly dangerous, for it plays up the racial and religious faultlines here.
Additionally, if behaviours such as Calvin Cheng’s are allowed to propagate, they may have the effect of silencing those in the minority races from speaking up about genuine grievances.
So, one would not object if the Internal Security Department (ISD) invites Calvin Cheng for an interview about his posting.
It is not unknown that Calvin Cheng also engages in online challenges or one-upmanship, such as a recent one where he challenged a poster to meet him and slap him, and also engages in baiting others, such as calling them “ball-less” when challenges are not taken up.
Indeed, he is also known and seen as a troll in some quarters.
“Trolls want to create discord by purposely baiting people to react,” the MLC website says.
One just needs to peruse his Facebook postings to see the tone of his exchanges with others over any issue.
To be sure, Calvin Cheng is not alone in engaging in this less than desirable behaviour.
There is also the other pro-PAP cesspool Facebook page which spews non-stop bile online everyday.
And it seems that this cesspool is the only site which is supportive of Calvin Cheng’s behaviour – and that says a lot: if all you have is a cesspit to stand on or stand with, you should realise your credibility is in deep shit.
I wish Calvin Cheng, being a former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) – which comes with a certain level of expected public responsibility and decorum – would not resort to such hateful behaviour towards others.
There are certainly better ways to get your points across than to resort to dragging someone’s name through the mud.
Ironically, in 2013, Calvin Cheng wrote – in a letter to the Straits Times Forum page:
“If there is a terrorist attack or a viral outbreak, and people turn to the Internet for conspiracy theories and advice instead of listening to and trusting the Government, the consequences could be unimaginable.”
Yes, ironic indeed that he is the one now spewing exactly such conspiracy theories.
So, I ask myself: what do the MLC members think of this sort of behaviour?
But personally, I have a deeper, more troubling question, and it is this:
What kind of person would cause another person more pain at a time when the latter is also grieving over the recent death of his mother?
I cannot fathom the depths of depravity which would make anyone do such a thing.
Alfian’s mother had just passed away last week, and Alfian is still in mourning.
The very fact that Calvin Cheng saw it fit to launch his baseless and unsubstantiated attacks on Alfian at this time speaks of his (Calvin Cheng’s) mental make-up and of how truly oblivious he is.
Pity, Calvin, that you find it apt to do this to Alfian at this time and betray everything that the MLC stands for.
I think the MLC, funded by public money, seriously needs to look into the online behaviour of its member.