March 9, 2010

Gopalan Nair: Why So Serious?

Filed under: Uncategorized — theinkhorn @ 12:14 pm

Gopalan Nair’s little prank has caused quite the uproar. TOC’s editor-at-large Remy has condemned the Dissident, calling the hoax “despicable” and “distasteful”. A number of netizens have also responded with negative comments on Nair’s blog. My question is this: What’s the big deal? Allow me to systematically dismantle the entire situation.

Nair’s explanation is that he wanted to “highlight how tenuous Singapore really is”. And my word, what a reaction. Here’s my problem. That sounds a lot like what I would say if i made a boo-boo and tried to cover it up and make myself sound really smart. But that’s me. Now, perhaps Nair’s intentions were precisely as he stated. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

As soon as news of it being a hoax reached me, the first picture my mind painted was that of Orson Welles’ famous 1938 broadcast. The “War of The Worlds” sustaining show caused widespread panic, and even brought about a mention from Hitler himself. The only big difference is that listeners were constantly reminded that it was only a performance. However, while Nair did not mention anything about it being a hoax initially, we have to keep in mind that this was a blog post. On his public blog. What possible reason, besides Nair’s credibility, could there be for people taking it this seriously? I certainly didn’t. Sure, I was filled with hope. But I quickly dispelled that emotion, told myself to get real, and moved on. It’s not that I don’t take Nair seriously. I’m just not as gullible.

So why, oh why, did the masses fall for the prank? Simple. It’s not because Nair published it. He’s not THAT credible. It’s because that’s the kind of news we want to read. We want to go to Google News and read that the DICKtator has fallen victim to a cardiac episode. We want to log on and have people tell us “hey did you hear about LKY?” And we want to read about it online because that means the mainstream media is every bit as incompetent as we say it is. And most importantly, it is because everyone wanted it to be true. Because we are, either so deprived of entertainment that we gobble up any sort of  garbage that pops up on the internet, or so repulsed(or infatuated) with the old man that any news of his demise, genuine or falsified, makes our hearts flutter(sink) and our smiles widen(vanish). Proof of that lies in Remy’s editorial, where he mentions the lengths TOC went to attain any more information. Writers were mobilised and emails were sent to the PM’s office, SGH and Nair himself. Now, leaving aside that TOC’s purpose is to report such stories, not even the editors can deny that they were excited at the prospect of a Singapore without LKY. They were excited to be one of the first, if not the first, medium to gain confirmation of the story.

But where did the anger come from? Why the condemnation? For the netizens, some may have celebrated prematurely and felt like fools. Some may have felt like they were given a whiff of the cheese before being put back onto that running wheel. Some might’ve even felt like Nair was laying a hex on their beloved Minister. But nobody, nobody was genuinely offended by it simply because “Nair told us a lie. What does that say about his character?”

The answers are quite simple. For TOC, it’s because they wasted their time and resources trying to confirm the news. It’s annoying, it’s demoralising, and I can see where their complaints stem from. But that doesn’t mean I agree with their condemnation of Nair. As for the netizens, it’s because you were duped. Bamboozled. Hornswoggled. And you didn’t like it.

Fears of government regulation of the internet are well-justified. I do not, however, think the government would go to that extent. Considering the history Nair has with LKY, I believe it is more likely that Grandpa would take this as a personal conflict rather than an excuse to censor web content. Besides, with all the words being shot at Nair, the last medium the government would want to censor is the internet.

While I’m not completely appreciative of Nair’s effort, I certainly do not condemn it in Remy or Ng E-Jay’s manner. I found it incredibly amusing, for one. Of course, I understand where they are coming from. I take issue, however, with attacks on Nair’s character. It is pointless and childish to attack Nair based on this alone. Sure, death is no joke. Death of the Master is a bad, tasteless one. But allegations of Nair being a “moron”, “imbecile” and my favourite so far, “shameless, self-absorbed, leaden-footed ninny of a man” are completely unfounded.

Nair did not, contrary to popular belief, “stoop to that level”. In fact, there isn’t a level. There shouldn’t be a level. Nair is not a politician. He’s not a journalist. He’s not Willy Wonka. He’s a blogger and a lawyer and he lives in California. He has no obligation to provide accurate news nor to remain at his original “level”, wherever that is. If you can’t make that distinction, something is seriously wrong. If he had been a opposition candidate with the intention to run for office in the next elections, then perhaps he would fully deserve the reproach.

All this talk about him discrediting the opposition, and endangering internet freedom. If you truly see it that way, then you need to think this through. If his “political point is overshadowed by the backlash from ordinary Singaporeans”, it is only because ordinary Singaporeans can’t get past their egos and embrace the true message of Nair’s stunt. If you can’t abandon your views of it being “deliberate misinformation”, perhaps you need to take things easy. Why so serious?



  1. Not everyone was dupe… read where the bears roam free on this where he precisesly writes of Nair.. some of the commentors also indicated that Nair thought ALL singaporeans are STUPID now that he is not one?

    Well what are you expecting from TOC or E-Jay… not surprising.. since they were taken in like “idiots” themselves… basing on Nair’s blog.. reading itself already give you a sense that it is full of b..shit and venegence, personal attacks, and what have you, so as you say why take his blog seriously.. anyway not from day 1..

    Comment by Anonymous — March 9, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  2. See, where’s the discrediting of the opposition? Nair isn’t opposition. He isn’t even citizen anymore. If Singaporeans think that being a former WP candidate, his actions would discredit them, then I have to agree with Nair: Singaporean are stupid.

    I don’t think they’re idiots. i just don’t know what the big deal is. Nair can run his mouth all he likes, simply because he can! Do you honestly think that Nair didn’t know how much was on the line? He just went ahead and did it anyway. It’s not that I don’t take his blog seriously. I just didn’t take THAT post seriously. There’s something people need to learn to do. It’s called “thinking”.

    Comment by theinkhorn — March 9, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  3. Has anyone ever considered that TOC and Ng could well be some sophisticated plants of the ruling party? TOC’s Andrew Loh and that pal of his who took unwarranted issue with Kenneth J over whether JBJ was pro passive resistance IMO exposed their true character. That incidence completely changed my view of TOC. There could be other fishes ‘swimming’ with the masses, to quote Mao.

    Nair could have been more patient, he could have waited and release it on 1 Apr!

    Comment by George — March 10, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

  4. I don’t think it’s very likely, George. I believe that entire incident was a misunderstanding.

    If Nair had released it on April Fools, he wouldn’t have gotten the reaction he wanted. It would’ve been too obvious.

    Comment by theinkhorn — March 10, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

  5. Actually, I was wondering why 2 reporters were assigned to confirm the information from a crackpot’s blog. Perhaps everyone is already expecting for it to happen.

    Comment by Shihan — March 10, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

  6. I think you all missed that point – that for anyone in the gov’t service & wearing a uniform; we take all threats seriously whether real or imagined.

    The staff at the hospitals, the men-in-black, the ISD, etc – they’re all just doing their jobs and Goppy just added extra work for them in order to service the idiot’s vanity.

    Comment by Matt — March 10, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

  7. Shihan: Who isn’t? He’s lived way past the average life span of a Singaporean. I’m rather surprised myself that he’s still making trips to the UK. The fact is his passing would be one of those magical moments. You’d either be paralysed with fear, paralysed with sorrow, or paralysed from alcohol poisoning.

    Matt: If you consider his passing to be a threat, then you better keep that serious attitude because there is every possibility of that happening anytime. I, for one, would love to see all the aforementioned parties working overtime.

    Comment by theinkhorn — March 10, 2010 @ 8:45 pm

  8. I have to thank Nair for helping me to get a big paycheck from Google adsense this month.

    I hope he does this more often.

    Comment by bloggerqueen — March 10, 2010 @ 9:57 pm


    Coffeeshop Chit Chat – On Gopalan’s hoax and PAP hoaxes Subscribe
    From: Guestman551 8:47 am
    To: ALL (1 of 1)


    From an anonymous commenter in Singapore Dissident blog:

    Has Gopalan’s hoax hurt anybody? Why it is despicable? Is it more despicable than the following hoaxes perpetuated by the Lee govt.?

    That the CPF will see through Singaporeans’ retirement. That HDB flats are affordable. That foreigners work harder than Singaporeans. That the GRC system was implemented to ensure minority representation in Parliament.

    That there are no poverty and homelessness in Singapore. That ministers’ salaries are meant to ensure that only the best talents enter govt. service. That the two child policy was good. That there is no white horse platoons in SAF.

    That opposition like JBJ and CSJ are out to destroy Singapore. That Mas Selamat escaped through the toilet. Many of us do not even acknowledge these are hoaxes because we have swallowed hook and line these lies over the years via the MSM

    Comment by justice pao — March 11, 2010 @ 1:22 am

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