Alice Fong is the most recent talk of the town. I’m sure you have read/heard a lot about her. You may have even heard that she’s a grassroots leader. How did that all start?
It all started with a post by the Facebook page “The Alternative View”:
Their source for making that spurious claim? “A reader” called. Did they even take any effort to verify the veracity of what that caller claimed? Sure. They trawled through Alice Fong’s Facebook page (which seems to have been set on private or deactivated) to find tonnes of photos of Alice Fong with PAP MPs.
Eh… take photo with MP means grassroots leader meh? Like that Andrew Loh, the co-founder of The Online Citizen (TOC, which is often critical of the government and PAP), also grassroots leader la:
Granted. That Alice Fong has A LOT of photos with PAP MPs. And she also tags them in her Facebook posts. But if you have seen all those photos, she never appears in any of them wearing any RC or event t-shirts. You see ah. All these grassroots leaders and volunteers often have t-shirts to identify themselves as grassroots leaders or volunteers. This is so that people attending events and activities can identify them and kao peh to them if something goes wrong.
But in none of the photos does Alice Fong appear to be wearing those t-shirts.
And there are other photos that suggest that Alice Fong isn’t a grassroots leader or volunteer but merely a resident. MP for Nee Soon GRC, Dr Lee Bee Wah posted this photo on May 29, before Alice Fong went batshit crazy:
Note that the MP says “by my resident”. Who’s this resident? Clearly referring to Alice Fong. If Alice Fong was indeed a grassroots leader, the MP would most likely say “by my grassroots volunteer” or “by my grassroots leader”.
But never mind all these. It’s on Facebook. It’s something that can be used to bash the PAP. IT MUST BE TRUE! Let’s use it to bash PAP and all grassroots leaders! WOOHOO!
And that rumour started to spread like wildfire. Alternative media sites like The Independent Singapore reposted it. Granted. The Independent Singapore (TISG) stopped short of actually endorsing what The Alternative View posted to be true. But TISG took no effort to independently investigate and verify if there is any truth in what The Alternative View posted.
Nee Soon Central Zone 1 RC (the grassroots organisation that the Alternative view claimed Alice Fong was a grassroots leader in) clarified that Alice Fong was neither a member or volunteer of their committee:
Assoc Prof Faishal Ibrahim, who’s also an MP of Nee Soon GRC, also clarified that Alice Fong was not a grassroots leader or volunteer.
Did any of these clarifications stop the rumours from spreading? Did those who spread the rumours apologise for spreading the rumours? Did they take active steps to inform others that what they had earlier said was wrong and that people should stop spreading them?
Nope. Netizens still spread the rumours. Their logic was that the PAP was distancing themselves from their erstwhile grassroots leader. TISG even embedded a Facebook status of some Tony Keng Hong Tan who claimed to have called the Nee Soon Central CC and that the PA staff replied that the woman, who is believed to be Alice Fong, is “no longer a member / volunteer in Nee Soon Central Grassroots Organisations.”.
Again. Done without any independent investigation or verification. Now if TISG was just a personal blog (like mine), maybe still ok. After all, individual bloggers like me aren’t journalists. We have never claimed to aspire to any high journalistic standards.
But if you read the “About us” of TISG, it states that: ” It is a platform owned and operated by journalists. Started on the 9th of August 2013, the news website brings in-depth perspective and analysis on current affairs, economics and politics in Singapore.” Just reposting something that first appeared on Facebook does not in-depth analysis make.
I would have expected a news website that aims to bring in-depth analysis to do more. A lot more. Like… calling the CC yourself to find out if that conversation actually happened. Or writing to the MPs of Nee Soon GRC to ask if Alice Fong had ever been a grassroots leader in Nee Soon. Perhaps posting the same question to PA would help.
But TISG didn’t seem to have done any of that. It seemed to be more than happy to just spread rumours without any analysis. Very disappointing. I had originally had high hopes for TISG.
And to those who still die die insist that there’s some PAP cover-up conspiracy, Alice Fong herself has stated that she’s neither a grassroots leader of volunteer. Again, any of the alternative media site who were involved in spreading the rumour that Alice Fong was a grassroots leader apologise for spreading falsehoods? Any took active steps to stem the spread of that rumour that has now been confirmed to be false? Nope.
This is worrying. We know that the mainstream media is biased in favour of the government and the PAP. That’s why we need to have credible alternative media. It’s ok if the alternative media is biased in favour of the opposition and even slightly anti-establishment. I think that is necessary to balance the mainstream media.
But the alternative media HAS TO BE CREDIBLE! That means it should not go around spreading rumours and lies! Even if you caveat it as “Is this true?”, it still makes you party to spreading rumours and lies. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Alternative media needs to hold itself to higher standards. Only then can we best advance the progress of democracy in Singapore.
[Featured image: People behind TISG. Image credits: Ng Yi Shu and Mothership.sg]