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Netizens should be objective when commenting on ACJC incident, says Thng Yiren

ACJC ragging incident: Has freedom of speech finally shot itself in the foot?

A female student of Anglo-Chinese Junior College was “tortured” by her friends as part of her birthday celebration. The incident was filmed and posted on YouTube. For more about the incident, visit Alvinology’s blog. The following article is TOC’s Youth Writer Thng Yiren’s take on netizens’ reaction to the incident.

Thng Yiren / Youth Writer

The underlying assumption that freedom of speech is predicated upon is the latent ability to express opinions that are civil, responsible and factual.

Well, I am referring to the recent incident of an ACJC student who was filmed in a birthday celebration that had gone out of control.

“Chocolate milk and foreign substances stuffed into clothing is absolutely ridiculous and unacceptable. I am very enraged by this act.”

“It is an awful sight and there is no way the victim is enjoying this.”

“As ridiculous as it gets, in the first video at 9:20, a female was trying to untie the victim.”

“Unbelievably, without hesitation another person shoved her hand away and stopped her immediately.”

“No one else bothered to stop the act and what left me dazed was peers laughing and cheering throughout the entire act.”

Watch the video in its entirety, and you can see that it was not crying and moaning that was happening. Rather, it was the prevalence of laughter that was present. Also, for all netizens who were too caught up condemning the girl, it did not help that she had a blog post that was directed at this specific incident.

What an irony, isn’t it? For commentators who labelled the act as barbaric, shouldn’t they extend the label to their fellow commentators who were indulging in personal attacks at the principal about the response should this had happened to her own children.

If this is indicative of the level of maturity that netizens can conduct themselves in, then freedom of speech may have to wait for many more years ahead to come. I make this comment on two grounds.

- Obviously, online netizens are too eager for the kill. Just look at the amount of comments that were not constructive at all, the comments that were antagonizing. If netizens, as they claimed, were genuinely concerned, would they engage in such a diatribe that leaves no room for grace or improvement?

- On Monday on the same platform on Stomp, “ACJC students help pillion injured in accident, while motorists just stare”; isn’t it sad that the focus of “First-World” citizens remains on negative aspects?

Now, perhaps all of us have some serious evaluation to do. While we can come to a consensus that this sort of behaviour may not be the most desirable, does it truly merit such comments that are seen online?

Secondly, I feel that one of the main issues that have again surfaced is Generation Gap. Alumni of the school have called for actions, most serious of them amounting to expulsion. However, youths argue that these actions are actually norms in a youth culture that can truly accommodate. Terms as diverse as “deviant behaviour” to “Ok what, what is the big deal” have surfaced. However, I do hope that what can be put into the spotlight is the spirit behind the entire saga. To focus on the physical actions may not provide a clear picture, and if netizens truly would like to reach a resolution, we would have to examine this incident from another perspective. Allow me to demonstrate my point.

If what was broadcast was an incident of “taupok”, which is the piling of bodies on someone, would it actually garner so much backlash? I put it to all netizens out there that name-calling and labelling can actually cause much more hurt than this incident! If the interests of friendship were not jeopardized in this incident, then what other argument can there be? Emotional onslaught leading to post-traumatic stress disorder? How do you know if you do not know the “victim” herself?

In conclusion, I think that responsible freedom of speech still has a far way to go. I am not directing this at the multitudes of commentators, but only to the ones who were far more interested to engage this on a personal, emotive basis. Speak what you want, but get your facts right, and offer constructive and thoughtful comments. To condemn the girl with obscenities or simply launch into a strong tirade with no room for picking up is not worthy of an educated individual. I can only appeal for objectivity as we engage this unfortunate incident.

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Picture from Alvinology.

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Commenting on the ragging incident, its principal, Mrs Kelvyna Chan, told web portal STOMP:

“The College is aware of the incident which was a birthday celebration of a student who was popular with her peers.

“We understand that the student was prepared for the celebration, and that there was no malice nor bullying involved.

“When a teacher saw the celebration, he immediately stopped it and counselled the students.

“The birthday girl also assured the teacher that she was not hurt physically nor emotionally.

“Some weeks after the event, a teacher again enquired about the girl’s wellbeing, and she assured the teacher and the College that the celebrations were all done in good fun and she was well.

“Although the activity was done in good humour, the college has counselled the students involved on the possible hazards of such activities and that there are more appropriate ways to show friendship among their peers.”

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