Shoot and shame

Of all the online citizen exposés that have happened in Singapore, this recent one takes the cake.

The “exposer” shared a video of a NS man supposedly feeding his girlfriend and commented on how her dad found it so nauseating.

It turned out that the “girlfriend” is an intellectually disabled girl and the NS man is a kind family friend who took her out for dinner.


I recall an incident involving a woman who took a photo of a man who sat on the reserved seat in the MRT and refused to give up the seat to an elderly person despite being asked to.

So the woman posted his photo with a description of what transpired, and it went viral.

It turned out that the man had a medical condition and needed that seat.

Another one involved a BMW driver who had a miscommunication with a pump attendant at a petrol kiosk. He’d asked for a $10 pump but got a full tank instead. He refused to pay for it and the elderly attendant said he would cover for it.

One of the customers in the queue heard the commotion, took a photo of the driver and posted it on social media, again with description of what happened, implied that the BMW driver was possibly cheating and appealed to the petrol company not to let the attendant pay for the difference of $125.

Netizens hunted down the BMW driver based on the photo, and he ended up having to make a police report for harassment.

His rationale for the $10 pump? He was due to trade in his BMW and did not want a full tank.

Both sides of both stories might be speaking the truth, but therein lies stereotypes and false assumptions leading to wrong conclusions.

The former – reserved seats are only for the elderly, babies, pregnant women and injured people shown in the signage and grown-up men don’t need to sit; the latter – BMW drivers are rich bullies while elderly folks who are still working at their age are poor and vulnerable.

Having said that, I can understand where the two women in the MRT and petrol kiosk incidents were coming from when they posted what they posted, even though the way they went about it leaves much to be desired.

It probably came from a sense of righteousness, that they needed to fight for what they believed was right and expose what they believed was wrong, and in their eagerness to do so, they chose the quickest way that guaranteed the widest coverage which would drive the broadest awareness: Social media.

In their quest for “justice“, they’d overlooked the need to get both sides of the stories, and inadvertently did injustice to the people they’d chosen to shame.

Who is to blame?

I cannot understand the point of the recent case, though.

What was the point?

To raise awareness that women need not be spoon-fed by men? A feminist movement?

What was so nauseating about someone feeding someone, when they weren’t even doing it in your face?

Most importantly, what business was it of yours?

It’s akin to seeing some men holding their girlfriends’ tiny branded handbags while the ladies shopped.

Is the bag that heavy? Why can’t the girlfriend carry it herself? Why is the guy carrying such a feminine bag? Is he not embarrassed?

What would you do when you come across a big man carrying a Chanel box (sorry I don’t know the name of the bag 😂) bag? Take a photo of him and post it online? To raise awareness that female luxury bags should not be carried by men?

I’m guessing most ladies who carry our own bags would shrug and continue carrying their own bags, while most ladies who let their men carry their bags would also shrug and continue doing the same?

So why can’t a boyfriend feed a girlfriend food?

You do not know the couple. You do not know their history, relationship, love language. Carrying her bag, feeding her.. might all simply be acts of service. Who are you to interfere and feel the need to expose and shame?

It’s not like they were making out in public and doing obscene stuff.

(Even so, you can choose not to look. Just sayin’.)


Who is to blame?

The ubiquity of social media?

The inflated notion of citizen journalism?

The denser population resulting in lower tolerance?

The meritocracy system resulting in similar importance of dishing out punishment in the form of shame?

People who have nothing better to do and/or cannot mind their own business?

I love writing because it is a form of expression and a better alternative (for me) to speaking.

I love writing because I love language, words, and the power of words.

“The pen is mightier than the sword”, I’d learned in school, and out of school.

And I believed so.

I’d once aspired to be a journalist, and entered the school of communication studies so I could become one, only to back out when I realised I could not take the weight of it.

During one of the lectures, I watched a video clip of a flash flood in Taiwan. From the journalist’s vantage point, I saw a couple hang on to a thin piece of stick before eventually getting washed away into torrential water and heard an impassioned commentary which described the flood but did not seem to feel anything for the victims.

It was so hard to swallow and so, so hard to forget.

I gave up pursuing journalism but fortunately I found my next love – in communication research – and went ahead to specialise in it in my 3rd and 4th year.

I find it unfathomable that people could so carelessly write something, post pictures and not think of the causes and consequences.

Sure, it might not be a bad thing that social media has put power into the hands of common people like you and me.

But as a Superhero puts it:

Perhaps it’s time to exercise some responsibility instead of simply shooting and shaming.

Sometimes, maybe just, sometimes, silence makes the world a better place.