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Blogging Rights

The recent case of AcidFlask vs A*Star chairman Philip Yeo has brought <a href="http://www.dooce.com/archives/daily/02_26_2002.html" title="Heather fired for blogging">the dooce</a> right into our front yard. If you're unfamiliar with AcidFlask vs Philip, refer to the <a href="http://verbatimwordforword.blogspot.com/2005/05/astar-vs-chen-jiahao-articles-from-st.html">case notes</a>.
There are many issues at hand, but let's look at the dominant one a little more in depth.
Is it AcidFlask's right to air his opinion on his blog? Did it amount to libel? Was Philip Yeo's demand that AcidFlask remove his entire blog excessive?
Now that AcidFlask has taken down his blog, we cannot ascertain for ourselves whether or not what he wrote (falsely) lowered Philip Yeo's or A-Star's reputation in our eyes. Based on the discrepancies between the <a href="http://www.djourne.net/singaporeink/index.php/archives/2005/05/06/accusations-and-counter-accusations/">Singapore Ink account</a> and the <a href="http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/146299/1/.html">Channel NewsAsia accounts</a>, A*Star seems to take issue that AcidFlask accused them of bribery, "misuse of money and misbehaviour". Someone said <a href="http://tomorrow.sg/archives/2005/05/06/acidflask_replies_to_cna_report.html#comment-392">that those allegations were made by a reader in the comments</a>, and not written by AcidFlask (I'm beginning to feel very 1990s calling this guy by his nick) himself.
From what I gather, Philip Yeo comes across as a person who doesn't take well to criticism. In <a href="http://www.tnp.sg/news/story/0,4136,87881-1115567940,00.html?">Saturday's profile of him in The New Paper</a>, he was quoted as saying,
<blockquote>'You can call me names,' he said. 'I don't care. Just don't criticise my work… I will bomb you flat.</blockquote>
So let me get this straight. You can call him names, but you can't criticise his work. He openly <a href="http://www.tnp.sg/news/story/0,4136,87882-1115567940,00.html?">calls male scholars wimps, openly stating his preference for female scholars</a>.
How is this relevant to the dominant issue? If Philip Yeo is as we read him to be, wouldn't he be a person to overreact even if AcidFlask's opinions were well within the realms of fair comment? Would Philip listen if we sat down and calmly listed down the problems inherent in the current scholarship system, or would that be critical of his work? Would it have turned out better if AcidFlask were female?
The blog is a two-edged sword. It is as personal as you want it to be and yet as loud a megaphone as any form of communication medium can ever possibly be. But remember this nugget of wisdom from the THX folks: <strong>The audience is listening</strong>.
I think it is preposterous for someone to blog about something and then later claim an entitlement to personal ranting as a defense. You've put it on the friggin' internet. There is no larger audience accessible to the common man, especially given the fact that Singapore's speaker's corner is located in some obscure pedestrian-deficient part of Singapore.
That being said, if we are to progress as a society we cannot continue the "no one can criticise my work" / silence all opposing viewpoints mentality our government used to have. The powers-that-be need to adopt the new government directive: listen to the people, put on a smile, build the casino anyway.

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