Many years ago, someone who called a party said publicly during the party, “Everyone here is eating and drinking at my expense, but half of you can’t wait to make nasty comments abt me and the party.”
I attended TOC’s do last Friday, and ate more than my fair share. The programme was enjoyable, certainly funnier than if the president had been able to attend. I’m sure that there would be some self-censorship, out of courtesy. One does not offend the guest-of-honour.
So, I hope the Core Team and TOC supporters don’t think that I’m like one of the ungrateful guests at my friend’s party all that many years ago about what I’m going to say.
In 2005, Today newspaper had its fifth anniversary bash. Triumpalism was the in the air, with a slick video boasting of how Today had overcome a dirty tricks campaign by an unnamed media empire. I don’t blame the staff for doing what they did. It was a natural reaction to what they had done: survive and build a loyal readership, despite everything the SPH group could throw at them.
But one Goh Chok Tong in his speech said, “Today newspaper is only five years old. Compared to The Straits Times, it is still a growing child. The fifth birthday is not really a major milestone whether for a child or a commercial organisation”.
Many guests, self included, tot this was a most ungracious comment even for a “foot-in-mouther” like him. He was after all the guest-of-honour. And just as a host should not offend the guest-of-honour, a well-brought up guest should not offend his host.
The remarks turned out to a harbinger of the castration of the newspaper’s editorial team. A few months later, Today began its long, slow, painful slide into ST Super Lite, losing, by our admittedly low standards, its edginess.
So let’s not be too triumpalist, or too optimistic for TOC, as many were on Friday especially Catherine Lim who gave a great acceptance performance* for TOC’s inaugral Lifetime Achievement Award. Keep Nemesis away. Remember the Gods don’t like Hubris. TOC had two “lucky” escapes or near brushes with death last December when “A significant part of what has been attributed to Mr Seng [by TOC] is false, to be quite blunt about it,” had been proven true by the time the remark was made. No-one from SMRT was willing to admit that anyone from SMRT made the racist comment that MP Han attributed to “SMRT PR person”. http://www.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20111225-318099.html
I’m sure you know what one “lucky” escape is (It got the facts right). But the other is less obvious. Suppose if TOC had done what Cherian George and the Law minister wanted it to do and what ST would have done (remember Cherian has very, very close connections to ST): print the headline,”MP says SMRT PR person says …”.
TOC would have been soundly beaten up by Cherian, the minister and many others for not checking whether Han had quoted SMRT correctly. Suppose also that sensitive Malays or trouble seeking Indians, or both, had rioted, destroying SMRT property and injuring staff and police: TOC would not have had a birthday do.
The Core Team would be in jail (courtesy of ISA) while the Public Prosecutor decided which law to use to ensure that the judges could throw them in jail, and throw away the key.
So TOC and supporters: be humble, watchful and careful. Better to be alive and productive than to die and be remembered like a legend. Lions like Dr Chee and JBJ live too dangerously for “lesser mortals” like self. Be like Chiam**: Do the right thing in a low-key but determined way. The water buffalo can be just as dangerous to its enemies as the lion.
Mrs Chiam got it right when she said, “TOC’s now the mainstream, because Singaporeans say so”. So, no more hand wringing Ravi Philemon about not being accepted by the PAP, government and their friends as part of the media*. Vox Populi, the people have spoken.
*I’ll rant abt the substance of her performance after the CNY hols.
**Taz not to say I agree with everything he does. Brickbats after the CNY hols.
***Unless TOC’s Core Team want to be part of the mega-bucks establishment or have the dubious honour of the likes of ministers and MPs like Zaqy acknowledge officially that they “engage” with TOC, or have the honour of the president attending a TOC do, or any combination of the three. Me? Prostitution sounds a more honourable way to earn serious money. And I’m anti-social. Threes a crowd.