My training and working experience as a journalist bequeaths me an extraordinary level of concern of how the Hong Kong media behave. Unfortunately the disappointment that caused my resignation from the profession more than a decade ago only proves to be stronger than ever.
It is really difficult for me to resist the frustration and disappointment upon reading how the ongoing scandal of pornographic pictures has been discussed in the media. This is why I am writing for the second time on the disgusting drama that has already evolved into another serious blow to the wishfully proclaimed communal harmony.
Many internet users and political opportunists have criticised the police's selective and unfair law enforcement, which I can't agree with more. The police owe all of us in Hong Kong an explanation on why they took action in such a swift and high-profile manner on a case that is essentially not any different from the countless obscene stuff floating around, except that in the current scandal some prominent faces are involved.
Moral fundamentalists such as those of the Society for Truth and Light, not surprisingly, wasted no time to jump on the bandwagon by condemning those who shared the obscene stuff on the internet. Interestingly enough, they portrayed the female artists appearing the photos as victims, as if they have lost or suffered anything. But why? In what position we, as third parties, are to victimise any individual without their prior consent? When it comes to the issue of showing respect, is there any difference between us, the self-proclaimed moral defenders, and those individuals who shared the obscene materials online? In any case, are those portrayed in the sexually explicit pictures truly victims of ruthless voyeurism or contempt by anonymous third parties, or just falling prey to their own indecent acts?
Again, I'm not trying to defend any person who published the obscene materials online. What I'm saying is that those who took or agreed to take the pictures should also be responsible for what they did. In other words, it is unfair and unreasonable to blame just one party when so many people have left their dirty fingerprints on the issue. It is shameful to blame the others without self-reflection. There is always more than one dimension than makes up the whole issue and none of them should be overlooked.
Unfortunately the local media have been proven to be among those who frequently forget that they also share some social responsibility. What is even more unfortunate is that well-established and respected media is jumping on the bandwagon of adopting double standards.
For many days, Headline Daily and The Standard of the same news group have been criticising those who protest against the police's handling of the scandal. They also criticise their competitors of indecent and inappropriate coverage of the eyebrow-raising drama, as if they have been setting a role model for the industry.
Not surprisingly, this is not the case. Earlier on when the scandal just broke in late January, the news group publications were fussing over Democratic Party legislator James To, saying that he was in a marriage crisis because his wife allegedly had an affair. Ironically, at the same time, the editorials of those publications have been calling for "respect of privacy" with a righteous statement, "Through the internet that has extensive coverage, the outlaws [in the racy picture scandal] are abusing freedom and technology to spread the obscene pictures, deliberately causing harm to the artists, offending morals and challenging police's law enforcement." (Headline Daily, 30 January 2008)
What kind of respect of privacy it is to send paparazzi to track Mrs To's whereabouts then? Does it have anything to do with public interest if anything happens to a legislator's marriage? Is it reasonable to even ask about someone's marriage if we don't personally know him/her? Does it mean that, at the end of the day, we are still haunted by the Confucian teaching that having good family ties is the pre-requisite of a successful political career? Does it have anything to say about our irresistible curiosity, which we have been subconsciously cultivating to grow far beyond the limits?
With fresh memories of the latest example of sheer double standards in mind, I couldn't help sneering when I read the following editorial in today's The Standard:
Bear in mind also: a wrong could never be right, no matter how many times it is said to be right.
Let us also do something good for our children by not turning our values upside down.
It is heartening to know our educators are now going to include the nude photos scandal in their teaching to emphasize again what is right and wrong. One doesn't have to be John Tong, the newly appointed coadjutor bishop of the Catholic diocese, in order to be able to say we should protect decency.
In kindergartens, children are already taught to show respect for others. Why can't adults?
Excellent. Let's start learning the moral lesson of respecting those whom we think would deserve our respect, a precious gift that should be handed down at our discretion. For those whom we dislike, we don't give a damn.