Thursday, 14 February 2008

A Shameful Blame

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.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

















Thursday, 7 February 2008











Saturday, 2 February 2008


















Friday, 1 February 2008

No One Would Know Anything If That Never Happened

Earlier this week I have been engaged in a two-day training workshop, after which I returned to the office to clear the backlog and virtually had no time for news. I didn't find out what actually happened in the ongoing scandalous drama about local artists such as Edison Chen, Gillian Chung and Cecilia Cheung until last night.

The fact that the most popular online discussion forum was shut down due to heavy traffic is simply amusing. It has too much to tell about how insane and senseless Hong Kong people can possibly be.

What really sends a chill down my spine is not the fact that those disgusting pictures were distributed online as an object of voyeurism. Again, it is the sheer hypocrisy of the local media and those engaged in the entertainment business, which have become too corrupt to be trusted any longer.

Before anything else, let me make myself absolutely clear. The following arguments are by no means an attempt to justify the act of publishing and distributing the pornographic pictures, which, to a certain extent, is even more disgusting and senseless than the act of taking the pictures itself. My point is that while it is easier to uphold law and justice over published pornography, there are more important and fundamental questions for the self-proclaimed victims.

I think the first question is: Why would any sensible human being take any obscene picture of their own sex life?

Apparently the answer to this question is one related to personal consumption and enjoyment, without prejudice to any moral judgement. In my opinion, however, making visual records of anything as personal as sex and yet another individual, no matter how intimate he or she is with that person, is involved, it is nothing but hopeless narcissism. Worse still, this is a kind of narcissism that builds self-admiration and complacence upon contempt of the others. I don't believe any sensible individual would agree to his or her partner doing something like that. Even though in many cases, it might have been agreed between the two individuals that those pictures would be restricted to their own use, there is essentially no guarantee that any individual would be able to keep the promise for the rest of his or her life. One simply has no control whatsoever of how the pictures would be used after they have been taken. There is enormous risk that few on earth can possibly afford to take, especially for those who are eminent and easily recognised.

Or, perhaps, I'm simply being too conservative and out of touch with the younger generations here. Too much is incomprehensible without reason.

My serious doubt on trust, especially when it comes to personal issues, naturally leads to the second question: For whatever reason some pictures of this offensive nature are taken, why would someone else possibly have access to those pictures?

As we can see in the recent scandal, there is an appalling ignorance of the need for self-protection and contempt for mutual respect.

It is easy to understand the lack of mutual respect, at a time when the high-sounding buzzwords of economic growth and public interest seem to justify any behaviour, regardless of how unscrupulous those can be. Logically, this is when people should have a strong awareness to protect themselves on all fronts, because anything can be exposed or destroyed in the name of something.

Apparently it is not the case in reality. Thanks to technology advancements, our brains start to become retarded when everything seems to be available at our fingertips. We know little, if anything at all, about freedom and obligations before we actually start punching our keyboard. We come to learn about these concepts, which few of us bother to think twice anyway, only when we are exposed to the borderless virtual world. Most of us tend to focus too much on freedom, without realising that it is at least our responsibility to protect ourselves before anyone else can do so. Blaming hackers, phishers, paparazzi and others with excessive curiosity is by no means helpful. This is because by human nature, there are always plenty of bad guys hanging around than the good guys. We should know too well that it is far easier to be naughty than to behave ourselves.

This is precisely why I think local media coverage on the matter is sheer hypocrisy. Simply condemning those individuals who share and distribute the photos without giving a second thought on why this could possibly happen in the first place is utterly unacceptable. Blaming someone else can never justify one’s stupidity and ignorance. It only serves to remind people of his or her cowardice.

Perhaps an old Chinese saying that has not been heard for many years serves as the best summary of the moral lessons to be learnt: "No one would ever know anything if that has never happened."