Sunday 16 February 2014

Why PM Lee Hsien Loong can't 'unfriend' anyone on Facebook

It’s no laughing matter.

Three people were killed and 33 injured in the bombing of a Singapore building in 1965.

Forty-nine years later, Indonesia wants to name a warship after the two Indonesian marines found guilty of the bombing.

Too soon?

Singapore’s foreign minister, Mr K Shanmugam, seemed to think so, having “registered his concerns” with his Indonesian counterpart how the naming would impact “the feelings of Singaporeans, especially the families of the victims”.

Last Sunday, it was reported that following the “diplomatic row”, Singapore cancelled the invitations of Indonesia’s top military officers to the Singapore Airshow which ends today.

On Tuesday, blogger Lee Kin Mun, better known as Mr Brown, jokingly suggested on his blog that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong should send “a strong diplomatic message” to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono by unfriending him on Facebook and unfollowing him on Twitter.

“And don’t take selfies with him anymore,” added Mr Brown.

Okay, now it’s a laughing matter.

I believe Mr Brown was joking for several reasons.

For one thing, PM Lee may be on Facebook, but his is not the regular Facebook page that most ordinary folks have - it doesn’t have a link for you to “send him a friend request”.

You can only “like” him.

This is good as it eliminates the likelihood that PM Lee will ignore your friend request because, let’s be honest, he has better things to do than be Facebook friends with the likes of you.

I mean, you’re no president of Indonesia, you know?

This also means PM Lee can’t unfriend anyone as he has no Facebook friends to unfriend.

But anyone can “like” his Facebook page without fear of rejection, even if you voted opposition.

Ditto President Yudhoyono who also has a “likable” Facebook page and not a “friendable” one, although there are couple of friendable “Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonoos” on Facebook whom I suspect are fake.

One of them has only nine friends, including a Drew Barymore (not to be confused with US actress Drew Barrymore).

Even with PM Lee unfriending him, I think a president of Indonesia would have more than nine Facebook friends.

Heck, even I have more than nine Facebook friends and I have barely nine real friends.

Anyway, now you know why Mr Brown must be joking when he suggested that PM Lee should unfriend President Yudhoyono on Facebook.

Taking the joke further, the fake news website New Nation published an article with the headline, “PM Lee unfriends Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Facebook, untags him from photos”.

The article quoted a fictional expert named “Eric de Yaya” as saying: “The scale of Singapore’s retaliation is completely out of proportion. But this is a sure sign that both sides mean business.”

But some in Indonesia didn’t know it was joke.

One Indonesian newspaper cited the New Nation article as fact with the front page headline “Singapore PM-SBY cut off friendship”.

But the Indonesian media soon realised they were punked and ran stories about themselves getting punked with headlines like “Singapore PM unfriends SBY, Indonesian media fell for hoax”.

Then the Singapore media, specifically and inSing, picked up the story that the Indonesian media had picked up the story that the Indonesian media had picked up the story that turned out to be a joke.

Now it’s a laughing meta.

Bragging about its achievement, New Nation posted on Facebook: “New Nation is proud to announce that we have done more to ease tensions and foster deeper Singapore-Indonesia diplomatic relations than (Singapore President) Tony Tan.”

But not everyone is amused. One Facebook user commented: “Politicians in Indonesia may just use this to build a stronger case for hostility. Satire is lost in a propaganda war. Giggle while you can.”

Then another Facebook user called the first Facebook user “uptight” and the circle of life and death continues.

In defence of the Indonesian media, I can understand how being Indonesian, they could not have known New Nation is a satirical website.

They might have confused New Nation with an actual newspaper with the same name in Singapore that reported actual news many years ago.

It was an easy mistake to make.

The US satirical website The Onion is more well-known internationally than New Nation and yet people still get fooled by The Onion, including former Singapore minister Lim Hwee Hua in 2012.

That said, I guess someone in the Indonesian media could’ve verified whether President Yudhoyono was “friendable” on Facebook in the first place for him to be unfriended by PM Lee.

And I’m talking about the real President Yudhoyono, not the fake “Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonoo’’ with Drew Barymore as a Facebook friend.

Actually, having seen the profile picture of Drew Barymore, I wouldn’t mind having her as a real friend. She’s kind of hot.

She can “like” me on my Facebook page any time.

- Published in The New Paper, 16 February 2014