There is a fine line between fighting for a cause and being a rebel without a cause. In a country like Singapore where civil activists and opposition politicians are campaigning and speaking up for free speech, loose canons like teenager Amos Yee are damaging the cause instead of advancing the mission.
Free speech is a basic human right that should be sacrosanct in any democracy. It helps keep a government accountable and facilitates the discussions of key issues in a transparent manner. It is therefore a pity that such a fundamental right is being trivialised by the antics of a childish teenager who thinks he is some sort of crusader for free speech when he is in fact hampering the efforts of those who are genuinely dedicated to promoting free speech.
To make matters worse, those who pay any heed to his attention seeking tactics are inadvertently feeding his ego and adding fuel to his delusional belief that he is some of freedom fighter as opposed to just another bored teenager seeking entertainment. Yee thrives on attention. Well else is he picking on groups who have done nothing to offend him?
If he really is committed to the cause of greater free speech, why not get more active on the political front? Why not create a video or write an article that will spark constructive debate over videos that serve no purpose apart from needlessly offending some segments of society?
Now, I am not suggesting that people should take offence at his videos. As far as I am concerned, his antics are so puerile that I am more inclined to laugh than take offence. Besides, I recognise that he has a right to make those videos however idiotic they may be. I do however think, he should find a better use for his time and intellect.
That said, he has to realise that some members of society will be deeply offended by his videos. I am also certain that he deliberately creates material that is designed to be shocking and controversial. But I question his motivations. Is it satire or is it just a desperate attempt to be relevant? Cartoons, comics and videos that take on serious issues, which may cause offence usually, contain a deeper meaning behind the controversy.
Yee’s videos are about as funny as watching a dripping tap. However, unlike the benign drops of water from a leaky tap, Yee’s videos are designed to attack certain segments of society without any subtext or meaning apart from the offence caused. Any affiliation to fighting for free speech is loose at best because Yee has not in any way shape or form attempted to show why free speech is important. All he has clamoured for is the right to offend without reason or justification.
If free speech were so important to you Amos, wouldn’t you make what you had to say count? Why would you waste time in making videos that serve no real purpose apart from rehashing that you have a right to make them? For those who have been working tirelessly to uphold free speech, your immaturity does them a great disservice.
I am not endorsing the actions of members of the public who have decided to make police reports on Yee’s account. As far as I am concerned, that is a waste of time too. Why live up to the Singaporean stereotype of “everything also must call police”?
Since Amos persists in making these videos, we must persist in ignoring him. As long as there is a reaction to his behavior, more videos will come.
Let him be free to say what he likes and let him fade into oblivion. Let’s not confuse the antics of a teenager with free speech. Let’s also not punish an intelligent boy who is going through an existential phase of trying to decipher the meaning of his life.
He needs time and space to figure things out and we should have the grace as a society not to see a boy as some sort of national security threat.
For those who believe in free speech, let’s also not taint the cause with the immature actions of a teenager.
The only way to stop him is to ignore him. Once he stops having an audience, he will desist.