Amos Yee and the online public sphere

With respective to the Amos Yee incident, there seems to be a rise of a second wave of comments. The first wave was the online mob bashing of Amos Yee. This second wave of comments argues that Amos Yee is (1) entitled to his opinion so he should be able to say whatever he wants #freedomofspeech, (2) the online mob bashing of the first wave is no better than Amos Yee himself, (3) we should be forgiving of his actions and let him off because he is just a young boy, and (4) he is actually pretty mature given his political views at his age.

Let me just briefly talk about each of those points.


Freedom of speech is quite an interesting issue right now in Singapore, there's a fair bit of debate on it and I don't want to go off on a tangent and start discussing that right now. However, to those who are using the crackdown on Amos Yee as an example of the stifling freedoms in Singapore and to call for greater freedoms, I would like to suggest that Amos Yee's comments do not help to push the freedom of speech agenda. If anything, the ruling party will take this very example as a reason why freedom of speech should NOT be fully allowed in Singapore, because it clearly agitates the people and causes great unhappiness. Look at the mob mentality on the first day. There were people spreading his handphone number around and writing death threats. As I went to sleep that first night, I honestly wondered if people might have been more aggressive and take things into their own hands had they not known that the law would deal with him.

This will be cited as a reason why Singapore is not ready for freedom of speech. It is paraded by those against total freedom of speech as a case study which demonstrates that Singaporeans will not know how to use the freedom granted to them in a responsible manner. So if you are someone who wants to push for greater freedoms in Singapore, do recognise that Amos Yee is an obstacle, he is not a martyr for the cause.


You are right. It is not. I do not condone death threats, spreading his number around maliciously and so on. Related to point one though, it is the price to pay for freedom of speech. Argument one and two do not go hand in hand. If you support freedom of speech, you should recognise that just as you claim Amos Yee is entitled to his opinion, so is the entire mob that responded to him. On the flip side, if you do not support such kind of freedom of hate speech Amos Yee makes, then do not join in the mob and hate on him as well.


You are right that we should be forgiving. Speaking as a Christian, we remember the words of Jesus upon the cross in Luke 23:34: "Father forgive them for they know not what they do". I ask that angry Christians calm down and remember that Jesus was willing to forgive those who nailed him to the cross, so it should be the same for us.

As for letting him off, justice is not the same as forgiveness. You can forgive someone but still demand justice, just not in a vengeful manner. Here again we might raise the question of whether the actions currently taken is just, but I am not going to debate here about whether laws such as the sedition act are fair. So decide for yourselves where you stand on this issue. Personally, if he shows repentance I would be willing to let things slide. Punishment to me is for people to learn from their mistakes, or for damages to be paid to best attempt to right the wrongs. Damages are not really applicable in this case, but in terms of learning from mistakes his proud smile and waving at reporters cheerfully suggest to me it might not be a good idea to let things slide. It's too early to make a call though, we'll see how things go in the days to come.

Regardless, it is not for us to take matters into our own hands. Let the courts decide. On our part, especially for Christians, we forgive.


Amos Yee is a great orator. As is Hitler by the way. Being a great orator speaks nothing of your character or maturity. Please do not call him mature, this is childish self-centered, self-glorifying behaviour. I probably was childish when I was 16 as well, just that I didn't take it that far nor did I put it online, but yes I was childish. Same goes for Amos Yee. If you think he makes such mistakes because he is young, fine I accept that, but don't call it something else it is not.

Or perhaps you think that he is intellectual instead of mature, just used the wrong term. Well, trickier here, but I would dispute that. There are people who jump on the bandwagon and say 'he wasn't technically wrong to say those things they are factual truths', well please, some of those statements were far from factual truth. Additionally, if you want to make conclusions on the character of someone like LKY, please discuss the full picture. It's a different thing if you want to critique a certain policy he adopted, but nitpicking certain parts of LKY's life and ignoring the rest, then coming to a general conclusion that LKY is an evil man is far from intellectual. It is a lazy one-sided argument that wouldn't hold up to any proper discourse.

Amos Yee tells you to google, and clearly that is what he did. It really doesn't take much effort to google and I would not credit someone who gets information from google as being very intellectual. Even in googling though, he has not demonstrated fair and balanced use of it but instead clearly cherry picks information which support his stand while ignoring everything else. Amos Yee demonstrates confirmation bias in his research, a confirmation bias that led him to accept information from the likes of Roy Ngnerg (who by the way many opposition candidates do not wish to associate with either and has himself made some terrible arguments that do not make sense).

I wouldn't say he is stupid either of course, he does demonstrate a level of intellect. In this particular case though, do understand that his arguments are not intellectually sound. So please stop rallying behind his arguments if you agree with them, but take some time to find out the political history of Singapore yourself. Let's not simplify something which is more complicated and requires a deeper understanding. Various academics and journalists have written about the topics Amos Yee brought up and it would do you well to gain a better understanding of them.

Personally if you have noticed, I have not commented much on what I feel about these issues myself. They are still things I am thinking about and wouldn't want to make a firm stand on. What I do know is that LKY was not a purely black and white character, just like any of us human beings, and his death certainly should not be something to rejoice over.

I'll conclude this by going back to (1). Is Amos Yee entitled to his opinion? Personally, I would say no. I say no on two levels, one because it is simply in bad taste, and two because I believe that you are only entitled to what you can argue for. As for us, may we act with wisdom and not commit the same mistakes which we are accusing others of.