There are two courts in life: the court of law and the court of public opinion. When a media-savvy young Monica Baey feels that authorities have failed her, it is not only natural but also predictable that she will inevitably turn to the court of public opinion.
We can see this playing out very clearly in the Monica Baey’s case. As mothership summarises (lightly paraphrased):
Now, let me summarise the many levels of wrongs in this whole case:
Monica Baey did not consent to being filmed by the peeping Tom, Nicholas Lim Jun Kai.
So, what is the big deal about “consent”? Well, consent is a fundamental of human rights. A woman is not “owned” by a man, and is not a “thing”– she is a full adult human being in her own right. Filming a woman in the toilet without her consent robs her of dignity, another fundamental pillar of human rights.
Is voyeurism necessarily wrong? Of course not! If you are a voyeur and can find a lady who is willing to be filmed in the toilet, then there is consent between two adults and few can interfere.
So what is the official consequence of having your consent and dignity robbed from you? According to NUS, it is giving the perpetuator one semester suspension and forcing him to write a formal apology letter, of which you might easily find a template off google.
This sort of consequences sound pretty light to me, don’t you think?
Therefore, if like Nicholas Lim Jun Kai, I had some misogynistic and voyeuristic tendencies, this sort of light payoff matrix might encourage me to not take crimes seriously too.
For, if there is a 70% chance of not being caught and receiving full benefits and 30% chance of being caught and facing the punishment, this makes the expected benefit of committing the crime pretty high.
Well, I definitely don’t think this sort of light payoff matrix makes sense, which is why I’m writing this post to state on record that it does not make sense.
Security camera shows Nicholas searching different cubicles in an entirely different block for someone to film. This implies that Nicholas would have, to some extent, considered the consequences of being caught.
If he had considered the consequences of being caught, and is now indeed caught, then why are some people are putting the blame on Monica Baey for bringing this case to social media?!
Well firstly, the payoff matrix (please refer to point #1) is already pretty light for the perpetuator. It is clear that Monica was robbed of her dignity and consent as a human being with pretty light consequences.
I read some comments which criticised the “mob mentality”, and tried to justify guys of Nicholas’s age as having “raging hormones”.
Well once again, the issue here is not “raging hormones” or not, but “consent”. There are many legit ways to deal with “raging hormones” with consent, such as intimacy with girlfriend (which he has), one night stands (not difficult because he is actually not bad looking), or self-service.
I have always wondered why there are so many “SG Girls” Tumblr blogs around with “leaked” voyeuristic sex/ naked videos of both ladies and cute gay boys. Over drinks, my guys friend would mention these blogs (easily google-able) and I’ve often wondered if consent were sought.
I personally also know people whose private videos of themselves in compromising positions were leaked without their consent. It IS a very distressing experience.
Then after Monica + friends dug out more and more cases of ladies getting filmed in NUS toilets, I’m increasingly convinced that when a peeping Tom films a lady, it is not likely to not just be for his own viewing only.
And gosh, Nicholas Lim Jun Kai did not choose a stranger to film–he chose a fellow hall mate to film, considering that he chose a toilet in hall on NUS campus. Which only makes it even more dubious that the filming is for his own pleasure only.
Therefore, the damage of Monica Baey’s good name and dignity is likely not to be limited to just one person.
Mob mentality, perhaps best illustrated in the work “To Kill A Mockingbird”, is “when people can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis.”
Now, when the issue at hand is about a system error which can be substantiated with facts and a payoff matrix that has relatively light consequence for the perpetuator, it becomes an issue of public interest.
Yes, some people are understandably angry and may come across as highly emotional online, thereby not being able to argue their case rationally. That being said, because the economics of this case is very strong, there are many people who can argue this case rationally too.
So I would argue that the petitions that call for harsher punishments for Nicholas Lim Jun Kai is not just emotionally driven, and very rationally driven as well.
It saddens and disappoints me even further to see my alma-mater National University of Singapore issue a press release yesterday, after first advising Monica to keep matters hush-hush:
For that, I’m like “wow” on so levels. It appears that the press release was only released after the public outrage, as part of the university’s crisis management.
I say this as a PR practitioner, with the knowledge that there are alternative ways of writing this press release. This particular press release is written in a highly impersonal manner, suggesting that the first priority is the reputation of the university rather than the reputation of the victim.
I personally feel that this whole saga is the result of a system’s flaws.
If the system is right in the first place, e.g. every student knows that he will be expelled and/or slapped with significant criminal charges whenever he attempts to record a lady bathing, it is unlikely that Nicholas Lim Jun Kai will have the guts to do what he did.
I read some commentators saying that Nicholas Lim Jun Kai is probably plain unlucky to choose a victim who is not afraid of standing up for her own rights.
Now, this line of reasoning might sound politically incorrect, but it is not without truth. Indeed–Nicholas Lim Jun Kai is unlucky under current systems.
e.g. If only if he had chosen a less gusty victim!
What has our society become, that the consequences of robbing someone of her dignity becomes contingent on whether she voices out and gains public support for the injustice done to her?!
Having said that, since this is the flawed system and since the burden of proof and inflicting of greater consequences falls upon the victim, then I believe it is only right for Monica Baey to speak up.
And people who believe that the current judgements under current systems were not exactly appropriate, like myself, could choose to speak up too.
Which is why I wrote this opinion piece, in the interest of the public.
Now let me stress that my intention of writing this post is to posit that even if nothing ever changes with the law or with NUS disciplinary measures, people like myself can still write calm and rational posts like this to make a point…
…And search engine optimise the whole thing to make sure it ranks well on google. There you go, the court of public opinion for you.