The blogging community started the buzz, the mainstream print media picked it up and it went all the way to Parliament. This is really a reversal of rolls. Usually, news starts with what is said in Parliament, gets reported in the print and/or broadcast media and then dissipates in the blogging community where everyone weighs in which his/her 2 cents worth. But the story really started innocuously enough in the print media when the subject of interest wrote an article for the Straits Times.
Of course, I am referring to Singapore Permanent Secretary Tay Yong Soon's ill-advised column on his family and his 5-month trip to Paris where they attended a cooking class $15,000 a pop, totaling S$45,000. For this amount of money, you could be enrolled in a full-fledge degree course, or even a master's degree course at SIM University. This is conspicuous consumption of the highest order, although one cannot deny that the PS is just following official policy to learn new skills to remain employable. Thus, before we jump to the conclusion that the PS has indulged himself and his family, we should let him explain.
And from all accounts thus far, the PS appears to be a decent chap. The only error he made was talk to the press about his trip and have it written up. Really, if he has the means to get a top-notch lesson in cooking that costs a bomb, that's his prerogative. There are many others who spent a fortune indulging in their hobbies, so why begrudge a man his pleasures? And he did it with his family, so that's really a good thing. Nothing like family bonding around the fireplace, albeit a costly one.
But chatter on the internet, in blog gossips and such, these are often merciless, subjective and shorn of any mitigating information. Merciless is the keyword here. It does not matter if you are a good man, a generous man, a charitable man. Once you are 'caught', you're toast. So what's the lesson here?
1. Be careful when you talk to the Press.
2. Apologise to show humility, not that you are in the wrong (Good for you, Mr Tay)
3. Don't defend yourself, let others do it for you (his colleagues' comments spoke volumes for him).
4. Be a good boss - the goodwill will be returned in spades later
5. Take internet chatter with a pinch of the salt. (Look, we are not trained journalists, just chatterboxes, sometimes equal to the best auntie gossipers you can find in a market any day)
6. Ignore internet savvy auntie gossipers at your own peril
7. Write for the Press at your own peril. Worst if you are a civil servant