Woman who ranted at deaf cleaner says sorry
Woman who lashes out at deaf foodcourt cleaner is targeted by online vigilantes
In what is becoming all too common, all it took was a moment of folly for Ms Alice Fong to gain online infamy.
Upset with a deaf 64-year-old cleaner who tried to clear her food against her wishes, she gave him a tongue-lashing that can only be described as vicious and mean-spirited.
After a video of her tirade last Friday went viral, the 37-year-old executive got a taste of her own medicine as netizens crucified her.
If Ms Fong's reaction to the cleaner trying to do his job was extreme, so were the online reactions.
The incident at the food court of Jem shopping mall in Jurong East was filmed by Ms Euphemia Lee, who uploaded it on Facebook.
She wrote: "She abruptly exploded into cursing and violent upper body actions. She then told him that he should go and die and should not be given a coffin."
The video shows Ms Fong lashing out at the cleaning company's operations manager, known only as Steven.
She can be heard berating him: "If he's (the cleaner) deaf, ask him don't work, go home and sleep.
"Just ask the Government to feed him, go and be a beggar! I don't care, he took my food!"
This, despite Steven repeatedly telling her that the cleaner is deaf.
Contacted by The New Paper yesterday, Ms Fong admitted that she was in the wrong and she has called Steven to apologise to him and to the cleaner.
In her defence, she said she had found something dirty in her food and had been planning to take a picture of it as evidence when the cleaner tried to clear it.
"I was very angry because I told him not to take it, but he went ahead. At that point, I didn't even know he is deaf," she said.
"I admit I had used harsh words. I didn't mean to scold him with those words."
Ms Fong added that she was on flu and cough medication that afternoon and may not have been "thinking straight".
Steven told TNP that he was surprised to receive Ms Fong's apology yesterday as he had not expected it after her outburst on Friday.
But he was glad that she apologised, he said.
"Whether she apologised on that day or today, we will accept it. The case is closed."
He added that the cleaner seems to be his usual self and there is no plan to replace him.
The case may have been settled between the parties involved, but whether the online vigilantes will now lay off Ms Fong remains to be seen.
After the video went viral, they circulated photos of Ms Fong online, mostly of her at grassroots or residents' committee events.
They monitored her online activity closely, even keeping track of her Facebook name changes over the past two days. Some netizens made demeaning remarks about her size.
Yesterday, Ms Fong started getting prank calls and text messages from strangers. It turned out that her phone number, her husband's phone number and their address had been splashed online.
"I'm not even picking up any calls any more because I don't know who the calls are from," she told TNP.
She added that she has since tried to stay off social media because "ignorance is bliss".
A resigned Ms Fong said of the online vitriol: "I can't stop whatever people want to gossip about me. Just don't harm me and my family."
She is considering whether to make a police report about the harassment.
Ms Fong said she will go to work as usual today. Her company, which she declined to name, is keeping faith with her and has told her not to let the furore affect her work, she said.
In that respect, she can consider herself lucky.
British expatriate Anton Casey and National Trades Union Congress assistant director Amy Cheong lost their jobs after making disparaging remarks about public transport and Malay weddings, respectively.
They, too, suffered at the hands of online vigilantes. Like them, Ms Fong let her emotions get the better of her.
Illness or having a bad day is no excuse to lash out at someone trying to do his job, disabled or not. But she also does not deserve such virulent online retribution.
Two wrongs don't make a right.
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