(Un)Popular Opinion

How Far Is Too Far? A Journalism Grad’s Take On Namewee’s Funeral Prank

A different perspective.
(Un)Popular Opinion | Even if you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about local rapper and producer Namewee organising his funeral on Monday (Apr 1), which happened to be April Fool’s Day as well.

While a majority of netizens were quick to dismiss it as another of his out-of-this-world antics, those out of the loop were genuinely concerned and worried for Namewee’s wellbeing when news of his death swirled around.

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I mean, who wouldn’t look at this photo and go, Wow, did he really pass away for real?’

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Later, it turned out that Namewee wasn’t dead but was very much alive and well, where he released a lengthy statement on Facebook explaining that although the funeral was staged, it was meant to be “a serious and solemn event” to let fans see death in a more “relaxed” light.

Unsurprisingly, another controversy broke out, where a clip of journalist from a well known Chinese media having a verbal argument with a YouTuber over the lack of information surrounding Namewee’s status went viral on social media.

As one who has been trained in the core tenets of journalism during my three years of study, I’ll be addressing two main aspects from the journalistic perspective: 1) Namewee’s funeral prank and 2) the role of journalists in writing news stories.

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Did Namewee go too far with the funeral prank?

One of the things that was taught to me in university was that the media has the power to shape public opinion on political and social policies as well as set positive or negative precedents for years to come.

In fact, the media is often dubbed as the ‘fourth estate’, where its role in disseminating accurate, unbiased information is essential to maintaining the fabric of society.

News crew with cameras
For illustration purposes only. Photo via Freepik

Unfortunately, this same power has been misused by certain parties to gain traction through methods that cause more harm than good, and Namewee’s funeral prank was a prime example of that.

As soon as word of Namewee’s ‘death’ came into the open, the news media jumped right into action and delved into its unusual circumstance. After all, who would’ve thought that one of the most successful and controversial artiste would pass away all of a sudden?

Granted, everything from the funeral announcement to the proceedings seemed legit, which included a bizarre photo of an attendee posing for a selfie while Namewee laid inside a coffin.

Namewee lies inside a coffin
Photo via China Press

When it later emerged that the entire funeral was just a prank, my initial reaction was one of disbelief, which then gave way to anger. Not only did I believe Namewee’s actions were reprehensible, but it was deeply irresponsible as well.

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Being a larger-than-life media personality, he should know that such pranks, no matter what his intentions may be, can have negative effects on his thousands of fans who were watching it unfold with genuine concern.

Firstly, the prank makes a mockery of a solemn occasion where friends and family members of the deceased grieve over the pain of losing someone they hold dear to their heart. Personally, I abhor the thought of shedding tears at a funeral and be told later that it was done merely for fun.

Secondly, when it has been given such wide media coverage, there is a danger of ‘copycat’ incidents cropping up in the future. With the rising number of youths looking to earn their 15 minutes of online fame, it’d be no surprise if one of them decided to follow Namewee’s footsteps in fooling people into thinking they had died.

As to questions surrounding why journalists would even bother writing about such events, this now leads into the second aspect involving one very irate reporter.

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Doing her job or being a busybody?

On Twitter, there was a 2-minute clip which showed a female reporter having a fiery exchange with a local Youtuber who attended Namewee’s ‘funeral’ where, up until that point in time, no one still had confirmation on whether the artiste was alive or not.

In an attempt to uncover the truth behind the growing mystery, the reporter demanded an answer regarding Namewee’s whereabouts but was repeatedly stonewalled by the YouTuber, who kept asking who had sent her to write about the ‘funeral’.

In response, the reporter replied:

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I don’t care who sent me here. He (Namewee) is a public figure and has now stirred up such a big issue. You’ve wasted resources from the media to cover the news and he must bear the responsibility of informing the public whether is he alright or not!

In the comment section, some netizens criticised the reporter for turning up for an event the media weren’t invited to and making a scene when she didn’t get what she came for.

As one who’s attended and covered several media events during my internship at various media companies, I fully support the reporter’s dedication and insistence in getting an answer because the public does indeed have the right to know whether a figure of Namewee’s stature was alive.

As for accusations levied against the reporter for poking her nose into other people’s business, I disagree as it goes against the sole reason for journalism’s existence: finding out the truth. If it weren’t for the determination and “thick-skinned” nature of journalists, scandals such as 1MDB or National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) would never see the light of day.

However, what the reporter could’ve done better was to use a calmer tone of voice instead of lashing out. While I understand her frustration of not being to find answers and getting patronised by the YouTuber, sometimes keeping a cool head is the best way to do so.

Closing thoughts

With the dust slowly settling down, my only wish as a journalism graduate is that the Malaysian media will give more thought to covering issues that actually impact the public instead of giving coverage to figures who often resort to unethical methods to gain clout.

But with little incentives and high personal risks for journalists to pursue investigative journalism, the chances of it ever happening is super low. But hey, one can always dream, right?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not purport to reflect the opinions or views of WeirdKaya.


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