Isabella, what were you thinking?


Before I say anything else, I would like to give Isabella Loh, CEO of the Night Safari and perpetrator of HalloweenHorrorsGate, a standing ovation. Why?


Well, such jaw-dropping stupidity is truly a feat. It’s almost impossible to be this moronic, even if you try, but this lady has somehow done it. She is also a great example of how weasel words kind of make the world hate you. A lot.


Also, a note to the Night Safari’s management: CEOs who make decisions in the office based on personal and/or religious beliefs without a shred of logic or PR skills to back them up are not worth the damage to your brand.


HalloweenHorrorsGate: The Story So Far


Media reports on the cancellation of the Halloween Horrors event at the Night Safari included a juicy nugget of information about why it was cancelled: Isabella Loh felt that the dastardly, devil-worshipping activities at the Halloween Horrors event were not family-friendly, and our new President said that he is really into family-friendly activities.


Corporations, friends of the zoo, the public and the media (really, the media?) were also fingered as sources of negative feedback about the event’s relevance to conservation. And thus, logic died, at least in Isabella Loh’s brain (assuming that it had not already died in her brain a long time ago).


Wait, what?


Devil worship at the Night Safari’s Halloween Horrors? Have I missed a very large memo? I won’t lie: when I read the article, I started giggling at the devil worship references. I only wish she had been joking, but no, she was serious:

“She clarified that the cancellation was not due to religious reasons, although she admitted that she made references to “devil worship” when members of her team asked her why the event did not fit the family theme.”


Um, if it was not due to religious reasons, why bring up “devil worship” at all?

“…she had visited the event’s Haunted House on Monday and “got upset” after that as she “was uncomfortable with the idea because it was too scary”.


Wow. It was too scary for you, so you made a decision that cost your company almost a million dollars to organize, about $50,000 in tickets already sold, and wasted the time and effort of 17 students, all in one fell swoop.

“I explained in an email that that is a lot of money spent on an infrastructure (Haunted House) of devil worship,” she (Isabella Loh) said.”


Huh? Simi devil worship? Did she actually see Satanists attempting to sacrifice goats/summon demons/raise the dead/ whatever it is that bona fide devil worshippers do? Did she? And by ‘see’, I mean “verified by other witnesses who are not fundamentalist Christians and/or insane,” not ‘view in my imagination, where fairies dance and Satanists prance.’


I know this phrase was bludgeoned to death by a certain young female politician during GE 2011, but… I don’t know what to say.


And, inexplicably:

“According to sources, Ms Loh said that she had heard that “zebra heads were chopped off as a scare tactic” as part of Halloween Horrors.”


Uh, I hate to break this to you, Ms. Loh, but zebras aren’t exactly 3 for $10. Also, don’t you think it would be… against your company policy to decapitate zebras for cheap scares? Actually, those would be very expensive scares, because shipping a zebra to Singapore is no joke. Just ask the selectively invisible zebra-murdering devil-worshippers that run the Haunted House. In Ms. Loh’s imagination.


Make your own judgments about her intelligence and sanity from the quotes above (helpfully provided by the print edition of the Straits Times on Monday, 19 September 2011).


In part 2 of the saga, Isabella Loh apologized for linking her decision to cancel the event to our 35% President (what? It’s true) and also to the 17 students from  Singapore Polytechnic who had invested their time and effort on this year’s Halloween Horrors event. (If you want to read more about that angle of this debacle, mrbrown has written an article about it here.)


By the way, this is what she said about the impact of the cancellation on the SP students before her apology statement was released:


She was “not informed about the contract for grading the… student’s work.”


Two words on behalf of the SP students (and no, the words do not rhyme with “Tuck Yew”): Hey, thanks.


In Part 3 of HalloweenHorrorsGate, PAP MP Baey Yam Keng, interestingly, has done the PR equivalent of bitch-slapping Isabella Loh by offering to host the Halloween Horrors event in Tampines. Ouch.  Also, sorry to disappoint all the conspiracy theorists out there who believe that the incumbents had a hand in this, but this statement, coming from a PAP MP, kind of proves you guys wrong. No, it is not a smokescreen, their PR machinery is not capable of it, in terms of speed or sophistication. Trust me. (If you want proof of this, take a closer look at all the news articles related to GE 2011.)


Say It With Me: Logic Good, Insanity Bad


Let’s forget, just for a moment, how those poor students from SP must be feeling right now. Let’s also forget about all the people in Singapore, locals, expats, and tourists alike, who actually wanted to attend Halloween Horrors this year. Let’s also, just for a little while, forget about the $40,000-$56,000 in revenue that the Night Safari has collected from 1,000 tickets that had already been sold when the event was cancelled. And just for now, we’ll ignore the princely sum of almost 1 million dollars that has already been spent on organizing the event.


Ms. Loh thought that the Haunted House was a place of devil worship? Like, goat sacrifices, inverted crosses, demonic Latin incantations a la Supernatural, that sort of thing? Because if the Haunted House in the Night Safari really was a place of worship for Satanists, then I am a bloody absinthe fairy.


Does Ms. Loh know what Halloween is actually about? Or that in countries where it is celebrated, it is a family-friendly activity, when parents go trick-or-treating with their kids? Oops! Guess that destroys her “not family-friendly” excuse.


Was she truly concerned about the whole family-friendly issue? The fact that she cancelled it after our 35% President made his family-friendly remark seems… suspicious, to put charitably. If she was truly concerned about this issue, she would have looked into the suitability of the event much earlier instead of cancelling it 2 weeks before the event.


From her statements about zebra heads, devil worship, etc., the explanation for the cancellation seems to be a case of finding a convenient excuse to axe an event that she felt strongly violated her personal and/or religious beliefs. Her insistence on the fact that it was not a decision swayed by religious beliefs only makes it sound like a case of the lady doth protest too much. I use the term “religious beliefs” here loosely, because the last time I checked, being a frakkin’ idiot was not a religion.


One thing is for sure: Isabella Loh displays the lack of logic that one finds in fundamentalists of any ilk. And when I say fundamentalist, I mean people who are so literal-minded in their beliefs that they ignore logic, frequently to someone else’s detriment. Sometimes, this involves religion.


You see, this is why fundamentalists of any flavour should not be allowed to breed. Or have contact with any other human being, for that matter. Maybe we can find them a nice corner of the planet where they can live, sans logic, without aggravating the rest of the world. Or trying to kill everyone else on the planet who doesn’t share their perspective, be it religious or otherwise.


Logic 101: Leave The Devil Worshippers Out Of It


Have you ever tried explaining the colour blue to someone who has been blind from birth? This is what it’s like when dealing when fundamentalists of any sort. The problem is that they are too arrogant and/or stupid to see the flaws in their illogical beliefs.


But how does one get to this point? How does an individual who is capable of climbing the corporate ladder all the way up to CEO let their grasp on logic and reality slip to the point that they seriously believe a Halloween-themed building is an “infrastructure of devil worship”? And don’t blame Christianity, either. The Bible is a fairly large tome, so I will save you the trouble of looking through it to glean information about Jesus’ instructions to Christians. Hint: It has nothing to do with seeking out devil-worshipping buildings/trains/boats/other infrastructures/zebra heads. Rule number one of Christianity, according to the Man himself, was this: Go love the world and be nice to people, and don’t put yourself first. Most of the major sects of Christianity agree on this, if they agree on nothing else.


I am not defending fundamentalist Christians. They are scary, repugnant hypocrites without a shred of sense. In the same breath, they claim to worship a God who tells them to love other human beings, and they spew hatred aimed at homosexuals, other religious denominations, and Harry Potter books, to name a few. There is nothing nice to be said about people who believe that the world exists only in polar opposites of good and evil/ us v.s. them/ black and white, with no shades of gray in between.


Far from defending anyone, I am saying that Isabelle Loh actually acted contrary to Christianity’s rule number one: She put herself first. Her beliefs, her prejudices, her opinion: they came  first. So don’t blame Christianity, blame stupidity.


I am not buying her weasel word statement about negative feedback, because (a) WHO, exactly, complained? Give us numbers, give us percentages, give us logic, for goodness’ sake. 12 out of 5,000 or 1,200 out of 5,000 members of the public who have visited the Night Safari’s Halloween Horrors event? (Random numbers for illustration only, I am not putting words in her mouth. She has enough on her plate dealing with the fallout from what she did say.)


Also, (b) If the negative feedback was sufficient to justify cancellation of the event, why was it not cancelled earlier? Preferably, before almost $1,000,000 was spent and 17 SP students saw all their effort wasted? Did all the negative feedback stream in just a month before the event? Three weeks before the event? Where is the logic, Isabella?


All her arguments for cancellation hold no water:


1) Weasel word statement about negative feedback

2) Family friendly events only, please

3) Haunted House = Expensive Infrastructure of Devil worship


#1 and #2 are just proof that Ms. Loh is about as intelligent as a slice of bread, and possesses the PR skills of a senile fruit fly. No news there: by default, fundamentalists of any sort are not great wits.


#3, however is what interests me. Not because it’s the kind of justification that makes me think of Jesus Camp, Sarah Palin and the AWARE saga, but because it’s an extreme version of what can happen to an otherwise reasonably intelligent human being who fails to keep asking one simple question before making a decision:


But why?


What Happens When You Stop Questioning The Status Quo


In fact, we’re all guilty of the crime that Isabella Loh committed, albeit on a much smaller scale. No, we didn’t waste almost a million dollars, damage our company’s image, or disregard the time and effort of 17 students. Well, not most of us.


We are, however, guilty of failing to ask “But why?” when it counts. @patlaw asked it of a PAP social media drone not too long ago, to great comedic effect. But that’s another story.


We make so many decisions, small and large, without asking ourselves why. We accept things that we are told without questioning why. We make decisions about who we date, what we eat, our jobs, even our vacations, almost everything we do – without stopping to ask: “But why?”


Why am I in this industry/job although I hate it? Why am I eating this bag of potato chips when I’m not really hungry? Why am I getting married when I don’t really want to? Why, why, why?


When you stop questioning the status quo, when you decide that logic is a selectively useful tool, or when you stop questioning deeply because you’re afraid of the answer you might find, then, my friend, you are in trouble.


When you stop questioning the validity of the logic behind any decision, situation or statement that involves you, something more terrifying than decapitated zebras occurs. Your inner bullshit detector starts to disappear. You take statements at face value. You stop seeking the truth, and start accepting things blindly. You begin to accept half-truths, bad decisions, poor leadership, lackluster relationships, and a host of other situations that you would not put up with – not if you stopped to ask “Why?” until you found a satisfactory answer.


In some ways, this is far more terrifying than fundamentalists. It’s also the most fatal flaw in an individual’s thought process that empowers the originators of fundamentalist ideology of various flavours to acquire followers and make life unpleasant for other people who, unlike them, do not blindly accept faulty logic.


The constant desire to question things persistently is a trait that comes naturally to children. Everything is fresh and exciting to them, and they’re too young to be familiar with the heartbreak that arrives when you ask “Why?” and discover a truth you wish you hadn’t.


Some pretty amazing things have been created by some bright spark asking “But why?” Gravity, evolution, democracy, the Salt March… these are just a few of the things that began with someone thinking: “Well, this is how things are. But why?”


So stop accepting, and start questioning.


Akan Datang: Epic PR-Fail


I was going to include the PR-fail douchery of Isabella Loh in this post, but I realized that her douchery was so epic, it deserved to be in a separate post.