14 July 2022

Did the New Naratif Civil War destroy New Naratif?

In April 2022, New Naratif raised the alarm. For the very first time, despite several years of releasing "accountability reports" to his subscribers and the public at large, Dr PJ Thum, the managing director of the website and director of its holding company Observatory Southeast Asia Pte Ltd, admitted to a crippling financial shortfall. Subscriber numbers have been misreported, subscription fees not collected, leading to a corrected revenue shortfall of USD 40,000. Not soon after, he appears to have let go almost all his editorial staff. Even now, New Naratif's restructuring is still in progress as it pivots to a different business model, publishing angle, and reason for existence.

This is par for the course for any financially distressed enterprise—until the staff laid off by Dr Thum chose to fight it out in the public. They allege that Thum misled both his readers and staff. Thum accused the staff of attempting to subvert his management, and furthermore accused them of waging a disinformation campaign. The staff stand by what they said, noting that documented evidence (presumably in the reports and subscriber emails) supports their narrative, not Thum's.

English Civil War woodcut in pamphlet, c.1643

In a fit of madness, Thum and his former employees have fired off the equivalent of ICBMs in a mutually-destructive civil war. Both sides may refuse to issue further responses but the damage is done.