My response is chiefly to the post above, but its real target is a long-standing knee-jerk response by Singaporean commentators. What is especially puzzing to me is the fact that this cheap response is being emulated by some of the younger generation. I don’t know how young people can believe that “Western Media” is trying to downplay Singapore’s success in order to make their own countries feel better, and yet simultaneously bash Trump for discrediting news channels and the fourth estate.
A few critical questions should arise at this point. What does “Western Media” have to gain from making other countries look bad? Not every news channel is state-run you know? And also, have you not seen the way “Western Media” has been bashing Trump and their own governmental/economic system on a nearly daily basis?
The article James is attacking can be viewed here, and its argument is relatively well put and its conclusion modest. Singapore as a whole has a cognitive blind-spot for migrant workers and the quick response which Covid-19 demands cannot be swiftly applied to decades of structural and systemic neglect.
However, rather than own up to or address these arguments, James and those stuck in the nationalistic herd behaviour of crisis chest-thumping, have chosen instead to conjure up a conspiracy in which panicky U.S journalists concocted a series of lies to be passed off as an article so as to assure themselves and Americans that the situation is bad even for countries which had previously been praised for their response to the pandemic.
This blatantly ignores the other essays Time released in praise of Singapore’s handling of the virus, one of which you can view here. Unfortunately, to the uncritical nationalist, praise is the default. How could this country ever be flawed in any way? Criticism, on the other hand, is Western journalistic imperialism and a fake news conspiracy.
This is not to say that Western Media is perfect or unbiased. Western media outlets have their flaws, especially in the domains of reporting about Palestine, human rights issues, and the middle-east, to name a few. And yes, those have been criticised and traced back to the structures of funding which keep these news outlets afloat. However, in this case, Singapore is an ally of the U.S and plays only a small to minor political or economic role in the funding structures of U.S news.
It is painfully ironic that the post valorises transparency, integrity, and honesty when it itself is unable to respond to criticism without resorting to decrying Western Media biased, slapping a slooppy motive on it, and then chest-thumping furiously about Singapore’s greatness.
What is scarier though, is that this is precisely how Trump’s America was forged. Criticisms of the regime were labeled fake news and demonised, while praise was welcomed and set as the norm. The only difference is that Trump will only be in power for a maximum of another 4 years, whereas in Singapore this circular process of both the State and its supporters decrying all criticism as fake news has the potential to carry on and deepen itself for much much longer.