A rather dramatic op-ed about the Covid-19 situation in Singapore has garnered an equally dramatic response by a Singaporean, who believes that the original article published by The New York Times (NYT) holds a “racist spin”.
The parties involved: Megan K. Stack, veteran journalist and best-selling author; Ivan Hong, entrepreneur and social commentator; and Singapore, the country they both call home.
On Wednesday (May 20), Stack’s article about how the Singapore government and its citizens are handling the coronavirus outbreak was published on NYT. It’s a commentary from an outsider’s point of view, filled with common tropes about the republic's stances on homosexuality, civil liberties, surveillance and the death penalty.
But the point of Stack’s piece is to point out how Singapore has shown itself to be a rather dystopian place to live in thanks to the surge in coronavirus cases. Aside from the concerning rate of infection among the country’s migrant labourers, the highlight of her discourse was saved for last, when she shared the rage she felt at being called out by a stranger for not wearing a mask after ending a morning run outdoors.
“The two faces of the state, caretaker and authoritarian, are intertwined and omnipresent,” she wrote. “Through the government’s fliers and text messages and speeches, I’ve been extorted, scolded, cheered up, menaced, coddled, invited to conspire against my fellow residents and reminded, all the while, that it’s for my own good.”
I wrote about Singapore:— Megan K. Stack (@Megankstack) May 20, 2020
“The 2 faces of the state, caretaker and authoritarian, are intertwined and omnipresent. I’ve been extorted, scolded, cheered up, menaced, coddled, invited to conspire and reminded, all the while, that it’s for my own good.”https://t.co/XsaHbQAxgZ
Hong took quite an adverse reaction to the Stack’s piece, enough to publish a lengthy rebuttal on his Medium page.
“…I’m sick and tired of reading the racially-tinted commentary Western journalists continue to crank out every other day,” he began.
His passion against Stack’s article appeared to be intensely personal. The man went on to lay out criticisms about the United States of America, its citizens, and how its government has been poorly handling things like privacy breaches and public health. It gets pretty dramatic — at one point, he called the veteran journalist a full-blown Karen.
But Hong was not the only one that found Stack’s op-ed problematic. Plenty of Singaporeans have voiced out their disappointment personally to her on Twitter.
Hong's article has also been widely shared across social media — but that's not to say that his piece hasn't been picked apart too.
Some joker wrote a Medium article titled “How the New York Times put a racist spin on Singapore’s COVID-19 efforts” and I was SO ready to enjoy it. Alas, reader, it turned out to focus less on the orientalist tropes present in the NYT article (1/3) pic.twitter.com/HfXQAquTSi— cherian george stan account (@pauriahcarey) May 21, 2020
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