At the confluence of three events in the past 20 hours, discourse on Presidential Candidate Donald Trump was trending on Singaporean social media: 1) Trump claimed that Singapore is among the Asian countries committing the “greatest jobs thefts” from the US; 2) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the next Presidential Elections in multiracial Singapore will be “reserved” for Malay candidates; 3) A journalist who grew up in Singapore and now works in the US penned a semi-viral article about how “Donald Trump is the embodiment of everything Singapore taught me to fear about democracy“.
How are these events connected, and how have Singaporeans reacted? I trace some coverage in the Singapore media landscape and focus on Facebook reactions on a dedicated post by mainstream English language newspaper The Straits Times on Trump’s assertion. Images were screengrabbed at 2300hrs-2315hrs, 8 November 2016, GMT+8. This post was penned at 0600hrs, 9 November 2016, GMT+8.
Before proceeding to the analysis of Facebook reactions, here is a primer to the three events.
1) Singapore is among the Asian countries committing the “greatest job thefts” from the US.
The Straits Times, Channel News Asia, MSN Singapore, and Mashable were among the first outlets to report a particular snippet from Trump’s Florida rally on 6/7 November 2016 (depending on your timezone), in which he claimed that Asian countries such as Singapore were stealing jobs from the US.
Specifically, Trump claimed that “Goodrich Lighting Systems laid off 255 workers and moved their jobs to India. Baxter Health Care laid off 199 workers and moved their jobs to Singapore. It’s getting worse and worse and worse”.
Vernacular reactions from Twitter users pointed out the irony of having 24yo Singaporean Kenneth Sng, Student Union president at Washington University in St Louis, make the opening remarks to the 2nd Presidential Debate earlier last month.
Users in the meme ecology went to town on Facebook, circulating panels in Singapore vernacular English and Singlish regarding Trump’s fears. As usual, forum users on Reddit and HardwareZone also debated the validity of Trump’s claims with facts and opinions alongside the standard acrobatic humour and snark.
2) The next Presidential Elections in multiracial Singapore will be “reserved” for Malay candidates
Singapore is a multiracial citystate with four officially recognized racial/ethnic groups: Chinese (~74%), Malay (~13%), Indian (~9%), and Others (~4%). While Singapore’s first president in 1970 was Malay man Encik Yusof Ishak, elected presidents from the last five cycles since 1991 have been Chinese and Indian. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong thus called for the next presidential elections in 2017 to be “reserved for candidates from the Malay community”.
While this has been a contested and contentious issue per se, PM Lee alluded to the current US Presidential Elections and voting along racial lines as reported in The Straits Times and Channel News Asia. He observed that Trump’s supporters are “overwhelmingly [W]hite, lower and middle-income voters” while “Black voters” were “overwhelmingly voting” for Clinton. The move to designate specific presidency electorial stints to different racial groups is thus one measure for Singapore to avoid voting along racial lines a la the US – or so it seems.
3) “Donald Trump is the embodiment of everything Singapore taught me to fear about democracy”
Journalist Ruchika Tulshyan who grew up in Singapore and now works in the US penned a semi-viral post for Quartz in which she reflected on the political rhetoric of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and semi-authoritarian governance in Singapore. In particular, she recalls how economic stability and political compliance are privileged over “individual rights” such as “free speech”and the right to own guns. She asserts that “Trump’s racist, misogynistic rhetoric has taken flight against the backdrop of real discussions about race, inequity, and poverty in America” and muses over the Singapore government’s willingness to partake in “democracy in all of its messy, complicated, chaotic glory”. The opinion piece has resulted in hundreds of mirror reportages and made its rounds on Facebook and Twitter.
In this section, I present an open coding of the 873 comments on The Straits Times’ Facebook post reporting on Trump’s sentiment that “Countries like Singapore [are] stealing US jobs”. At the time of capture, the post generated 5.4k ‘reactions’, 873 comments, and 5.7k shares on Facebook. The 873 comments (from users who seem to be primarily Singaporeans) are screengrabbed and archived below.
The general reactions from users on this post, featuring a selection of illustrative comments, are:
“we were featured on the news!”
“Did he really single out Singapore”
“Mentions “Singapore.” *triggered*”
“Im surprised he heard of Singapore?”
“Wow! Aren’t u proud that Singapore is being mentioned in their election?”
“Secretly happy that we got named alongside big countries like China, India and Mexico. We’ve made it! (Or maybe I just stopped taking Trump seriously…)
“Suddenly Singapore is at the center of its attention of Donald trump.”
“SCREW him , bigoted, lying misogynistic racist !!!!!!”
“Fuck you Donald Trump!”
“Shut your big damn mouth if not i going to kill you!!!”
Mainstream: “clown”, “retard”, “asshole”, “nonsense”, “bullshit”, “joke”, “crazy”, “womanizerrrrre”, “crappy”, “evil”, “dumb ass”, “sore loser”, “scumbag”, “Desperado”, “mother fucker”, “stupidity”, “moronic”, “nutbag”, “criminal”, “facist”, “pig”, “pussy”, “racist, “sexist”, “Yank”, “insane”
Internet paralanguges: “Fu”, “_|_”, “O.o”
Puns: “Trumpet”, “Donald Duck”, “Dumb like a trump”
Vernacular Singaporean languages: “chao gao kia”, “pig brain”, “knnccb”, “lazy bugger”, “mad dog”, “Fuck spider”, “talk cock”, “chicken”
“Report to FBI on the theft please”
“Well then call the police…”
“Singapore wants to steal YOU, too. We will then have a clown to make us the happiest nation in the World.”
“I strongly suggest that the word stupid should be removed from dictionaries and have it replaced with trump”
“I wish i had Trump’s super power to say anything I like and get away with it”
“Thats the kind of guy they;re pushing for office. Bs”
“How could US even have such a dumb candidate for president???”
“Wow! This kind of quality for a president. More like Donald Duck for the Disneyland”
“No matter what u say he will win this election”
“Either way…US is definitely screwed”
“Voting for trump or hillary is simply like choosing beween najib or rosmah for president… either way we are doomed!”
The general stances conveyed, featuring a selection of illustrative comments, are:
1) Trump (and the US) ought to first assess the cleanliness of his (/their) own businesses.
“You better pay the tax of your own dirty fortune first TRUMPet”
“ownself check ownself”
“better thieving all his monies n properties..”
“Wait a minute Trump. Where are all your manufacturing plants? In America or overseas for cheap labour cost and overheads? Remember the mud you sling, your clothes are stained deep in it.”
“DT uses cheap immigrant labour for his properties lol his hypicrisy level is so high i don’t even lol”
“What about you Yankees stealing oil from the middle east and leave their people there to suffer and die?”
2) Trump is confusing Singapore with China.
“He probably thought singapore is part of china!”
“Trump thinks singpoare is part of china ._.”
“He probably things sg is part of China too”
“Ha ha!! Bet he still thinks Singapore is an island in China…”
“Does he know where is Singapore? Maybe he thinks Singapore is part of China like what the blondes in USA think…”
3) Trump is picking on Singapore.
“Alamak Trump, why you hantam small fry Singapore?”
“Poor little red dot got bullied again”
“How comes a world smallest country steal a multi power country jobs. This must be kidding”
“Wa. Singapore also not spared.”
“A country of 5 million people stole US jobs. Right…”
“Dont be silly. How can tiny Singapore compete with the biggest (yet) and supposedly best(est) country in the world?”
4) Trump has poor diplomacy and picks on countries.
“Why does he intentionally make enemies?”
“How to be USA PRESIDENT when u made enemies w ASIAN COUNTRIES”
“OMG…..How can he say this ??? He should respect other country..”
“Donald Trump is gonna brings more enemies to The US and make people live in an endless war”
“Picking fights with other countries to earn votes. *clap*”
5) Jobs in Singapore are being taken away by Foreign Talents (FT) instead.
“Hey orang white jobs are taken away by our dear FT la dei”
“Fuck u trump…. Ur people come and steal our job…..”
“Jobs in Singapore are reserved for non origin of Singapore. If u win, u can take it back.”
“The job came to Singapore but still ain’t taken by Singaporean”
“He is talking rubbish china also taking away our job .”
“Nope. U r wrong. They r the FTs. WE Singporeans r victims too”
“Eh. Don’t talk nonsense la Donald Duck. Your american also come here to sg become ft and steal our jobs.”
6) Trump’s claims lack substantiation.
“What? Based on what consideration?”
“never do home work”
“DT should at least do more “research” b4 blaring…”
7) There is truth to Trump’s statement; such job circulation is necessary for the economy and a consequence of globalization.
“It takes 2 hands to clap.”
“Welcome to the free market DT.”
“Welcome to the free economy. Something N. Korea did not have”
“Job loss is a major concern in the US, Trump is just riding that wave but it’s real all the same”
“Companies r profit oriented incl all americiancompanies”
“They didn’t steal it,you just gave it to them,try to see things at it is.”
“He probably didn’t get the memo..there is this word called ‘Globalisation'”
“Globalisation. Deal with it.”
“Globalization! Globalization! How can Trump calls himself a businessman?”
“anyone is welcome to come to Singapore to get a job in the spirit of competition and American entrepreneurship.”
Are you a Singaporean? How did you feel about Trump’s recent virality in Singapore?
Do you live outside of the US? How have your local press reported on the US Presidential Elections? Are vernacular reactions on social media polarised?