Innocent tweet about Singapore’s airport mall becomes focal point in America’s culture war
Jewel Changi, the shopping centre connected to Singapore’s Changi Airport, is pretty magnificent looking. From certain angles, it does look a bit like the Southeast Asian version of Wakanda, with its massive glass dome, picturesque waterfall and elevated trains.
A few days ago, American Hayden Clarkin, who writes about urban mobility as “The Transit Guy” tweeted this brief video of Jewel highlighting those utopian vibes.
I’m just in awe of Singapore’s airport. pic.twitter.com/T3FCC5v56B
— Hayden Clarkin (@the_transit_guy) January 21, 2023
He followed that up with a tweet asking “Like imagine that level of pride in infrastructure in North America like this?”
Clarkin’s tweet quickly blew up, but not for the reasons a normal, sane person might expect. What made it really go viral was when right-wing American commentators seized on it to argue that the reason Singapore is able to build something like Jewel is only because of… its draconian legal system and harsh criminal punishments.
That sentiment was exemplified by popular right-wing provocateur Matt Walsh, who is infamous for his opposition to LGBT rights and transphobic views.
Singapore is able to have nice things in part because they execute drug dealers by hanging and arrest even petty vandals and thieves and beat them with a cane until they bleed. We don't have nice things because we aren't willing to do what is required to maintain them. https://t.co/n0JLcDPsT3
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) January 23, 2023
Some were less subtle with this line of thought and straight-up used it to argue the virtues of authoritarianism.
Authoritarianism is beautiful actually. If conservatives weren’t constantly in fear of being called a racist we could have nice things https://t.co/t8OYbYZPQE
— Big Cheese Sr. (@SirBigCheeseSr1) January 25, 2023
Others, just, really had no idea what they were talking about.
This is what you can get when you outlaw homosexuality and don't give women the right to vote!
Count me in! https://t.co/F25sRM7exE
— I chase women at night (@WomenChase) January 22, 2023
Liberal commentators then piled onto Walsh’s tweet to point out a few of the flaws in his argument.
Hey Dunning Kruger,
I was literally just here.
50% of Singapore housing is public, and they provide schooling and universal healthcare.
They also mandated I wear a mask on the metro, so I’m pretty sure you’ll be the one getting the cane if you come here. https://t.co/GBrUyIrMGF
— Walter Masterson (@waltermasterson) January 24, 2023
This guy is such a caricature of a conservative–he sees a video of "nice things" built by generous public investment and concludes that if we only beat and killed enough petty criminals the "nice things" would…what…pop into existence as a divine reward for our righteousness? https://t.co/n0y8pAIpv7
— Ben Burgis (@BenBurgis) January 24, 2023
Meanwhile, some Singaporeans were left mystified by how the original video could have generated so much controversy.
Why does this innocent, weirdly rendered video of an airport mall in my country elicited such a wild response on every spectrum of political twitter? https://t.co/DGC15VC4Uw
— Baroness Jamie of Tengah-upon-nowhere (@theViscountBP) January 23, 2023
Others, such as activist Kirsten Han, poked more holes in the authoritarian utopia fantasy version of Singapore that American conservatives seemed so eager to romanticize.
Yes Singapore has a lovely airport. I'm also a beneficiary. It's amazing what you can do with a ton of money and a lot of underpaid, exploited migrant workers. Please stop extrapolating all sorts of things about SG from just one video.
And if you're Matt Walsh, shut the fuck up
— Kirsten Han 韩俐颖 (@kixes) January 24, 2023
‘How you see?’: Singapore Paralympian and her guide dog stopped at concert venue
They mistook her guide dog for a “pet” and asked her, a visually-impaired person, how she was going to watch the concert. Cringe. Read more.
A booby trap: Singapore TikToker gets interesting surprise after massage session
The masseuse just wanted to get something off her chest, apparently. Read more.