Two researchers from Singapore’s highly regarded Institute of Public Policy (IPS) were recently doxed and attacked online for an article they wrote about the rising xenophobia and racism by netizens. The report titled “Worries over rising COVID-19 cases are fuelling racially charged comments” was posted on the Channel News Asia (CNA) website on the 2nd of May.
Eventually, it drew the attention of users from the well-known local forum Hardware Zone (HWZ). Forum users were up in arms at the article and started doxing the two researchers. As the day progressed, attacks against the duo increased, and some called into question their degrees and competency.
Ironically, these users resorted to xenophobic and racist comments to display their unhappiness. These comments are precisely the actions both researchers were warning about in their original article.
User DPS121 (Master Member) of HWZ did not mince words and immediately laid bare his xenophobia. “F**king FT”, he wrote. FT usually refers to Foreign Talent or Foreign Trash in Singapore local internet slang. He proceeded to claim he was not racist.
A long time and “High Supremacy” member called “techidiot” suggested (in broken English) to deport the article writer(s) to India. He was implying that either of the researchers was originally from India.
In conclusion, as we read and dived further into the comments, we uncovered more racism and xenophobia.
Witty response to online racism and xenophobia
Wonderfully enough, the witty response from one of the researchers had us all impressed.
Shamil Zainuddin (Research Assistant with IPS) posted on his Facebook page the image of one of the comments likening him to a “kacang puteh” seller. “Kacang Puteh” is a kind of snack that used to be sold outside Singapore cinemas by Indian vendors in the 60s till the 80s. Most (if not all) have retired by now. He jokingly apologised to Kacang Puteh sellers for the unnecessary attention and hate.
He then created another post with a caricature of himself as a kacang puteh seller.
Both posts drew funny remarks and positive comments from friends and well-wishers.
Above all, instead of allowing bullies to impact him negatively, the researcher chose to turn it into a joke to make the issue more accessible. This action would eventually get more people to talk about the issue of racism and xenophobia. Thus, making it an educational moment. We believe his response deserves a round of applause from us.
Beow Tan saga
This incident is not the first or last instance of online racism or xenophobia in predominantly safe and secure Singapore. Last week, the video of a lady harassing Malay students in a public subway went viral. The lady, identified as Beow Tan, even had a Youtube page filled with videos harassing or recording innocent bystanders with her narrating in the background racist sentiments against Malays. Surprisingly, her Youtube channel had close to a thousand followers. She is currently under investigation by the Singapore Police Force.
The Singapore government’s stand against racism and xenophobia is unequivocal. Singapore has the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act to enforce and prevent acts of racism and bigotry. Above all, the Singapore government takes its concept of multiculturalism very seriously.