Are S’poreans Too Sensitive? The Anton Casey, Steph Micayle Sagas Reveal How We Handle Criticism & Freedom Of Speech

Anton Casey & Steph Micayle made the news for making negative comments about Singapore.

Anton Casey & Steph Micayle were attacked when they made negative comments about Singapore.

Remember when your Facebook newsfeed was nothing but inspirational quotes, Christmas wishes, cat videos and Nelson Mandela tributes? It was a bright, bonny time. A mere one month later and my newsfeed was chock-a-block with Anton Casey and Steph Micayle (real name Stephanie Koh), two previous unknowns who became household names overnight in Singapore.

The first, still in the running to becoming Singapore’s Most Hated Foreigner, posted obnoxious comments about Singaporeans on public transport, despite being married to one and living here for more than 10 years. On top of his general tosser-ness, he made the mistake of being foreign, unapologetically wealthy and having a beauty queen for a wife. The second, a spurned reality TV contestant slash budding singer declared in an interview that she’s “not proud to be Singaporean.”

Twitter and Facebook feeds were rife with strongly-worded responses to these two. The sentiments “Singaporeans are submissive, not creative and unhappy” and “public transport is for poor people” had everyone up in arms, and eager to weigh in. People posted knee-jerk reactions, and then other people posted knee-jerk reactions to the knee-jerk reactions. It was a chiropractor’s dream.

DON’T LIKE IT? THEN LEAVE, LOR!

There were some measured, well-expressed responses and one or two hilarious quips from my friends back home, both local and foreign. But those were few. More common were the hateful, over the top vitriolic personal attacks on Koh & Casey (namely Stephanie’s hair, accent, and attractiveness/talent-level, and Anton’s ethnicity, choice of wife, income level.)

But the one thing everyone said to both Koh and Casey? The one quip that got the most clicks? “Well if you don’t like it here, then why don’t you just leave!”

That’s right. If you have any issue or complaint about our country, you should just GET OUT.

Er…really? It just seems we’re a teensy bit sensitive. Why else would we react so badly to a little criticism? So an arrogant man thinks he’s better than the rest of us because he drives a sportscar. He is what many expats in Singapore would call a twat. Or another ‘W’ word, that rhymes with banker. Why does his opinion about our world-class trains rile us so? Who cares if he calls us poor? He’s just a small-minded sod.

And this 20-something ingenue, who is clearly just gagging for attention and YouTube followers. Who gives a toss if she ain’t proud to be Singaporean? Her little spiel came in the wake of being kicked out of a Kpop singing competition and reeked of sour grapes and bad sportsmanship. Losing serious street cred after flunking out of being eliminated from a Kpop singing competition – that’s what she’s really not proud of. 

The wave of vitriol directed at Casey and Koh tells me three things.

  1. Our discontent about the rising cost of living, overcrowding, and nouveau riche influx is being misdirected at any easy target (including rioting construction workers). What we should be doing is voicing out protests with our vote at the next elections, writing to our MPs, or chanelling it into our art.
  2. This new wave of nationalism sweeping Gen X and Y Singaporeans is a fragile, flailing thing too insecure to bear even one detractor.
  3. We’re new to freedom of speech. And we don’t quite get how it works.

While we’re learning to get over our fear of censorship and social media has pumped us full of confidence in saying how we feel, we are still learning that freedom of expression is a two-way street. Any fool out there can say what they want with one click. Yes, even me. We are a young nation, and freedom of the press and self-expression are relatively new concepts. But this lynch-mobbing anyone whose opinion we disagree with – it sounds a lot like censorship.

I happen to believe, despite having moved away, that my country is flawed, but friggin kickass.(If you don’t believe me, read this) But that doesn’t mean that anyone who doesn’t agree needs to be shipped off. They are entitled to their opinion just as I am.

FOREIGNER BASHING IS NOT COOL

This one girl’s rant and that one dude’s comments don’t make me less proud to be Singaporean. But the ensuing furore of nastiness, bigotry and xenophobia does. And The Real Singapore, who broke the Casey story, playing to a nation’s insecurities and frustrations to garner more clicks – that’s a little upsetting, I gotta say.

Because to the rest of the world it looks like Singapore is a nation of petty, insecure foreigner-haters. And that makes me sad because I don’t think it’s an accurate representation of the country I grew up in, and love.

My response to TRS, Casey, Koh and the lynch mob:

  • The Real Singapore‘s sensationalising the issue served to play to the lowest common denominator,
    inciting hate, anti-foreigner sentiment and xenophobia. And that is not on.
  • Anton Casey‘s comments, even if intended as a joke, were in very poor taste and lack class. Besides which I think you’ll find public transport smells better in Singapore than many other places!
  • Stephanie Koh, many talented home-grown artists and musicians are blazing a trail with original content in Singapore right now. Google them. (EDIT: And if you’re too lazy, I took the liberty of finding some for you here, here and here. Oh and some jazz here.

And to all Singaporeans, myself included, please think before posting. It would be great if we’d be slower to throw the first stone. Especially if we live in glass houses. I am proud to have been born in one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse countries in the world. The peace we’ve enjoyed all this time is a direct result of mutual respect and tolerance. Let’s not screw it up with a thoughtlesss click.

 

EDIT 10th Feb ’14: Steph Micayle was a finalist in KPOP Star Hunt 3. To be fair she didn’t flunk out, she was eliminated. Error corrected.

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18 thoughts on “Are S’poreans Too Sensitive? The Anton Casey, Steph Micayle Sagas Reveal How We Handle Criticism & Freedom Of Speech

  1. not being hateful here, i just find lots of irony in the way the netizens respond to any news which involve foreigner in it. The same people who hate foreigners are the same people who criticise how some people of the United States shown hatred towards their immigrants.

    If Anton Casey is “banished” (well technically he escaped by himself) to another country for a crime of mockery, Jack Neo should be punished even harsher for his crime of infidelity. The same harsher punishment for that ah boys to men guy who punch his gf.

  2. well said mate. am a proud singaporean myself, but there are times when singaporeans can defo be at their absolute worst. glad someone else feels the same way i do and it’s marvelous to know that not everyone is on the fucking TRS bandwagon. that site is just so full of shit.

  3. I actually think there is a new way to invade Singapore.

    First gather 100 millionaires or billionaires to apply for citizenship in Singapore. Assuming success rate is 50%, get those 50 people to marry local wives, buy condos and expensive cars, then post inflame remarks on facebook degrading Singapore on a daily basis, each millionaire or billionaire take their turn, and we will see our own country self implode.

  4. I think Singaporeans need to be more discerning. Separate the opinions from the facts, the mundane and trivial from the significant and the portentous.

    First of all, whatever Anton Casey or Stephanie Koh feels about Singapore and Singaporeans are just their opinions, and everyone is entitled to their opinions however positive, negative, or uninformed.

    In the case of Anton Casey, what is really sad is that people were insulted to be called “poor”. To be insulted by that, you have to believe that being poor is an insult. Or having to take public transport is demeaning. Or soul-crushingly depressing. Or something awfully shameful.
    http://singapore2b.blogspot.sg/2014/01/friends-and-values-reflection.html

    Singaporeans need to learn to be able to separate opinion from purported pronouncement of facts. Steph is not proud to be Singaporean? Good for her. She has an opinion! Do I agree with her? yes, I agree that she is not proud to be a Singaporean. Why? Because she said so, and because she proclaimed it in the media.

    Does it make me not proud to be Singaporean? Only if I have no mind of my own and will follow the opinion of anyone who can show cleavage.

    Now if Steph were more famous and influential – say like Beyonce or Clay Aiken (are these people still famous?) – and she says she is not proud to be Singaporean, then we may need to rebut her points. But even then, I would say, it depends on what her points were. If there are grounds for here complaints, learn, and improve. That’s what Singaporeans should do.

    Then there are purportedly factual posts – like the guy who wrote in Forbes that Singapore’s facing a financial/housing bubble and the bubble is due to burst anytime soon. That we should rebut. With facts.

    Then there is Indonesia’s plan to name a warship after two soldiers sent here in 1965 to carry out terrorism. Is that an internal matter and none of our business?
    Say your neighbour got a dog, and names the dog after you (honour or insult?). Then every day, in your presence (or within earshot), your neighbour scolds and verbally abuses the dog, all the while using your name (which is also the dog’s name). Should you be offended? Do you think your neighbour is trying to send you a message? Do you think it is a good message? Of course, they could have named the dog in your honour, but unfortunately the dog turned out to be a dunce and needed to be scolded. No hostility intended at all! Yeah. Right.

    In the case of the Frigate’s naming, I think Singaporean should be concerned, and be sensitive about it, because the implied message from indonesia is hostile. And unlike Anton and Steph, Indonesia is a significant power in this region, and could present problems. Even without trying, they can affect us with their Haze. So what if they really wanted to?

    So yes, we are on the whole too free with our sensitivities. My suggestion is to do an internal check:

    1) is what was said an opinion, from an insignificant source/person, with little or no influence? As you noted, until their controversial opinions went viral, they were on nobody’s radar. If so, ignore.

    2) if it is an opinion from an influential source, is it credible? So another local actress touts the virtue of another dubious diet pill and attributes her slim figure to the pills, should we get worried? About young girls consuming dangerous drugs for the sake of beauty? Or she gives her support for a political party/candidate – credible opinion?

    What is the possible danger for letting that opinion go unchallenged? If there is no danger, let it go.

    The Real Singapore, did no favours for the real Singapore.

  5. You’re entitled to your opinion about Steph Koh, but I ask that you get the facts right. You claimed in your article:
    “Her little spiel came in the wake of being kicked out of a Kpop singing competition and reeked of sour grapes and bad sportsmanship. Losing serious street cred after flunking out of a Kpop singing competition – that’s what she’s really not proud of.”

    Please, let’s look at the facts. Steph Koh made the final 4 in Kpop Star Hunt 3 – she came extremely close to actually winning. There isn’t a 2nd place per se, a winner is selected from amongst the top 4 and the eventual winner was Andy from Taiwan. Steph Koh was a top 4 finalist and such a finish in a competition like that is highly commendable. If you know anything about Kpop (I’m a huge Kpop enthusiast), then you will know how incredibly high the standards are in Kpop and just how competitive the whole industry is. That’s why making the final 4 is a massive achievement for Steph Koh.

    Steph Koh was selected out of over 400 Singaporeans who auditioned to represent Singapore in the contest: http://showbiz.omy.sg/Showbiz/Hot-Stuff/Two-to-represent-Singapore-at-Kpop-Star-Hunt-3-205044 We’re not talking about someone who got eliminated very early in the process of this competition – we’re talking about someone who went all the way and came extremely close to winning it (but failed at the very last hurdle). What she has achieved is unprecedented and pretty amazing. You may not like her singing, but you cannot dismiss it as “being kicked out of” or “flunked out of” the competition because it is simply not true – your facts are wrong, what you wrote is basically a lie. You don’t have to like Steph Koh, but you shouldn’t resort to telling lies about her on your blog. That would totally discredit you as a blogger if you are just making up lies to prove a point.

    So your words “kicked out of a Kpop singing competition” and “flunking out of…” – that’s completely wrong, it completely misrepresents the situation. Heck, I’m watching the 2014 Winter Olympics now and there are competitors who have made the finals and finished with a silver medal or maybe a 4th/5th place finish and still have a lot to be proud of for having gotten that far in the process despite not having won an Olympic gold medal. Would you be equally dismissive of someone who won a bronze medal at the Olympics?

    Look, you’re not obliged to like Steph Koh, hate her if you must, I don’t care – you’re entitled to your opinion. But you lose credibility as a blogger if you can’t even get the basic facts right about Steph Koh’s career and what she did at Kpop Star Hunt 3. You need to check your facts before you blog. Otherwise when people point out just how salah you are, liddat very malu one leh.

    • My bad. Have made the below corrections to the original post. Thanks for keeping this post factual – that’s definitely important.

      “Losing serious street cred after being eliminated from a Kpop singing competition – that’s what she’s really not proud of.

      EDIT 10th Feb ’14: Steph Micayle was a finalist in KPOP Star Hunt 3. To be fair she didn’t flunk out, she was eliminated. Error corrected.”

      • Thank you for the edit. Like I said, you are not obliged to like Steph Koh as a singer, heck I can name you a very long list of very successful singers whom I dislike, but I would always acknowledge that they have achieved a certain measure of success in the industry – rather than just claim that they’ve achieved nothing: whether I actually like their music or not is another issue altogether. Take British group N-Dubz for example, I simply can’t stand their music – yet I would never deny the fact that they did release three very successful albums and achieved great commercial success.

        There’s a huge difference between flunking out and being eliminated in a contest like that – flunking out implies that she gave up on her own accord, that she couldn’t persevere and see it through; whereas being eliminated meant that she did see it through, she never gave up – she took it as far as she could within the rules of the competition and had a very respectable result indeed. You can hate her music for all I care – music is so subjective and you have the right to have an opinion on her music, but I felt that you did her a disservice by misrepresenting the facts of what actually happened during Kpop Star Hunt 3 – and I am glad you have now corrected that error.

  6. Well written article and a breath of fresh air, speaking as someone who was barked / berated at by a number Singaporeans online for stating my opinion when discussing human behavior at the train station (namely not getting out of the way when the doors open so passengers can get off the train before others attempt to get on).

    From my 3 years in Singapore (so far) I have seen people taking offence way too easily and quickly, personally I don’t care what anyone thinks unless that person is someone I care about, I come from Australia which has it’s own problems but resorting to “if you don’t like it, get out” is akin to someone in kindergarten crying when they don’t get the toy they want, chill out and take things with a grain of salt. I also think people in general overreact to things on the internet, if you have haven’t heard of “the art of trolling” you should Google it. Sites like stomp certainly don’t encourage productive community driven behavior, it’s more the angry mob mentality where people can say what they are too afraid to speak in person.

    Singapore is extremely fortunate to have a leader who has the countries best interest at heart, the people shouldn’t forget that. Voting is really important and I wonder how people would react with a change of power which resulted in incompetence (just look at Australia for some wonderful examples). 🙂

    Also learning how to laugh at yourself (meaning the nation), the culture and individuals is a great quality and something we take pride in, in Australia (also one of the most culturally and religious countries on earth).

    • “if you don’t like it, get out” is akin to someone in kindergarten crying when they don’t get the toy they want,”
      Totally. That’s exactly what I’m saying, we are immature when it comes to handling criticism/freedom of speech. Just watch our reaction when you say you don’t like chicken rice. (OK but I might join the lynch mob on that one) Singaporeans have a sense of humour! I’m sure we crack jokes. On Tuesdays.

      • 🙂 I do enjoy Chicken rice, I share the same passion for a good coffee which I dare say has improved out of site in Singapore over the last 2 years.. yum yum!

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