TL;DR – Today, more than ever, we need to read beyond the headlines.
Singapore has been called a cultural desert. In an attempt to add some life into a rather barren art scene, LTA installed a two-part artwork at two new stations on the Downtown Line. The artwork was accompanied by plaques explaining what the artwork is about.
But the plaques got LTA into trouble. Someone saw it, and, without reading more, decided that there was a glaring typo error. That person took a photo and posted it on social media:
That person claimed that LTA is the agency with the most authority in Singapore, with enough authority to change our nation’s name. That post then went viral, causing many Singaporeans to think that LTA was so incompetent that they weren’t able to spot a glaring typo error.
Was LTA really that incompetent? Did they really miss that typo error?
If the person who took the photo had bothered to read the plaque, he would have realised that “Welcome to Jingapore” is the name of the artwork.
In a Facebook post, the artist, Jing Quek, stated that the naming was intentional. It’s a pun, a wordplay on the name of our nation and his name.
Also, the “jing” is supposed to be “景”, which is half of “风景”, i.e. scenery. Considering the artwork shows the daily landmarks and the colourful Singaporeans that define the area, the name is actually very apt. But to come to that conclusion, you must first have at least taken the time to read the plaque, and not just read the “headline”. Then you will have to take the effort to think.
It seems that the person who took the photo of the plaque and posted about it didn’t do either. And the people who saw that person’s photo or post also did not bother to find out more and they started to spread this ‘fake news’ all over social media, including Whatsapp.
And because of the online outrage from a group of vocal keyboard warriors, LTA have decided to “temporarily remove” the plaques. That is terribly sad. It’s sad that a government agency caved in to pressure from a small group of people who didn’t bother to read, didn’t bother to think critically.
If we continue like this, how can we ever hope to create an environment that is conducive to the development of the arts? If we continue this way, how can we ever hope to have an innovative culture? Worse, if we continue like this, if Singaporeans don’t bother to read carefully and think critically, and just have knee-jerk reactions to things that pop up on social media, then we would be very susceptible to the spread of fake news.
And that’s scary. Because there are elements outside of Singapore who would deliberately seed and spread fake news just to get us to react in a certain way that would weaken our confidence in Singapore and fracture our society along existing fault lines.
Let’s hope that we take this as a reminder to spend the time to read beyond the headlines, and take the effort to think critically. There’s a lot resting on our ability to do so.