By Donovan Choy
What is propaganda? Merriam-Webster defines it as “ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause”. We Are Mahjulah, this week’s latest social media sensation, amounts up to nothing more than simple good old-fashioned emotionally-charged propaganda.
The message of "We Are Mahjulah" is simple.
The narrator, Divian Nair, raises the question of unwillingness in why Singaporeans will not defend their motherland with their lives, since Singapore is the only home we’ve ever known. He begins by sketching an alarming anecdote of a suicide bomber in ION, where the viewer is treated to a frightening scenario of their parents right in front of them, and “holding the hand of your partner or your child”.
Right off the bat, Nair launches an emotional barrage upon the viewer. There is a clear attempt to appeal to the viewer on an emotive level, not a rational one. He makes no effort to participate in the latter, preferring to confine his message within the easy limits of “We need a glue to bind our country and ‘Mahjulah’ can be our glue”. Why doesn’t the patriotic narrator delve into any examination of Singapore, much less a thorough one? It’s not difficult to guess, and I’ll venture a presumption: Simply so the video will remain emotionally appealing and mentally simple for the lowest common denominator i.e., the average citizen, to process.
If I were trying to persuade Singaporeans to embrace their country, I would explore its rich history, look at the sacrifices our forefathers have made, examine the current political climate, the policies our politicians implement and so on. Nair doesn’t bother himself with the nitty-gritty; he understands that it’s far more troublesome for the viewer to think, so it’s easier to bombard them emotionally.
Even the name of the video – I Will Not Die For Singapore – is titled in a clickbaity fashion that tries to rouse a potential viewer emotionally, a technique typical of digital news sites with monthly site traffic quotas to reach and advertisers to please.
The video is then peppered with vivid imagery of the Jakarta bombings, and cherry-picking of patriotic-fuelled moments that Singaporeans can relate to such as the late Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral, an SAF soldier applying camouflage cream, and a snapshot of a viral incident last year when a foreign worker climbed to a child’s rescue. All the while, the background of the video is laced with a particularly emotive loop of music, serving to further stir the viewer’s emotions.
While Nair urges Singaporeans to “address this undercurrent of… indifference” for the sake of our loved ones, the irony is that he preys on this specific value. Emotionally-charged propaganda such as this one dupes only the politically illiterate masses, evident from its social media virality.
In conclusion, We Are Majulah doesn't present to us one rational argument to be supportive of Singapore. Despite its seemingly good intentions, it tells us to love our country blindly because this is our home, and that Singaporeans need to bind together through a common ‘glue’. If you truly love Singapore, or want to find a reason to do so, going about it in this manner as the video suggests is simply being dogmatically obedient, and not that much different from the radical terrorist blowing himself and your loved ones up in ION because “God told him”. Instead, educate yourselves politically, critique rationally and ask questions, however, inconvenient they may be.