Don’t Cancel ‘Cancel Culture’

One of the most amusing things to come out of the Singapore General Election, comes from Singapore’s most (in)famous blogger, Ms. Wendy Cheng, who blogs under the name of Xiaxue, locked the blog that made her so famous. The story and the reasons for locking the blog that made her so (in)famous can be found at: [LINK]

You could say that I have jealousy issues when it comes to Ms. Cheng. Her daily readership is probably more than what I’ve achieved in a decade and while I struggle avoid being turned into a digit in office land so that I can blog without worrying about advertisers, Ms. Cheng earns from advertisers what I can only dream of from winning the lottery. It goes without saying that she is significantly better looking and I guess people would rather look at a young girl with a halfway decent figure than a tubby bald man. Call me a snob, but despite her “success,” she writes drivel designed to turn on the lowest common denominator or white men (who as a rule of thumb have strange taste in Asian Women)

Just as my fellow writers on TREmeritus and Independent Singapore take on the Singapore Government and its supporters, Xiaxue has famously taken on foreign workers for having the audacity to be on Orchard Road (because they might molest our girls – which in this case should read the Chinese variety) and the disabled (especially those who have the audacity to take issue with the able bodied taking what is theirs – things such as specially reserved parking lots. – Ms. Cheng even got herself published in the Today newspaper by writing a piece on the joy she got taking a piss in toilets reserved for the disabled.).

In short, Ms. Cheng is a little like a non-political version of Trump – awful but strangely addictive. Even people who loath her can’t help reading the stuff she writes. Her commercial success is in part thanks to her awfulness. It draws people to her blog like flies to shit and traffic in turn leads to greater interest in advertisers.

Having said everything that I have just said about her, I think of Xiaxue as I do of Donald Trump -chemotherapy. Her very existence is actually representative of something good in Singapore – namely greater participation in the public discourse. When Xiaxue says something, people react – even if it is to take a view that is contrary to hers.

In Singapore, we’re a little obsessed with “harmony.” Sure, harmony is on balance, wonderful. However, when officialdom is given the power to define harmony, it becomes open to abuse. Harmony is often described as anyone who disagrees with the official version of what life should be – no matter how mild that disagreement may be.

I take myself as an example. I’ve been bashing out pieces for public consumption for the last decade or so. I don’t consider myself particularly extreme in any shape or form. Nor do I consider myself anti-establishment. I am, on the whole, quite OK with PAP as the government. I don’t think they’ve done enough to “lose elections.” However, I have disagreed with policies that various governments have come up with. I don’t think the government’s handling of Covid-19 was a disaster (immediate comparisons being with the US and Brazil) but I took issue with their handling of issues involving home based businesses and more importantly their refusal to take a closer look at foreign manpower.

Yet, despite not being terribly political, I have been told by close friends whom I’ve worked with that I am a “political writer” and “anti-establishment.” Why would that be? The problem here is the fact that I’ve disagreed with certain policies, made my stance relatively clear and therefore disrupted “harmony.”

The second problem with harmony is that it leads to complacency. When you don’t have problems to deal with, you don’t think. Life will be fine. I think of Mike Tyson, once the most fearsome boxer on the planet. In his biography, Mike Tyson admits that he took winning as the natural state of affairs to the extent that he never bothered to train. Buster Douglas on the other hand trained like a madman and so, Buster Douglas won. The same applies to harmony. Too much of it has unintended and unhealthy side effects.

Xiaxue is funnily enough healthy because she disrupts us from our harmonious slumber. She says something about migrant workers and we react. Suddenly, we start thinking about the issue, because she’s said something about it.

While I generally don’t encourage mob rule, I also think that there’s something positive about cancel culture. I see cancel culture as a sign that people care enough to react to something. I know that there are arguments against cancel culture: [LINK]

However, I believe that cancel culture helps brands think. In Singapore, its been too easy for big brands to disregard opinions as irrelevant to the larger picture. I remember the Straits Times once ran a piece on how big brands didn’t need you the insignificant consumer. Cancel culture shows that this is not true. Consumers have the right and the power to tell brands who they want them to associate with. People do buy according to values and this can only be a force for good it forces brands to behave.

Xiaxue, will no doubt find a way to survive. While there are advertisers who will abandon her, there will be those who continue to support her. While she may not be pleased with being on the wrong end of cancel culture, its clear that the good that she’s done for Singapore is being enhanced by her being part of cancel culture.


Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.




5 Responses to “Don’t Cancel ‘Cancel Culture’”

  • Arrogant Ali's Fear & Loathing:

    (RE: You could say that I have jealousy issues when it comes to Ms. Cheng. Her daily readership is probably more than what I’ve achieved in a decade …. In short, Ms. Cheng is a little like a non-political version of Trump – awful but strangely addictive. Even people who loath her can’t help reading the stuff she writes. Her commercial success is in part thanks to her awfulness. It draws people to her blog like flies to shit and traffic in turn leads to greater interest in advertisers.)

    But sire, this nubile pretty face provides for a diversity of opinions leh, and you cannot expect a 10 million population in Sinchiapor to spring forth from your limited gene pool your highness … or could you?

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  • Hypocrites:

    The whole episode simply shows that people are easily influenced by mainstream thinkers or brand leadership be it PAP to a woman famous for plastic surgery.

    There is a lot of pent up suppressed and ugly emotions inside of people just waiting to find a legitimate moment to break out.

    This time, over an otherwise insignificant past commentary which had been exploited for political expediency and the people repression and aggression were easily trickled and exploded into the foreground.

    Beneath the exterior peace and stability is a society harbouring repressed ill will(ready to attack and destroy when the monent allows). The kind of people and leadership governed by binary law and are deeply rooted in the supreme money culture of a multiracial and multireligious society which should not have been created.

    But because your leaders are ALL amoral and cowardice,in the grand scheme, the people are what they are… socially distanced and best avoided or left to their own funeral.

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  • Sojoürner:

    The problem today is that there is a false assumption that what constitutes bigotry or prejudice (more specifically racism, sexism, homophobia, and more contemporaneous, trans-phobia), is known and universally accepted.

    Xiaxue is a perfect example: She is challenging the notion that it is “Well settled that minority are more racist”, she is labeled racist on the internet, and that becomes truth. And so the conversation becomes not about her ideas, thoughts, concerns, it becomes about Xiaxue herself.

    But this is a tactic, where the primary purpose is to shut down Shrey Bhargava’s conversation— so as to not have those assumed standards challenged.

    This is purposeful; having an actual conversation about this and other topics very well may be inconvenient for those proposing certain positions. If you lower yourself into the internet slime and start pitching chum to its denizens, of course you’re going to get your hands filthy. So why do it? Why fret over being “cancelled” by a bunch of strangers you’ll never meet and don’t care to? So what if your Twitter reputation is shot? Why have a Twitter persona in the first place.

    Honestly, with Covid-19 at a new peak, record numbers of newly uninsured, and the prospect of economic recovery receding, you’re worried about ‘cancel culture?’

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  • Dear writer:

    Dear writer , there are better subjects or topics to write about


    1 Najib sentencing.
    2 Some here say that certain countries are in Covid 19 second wave, however instead WTO say we re still in 1st wave.
    3 Or instead of why PAP lost percentage, study why PSP Mr TCB lost by a margin ? Is it LHY son LGBTQIAA ?

    BTW, your article too long winded. Have u heard brevity is the soul of wit ?

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  • Hm….. now pillow make dirt cheap (60x40cm only S$8) in China and super fast. I wonder can start a business selling XiaXue (下雪) pillow or not? lol

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