A survey based on dubious criteria has put Malaysia in front of Singapore in military strength with a couple of Malaysia’s mainstream newspapers giving it some play.
In Singapore, AsiaOne and The Real Singapore picked up the story, prompting almost 100 shares and 300 comments in less than 12 hours on Facebook with many netizens calling the survey bluff.
The survey by a relatively unknown website called GlobalFirepower.com ranked Malaysia’s military 38 and Singapore’s 44.
The ranking was based on each country’s “conventional war-making ability.” Nuclear power played no part, while manpower was deeply emphasised (China topped the list in this category).
However, one point that was not emphasised in these media reports: the website clearly stated that the ranking was for entertainment value and included sources from Wikipedia.
So how is this story newsworthy warranting a spot in the Malaysian national presses?
A source from the Malaysian media said the editor found the story intriguing and gave the green light for publication. The Star did mention, only in the last line of the report, that the website said the survey was for entertainment purposes.
Only last week, during the World Press Freedom Day conference, Malaysian journalists came under fire for not “asking the hard questions”, condoning poor English literacy and allowing poorly-checked stories to be published.
Malaysian newspaper The Sun’s executive editor, Balan Moses said: “Journalism schools should be producing thinking journalists rather than stenographers.”
Perhaps, he should have also added: Malaysian editors-in-chief need to reconsider what is news and what is not news. A non-credible survey taken seriously in the national press only puts you on the same scale of credibility as that of some online websites.
The reaction online towards the ‘my military better than yours’ story got many Malaysian netizens and Singaporean netizens exchanging verbal snipes.
James Tann from Singapore said: “Malaysian military radar cannot even properly identify aircraft. Last I heard they had fighter jet engines stolen. What a joke.
“Even if four out of ten Singaporeans are foreigners, it is still worth my life to protect the other six Singaporeans.”
A Malaysian, Muzaffar Mahmud, retorted: “We may not have the technology Singapore has. We are not as rich either. Our weaponry is faulty. But I know our army will die fighting for all Malaysians, that is why we are better! I am proud to be Malaysian!”
But one netizen clearly pointed out a more pressing problem: “This is another bullshit tactic. What is the point of posting this article? To instigate hatred towards Malaysians?”
But does this show that anti-Singapore, anti-Malaysia hatred is resurfacing?
A search through online comments on various blogs and news sites shows plenty of humour between netizens of the two countries.
A popular blogsite, Malaysianisms, said: “Singaporeans are fond of claiming that they are superior to Malaysia as a country. Their basis for this postulation is their efficient public transport, totalitarian government and the stringent pursuit of education and superior exchange rate.”
“[But] the usual retort of a Malaysian person is your country is a pirated version of ours. That’s it really. Of course, one could make the argument that a Malaysian may be kiasu but would never stoop to the depths that a Singaporean will.”
Let’s hope that the politicians don’t get into the act and spoil a relationship that is hitting a new spot.