Singapore: Netizens Criticize ‘Offensive’ Government Ad

An advertising campaign run by Singapore's Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) has come under fire for perpetuating prejudice and discrimination against ex-offenders, victims of abuse, people from the low income strata, and people with disabilities.

The campaign includes a series of four posters depicting social workers and examples of cases in which they have helped. Words such as “ruined”, “destroyed”, “abandoned” and “hopeless” have been highlighted. These posters can be seen online, as well as in public areas such as bus stops.

These ads have been widely criticised by Singaporeans, who felt that they were offensive.

@flubberzz: WTF is wrong with you MCYS and Starlight Advertising?? Who in the right mind would come up with this kind of campaign?

Popular local blogger mrbrown expresses support for the social workers, but points out that the ads send the wrong message about people with disabilities:

I love social workers and what they do but come on, MCYS, people with disabilities are not hopeless.

This kind of message just perpetuates the idea that the disabled are liabilities who need rescuing and sympathy, rather than a valuable part of our society who are differently-abled.

As a father of a special needs child, I am deeply offended by this kind of messaging.

In an article for The Online Citizen, Ghui observes that these posters may serve to alienate those in need from the rest of society:

While MCYS may not have intended it, these posters serve to fuel society’s prejudice towards the handicapped or people who have fallen through the cracks. Instead of positive encouragement, it has reinforced the idea that the handicapped or infirm are somewhat lacking and ought to be pitied. I am not at all suggesting that these individuals do not need help but our assistance should stem from a communal desire of mutual assistance rather than a need to help “objects of pity”.

The Society for the Physically Disabled did not comment specifically on the ads, they expressed happiness that MCYS was doing a campaign “to attract people to the profession.”

Some see these ads as representative of attitudes towards disability – both of this region as well as of the Singapore government:

@sonnylebythebay: Asia still has a way to go in dealing/working with people w/disabilities & the mentally ill. RT @kixes

@ambarvalia: The MCYS ‘hopeless’ ads indicate the govt's usual high horse by implying tt the people shld be grateful for e govt's “help”.

In response, the MCYS spokesman clarified that the word “hopeless” in the poster did not refer people with disabilities, but to the sense of hopelessness that they feel about their condition. The ministry said that the campaign was simply trying to encourage more people to take up social work as a profession.

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