23-year-old S'porean man reported a meme to the police for being inappropriate, explained

Did he go too far?

Guan Zhen Tan | September 22, 2018, 02:59 AM

Facts of the case:

Nyjcmememachine was an Instagram meme page with close to 10,000 followers ran by students from Nanyang Junior College.

It was putting up memes for quite a while, but then came under fire for posting one meme that one person, a 23-year-old man in Singapore, took offence with.

The meme deemed offensive was uploaded on the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. It showed the former Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden photoshopped alongside a picture of the burning World Trade Center.

The meme included the tagline: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing 3,000 lives and two steel towers”.

"Offensive" meme is a classic mash-up product

The meme was inspired by Nike's viral advertising campaign, which featured former National Football League player Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick knelt whenever the United States national anthem was played before a game, to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

The Nike campaign incited boycotts of its products, and the "Believe in something" tagline became common fodder for meme creation.

By re-purposing the Nike meme to reference the 9/11 event, it effectively ridiculed everyone, ranging from conspiracy theorists to Nike itself, for creating something banal enough to be taken out of context and subverted, undermining the belief and the message of the original.

Reported to police

In Singapore, meme-ing culture has not peaked quite as yet compared to the US.

The meme that appeared on Nyjcmememachine was reported to the police by an anonymous 23-year-old undergraduate in Singapore.

The police are currently investigating the matter.

The undergraduate was quoted by The Straits Times as saying he felt the meme material inappropriate.

NYJC principal, Low Chun Meng, told ST that even though the meme was "posted in jest", the students crossed a line, and they will continue to be counselled.

The original Instagram account with the nyjcmememachine handle no longer exists, having been deleted by the student administrators.

However, another account under the name of nyjcmemegenerator has posted an apology addressing the events that transpired.

It has also announced that they will be shutting down their social media accounts.

Screenshot via nyjcmemegenerator's Instagram


Other local meme pages such as Kiasu Memes For Singaporean Teens and Memedef have come out to stand in solidarity with the NYJC meme page, and reaffirming their stance on the matter.


Other meme pages under scrutiny

However, with the incident blowing up, other JCs in Singapore have come under scrutiny.

Hwa Chong Junior College’s meme page, tkk.jc, has supposedly received additional responses from the 23-year-old undergraduate who made the police report.

On their anonymous feedback page hosted on Sayat.me, a comment in support of the police report threatened to escalate matters and "blow it up to the media", and said that the NYJC incident serves as a warning to other similar meme pages.

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram

The commenter went on to say that he wants the JC kids to "learn the hard way" and that making the "radicalised meme and trying to entice people to commit terrorist act is not a laughing matter".

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram

Screenshot via eastcoastjc's Instagram page

He also threatened to sound it out to mainstream ST newspaper.

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram

Student rebuttals

JC students have voiced out in response to these threats, by trying to reason with the man who took offence.

Other school meme pages, such as eastcoastjc, which is run by students from Victoria JC, have also chimed in:

Screenshot via eastcoastjc's Instagram page

And Hwa Chong JC students have been vocal in their responses too:

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram

They attempted to rationalise with the man who took offence:

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram


Rational response

This particular reply has to be one of the more rational responses we've seen.

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram

Screenshot via tkk.jc's Instagram

"Hope you can look past our youth, and our initial anger and listen to our arguments. There are valid points in both camps."


Top photo adapted from Iceworks