Saturday, July 3, 2010
Singapore: Disneyland with the Death Penalty
"Disneyland with the Death Penalty" is an article about Singapore written by William Gibson, his first major piece of non-fiction, first published as the cover story for Wired magazine's September/October 1993 issue (1.04).
The article follows Gibson's observations of the architecture, phenomenology and culture of Singapore, and the clean, bland and conformist impression the city-state conveys during his stay.
Its title and central metaphor—Singapore as Disneyland with the death penalty—is a reference to the authoritarian artifice the author perceives the city-state to be. Singapore, Gibson details, is lacking any sense of creativity or authenticity, absent of any indication of its history or underground culture.
He finds the government to be pervasive, corporatist and technocratic, and the judicial system rigid and draconian. Singaporeans are characterised as consumerists of insipid taste. The article is accentuated by local news reports of criminal trials by which the author illustrates his observations, and bracketed by contrasting descriptions of the South-East Asian airports he arrives and leaves by.
Though Gibson's first major piece of non-fiction, the article had an immediate and lasting impact. The Singaporean government banned Wired upon the publication of the issue, and the phrase "Disneyland with the death penalty" became a byword for bland authoritarianism that the city-state could not easily discard.
Wiki: Disneyland with the Death Penalty
Original Wired article
at 8:48 PM