COMMENT | “Dated” and “an eyesore”. Those were the responses to the Visit Malaysia 2020 tourism campaign logo from several Malaysian netizens.
The logo contained elements that symbolised Malaysia, past and present, such as the orangutan and the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. Yet, that was not enough to prevent a petition calling for Tourism Malaysia to drop the design. To date, over 10,000 people have signed the petition.
The criticisms against the logo are not unwarranted, bolstered perhaps by the fact that the public was not consulted on the matter. Animals wearing sunglasses. Font sizes out of proportion. All seemingly legitimate grievances.
Tourism Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz (photo) was defiant however, and insisted that he would stick to the same logo. He may not have understood why the netizens were fuming in the first place, and did not comment on elements of the logo that were out of proportion.
Netizens have said the logo is an embarrassment by Malaysian standards and that they would not promote such a logo.
But what are Malaysian standards in the first place? Have we interrogated this topic?
This may sound like a digression from the unsightly logo, but it is not.
For starters, a country’s standards can best be assessed by how much trust the international community places in it. As of 2016, Malaysia is ranked 55 among 176 countries according to the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.
Not too bad, seeing how we are listed in the top 30 percent of countries in terms of combating corruption. There’s no reason why we can’t be better though.
Lopsided hierarchy of concerns
It is such reasons that should take precedence over losing our minds over a goofy monkey.
It is human nature to complain about something seemingly innocuous. Alternatively, emotions may be running high in lieu of the upcoming elections where any scapegoat (pity the orangutan) is welcome.
Font sizes were out of proportion but what was definitely blown out of proportion was the anger towards the government. That it could garner a petition reflects which problems we put on a pedestal.
There are many problems in the country that deserve a petition; more than a petition in fact. Political corruption, inefficient civil servants, nepotism in universities, and sexual harassment, just to name a few.
If they have managed to summon petitions and attention from the media, the attention garnered has certainly been to no avail. Articles are still being written on such subjects. Talks and workshops are still given on such subjects.
When human suffering is given more importance than a logo, a cool monkey posing in a “zero” figure will seem less daunting.
Will a controversial logo repel tourists?
Well. Will it? That remains to be seen. Malaysian netizens worry why anyone would want to visit the country after seeing such a logo.
However, with the bigger problems Malaysia faces such as the ones mentioned earlier, tourists still come in droves.
In fact, do we worry about whether such problems would affect our image as a tourist destination? Probably not, otherwise we would have made significant changes.
A logo that “looks like it was made in ten minutes”, according to one netizen, will not do much to affect the tourism industry.
At worst, Malaysia’s tourism logo is laughable, perhaps an eyebrow raiser. But the problems to which we give attention reflect how we function as a society.
Ultimately, the logo saga reflects two developments. One, the Tourism Ministry may not take its branding seriously enough. This is a problem that can actually be fixed.
Two, Malaysians may take the logo too seriously at the expense of more important problems. The reality is some problems deserve more attention than others.
The saga is a good opportunity to reflect on how far Malaysian society has come. Before worrying about what a tourist thinks of us, we would be wise to worry about what kind of problems we invest our emotions and political will in.
SYED IMAD ALATAS is a member of the publications team at the National University of Singapore's Middle East Institute. He enjoys doing social commentary on topics such as religion and gender.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.