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‘We've nothing like that here’: US teen whose MBS 'Chattanooga, Tennessee' post went viral says it was meant in jest

SINGAPORE — An American teenager who caused a minor online sensation with a Facebook post suggesting that Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is in the United States has confirmed what some but not all netizens realised — it was meant as a joke.

Mr Shaun Fontenot (left), 19, who goes by the Facebook name "Aye Shaun", and his Facebook post of Marina Bay Sands.

Mr Shaun Fontenot (left), 19, who goes by the Facebook name "Aye Shaun", and his Facebook post of Marina Bay Sands.

  • ​Mr Shaun Fontenot posted a picture of the Marina Bay Sands and jokingly captioned it “Downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee”
  • The post rallied thousands of Singaporeans to comment with their own images from Singapore referencing American popular culture
  • The 19-year-old has created an online fundraiser to fund a trip to Singapore to visit the integrated resort

 

SINGAPORE — An American teenager who caused a minor online sensation with a Facebook post suggesting that Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is in the United States has confirmed what some, but not all, online users realised: It was meant as a joke.

"I said it simply to give the people in my city a good laugh because we have nothing like that here," Mr Shaun Fontenot said. The 19-year-old roofer is from Chattanooga, Tennessee, a city of about 200,000 on the banks of the Tennessee River.

Mr Fontenot, who goes by “Aye Shaun” on Facebook, and has never been to Singapore, had posted a photograph last week of the integrated resort fronting Marina Bay with the caption: “Downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. It’s Beautiful”, along with some emojis.

Unfortunately for him, not many seemed to be clued in on the joke at first and the post drew the ire of some Facebook users who were quick to school him in geography.

Several even left nasty comments and resorted to name-calling, Mr Fontenot told TODAY on Monday (June 21) over messages on Facebook.

Mr Fontenot said that a man had sent him a private message calling him a “dog” for being so “dumb” as to mistake MBS as being in the US.

The man had claimed to be the owner of the photograph and demanded that Mr Fontenot credit him in the post — a request that Mr Fontenot declined because he thought the man came off rude and was unsure if his claim was true. Mr Fontenot said that he got the picture off a Google search.

By the second day, however, anger turned into hilarity as dozens of Singapore online users began leaving light-hearted comments with photographs of people, places and food items from Singapore popular culture and captioning them with a possible American equivalent.

Several posted comments with a picture of the Merlion, captioning it as the Statue of Liberty; one user posted a photo of a BlueSG electric rental car and called it a Tesla; another compared the Crimewatch television programme co-produced by the Singapore Police Force to the famed US police drama CSI: Miami.

As of Monday, Mr Fontenot's post had drawn more than 15,000 shares and 18,000 comments — filled almost entirely with fun memes.

“I didn't expect to get more than a few shares to be honest,” he said.

“I received many hate comments and messages at first but many people were happy to respond with memes, which was really awesome. I'm glad that so many people found humour in the post rather than hate!”

He said that his favourites were those of a more political nature, particularly ones that referenced former US president Barack Obama, which he found “absolutely hilarious”. Among them was a post that had a photograph of Singapore's Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam along with the former US president’s name.

Before long, some marketing teams in Singapore started to take notice.

The Ministry of National Development posted a photo of the Punggol Waterway and captioned it “Canal of Amsterdam”. The Singapore Civil Defence Force used a picture of a fire engine driving past MBS to remind its followers that the number for emergency calls is 995 in Singapore, not 911 like in Downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee.

On Saturday, Mr Fontenot — who said that he has never been to Singapore — created a fundraiser on the Gofundme website to raise US$10,000 (S$13,400) so that he can travel to Singapore to visit MBS when the Covid-19 pandemic ends.

Mr Fontenot said that he got the idea for it after several users suggested that he visit the country.

“The Marina Bay Sands hotel looks so beautiful that I'd just love to see it in person,” he said.

A user from Singapore had suggested that he prepare that amount so that he may stay a night at the MBS and visit the casino, as well as explore what Singapore has to offer, Mr Fontenot added.

He said: “Regardless of whether anyone would like to donate, I appreciate all of the love and support from my brothers and sisters in Singapore and I hope to be able to visit their country sometime in the near future!”

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