HomeSoutheast Asian Media Studiesvol. 3 no. 1 (2021)

Digital Nationalism during the COVID-19 Outbreak in Vietnam: Collective Forgetting and Domestic Xenophobia




This article examines the mechanism of nationalism that has emerged from Vietnam’s entrance into the state of emergency, lending grounds for the employment and exacerbation of war metaphors, xenophobic discourses, and the elite’s capture of the public forum surrounding COVID-19. Though egalitarian values were supposedly embedded in the state’s rhetoric in response to the pandemic, there was a strange absence of coverage of the working poor, the homeless, and urban street workers who struggled for shelter amid the disease. As the government urged its citizens to fulfill their civic duty by staying home, thereby shifting the collective responsibility onto individuals, the need and the vulnerable situation of these cohorts went unheard. But if the poor are neglected in the national discussion, the overseas upper-class has been explicitly subject to public outrage as they are deemed ‘privileged children’ who carried the disease back to the homeland. Nonetheless, these elites managed to impose a constant state of forgetting among the public, eliminating the public’s domestic xenophobia towards them by their act of raising funds to help the government combat the disease, sending them instead onto the pedestal as national heroes. This article aims to suggest a digital formation of the country’s border through the continuous modification of public opinion about the disease.