POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 4 November 2010, Thursday
The ‘Net Never Forgets
Mai Mislang’s now-infamous Tweeting about sucky wine and ugly men and Hanoi’s streets of doom will now go down in history as one of the dumbest things any presidential speechwriter and member of a diplomatic entourage has ever done.
A Vietnam street, where, presumably (according to Mislang) one could die without having drunk any decent wine nor seen any handsome men. Image from here.
Way to go, Team Pilipinas. It’s already hard enough to get respect in the world arena, and we got Manny Pacquiao and Charice busting their butts in the realms of sports and entertainment to bring glory to the country. While here we have, in the other corner, the president’s own speechwriter – an assistant secretary at that – creating this controversy by simply posting her discourteous opinions for the world to see.
I can see her now, wine glass(es) in hand (she sampled both red and white), curling her nose up in disdain at the plonk that the Vietnamese dared serve her, then tapping out those fateful 140 characters-or-less for her tweeps. Send.
Man, I bet you my prized circa 1915 Waterman 52-1/2v fountain pen that she’d give anything to take it all back.
Young ‘uns will be young ‘uns, P-Noy has said in defense of his embattled assistant. How nice for Mislang, that her age, sex, and closeness to her boss let her get off with a mere “There, there, I’m sure you won’t do it again.”
There are a great many speechwriters out there, more trustworthy, with delicadeza, and with infinitely better writing skills. Mislang is lucky, very lucky indeed, to still have the support of her bosses.
But I will never listen to P-Noy’s speeches or read any content purporting to come from him with the same trust and confidence again, knowing now that they are likely to have sprung from the mind of Mislang.
This is a mind intelligent enough to have garnered a cum laude in her Tourism degree at the state university, yet so shallow that it derided a Philippine military officer as pangit, as Vietnam being a country devoid of pogi, with matching hashtag (#vietnam) for tweeps following the entire topic of ‘Vietnam’ to read - a deliberate and conscious decision on her part to make her views known, and she didn’t care at all then who knew them. That is why no one buys her subsequent apology, deemed to be insincere and self-serving.
Looks are a factor over which we have no control since appearance is an accident of birth and cannot be changed short of major surgery. If we had our druthers, we’d probably all choose to look like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
But looks are the luck of the genetic draw, and to twit others for their appearance is to point how superficial one’s values are, how petty and low one is, how mean and cruel as to be unmindful of others’ feelings over something they can’t change.
This links to the issue of body image, a topic I’ve discussed in previous columns. It is precisely the kind of attitude such as Mislang’s, that places a misguided value on outer appearance, that contributes to the overall insecurity of Filipinos and leads a beautiful and talented young girl like Charice to get Botox-jections and fills to bursting the bank accounts of plastic surgeons and owners of beauty treatment centers.
Negative comments about Mislang have been posted all over the Internet, aired on television, published in the newspapers. She must be singing the blues now about haters and such ganging up on her.
But someone as Internet-savvy as she presumably is should not have ignored all the articles on the Web about being wary of what you post lest it come back to haunt you in the worst way. Perhaps she thought it couldn’t happen to her.
The Web is full of true stories of people who have lost jobs or have had their reputations hurt because of statements and pictures they have carelessly uploaded.
The most (in)famous is the “Cisco Fatty“ incident of 2009 in California. Graduate student Connor Riley posted on Twitter, “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.”
Cisco employee Tim Levad saw the post and tweeted back, “Who is the hiring manager? I’m sure that they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the Web.”
In the UK earlier this year, “Lindsay” posted the following as her Facebook status: “OMG I HATE MY JOB!” with pejorative sentiments against her boss, who commented below that: “Hi, Lindsay, I guess you forgot about adding me on here?…Don’t bother coming in tomorrow.”
Jeffrey Rosen put it succinctly in his article for The New York Times last July, “The Web Means the End of Forgetting”: “…the Internet records everything and forgets nothing — where every online photo, status update, Twitter post and blog entry by and about us can be stored forever… ill-advised photos and online chatter are coming back to haunt people months or years after the fact.” In Mislang’s case, it took only a matter of hours.
Here’s another thing. Did Mislang forget Filipino norms and values? Her ill-considered actions have been construed as discourtesy to a host. In a country that prides itself on its high standards of hospitality and fulfillment of both host and guest roles, her Tweets were violations of the norm. Very few acculturated Filipinos would have let her get away with it. So, what Mislang put on the ‘Net spread like soft butter on hot toast, becoming fodder for blog posts and more.
She should have known better. This is a mighty big lesson for her and for thousands of students in the future because for sure this is going to be a case study in many courses of “what not to do”.
A multi-talented friend who is, among many things, knowledgeable about computer forensics has warned me countless times about the “footprint” many people have on the ‘Net. Himself an intensely private person, he has no personal footprint. Any mentions of him to be found in search engines are in connection with his professional life and mostly posted by others. Any posts he makes to his own website are carefully chosen, not only to project the professional image of himself that he wishes to portray, but also to keep his private life private.
In this age of Google and Yahoo! and “black hat” hacking skills, anything you put on the Internet stays there forever, and perhaps my friend’s path is one that many may consider taking.
Rosen also said in his article, “It’s often said that we live in a permissive era, one with infinite second chances. But the truth is that for a great many people, the permanent memory bank of the Web increasingly means there are no second chances — no opportunities to escape a scarlet letter in your digital past. Now the worst thing you’ve done is often the first thing everyone knows about you.”
For Mislang, this is something she has to live with – that the ‘Net will not forget. All she can pray for now is that it will forgive. ***
Internet map image from here.