ANALYSIS | Sex scandals and lavish lifestyles: Can the social media ‘mob’ be tamed?

Jeane Napoles' viral photo on social media

MANILA, Philippines — On Sunday, August 4, “Chito Miranda” became the top trending Twitter topic in the Philippines.

But the Parokya Ni Edgar vocalist’s sudden social media fodder status had little to do with his fame as the frontman of the iconic ’90′s band than a day that would only live in infamy: on Saturday, a supposedly private video of him and girlfriend Neri Naig performing a sexual act leaked online and quickly went viral, eliciting talk and buzz from a lot of Facebook and Twitter users.

The comments and reactions came as quickly as the video was passed around among friends and peers, with some castigating Miranda and Naig for even having the gall to videotape such a very private act. Others — such as friends and colleagues of Miranda in the music industry — rallied by his side, demanding respect for the privacy of the two people involved in the scandal.

Attempting to nip the controversy at the bud, Miranda issued a statement late Saturday, expressing sadness over the leak after his hard drive was reportedly stolen from his house: “We are truly saddened by the fact na may nag-leak na private video of me and my girlfriend, Neri Naig. Humihingi po ako ng paumanhin sa mga pamilya namin for this unfortunate incident. Thank you for your prayers,” the band vocalist posted on his Instagram account.

Shortly thereafter, supporters and fellow OPM artists of Miranda called on others to not spread the video anymore to minimize harm on Miranda and Naig. Long-time supporters of the band, on the other hand, expressed support for Miranda as he and his girlfriend endured the undue publicity caused by the leak.

Erstwhile Eraserheads manager Day Cabuhay posted on her Facebook feed: “dear friends, without posting any details, please help a dear friend in the industry, by NOT spreading photos, sharing video links or anything regarding that issue. it too shall pass. let us learn to, and teach others, to respect an artist’s PRIVACY.”

Manila tourism consultant Carlos Celdran added: “To all the nasty folks spreading the video: At the end of the day, he’s sa rock star, with money, fame, and a hot girlfriend. What do you losers have to say for yourself? ‪#‎leavehimalone‬.”

 

 

But it begs the question: could Miranda’s apology have sparked curiosity among netizens to look for the video as it lent more credence to its authenticity? Could the call to stop talking about the leak actually achieve the opposite, as it encouraged people to post and talk more about the issue?

Fanning the flames?

If interest to stories and digital media content about the issue will be the basis, then one can conclude that pleading for less publicity was counterproductive. Just typing the term “Chito Miranda” on YouTube and Google would yield suggested results such as “Chito Miranda and Neri Naig scandal” and “Chito Miranda and Neri Naig video” on top, indicating high search volume for the said search terms.

InterAksyon’s news item about Miranda’s apology, on the other hand, gathered almost 2,000 shares on Facebook. Similarly, the TV segment about the issue as posted on News5Everywhere also became a trending video on Sunday, garnering more than 14,000 views as of posting time.

But for all the heightened interest about the private video on various social networking and news sites, one thing was palpable: people were indeed talking about the scandal, but very few have actually shared the video to their friends, if at all. What was more apparent was the overwhelming support poured out by fans and friends for Miranda and Naig, who have been identified as unfortunate victims of technology and, according to some, their own promiscuity.

So while the plea to stop talking about the video fell on deaf ears, the call to end the spread of the video to minimize harm to those involved was more or less granted by social media users.

An ‘unforgiving’ mob?

This latest online scandal brings to mind another video that has been passed around social networks last week, that of the lavish 21st birthday party of Jeane Lim Napoles, daughter of Janet Lim Napoles, who has been accused of orchestrating the P10 billion pork barrel scam where taxpayers’ money were allegedly funneled into bogus non-government organizations.

The younger Napoles, who had just graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles, reportedly received two high-end Porsche cars from her mother that reportedly cost millions of pesos for her birthday.

Netizens likewise dug up Jeane’s Tumblr account, which chronicled her trips to a number of European and US destinations including Paris, London, and Los Angeles. The Tumblr account also featured a number of Jeane’s expensive possessions, including lavish bags, shoes, jewelry and clothes, among others.

In an interview with radio station DZMM, the Napoles’s lawyer Atty. Lorna Kapunan defended the family entrenched in the scandal, saying they were well-off and could afford all these things because of their successful businesses aboard.

“I always say when I am asked, kung mayroon akong kayamanan ng kaunti at nakapag-magna cum laude ang aking anak sa isang US university, bibigyan ko din siya ng Porsche, bibigyan ko din siya ng Chanel kung afford ko,” Kapunan said. “The bottom line is, afford nila. It is not ill-gotten wealth, they do not have a single contract with government. They have not owned a single peso from any of these public funds. They have their own money that they gave to their child who instead of persecuting, we should be proud of.”

But unlike in Miranda’s case, social media users were not as forgiving with the young Napoles, criticizing the 23-year-old for her lavish lifestyle allegedly funded by money stolen from the government’s coffers, despite the fact that the allegations have yet to be proven true.

“Taking it all together, I think that perhaps the larger part of the Filipino public on social media seems to have more or less rendered their judgement on Janet Lim Napoles and her daughter without the benefit of an actual court sentencing her guilty of the crimes she is accused of,” said Paul Farol, a blogger at GetRealPhilippines.com.

Other social media users, however, have another take:

 

 

 

The jury is still out on whether these allegations against Napoles are true, but in the fast-paced and complex world of social media where no secret can be hidden for long, the startling digital evidence — some even of her own making — are enough to pin her down.

InterAksyon.com