Gregory Paulo Llamoso‘s video of a young woman haranguing a guard at the Santolan LRT2 station went viral overnight. Less that 24 hours after he posted the video Tuesday night (Nov. 13), more than 47,000 people had shared his video. More than 11,000 people had pressed the “like” icon.
Llamoso’s introductory note is straightforward:
CAUGHT ON MY CAMERA:
“RUDE Passenger Humiliate a Lady Guard”
I was about to leave Santolan LRT 2 Station sa may Marcos Highway kanina, but a loud voice caught my attention and all the people present there, ang lakas ng boses niya even she was small..Buti nalang the Lady Guard exhibited the right behavior. She did not fight back and she just kept cool and said her sorry. She didn’t even utter foul words against the bully passenger. I dont know the side of the story but some Bystander told me na sinita siya ng Lady Guard kasi mali ang pinasukan niyang way but the passengers behavior surprised me, sobrang degrading naman yung ginawa niya sa Lady Guard, her arrogance and misplaced sense is a living proof that being a true woman requires more than just privileged education and breeding, kaya parang siya ang walang pinag-aralan in that case..sayang hindi ko alam school niya., pinuntahan ko nalang yung Head ng security and suggested na dalhin sa office yung babaeng nagwawala hindi in public, nagkaroon tuloy ng Scandal dun na really an unacceptable behavior…”
The controversy has given rise to parallel arguments.
Thousands are jeering at the young woman, a coed at a Manila college. Critics mock what they see as speech affectations, what they perceive as the warped logic of her videotaped statements and her general demeanor.
Many of the reactions are downright cruel, imputing moral faults other than the ones shown by Llamoso’s video. Videos have also come out, lampooning the young woman. A fake Twitter account, which many fell for, played out what many see as misplaced snobbery.
A second camp decries what they see as an invasion of privacy. This school thinks no one should post a video — or respond to one — of a private person in a meltdown situation. People have scorned news coverage of an “irrelevant” situation and an “irrelevant” person.
“For me, there is something wrong in the posting of that video. While anyone is free to take pictures or videos, he or she must nevertheless not abuse that right. This means the photographer or the videoer must not use it to hurt, embarass, or humiliate other people in the exercise of his or her right. If there is abuse, he or she can be held accountable for the injury to the one embarrassed. This is what we call in law the ABUSE OF RIGHT DOCTRINE. YOu might technically do something “legal” but you can still hurt people and may be held liable.
“True, the girl might have over-reacted in that incident and true, based only from the video, the security guard appears to be soft spoken, and probably, it is also true that the reaction of the girl might be wrong, but this does not give another the license to humiliate and embarass her to millions of people by posting the video ( especially if he has nothing to do with the incident). There is no such thing as the liberty to hurt people. BTW, the CYbercrime law is irrelevant in this case. You do not need that law to hold accountable an abuser of right.”
A third view sees the subject as fair game but notes the video lacked context and/or that all of us have, at one point or another, lost our tempers with gatekeepers. The difference, of course, being that in the past there would have been very few witnesses with the technical capability to record the incident. And a decade ago, most people would not have thought of sharing that video.
I’ll try to weave through the different strands on this very noisy national dialogue, starting with the issue of privacy and Sta Maria’s take on what he sees as legal but borderline abusive behavior.
The young woman committed no crime against the guard, That’s pretty clear. There were no physical blows. She is not a government official. She is a student. True, she may aspire to fame but that doesn’t automatically make her a public figure.
But those are not the only things to consider here.
There was an altercation that stemmed from her failure to subject belongings to an x-ray scan. She may or may not have suffered a bruise when the guard tried to delay her. Now, let’s view the setting.
This was the LRT, which has had a horrifying brush with terrorism. Eleven persons were killed and 19 others were injured by a bomb planted in a train on the LRT1 on Dec. 30, 2000. There have been periodic bomb scares at LRT stations and authorities regularly launch anti-terror and rescue exercises.
LRTA security personnel are instructed to strictly implement the “No inspection, no entry” policy to ensure the safety of passengers, LRTA officer-in-charge Emerson Benitez said in a statement.
Security is not a matter to be dismissed. This was an x-ray process, not some ineffectual stirring with a barbecue stick. Ignore this precautionary measure at airports and you’ll be held by authorities. Even forgetting to turnover your cellphone will cause some hassle. It’s not quite a crime, but it’s a pretty serious lapse that gives LRTA security the right to investigate you — or turn you back.
I’ve had clueless moments, especially on first time visits. When stopped, the proper thing is to give a sheepish smile, say sorry, turn back and follow the rules. Even if a guard raises his or her voice, I’ll take my lumps. This is a different case from some officious guy making things difficult for no good reason.
The videographer did not know about this when he took the video. Neither did the thousands who jeered in the hours after Gregory’s post went up.
Speaking to BMPM’s Anika Real, the former pediatric ICU nurse and aspiring singer said he heard other sarcastic comments — “Bravo! Bravo!” with clapping — from the young woman before deciding to take the video. He said an older man with a cup of coffee — perhaps a fellow commuter — tried to calm the young woman, to no avail. Later that night, he shared his video on his Facebook page, tagging friends: the tacit message being that they share this, too.
Now, Llamoso didn’t just take a video. He also took pains to alert the head of security so the incident could be resolved in a more private setting. The crowd gathering around the two women was beginning to be a security nightmare.
Llamoso is pretty clear about his motives:
“I don’t care how this incident started, nobody has the right to treat another person–especially one who’s merely performing a low-paying job just to put food on the table–this way.”
I understand where Sta. Maria is coming from. But I also understand why to Llamoso — and the many who share his views — this was not just a private matter to be shrugged off.
Chris Lao, in his meltdown, ranted at the world at large, at abstract concepts like neglect. I felt then, and still feel, that he hurt no one. He may have been intemperate but in the context of road rage incidents, he was a boy scout.
What got the ire of most people in the LRT incident was the manner the subject screamed (no other word for it) at the security guard, the patronizing and condescending way she addressed the other woman.
For the many in humble positions who have been placed in a similar situation — think of sales people and waiters and millions of other frontline folk in service industries — this was not an irrelevant thing. The video spoke to untold slights, reminded them of instances when they had to take tongue-lashings in silence. To many people, THIS WAS PERSONAL.
But What About Us?
I do not believe Llamaso meant to humiliate or mock the young woman. Even hearing her side, I do not think the videographer was far off the mark. (Kudos to Cesar Apolinario; we at BMPM tried but failed to get her.)
What raises concern is the cruelty heaped on the video subject. Criticism is acceptable but to call her names, to assume and imagine other moral faults, to mock her fragile dreams… that goes into bullying territory.
In proclaiming outrage of bullying behavior, people became bullies, too. We became the enemy.
Did the media worsen this state of affairs?
I cannot speak for everyone. I think several websites and social media platforms tried to gatekeep against the most irresponsible responses. BMPM incurred the ire of some of those who posted when we took down some of the more outrageous comments. (We did not take down criticism of our coverage.)
Why We Do It
On Twitter, @unlawyer pointed out a similar case in Hongkong, where a young man berrated by a commuter after a request to lower his voice, took a video of the aggressor. While many attacked the perpetrator of verbal abuse, the videographer was also mocked for passively accepting the slurs hurled, including some that targeted his unknown and absent mother.
Llamoso, of course, was not party to the LRT incident but his video raises similar questions on “lifestyle, etiquette, civic awareness and media ethics”, as @unlawyer ponts out.
Based on an Australian government cyber-bulling template, the young woman at the LRT suffered harassment:
“tormenting someone with hateful and hurtful text messages, emails, posts and IMs that offend, humiliate or intimidate them.”
There is no doubt that cyber-bullying can have profound impact on a victim. From the same website, here are some of the effects of cyber- bullying: “anger, embarrassment, fear, poor performance at school, loss of confidence and self esteem, revenge cyber-bullying, self-harm, even suicide.”
At least half of these emotions have been felt, at one time or another, by many of the people who joined the Llamoso video fray. Unfortunately, many of us who regularly suffer in silence, intimidated by our antagonists, will strike out at someone we come to see as an epitome of our oppressors.
It is a very human instinct. It doesn’t make it right. That’s like shrugging off the abuse someone heaps today because he or she had been abused as a child.
@Pinoymommy voices the ambivalence many of us feel when she notes that “the bad effect is the bullying. But it’s good because bullies will keep their tempers or be cyberbullied.”
@mrsunlawyer and @Pinoymommy fret at how people, who are otherwise nice in face-to-face encounters, can become really mean on cyberspace. Both think the illusion of anonymity raises bravado among people and lessens their inhibition.
Many experts say the same thing. An advice column for teen victims of cyber-bullying explains:
“The detachment afforded by cyberspace makes bullies out of people who would never become involved in a real life incident. The Internet makes bullying more convenient and since the victim’s reaction remains unseen people who wouldn’t normally bully don’t take it as seriously.”
Cyber-space makes us feel more emotions faster — Maria Ressa gives fascinating lectures on how our emotions spread to friends around us, in degrees of separation, and in a more frenetic pace on the social media whirl.
At the same time, the illusion of physical distance can desensitize us to the effects our actions may have on others. I sometimes liken the effect to the cocoon that insulate those drone operators who whoop like cowboys as their bombs fall on right — or wrong — targets. You don’t see the gore up close and personal. You don’t see obvious signs of the harm you do. It’s almost like a video game — let’s try one more time and see if we can blast the SOB to kingdom come.
Most websites on cyber-bullying focus on a more intimate scope — a bully at school taking a fight to the internet. The cases of Chris Lao and the LRT incident, however, are different. While not overtly political brawls, these cases have political and social underpinnings — even if some respondents don’t quite recognize their impulses.
When cyber-bullies come out by the thousands, we’re dealing with a cybermob, the digital equivalent of those old lynching parties or the more modern riots.
The introduction by Adam Bellow warns that today’s threats may “appear in the guise of social and political progress.”
Forum notes say this: “According to Ron Rosenbaum and Lee Siegel, in their provocative contributions to the volume, the extraordinary advances made possible by the Internet have come at a sometimes worrisome cost. Rosenbaum focuses on how online anonymity has become a mask encouraging political discourse that is increasingly distorted by vitriol, abuse, and thuggishness. Siegel argues that the Internet has undermined long-established standards of excellence, promoting participation and popularity over talent and originality. Both writers warn against the growing influence of what Siegel calls “interactive mobs.”
I don’t share the depth of their pessimism or the apportioning of blame. Media, especially social media, doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It reflects society. The vociferous, sometimes ugly exchanges we saw during the US Presidential campaign — and our own in 2010 — were rooted not so much in the ease by which we can hurl insults in cyberspace, as in the very real divides that exist in our respective populations.
Cyberspace didn’t create these feuds — even though it does fuel the exchange. Many factors feed on fear and anger — more so in real life than in cyber space.
It is the platform of expression that amplifies the roar of the mob. I don’t think cyber space substantially changes people. I believe that people will gradually learn to modify actions as they navigate the brave, new cyber universe.
No matter how addictive social media can be, most people reflect their own personalities on the Web, whether they post their true names and faces or some exotic avatar. The anger that people feel are rooted in very real experiences. We can shout all we want for a gentle, cyber media world — but the final shaping of this space will depend on how we deal with each other on the ground.
There, in the trenches where people bleed and die, and hunger, and nurse obvious and unseen wounds — that is where our social battles will be resolved.
We in the media will have to struggle more, wrestle with our ethical dilemmas. It won’t be easy. One can spend hours trying to explain nuances to a platform with more than 100,000 different voices. But the genie isn’t going back, so we gotta start talking straight with him.