DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) Updated November 03, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (21)
The whining of Assistant Secretary for Communications Mai Mislang about the wine served by the Vietnamese government, the lack of good looking Vietnamese males and the homicidal streets of Vietnam will become a classic case that lecturers will cite in countless seminars from now on, on the perils of misusing social media. The key lesson here is that new technology still requires good old fashioned manners.
If both my grandmothers were alive today and we told them the Mai Mislang tweets, they would have reacted by exclaiming three words: Bastos. Walang pinagaralan. They wouldn’t care if Mislang was a cum laude graduate of UP or even if she had a PhD in nuclear physics. She would still be bastos… walang pinagaralan.
Monitoring the social networks over the weekend, there were those who said that we should be more understanding because Mislang is typical of today’s youth. I beg to disagree. I have three children ages 25-30 and they would never have done what Mislang did. It is all a question of breeding. Mislang may have had the misfortune of not having been trained well by her parents.
It is simply basic and that makes it so difficult to understand why Mislang did it, to the embarrassment of the whole Filipino nation. When you are a guest in someone’s home, you act like a good guest. You should be respectful. If you are offered something to eat or drink, say thank you. If you do not like what was served, suffer in silence and even swallow it as if it was the most delicious treat in the world. When you are asked how you liked the food, smile sincerely and say it was great.
Now, if you are a public official representing the country abroad, do all those things even more. I was a mere columnist visiting Japan many years ago on invitation of the Japanese government. I don’t like eating sashimi or any raw fish, probably because I am the son of a doctor who specializes in parasites and it was drilled into my subconscious to avoid raw food. But when my host offered me sashimi over dinner, I took it and made him feel that I enjoyed it. I was not a public official but I was representing my country, and somehow I knew I had to show appreciation for the graciousness of my host.
Going back to the proper use of social media… I guess the Palace will have to conduct a seminar after this unfortunate incident. In fact, for future state visits, a pre departure orientation conducted by the DFA must be required before an official or diplomatic passport is issued. My colleague in the profession, Ellen Tordesillas, noted in her blog that it isn’t as if there are no guidelines out there on how to behave in social media. Ellen cites the guidelines issued by the US National Public Radio and the Los Angeles Times. The guidelines have been issued, Ellen pointed out, in the advent of what is now called social media (Facebook and Twitter are the most popular) where the line between private and public statements are blurred.
Wrote Ellen: “This part from the NPR guideline should be underlined for Mislang: ‘Recognize that everything you write or receive on a social media site is public. Anyone with access to the web can get access to your activity on social media sites. And regardless of how careful you are in trying to keep them separate, in your online activity, your professional life and your personal life overlap.”
“This should also be relevant to Mislang: ‘You should conduct yourself in social media forums with an eye to how your behavior or comments might appear if we were called upon to defend them as a news organization (in her case Office of the President). In other words, don’t behave any differently online than you would in any other public setting.’”
Mislang got what she deserved with the avalanche of public castigation she got on Facebook and Twitter from irate Filipinos. And P-Noy is wrong to say we are blowing it up. It is better for the disgust to come out of Manila instead of from Hanoi. Diplomacy dictates that the Vietnamese will keep their displeasure to themselves.
But there was also one comment I came across on Facebook from a Vietnamese who observed that Central Vietnam had been flooded and in need of relief yet his government is spending money to host the Philippine President and his party. Vietnam, it was pointed out, is also a developing country like ours with limited budgets. The Vietnamese blogger was disappointed at how his country’s hospitality had been disparaged and was demanding an official apology.
I can get into the shoes of that Vietnamese. If the situation was reversed and a Vietnamese Mislang tweeted complaints about the red wine Malacanang served, the homicidal nature of Manila streets and worse of all… the unattractiveness of the Filipino male… I am sure we will be ready to declare war on Vietnam. A Hollywood actress once complained about how bad Manila smelled and we were up in arms, even if that observation is true for many parts of our cities.
The thing that worries me more about the Mislang mistake is how it has become one more proof that this country or this administration is becoming insensitive. Ricky Carandang called the Mislang caper a small thing, making me wonder about Ricky’s maturity for his job. Ricky was reported to have playfully twitted Mislang back, red or white, reference to the wine. And Ricky must be told the Vietnamese government didn’t bring it up because they are polite… it doesn’t mean they are not unhappy about it.
Insensitivity starts from the top. Remember how P-Noy called the Luneta bus massacre a small thing as well, telling a group in Olongapo that a few years from now we will be laughing about it. As if official insensitivity isn’t bad enough, policemen and school girls trooped to Luneta to have their picture taken in front of the bus and plastered all that on social media. Have we become a country of insensitive brutes?
Oh well… we have become insensitive anyway so maybe I can relate a comment I read in one of the Facebook tracks that observed Mislang didn’t have the right to make that comment about Vietnamese men because she wasn’t a looker herself (I am saying this in kinder words). Indeed, the person said, Mislang looked like a younger version of the Ombudsman.
That’s neither here nor there inasmuch as beauty is always in the eyes of the beholder. Who is to say who is beautiful and who is not? But I relate it here as a necessary reminder for the likes of Ms Mislang among the juveniles surrounding P-Noy to behave because for one thing, they aren’t as great as they think. They just happen to work at the Palace.
Incidentally, the title of this column was texted to me by someone whose name didn’t register in my phone. I just want to give credit lest I start acting like a Supreme Court Justice.