Social media as deadly mob

By: Jobers R. Bersales March 22,2017 - 08:19 PM


Trending on Facebook and probably other social media sites is the controversy currently hounding David Lim Jr. and the visually recorded altercation and allegedly involving victim nurse Ephraim Nuñal. If there is one thing I can conclude from all the posts for or against Lim, it is this: social media can be as fatal as a lynch mob.

You can literally read seething anger from people who clearly do not even know the parties involved to the point where it would seem supporters of either parties are lawyering for them.

One may dismiss these people as frustrated lawyers or criminologists. But one thing is for certain: such is the power of social media and how it can be harnessed powerfully in the way that physical demonstrations, street rallies and protests that we used to carry out during our youth pale in comparison. Indeed, social media and the internet have become the venue for ideas to contend.

This also helps explain the waning participation, for example, of actual warm bodies during calls for or against the burial of the dictator and former president Ferdinand E. Marcos. The arena for ideas and passions to burst out has long left the physical stage, it has moved to cyberspace and with no one policing it.

What makes it very dangerous is the fact that some people in cyberspace can and do behave worse than those protests of our generation, when probably the most violent thing our counterparts in Manila did, for example, was to throw eggs or red paint at the seal of the United States Embassy.

When we wrote the book “Knowing Our Social World” as our contribution to pioneering senior high school textbooks for use in the subject “Understanding Society, Culture and Politics,” one of my two co-authors, Dr. Zona Amper and Dr. Fiscalina Nolasco, declined to write a full chapter on the social impact of cyberspace and social media for the very reason that this was something we were as yet incapable of getting deeper into. By getting deeper into, I mean clutching the bull by the horns, as it were, and getting to know it inch by inch.

Consider this: the current bashing that David Lim Jr. is going through, for example, far exceeds all the modicum of decency and all the paeans to the legal precept that one is innocent until otherwise proven guilty. Of course, one cannot totally blame the cursory Facebook account holder judging Lim this way: trending all over was this dashcam video of the event and his apparent shooting of Nuñal apparently not to kill but maim or disable him.

This video has stirred passions from people in all walks of life, made more stunningly difficult to be dispassionate about by the pronouncements of our dear Mayor Tomas R. Osmeña who, after admitting that he shared the same upper class pedigree with the publicly vilified-as-guilty Lim, apologized profusely that his own kind had spoiled brats in them, forgetting to consider of course that incident involving his own son, Miguel, some years back in one of those noisy resto-bars right in front of the University of San Carlos School of Law building.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and did not see this incident as platform for calling on the poor to wage war against the elite and the upper class in Cebu. Otherwise, we would have been literally in the thick of a violent class war by now. Nevertheless, some of the Facebook posts conclude that perhaps the rich think they can carry guns and shoot the poor but not the other way around.

I see no end to the misery that Lim has placed himself into had he just calmed down and moved on. The only way for the social media bashing to die down unfortunately is for him to present himself before the rightful judge, in this case, the duly authorized members of the judiciary which society has assigned to carefully sift through the evidence dispassionately.

At the end of the day, despite passions rising and all kinds of nasty posts for or against Lim and his alleged road rage, we still have a system of laws that every society invented centuries ago just precisely to find men and women who can suspend passion and emotions.

Now that he has surrendered, those of us who are keen observers of society need to see how and when social media passions abate. And perhaps by then we can fully comprehend this beast called social media and how best to treat it as a social and cultural animal that can be tamed.

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TAGS: David Lim Jr., Ephraim Nuñal, Facebook, Gun, Internet, judgement, Justice, lawyer, people, road rage, social media, video

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