6 June 2024

While Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, X (Twitter) and the likes have come in for a lot of criticism over the years due to their flaws, one of their undisputed virtues has shone through lately. And that is how they have kept double standards in check.

Fresh lessons are being taught throughout the world. America’s sermons on humanitarianism are being questioned amid the Gaza terror. Football managers in England who have slammed or praised VAR depending on results are having their past comments dug up. At home, the Move Forward Party has been under tumultuous pressure following sex-related allegations against two MPs.

A few years ago, all Bangkok MP Chaiyamparwaan Manpianjit had to do would be to lie low for a couple of weeks and then deliver a good show in Parliament. All Move Forward needed to do would be to make sure he did that. Non-social media environment allowed it, not only because people had short memories in politics, but also because what was said or promised was never “captured” either fondly or with a cunning intent.

Also a few years ago, all America had to do was keep the Hamas violence dominant in the news and Israel’s own terror secondary in the mainstream media, which it can control. By doing so, Washington’s “humanitarian mission” would not have been so controversial. Cue the social media and the sufferings of Gaza innocents have become more glaringly shocking and immediate, and are mocking any humanitarian pretense of those who are able to stop the violence but have failed to do so.

When questionable VAR-backed refereeing decisions sent Arsenal reeling a few days ago, the team would have deserved full sympathy but for what their manager said a few weeks ago. A part of Mikel Arteta’s statement back then was that football referees, even with the help of VAR, were humans thus entitled to making mistakes.

The same went with Tottenham Hotspur manager Ange Postecoglou. He said one thing when his team benefited from “human mistakes” of referees, and another following a defeat at the hands of Chelsea, who had referees to thank.

Past statements by Chaiyaphol Wipa, the key suspect in the Nong Chompoo case, are all over YouTube. He can be seen saying on several occasions that there was no way the three-year-old girl could have gone up a mountain, where she was found dead, by herself. This must have hardened the job of his defense lawyers, who told the court that she had followed a dog, got lost and died. A verdict is expected in late December.

Social media record everything people ever say or do. Captured content is far more powerful than stating one used to say this or that. It’s a piece of direct evidence that, when showed, is impossible to refute. If Donald Trump becomes the US president again, clips of American institutions demonizing him would remain on the Internet, including what the US Congress thought about him.

Democracy has always been difficult, but the social media are making it a lot more so. A lot of people flip-flop for a living, and it used to be the mainstream media’s exclusive job to deal with them, most of the times ineffectively. When indisputable evidence is in abundance at the fingertips now, shame and impact are greater.

How the social media are dealing with double standards are affecting everyone throughout the human pyramid, from the most ordinary thing men on the street do to what the superpowers say. Preachers of morals must make sure they don’t park in spaces marked for the handicapped, advocates of “equality” must wait patiently in line for their turn and users of the “Me Too” hashtag must never get involved with the wrong end of sexual harassment.

What Washington and London have said during the Gaza bombardment can come back to haunt them big time, especially if another country conducted a similar military campaign against unarmed people living in its territory in the future. Saved evidence would show how the superpower governments reacted with subtle or smart approval of Israel’s “act of vengeance”, which will be cited a lot from now on by suppressive regimes.

Amnesty International is getting it. “States cannot criticize human rights violations one minute and in the next condone similar abuses in other countries just because their interests are at stake. It’s unconscionable and undermines the entire fabric of universal human rights,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, in a news release earlier this year, even before the Gaza fiasco.

Amnesty International calling what’s happening in Gaza a “humanitarian catastrophe” owes a lot to social media evidence going viral.

Elon Musk could be next. The man who recently raised repeated alarms over potential dangers of AI has launched an AI chatbot called Grok on his social media site X, formerly Twitter. It is only available to selected users and, he insists, humorous rather than dangerous, but it’s interesting what Grok will have to say about his past AI comments if asked about them.

Hypocrisy is what negatively affects morality, blurs supposedly-universal values and allows bad yet smart people to rule. But while social media can hold high-profile hypocrisy in check, some may argue that small-scale deceptions are taking place under their noses. Little by little, the social media can encourage hypocrisy, too, critics warn.

A hypocrite is anyone putting on a mask, whether intentionally or for fun. In effect, he or she tries to get a crowd to believe in something which is not true. People who are uncaring can be kind and compassionate in public, but when nobody is watching, they are scheming and cruel, doing everything against what they preach.

In other words, not everyone using fake avatars are bad, but it’s a baby step that might lead to something terrible.

The social media are still fledging in most aspects. Take away photoshopped and other misleading content, they are a child prodigy when it comes to tackling blatant double standards, though.

 

Tulsathit Taptim