• A tragedy named RJ Nieto



    IT was extremely disturbing news. A friend on Facebook related to me how one otherwise sane and rational pro-Duterte blogger gave the advice not to court the ire of RJ Nieto, and that we should all just be grateful to him for his service to the country.

    My social media friends, who in private expressed their disagreement with Nieto’s antics, nevertheless told me to just ignore him and be the better person. It is no secret that I have a personal spat with him, that only recently erupted into the open, but had started during my unceremonious firing from the radio program I used to co-host.

    Openly, however, you see these people affirming if not liking and sharing Nieto’s vitriolic assault on his enemies. Worse, some of them even liked his posts attacking me.

    RJ Nieto arrived like a remarkable phenomenon in our political landscape, one at least has to grant him that. Despite being handicapped by not having a formal college degree, Nieto has put to shame not only professional journalists but even academics with his tenacious research skills, and his audacity to confront political giants. At first, he hid under the cloak of anonymity as Thinking Pinoy, but later on revealed himself to the public.

    Notwithstanding our conflict, I honestly admire Nieto for his blogging skills. He has so much talent which the country can benefit from, if used properly and ethically.

    I watched him with admiration as he made mincemeat of the LP senators during the Cocoygate hearings. His witty and fearless retorts, in fact, endeared him to a public that treated him as the personification of their hero, like a Fernando Poe Jr. punching the bad guys in old movies that drew the collective approbation, and adulation of the crowd. After that hearing, in a matter of days, Nieto’s social media following surpassed the one million mark.

    Sadly, instead of using the momentum as an impetus to further inflict damage on the enemies of the President, he turned his ire on just anyone, including on many of us who are his allies. Nieto suddenly personified a premature representation of what could go wrong in a Duterte revolution. He started devouring his own kind.

    Speculations are rife on what drives his combativeness with fellow Duterte enablers and bloggers. But only Nieto would know the real reason. What is certain is that his actions have also gradually chipped into his image as a crusading blogger. His demeanor caused his boldness and audacity to transmogrify into arrogance and hubris.

    Perhaps, it was the Senate hearing, where he openly challenged the LP senators with an air of defiance that turned him from a crusading mortal to behaving as if he is an infallible demi-god.

    Nieto uses social media like it is his kingdom. He has at least a million followers, and a coterie of enablers from among the social blogging elites. He has cultivated an alliance with two other social media giants, Sass Rogando Sasot and PCOO Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson. They are a formidable trio, an enormous asset to the President, and a terrifying adversary to his enemies.

    Unfortunately for Nieto, social media is a very fluid, uncontrollable and transparent medium. Much as he wants to sequester its power to his advantage, he could never monopolize it, as no one can. When he trained his guns on other bloggers like lawyer Bruce Rivera and We Are Collective (WAC), his own vulnerabilities began to unravel. After all, he may be RJ Nieto, but not all people in the social media universe fear him. And not all social media netizens could just sit back as he turns his ire on other pro-Duterte bloggers.

    He may have reached his pinnacle of fame when he defied the opposition senators and defiled Sen. Leila de Lima’s office door. But his painful descent into infamy may have started the moment he began devouring his political allies in the Duterte social media community.

    Nieto loved to flaunt his power through his numbers. This is how he impressed us about his might. He posted graphics of how he out-engaged all bloggers except Mocha Uson, and every major mainstream media network. He also used the power of numbers to instill fear in his adversaries by ordering his minions to unfollow their accounts.

    But Nieto’s numbers may prove to be his undoing. An initial quantitative analysis on the number of likes and shares of his posts before a randomly selected date reveals a disturbing pattern when compared to most bloggers with Facebook Pages. An initial interpretation of the results indicates a possible preponderance of inauthentic and inorganic likers. Compared to most bloggers, his number of likes is weakly correlated to his number of shares, even as only six percent of his likers share his posts. There is only one other pro-Duterte blogger whose data behaved similarly, that of Sass Sasot. And between them, the only other blogger that performed worse is that of an obviously troll opposition account characterized by near zero correlation between likes and shares, and extremely low shares relative to likes.

    The mighty Nieto may thus be betrayed by his numbers, the same numbers that he flaunted and used to inflict his power on us who displeased him.

    Right now, the voices of displeasure towards Nieto is increasing. An increasing number of bloggers, with WAC taking the lead, are now exposing his political dealings. And ordinary netizens are beginning to be more open in their condemnation of his excesses and flaws. Angry emoticons are beginning to fly onscreen.

    Nieto would have been a perfect asset to society, and we would have had no choice but to be grateful to him, had he simply used his enormous talent to build support for the President. It is tragic that he used it to harm even people who are the President’s allies.


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