What Kind of Brus Is Fred Konga Smoking?

[One mistep after another now causes the story of the naked selfie to become a topic of common conversation and begin spilling over into the international media]

by BENJAMIN NGAL KERA

Most urban Papua New Guineans with access to newspapers or internet probably now know that Chairman of the PNG Border Development Authority (BDA), Fred Konga, is taking The National and its reporter to court for defamation for republishing the story of Fred Konga's naked selfie. None of the probable thousands who have e-mailed Konga's selfie photos or reposted on other facebook sites have been taken to court. No one associated with the Facebook site Caught In the Act (https://www.facebook.com/caughtintheactpng) site has been summoned, despite that being one of the original entry points into the greater PNG social media. Only one lone internet poster who hardly ever writes and posts blog articles and sticks mostly to Facebook has been accused and summoned by Konga. Those other hundreds (if not more) internet users who have e-mailed and facebook posted his naked selfie everywhere have been ignored. Who is the unlikely person who has been charged in civil court by Mr Konga for defamation? It is Sonja Barry Ramoi, a well known social media personality. Why is she being targeted? It's probably because she's one of the few people who Konga can attach a real name to on the social media, and who has, in fact, posted about Mr Konga. Konga's job, plus the position Mrs. Ramoi's close friend, Belden Namah, has and the insight it gives him on what is really going on at the international border and how Mr Konga actually functions in his job, are undoubtedly all factors that cause Mr Konga to go specifically after Mrs Ramoi.

Thus, Fred Konga has declared war on the social media and started firing the first return shots. Problem is, the social media is full of darkness, so when he starts shooting, he'll waste most of his ammunition shooting aimlessly. Obviously Mr Konga knows next to nothing about how the social media functions. If he did, he certainly would not be taking these steps. That doesn't mean he would have had any trouble finding a lawyer who was willing to take that case in return for the steady flow of cash this court case is likely to bring into the lawyer's bank account. You can always find a lawyer who will nod their head yes to anyone you want to sue, because they know that at the end of the day, they're the only ones guaranteed to make money.

Mr Konga, for all his bluster and hurt puppy defensiveness, has no clue whatsoever what any public official with any common sense at all does when faced with a similar embarrassing situation that spills over onto the social media. It is certainly not to ignore the allegations because rest assured, they won't go away. Instead, public officials who have common sense and any real concern about salvaging their reputation will immediately goes before the press, acknowledge the sin, explain away why they did it (I was drunk, I was framed by my girlfriend, etc), answer the reporter's questions, and move on. Yes, there will be an uproar for awhile but it will eventually die out.

Aussie politicians caught with their pants down over the years have kept some fragments of their formal reputation and perhaps even their jobs when they meticulously followed this strategy. The smart ones know from the start that social media has immense potential power. It is more than capable of blow up small matters into national issues and a national trial by media. Ultimately the alleged's reputation is destroyed not by the original sin but by the public official's foolish denials and overall reaction to it.

Fred Konga will have none of this common sense perspective in dealing with the scandal. That's why we now have Mr Konga back in the news again. And again. All because of Mr Konga himself. That probably delights his enemies and detractors. It's also what the social media wants, as there is nothing more entertaining than a catfight on the internet. Mr Konga is creating a public relations disaster for himself that will likely last many years and seems completely oblivious to it.

Mr Konga might want to know the personal story of how I came to discover the naked body of Fred Konga on the internet. I first heard a friend mention it a couple weeks ago. An interesting story to listen to, but I actually forgot about it until the article in which Mr Konga defended himself came out in The National.

Once I read that story (thank you for making it possible, Mr Konga!), my curiosity was fully activated. This wasn't because of Sonja Barry Ramoi or any of Mr Konga's other detractors, but because of Mr Konga himself. I must confess, at that point I went onto the internet and began searching for the selfie of the naked Konga body so I could see for myself. It took awhile to find the first picture, but I finally did. I kept searching through various facebook sites and found another. Then a third. It would appear that Mr Konga's photos have been circulating on the social media for awhile now, but ignorant people like me never discovered the full extent of this story until Fred Konga himself essentially challenged me to make the effort to find the selfies.

Now, horror of horrors, the first image of Fred Konga's selfie has just appeared in the world internet search engines. As of a couple days ago, one image can now be retrieved on Google Images. The image appears, courtesy of the independent media site known as brisbane.indywatch.org.

When a PNG scandal gets picked up by the international media, that is truly the beginning of the opening of a can of worms that Mr Konga will long wish he had never bothered to pick up, much less looked inside. Beyond that, it is becoming apparent that Mr Konga's strategy of trying to threaten those on the social media into silence is badly backfiring against him. When anonymous social media activists declare war against you, anyone with any sense at all realises that they have just created a huge mess for themselves. The article on PNG Blogs by the "Anonymous" group demonstrates that Mr Konga has upset people who are willing to fight a guerrilla style cyber war against him. Unless Mr Konga has millions to spend getting court orders all over the world to try and trace these souls, he has probably picked off more than he can chew.

Looking at how the social media is responding to Mr Konga's issue, I can foresee that he'll end up getting more punishment than he ever bargained for because of the disrespectful way he carries himself as a public official. The private lives of public officials have long been open to hunting by the public simply because what someone does in private says more about their personal character and ethics than any mauswara they give in public when they realise that everyone is watching and listening. Thus, Fred Konga's sometime tendency to strip himself naked and take pictures of himself has been revealed to the PNG public, and thanks to Mr Konga's threats, it now seems destined to spill onto world internet sites.

What Mr Konga may ultimately learn from this very expensive (legal fees) and humiliating experience are 2 important lessons: First, never try to pretend innocence if you're guilty, if the allegation gets onto the internet. You'll never win, even armed with legal threats and you'll probably end up more humiliated than if you had just stayed quiet. Second, never threaten those on the social media hoping that will frighten them into silence. The last place we will feel the peace of silence in this world will be on the social media. Thanks to Fred Konga's insistence of keeping this story in the news, the story has spread far more than it ever would have if Mr Konga had simply shut up and hoped for the best.

The biggest results that Mr Konga's misguided battle to redeem his reputation will likely create will be to force more Papua New Guineans into using anonymous pen names so that they no longer become sitting ducks for corrupt thugs like Mr Konga. That will further empower those in the PNG social media to get out scandalous truths. It may also become painfully clear as a result of this court case that the internet will not be controlled by the Papua New Guinean government any more than it has been controlled by any government, save the most authoritarian ones. The internet is setting oppressed people of the world free in all directions and Mr Konga and his court case will merely highlight that reality.