Review revenge
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - October 11, 2020 - 12:00am

Wesley Barnes is a white man working in Asia. He also got into trouble there.

That is oversimplifying the narrative. What happened in a sleepy island in Thailand led to various media outlets offering different takes on those events, and divided opinion from social media. I’m for the side that’s feeling schadenfreude over what occurred.

Wesley was a walk-in guest at a resort-hotel in Thailand. After a negative experience, he posted a similarly-negative review on Tripadvisor. The resort pressed charges against him for defamation, he was arrested, and suffered two nights in jail before he was able to make bail.

Again, an over-simplified narrative. Knee-jerk reactions might take his side, and exclaim: “But, he only posted a negative review!” “We have freedom of speech!” “Thailand’s laws are draconian!” “Doesn’t this affect Thailand’s tourism efforts when an unhappy tourist can be jailed for a mere TripAdvisor review?”

The story isn’t as simple as that, and if we add more ingredients to the recipe, we may very well end up boiling Mr. Barnes in some spicy chili oil.

Wesley came in to dine at the Sea View resort in Koh Chang, and his party brought alcohol from outside. When his party was informed there was a corkage charge, Wesley got upset. The manager came over, spoke to them, and ended up waiving the corkage. That should have ended the matter, except it didn’t.

Revenge was in the air. Wesley wrote a TripAdvisor review, to which he bestowed the title of “Modern Slavery”. He accused management of ill-treating staff who were unhappy, and treating them like slaves. He also warned guests to avoid the resort like the coronavirus. TripAdvisor apparently took down the review after a week, saying it offended their rules.

Such vitriol. And that wasn’t enough. Wesley wrote more reviews spaced out every two weeks at other sites and tried to spread more stories that blackened the resort’s reputation. Sea View tried to contact him to request him to take down the reviews, but nothing doing! After a few attempts, came a threat against Wesley about legal action. Still no cooperation from the infuriated (and infuriating) Mr. Barnes.

Hence a criminal charge before Thai police. That went well, and the delightful Mr. Barnes, then teaching at a language school, was carted off to jail so he could learn a different lesson. As explained by the resort in its statement, it was a small business struggling to survive the impact of COVID. Yet here was a visitor who had refused to abide by corkage fee rules, had already been graciously let off, wouldn’t respond to civilized attempts to dialogue, and yet was still spreading untruthful stories.

The moral of the story: Yes, children, there is a price for lying (unlike in America, perhaps). Especially when the lie is motivated by anger, revenge, or as characterized here in our local libel laws, “malice”. That lesson isn’t so hard to absorb.

Another ingredient to stir the pot with: a website called “conandaily.com” has reported that Wesley has faced criminal charges in the US and has served jail time. Does that color our perception of him even further?

So this isn’t a simple story of how an honest-to-goodness review of a hotel lands an earnest reviewer into legal trouble. This isn’t a country unable to deal with negative press. Perhaps, this could be about how a white man abuses his Caucasian privileges in a country where he has been graciously allowed to enter (and work for the meantime, as he was given a teaching job and a working visa pending his COVID-enforced stay in Thailand).

This could be about a guest who insults his hosts and bites the hand that feeds him. This could be about obnoxious tourists who disregard the norms of the country they find themselves in. This could be the story of an American jerk who disrespects the culture where he finds himself in. So many narratives to choose from.

How would you review it?

REVENGE
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