Add Cathay Pacific to the list of companies that have been burned by the Streisand Effect, the term given to the phenomenon where trying to hide something actually draws more attention to it. The phrase was coined in 2003 when singer/actress Barbra Streisand tried to suppress photos of her mansion and, in doing so, gave it more publicity.
In the airline’s case, the situation arises from a rather humourous video released last week by Next Media Animation, the Taiwanese company that has made its name on producing computer-generated takes on current events (who can forget NMA’s interpretation of the Tiger Woods sex scandal?) This time around, NMA’s video presents accusations that Cathay Pacific is catering to perverts in business class by providing them with a no-questions-asked environment in which to masturbate.
The charges seem to centre on three main points: that other passengers have witnessed such acts and reported them to seemingly uninterested flight attendants; that the airline shows uncensored movies, complete with nudity and sex; and that the reclining business class seats have mirrors that allow the alleged perverts to see when others are approaching.
The video has been taken down repeatedly, leading to NMA putting up the following that summarizes the situation:
It’s a pretty silly story that probably would have gone away if Cathay Pacific had ignored it. After all, any other airline could be accused of the same thing. The only thing Cathay seems to be guilty of is showing uncensored movies, which could have been explained away as an experiment or mistake.
Instead, the airline harassed YouTube into taking the video down, thereby angering NMA and other free-speech supporters. The Taiwanese company promptly put the video back up and called on Google to protect YouTube as a platform for satire, parody and criticism. “We strongly oppose any such efforts. We’re Next Media Animation. We don’t like censorship. We don’t like bullies,” the company said.
Way to go Cathay Pacific. What could have been a minor issue may now result in the airline being known as the favourite of flying perverts everywhere.