Just last week we shared a heartwarming video in which a homeless man, Thomas, receives a $100 windfall and immediately goes on to share his good fortune with others. The event was captured on camera by YouTuber Josh Paler Lin who claimed that he captured the surprising act of generosity by secretly trailing Thomas with a camera after handing him the cash. Well, you may want to cool your heart down to a chill 72 degrees because multiple reports have surfaced claiming that the encounter was staged.
In his video Paler Lin is seen tailing Thomas to a liquor store, expecting to catch him the act of buying alcohol. Instead he purchases packaged food which he then shares with other disadvantaged people in a nearby park. The video, with its heartwarming sentiment, has racked up nearly 30 million views and helped Josh Paler Lin’s channel pick up an additional 15,000 subscribers. In the wake of his huge viral holiday hit the YouTuber has also launched a Indiegogo campaign to raise money for Thomas. Thus far the campaign has raised over $135,000. However, questions began to surface earlier this week when an eyewitness told Vocativ the he believed parts of the video had been staged. Taugan Tan Kadalim claims that he was in the store at the time and saw Thomas arrive in a car with Paler Lin, rather than on foot as depicted in the video. Kadalim, who recognized Paler Lin from his YouTube exploits, claimed that Thomas arrived with the YouTuber and a cameraman, indicating that the impromptu shopping spree was anything but.
Staging a viral video is nothing new. Whether it’s done in the name of views or to promote a social message, numerous creators have staged the events of viral videos to create a compelling narrative. While viral video fans might feel cheated by the idea that these scenes are scripted, doing so is no less ethical than secretly surveiling a homeless man in order to pass judgment on his purchases. Staged though it might be, the video appears to have good intentions and a uplifting message. However more recent accusations have cast even that into doubt.
Image Via KCBS-TV
Yesterday, a man named Kevin Nickel contacted a local CBS affiliate claiming that “Thomas” was actually his brother Kenny Nickel. Far from being destitute Kevin claimed that Kenny is sitting on a $150,000 inheritance, his share of their parents’ estate, which he has yet to claim. Nickel supported his claim with family photos and expressed concern that his brother might be “being manipulated.” Given his brother’s failure to claim his inheritances Nickel doubts whether “Thomas” is even aware of the money being collected on his behalf by Josh Paler Lin.
These latest accusations raise two distinctly unsettling possibilities. It’s possible that Josh Paler Lin has been manipulated by Thomas into raising money for someone who is not what he appears, or Paler Lin himself may be exploiting a disadvantaged individual in order to reap the gains of positive publicity. Thus far Josh Paler Lin has maintained that the video is authentic and that Thomas’ story is genuine. A post on his Facebook page claims he is pursuing legal action against those who have claimed otherwise. It’s a question that will need to be settled, preferably before those Indiegogo funds are dispersed.
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