On fake news and tantrums about it

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One of the more recent facepalm-worthy stunts committed by a prominent personality was demonstrated yesterday by way of premature chest-thumping and gloating via media declaration that several opposition politicians critical of the Duterte administration were involved in a conspiracy with terrorist groups in Marawi city.

None other than DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, in vulpine triumph in front of the cameras, named several key politicians to being in cahoots with Maute leaders with the goal of destabilizing the government and do a power-grab for the Liberal Party.

Less than a day after that, the same person was apologizing all over the place because of being ‘confused’ about reports he received. This is the kind of thing that makes you so embarrassed for someone that you need to put hands over your eyes while reading all the details about such a monumental gaffe. You’d think a lawyer would have the common sense to actually have SOLID (or at least a small piece of it) evidence first in his possession before grandstanding all over the media. Apparently the only leverage the justice secretary was counting on were ‘reports’. As for his sources, he did not elaborate.

Once again, that much ballyhooed term of late called ‘fake news’ was thrown in the equation. It did not help that Aguirre is part of an administration being heckled by the old guard for peddling fake news because of the total lack of corporate media support enjoyed by the previous administration. What the administration lacked for in that department, made up for its overwhelming social media presence with the likes of bloggers Mocha Uson, Sass Rogando Sassot, and Thinking Pinoy.

That they were ‘lowly’ bloggers and not actual ‘journalists’ had been enough for people (especially critics of the administration) to buy and label them peddlers of such fakery.  The way people from both sides of the camp react to it, you’d think fake news’ inception was just a few hours ago; or that corporate media is incapable of doing it.

But corporate-owned establishments like Rappler and The Philippine Daily Inquirer—collectively identified as propaganda machines of the Liberal Party and the Aquinos—have been hit with similar accusations and even criticized with going as far as fear-mongering just to generate more profit.

One man’s fake news is the opposing side’s legitimate information.

As early as 1835 broadsheets like The New York Sun had been guilty of doing the same practice. As what was said in this article that appeared in The Economist:

The fantastical reports had in fact been concocted by Richard Adams Locke, the Sun’s editor. Herschel was conducting genuine astronomical observations in South Africa. But Locke knew it would take months for his deception to be revealed, because the only means of communication with the Cape was by letter. The whole thing was a giant hoax – or, as we would say today, “fake news”. This classic of the genre illuminates the pros and cons of fake news as a commercial strategy – and helps explain why it has re-emerged in the internet era.

And here lies the problematic perspective that the average person is saddled with. On one hand you have the extreme conspiracy theorist who thinks corporate-owned media is up to no good. And on the other you have the pre-conditioned elitist who thinks “legitimate” big business media really has the public’s interest at heart.

So where does it leave the hapless consumer looking for legitimate sources of news? How do we make it easy for people to search the proper avenue of which to locate their daily updates?

You can’t. Because avoiding them is a person’s own lookout. Fake news are like potholes. They’re not going away just because a few spoon-fed brats are complaining about it. You can’t whine for every idiot who falls flat on his face every time they step on one.

Nownah

“Buy lang ako…”

“Watch tayo…”

“Wait lang…”

“Gets nyo?”

“Nownah!”

If you’re in Metro Manila, chances are you’ve heard those phrases at one time or another. Probably even spoke or wrote them yourself (often in a chat service like Microsoft Lync) without even thinking about it. I know I did.

And it’s totally cringe-inducing. It’s like those colegiala-speak of the deplorable Kris Aquino variety of yesteryears suddenly came back with a vengeance and took a huge bite out of our collective posteriors for mocking it.

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You know, the quintessential “Hoy I’m so gutom na where are we gonna make kain ba? I wanna make punta in Aling Banang’s and make tusok-tusok the fishballs e. I’m so sawa na with kaka-burgers kase…”—stuff that populated a lot of comedies and Philippine TV sitcoms during the late 80s to mid-90s. It was great material for comedy back then; partly because it was irritating to hear in real life and partly because a lot of people actually did it in real life and are getting lampooned for it.

And for some reason an insidious form of it crept up, biding its time, hiding behind a variety of communication forms like txt speak, swardspeak, jeje speak, bpo speak, and who knows what else to come up with a new form and integrate itself to the general population without incident.

It got you before you even knew it was there. This time, it’s broken down into bite-sized morsels—exacerbated by mass media machinations like TV, local movies, and the general trend-buying sentiments of the general population.

But I’m sure linguists will simply shrug it off and comment about the progression of language and the inevitability of its evolution in tandem with the cultural and technological movements that support it. In short, as long as you understand it, there’s no big deal.

Sure. But you don’t have to like it.

The Running Man revisited

Having just watched The Running Man (1987)again after several decades (Last time I indulged in repeat viewings of favorite action movies, it was still in VHS format.) since I saw it as a schoolboy, I believe it was grossly underrated and unfairly panned by critics at the time of its theatrical run.

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There really is a fundamental difference when  you revisit a story you knew as a child when you’re an adult. Suddenly things you did not notice then, have taken center stage now. That was certainly true of The Running Man when I watched it in some local theater with my father somewhere in Luneta a long time ago. As a child, things were a bit more simple. Good guys here, bad guys on the other side. And when your good guy is Arnold, a fun time is to be had when you look forward to him beating those baddies to a pulp with his bare hands along with his trademark sardonic kiss-offs and one-liners. You don’t go to a Schwarzenegger movie to see him make some profound statement about life and pseudo-intellectual art-house crap; you go see him fighting others and “terminating” them with extreme prejudice.

Written as a short novel by Stephen King as his now-deceased alter-ego Richard Bachman, The Running Man shows a dystopian future where a sadistic, updated version of the gladiatorial games of ancient Rome lords over primetime television. Where convicted felons slug it out with “stalkers” out to kill them for freedom and truckloads of cash. The show, called The Running Man, is hosted by the charismatic Damon Killian (incidentally played to villainous perfection by Family Feud host Richard Dawson).

What struck me about  the movie is how timely and way ahead of its time it was. Back then “reality TV” was a still an unheard-of concept. And the excesses that came to define it were already seen in the movie: Only instead of narcissism and abysmal materialism, it’s people’s bloodlust that was being catered to. The way corporate/popular media was presented in that story was brilliantly executed. It’s not the first pop culture criticism of that entity but it made it palatable to the masses by packaging it as a summer blockbuster. Even more poignant is that it closely parallels the ongoing media fracas involving the incoming Philippine president. The Running Man has clearly shown how mass media cannot be trusted. Where  despicable government actions, in collusion with mass media and their corporate partners, can turn the blame from the accountable party and turn public sentiment against the very people who fought the wrongdoing.

With The Running Man, Stephen King and Arnold Schwarzenegger probably made the most important work of their lives.

On learning new things

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Having just concluded the recent Red Cross basic first-aider training sponsored by the office, I can’t help but feel a bit despondent about its finality. For someone like me with no background in any medical-related discipline, that little course that touched on some basic life-saving techniques was priceless. For one thing, I learned something new that’s totally out of the discipline I studied and overall line of interest. And it doesn’t hurt that the knowledge is very practical and useful when applied in actual emergency scenarios.

Basic CPR, bandaging techniques and various methods of transporting victims were the coverage of the entire three-day course. Looks very limited at first glance but it was more than enough; the bandaging techniques alone were already a handful. Plus the many different scenarios and methods of carrying victims—from one man, two-man, three-man carry—that were guaranteed arm-fatigue inducers and the final simulation made for a very interesting and stimulating activity and gaffe-filled session. All in good fun.

Nothing like learning something new. Now on to new things that are waiting to be discovered.

The head-scratching antics of Carlos Celdran

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photo by Rappler

Sometimes I really wonder if Carlos Celdran just has too much time in his hands that he has to constantly come up with new, creative ways to amuse himself.

A week ago the notorius Manila tour guide and one-time “DAMASO” church disruptor received the overwhelming affection of BPO employees because of some Facebook rant he publicly posted denouncing the industry’s Duterte supporters as ‘ungrateful’ twats. According to him, without Mar Roxas, the skinny-Uniqlo Jeans-wearing Starbucks-gulping millennial worker in that industry won’t have a job.

Needless to say, several media outlets got wind of that post and published it much to the chagrin of the people involved. For having stirred that particular hive, Celdran got stung from all directions. He apologized immediately.

A lot of political observers joked about how the guy was secretly working for another candidate and was actually sabotaging Roxas’ efforts to acquire new followers. Of course that was said in jest, considering Celdran is a die-hard follower of the Liberal Party. But another more recent head-scratching stunt makes that assertion deserving of a second look.

This time, it involved nurses in Makati Medical Center wearing ballers endorsing the ‘very eeevil’ Duterte. As always, the venue for this new diatribe was his Facebook page; but given his status as a semi-notorious character in the Philippine socio-political landscape, he might as well have taken a megaphone and screamed at the top of his lungs while wearing his underwear in the middle of Luneta.

According to the rant:

“Makati Medical. A nurse knew who I was and STILL wore a Duterte bracelet to the booth where my friend was dying of cancer. I had to ask her to take it off. F*cking hell.”

As expected, people descended on that post, forcing him to delete it. But not before a few enterprising individuals made a screenshot of it for those a bit late into the news but still want in on the missing details. Subsequent posts justifying his rant said:

“The strong man’s values are not the values that doctors and nurses are about. Your profession is about kindness, professionalism, and healing. Not about bullying, making light of serious issues like women’s rights, rape, and national security.

Your profession is about life. Not taking it away. And when I see that baller while dealing with hate in this highly stressful, highly divisive, and violent election season. Suddenly, I feel that I am being cared for by someone that doesn’t share the same values as my father and myself.

Aren’t hospitals supposed to be apolitical? Or isn’t there a rule regarding jewelry and accessories due to sanitation? Only watch right? Makati Med. I don’t get it.”

Of course the response to this have been overwhelmingly negative. And, like the person he likes to vilify, offered a non-apology “apology”:

“In the end, my mistake was I thought grief was a good reason for me to coerce others to change their political choices. But it’s true. Emotions should never be the reason why you cast your vote. It should be reason and platforms. Thank you for the heads up. I hope emotions will never become the reason why Filipinos vote.”

You know, as far as apologies go, it’s that “I’m sorry, but no, I’m not really sorry …”-variety that sounds eerily familiar.

You can be forgiven for thinking that maybe this guy is emulating the Duterte-style of abrasiveness to endear himself to people.With just one stroke the guy went into self-destruct mode similar to what his chosen candidate single-handedly did to his own campaign everytime he opens his mouth. Maybe they should take pointers from Binay, Poe, and Santiago. Sit quietly in the corner, plot your next move, and keep the movements at a minimum lest you do something that can be used against you.

But overall, this tweet pretty much sums everything up:

Mud

As May 9 is getting closer, expect more people to intensify their mudslinging and promotion for, and in behalf of their chosen candidates. A lot of Filipinos have made it a personal crusade to destroy the rivals of their chosen presidentiable via social media,  nevermind if said damning information wasn’t fact-checked and were assembled by a team with the credibility of well-trained con-men. Same goes for the ‘impressive track record’ of the candidates most people post on their accounts.

TV Mudslingers.
TV Mudslingers.

The swipes to supporters of rival camps are also intensifying. The “tard” suffix, which has been affixed to groups supporting rival candidates as an insult to their collective intelligence by their rivals, is also being overused these days.

Social media contacts are also engaged in their own version of mudslinging among themselves. Posting memes, articles, photos and their own snarky description that implies anyone not supporting their candidates are morons. A passive-aggressive tactic that guarantees people you’re hoping to convince and change minds are sure to hate you and the ideologies you espouse, all the more. Something which I’m apparently guilty of, as well.

But like an itchy sore that gets worse as you keep scratching on it, people just keep doing  it. And it would be interesting to observe this behavior long after the new president and administration are elected.

Etiquette

Etiquette

Napansin kong pinalitan ng pinsan ko ang profile photo nya sa Facebook. Wala namang masama, e lahat naman ng tao sa platform na yun e ganun naman talaga ang gawain. Pero naintriga lang ako dahil yun litratong pinalit ay pag-endorso ng kandidato sa pagka-pangulo, na nauuso ngayong mga panahon ng eleksyon.

Nakita kong maraming comments kaya nag-usyoso ako at binasa isa-isa ang mga ito. Ang masasabi ko lang talaga pagdating sa usapang politika (at relihiyon), di na nakakagulat na maraming tao ang nagpapatayan dahil lang sa di pagkakaunawaan at kanya-kanyang pilit ng sariling pananaw sa ka-debate.

Pero bumilib naman ako sa pinsan ko at kahit na lantarang pambubuska na ang inabot nya sa mga nagkomento e di naman umabot sa mala-palengkerang bangayan ang nangyari. Sariling wall at post nya naman yun kaya nasa kanya ang karapatan kung anong gusto nyang gawin sa mga ito. Naniniwala talaga akong ang posts sa sariling account ay karapatan ng may ari. Kung may problema ka sa mga pino-post, merong newsfeed edit, o, kung talagang bad trip ka na, isang pitik lang ang unfriend button.

Pero yung pupunta ka sa lugar ng iba at mamandohan sila ng kung ano ang dapat nilang gawin o isipin, e medyo kakaiba na yan. Sa mga ganung pagkakataon pasensya ka na lang pag nabara ka at mainsulto ng di oras. Tulad nga ng sabi ng bampira sa nobela ni Stephen King na Salem’s Lot:

“You on your side of the board and I on mine, eh?”