The art of trolling for Leni Robredo

8

ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

THERE is so much vitriol spilling out in cyberspace that one has to wonder if we a have already lost our sense of shared self, or “kapwa.”

Facebook pages are being mass-reported and taken down. Anonymous accounts are busy mass-reporting posts and accounts that are critical of political personalities, even as they are equally preoccupied with propagating libel and character assassination against those on the other side of the political fence.

Public office has always been a fair game for public criticism. However, the boundaries of political criticism have been defined as those that are within acts that have direct implications on the performance of public duties. That is why taking bribes or coddling illegal gambling and drug syndicates, or having unexplained wealth stashed in properties named after dummies, are legitimate issues and are fair targets for public condemnation.

However, as civilized members of society, there is an added requirement that criticism be focused on acts, and not on persons. The actions of individuals, and not their physical attributes or disabilities are what should be revealed for public scrutiny and criticism. It is fair to call an act as idiotic, but not to frontally call out someone as an idiot.

Private sins such as having a lover becomes an issue that should take a back seat and can only take a central role if such has undermined the performance of a public duty, or is in fact a tacit violation of a right or a law, such as when the lover is married which turns the public official into an adulterer or a concubine. Having alternative lifestyle, such as being gay, is not an issue when the affair does not compromise public duty, or infringe on the right of another, for the simple reason that being gay or lesbian is not a crime in itself.

What is being laid out here are the rules of fair public criticism that enjoin citizens to focus on conduct in relation to the promotion of a public good, and not to turn the act into one that could be the justification for slander and character assassination that only satisfies the intention to ridicule and shame.

Nevertheless, Philippine society is too personalistic, and has used the anonymity of rumor as a powerful weapon for social control, particularly by ordinary people in relation to those who hold power. It is therefore easy to turn criticisms into an orgy of vilification, mostly from anonymous sources. This has found a perfect nesting ground in cyberspace, in social media such as Facebook and Twitter, where it is easy to launch personal attacks from the protection of invented names, effectively turning mousy and nerdy netizens into libelous monsters. It is this context that spawned trolling as a political activity taken up not only by ordinary citizens but even by elected politicians, for it is not farfetched for an elected congressman to take up a cryptic name and launch vitriolic attacks on critics.

Some trolls are paid. Others do it for fun. And others are sincerely doing it as part of their political idolatry.

As someone who has been the object of trolling, I have earned enough credentials to offer a comparative analysis.

I have been trolled by Grace Poe supporters when I filed a disqualification case against her. I have also been trolled by Duterte supporters, and was even threatened physically in the period before the elections when I was critical of the then candidate, now President.

The attacks were unpleasant.

But the attacks mostly zeroed in on me, my arguments, and my person.

Poe and Duterte trolls have rarely ventured into my extended family, if at all.

Such limits have been breached on a larger scale in the trolling I am getting from Robredo supporters, who ironically comes from a political class that has made it a point to impress on us that they are the true owners of morality, and has the audacity to call themselves as the decent crowd.

Robredo trolls have perfected the art of implicating blood lines, of including my relatives in their takedown.

It is also the pretentious nature of the Robredo crowd, who have made it their trademark to parade themselves as the guardians of morality and decency that easily made them walking exhibits, if not of hypocrisy, then of inauthenticity.

And no one can be so boldly illustrative of this than the most loyal online anonymous troll to this column who every time I become critical of the Robredos, would whip up an instant attack. My loyal critic appears erudite, revealing someone who is probably good at ghost writing, for after all, he prefers to stay anonymous as he heaps on me his highfalutin vitriol.

He faulted me for defending an anonymous attack on the Robredos. He failed to realize that he contradicted himself. He is oblivious to the fact that he has been libeling me using a pseudonym.

So to “Gabby,” you may now begin your trolling for Leni.

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8 Comments

  1. “Btw, I am an Industrial Engineer and took my masters in Economics – and like you, I taught in a distinguished Quezon City university for some 10 years. So, I possess the skill to analyze writing styles but most important of all – the logic behind i.e. if the writer makes sense and what he/she says holds water..” – Wow! the comments section is now a favorite place for some to brag about their skills. Why don’t you run for public office, if only so that we the inerudite will know who you really are and give you the praises that you seem to crave for?

  2. Hi Ton-Ton

    Greetings and a good day to you. I will not troll, I will respond.

    I do not know if I will feel honored by your recognition of my writing talent only to be blindsided when you “bundled” and “labeled” me as a troll. Your carefully crafted column reveals your colorful writing style but also your skewed reasoning. By your recent article, let me present the readers an anatomy of your journalistic MO – modus operandi –as I see it.

    I will use your March 14 article which singled me out, as the reference point of this reply.

    First you defined “fair play” – describing desirable norms of behavior – of what and what cannot be written or done.

    Secondly, this is where you “twisted” your original stand for Anonymity and made a “U turn” (against it), when you said “It is therefore easy to turn criticisms into an orgy of vilification, mostly from anonymous sources. This has found a perfect nesting ground in cyberspace, in social media such as Facebook and Twitter, where it is easy to launch personal attacks from the protection of invented names, effectively turning mousy and nerdy netizens into libelous monsters.” – and contend that these types of actions are being used by trolls.

    At this point, you actually “conveniently” reasoned versus Anonymity so you could lay the groundwork for your final conclusion.

    Thirdly, you “distinguished” yourself by not being a troll and put an entitlement on your “credentials” — laying a “claim of righteousness and validity” on your writings or basically you want us to accept, in totality, whatever you write.

    Fourth, your defined what some trolls do.

    And finally, the punchline was, to connect me with trolls — and worst, describe my right to the democratic space as “an instant attack”. If I may ask, since when is responsible feedback an “attack”? You have misconstrued it to be one. I am not a “one liner” writer characteristic of most trolls.

    Even in the classroom, a professor educates and not not dominate — certainly not in this situation and in a public and free forum such as this.

    Being a seasoned journalist, I assume you are open to well meaning criticisms and not settle for “inbred ideas”. Inbreeding has disastrous results. And, after all, its part of the job — this space and media platform allows it. It is surprising (and unfortunate), name calling and profiling are resorted to when logical ideas run out and when readers now drift to an opposite view and see the other side.

    Oftentimes, the best ideas are collective. They are a result of challenged not imposed (or propaganda in my books) thoughts– a blend of the different (even opposing) beliefs. These are the ones that will prevail – and get accepted, not those that come only from one side or person. These creative and scholarly exchanges are the “energies” that breathe’s new birth and life into our existence. We must not curtail them. They are the very foundation of free states.

    I wonder if you see it this way or if this may be the first time your ideas and critical thinking are subjected to intellectual scrutiny? By devoting a full page column on me, I sense resistance if not resentment? Anyway…

    I trust my persona and opinions will be respected as I do yours. We have a common goal – to seek truth and make available the best (ideas) for the nation.

    Btw, I am an Industrial Engineer and took my masters in Economics – and like you, I taught in a distinguished Quezon City university for some 10 years. So, I possess the skill to analyze writing styles but most important of all – the logic behind i.e. if the writer makes sense and what he/she says holds water – not twisting (or imagining) the facts to suit a point of view. I will stay within bounds and decorum in my responses – to be frank, firm, factual and fair.

    I am not a troll and will never be one.

    Salamat.

    • I’m a troll, and I guess you’re not one as you said. So what is your real full name?

    • And you’re one of those vicious trolls spewing vitriol on Leni Robredo for personal reasons that happened between your family and hers. It takes one to know one. Aminin!

    • Amnata Pundit on

      Pare, if you can list down clerico-fascist puppet Mrs Robredo’s real achievements that qualify her to be a heart beat away from the presidency, then I will believe in your Industrial Engineering logic. Can you? If you can’t because she has none, that makes her another Cory Aquino, and you can proclaim your engineering credentials to the world until your face turns yellow, but the people will never go for another Cory Aquino ever again, believe me. BTW, how do you explain the statistical anomalies of Smartmatic in the last election?

    • Not a good way to prove your point when you come out being comical for such a long litany and putting yourself up there at the mighty top – don’t they call this ‘arrogance’. The explanation and blithering, justifies why ‘ton-ton’ as you call the writer picked you up among a bunch of trollified trolls or Truly Qualified Trolls for Robredo.

      Tell us again, is there anything that she does that is GENUINE and ORIGINAL. It looks like Robredo is just being prodded to do something – not a very good example of an independent thinking woman – mark the word ‘thinking’ …. as she does not seemed to do this. She follows what her party suggests her to do. Even worst than a dog or a puppet. All her political decisions are actually bad for her image. When you look at her at the PMA graduation rites last Sunday – she was in the most awkward situation specially when the President is around – there is really no point to be an elected Vice President when Duterte almost seemed to ignore her – besides her being ‘the pretty sight’. And that is not good. She could have played around some diplomacy by still being the Housing Minister and the Filipino people would have liked her. When she resigned for a certain role or she was dismissed she should have fought for it – she just let it go.

      The worst part with Robredo is following on the trend against any news against Duterte which is very silly- it just goes to show that she is following instructions or basically she has no mind of her own.

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