When the leader of a nation airs a very public grievance on the alleged bias and recklessness of media, that grievance usually generates a round of media bloviation. Not because media is incapable of bias but because media people, from the most discerning to the really dumb, have strong opinions about what they do for a living. A critique from the powers-that-be is one thing that the media practitioners would not let pass without a torrent of reactions.
There is no such thing as a timid media in every nook and cranny of the democratic world.
So, why did the Philippine media just shrug off the very public complaint of Mr. Aquino on media’s supposed bias and recklessness? Mr. Aquino used the Publish Asia conference as a bully pulpit to vent his supposed frustrations over the bias of media, with print media as the most brazen malefactor of skewed news and misleading headlines.
Because there was no real basis for that accusation, that’s why. Big Media has deemed, rightfully of course, that the presidential tantrum against media was a figment of Mr. Aquino’s imagination. In fact, Big Media is even aware that it has babied him for close to six years. An overenthusiastic form of babying that comes close to coddling him, a violation of media’s sacred mandate. Were we to itemize Big Media’s coverage of Mr. Aquino’s leadership, we can readily and truthfully list down these proven facts:
No President in recent history has gotten more puffery from Big Media than Mr. Aquino.
There is a mere expression of resignation over his many failures and omissions as a leader.
The phrase “ command responsibility “ has been vanished by Big Media from its lexicon to shift the blame on the many failures of Mr. Aquino to his disposable subordinates.
The wont of media is to shield the President, even from the self-inflicted wounds.
The media has made it its sworn duty not to check in-depth the supposed achievements of Mr. Aquino.
Had he been realistic, Mr. Aquino should have themed his Public Media speech with “What more could I ask from a pliant media” and not the other way around. After the scorched-earth coverage of Erap Estrada and Mrs. Arroyo, Mr. Aquino’s treatment has been one of a free pass.
Where did he get a free pass? Let us count those many instances.
A natural disaster of an epic scale should bring the best in a President. That’s the normal expectation of good leadership. Typhoon Yolanda should have transformed Mr. Aquino from his stance of lethargic Noynoying into some sort of leader-superhero cum Captain Marvel. He should have set up a temporary camp in Tacloban City, from where all the resources and the mighty, giving hand of the state would have been in full play and display.
Dealing with the Yolanda tragedy, Mr. Aquino was half-focused and distracted. Or, at times, simply unconcerned. We do not know whether he was simply unfamiliar with great human tragedy, or repulsed by it. But the President we saw in Tacloban City was not the exuberant leader we often see while inaugurating office towers, the first to pass through new roads and bridges, or simply the grinning, satisfied leader we see while hobnobbing with the Makati/Davos crowds.
Remember the genesis of George W. Bush’s fall from American grace ? It was after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and its people and the breached levees undid the antebellum charm of the Big Easy. A former horse trainer put in charge of the rehab work slept on his job and Mr. Bush, instead of sacking him, praised him for doing a “ heck of a good job.” Media raised a holler. With that single transgression of sensibilities, and media’s outrage, the precipitous dive of Mr. Bush’s trust and appreciation ratings started.
What was MSM’s reaction to Mr. Aquino’s unforgiveable failure while dealing with the Yolanda tragedy. A slap on the wrist at the most.
A man-made tragedy that came in the form of a bungled police mission and which killed 44 police officers had all the marks of an Aquino-Purisima operations. Big Media never questioned the results of the official inquiries that enthusiastically shielded Mr. Aquino and shifted the blame on Gen. Napeñas. Media did not even notice that the bodies of the fallen SAF 44 arrived in the city from the killing fields of Mamasapano without Mr. Aquino, the commander-in-chief, at the airport. He was guest at the inauguration of a second-hand car assembly facility in Laguna.
Between commiserating with the families of the fallen SAF 44, Mr. Aquino glowed in triumph while witnessing a new owner take over a second hand facility. Between cars and fallen men, Mr. Aquino opted to celebrate the cars.
The mere optic of that bizarre priority could have sunk a less media-pampered President.
There are news entities such as The Manila Times that put fairness and perspective into the coverage of the President. But these entities make up the minority. Big Media, has, on the whole, babied Mr. Aquino.