In recent weeks, I have been engaged in a conversation on the economy and flooding. I would like to think it was a conversation and not a monologue of criticisms. I am active in Social Media and I post when I like to post, if I like to post. A good guide for anyone interested in social engagement, but for some they think a criticism makes one a certified basher against this Administration. To the young trolls, dissent is certainly not bashing, check your dictionary, for if someone tells you it is, you are being fooled. And as Soren Kirkegaard once said, “there are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
Reacting on the recent blood-bath in the PSEI, the unemployment rise and declining exports via Twitter, I immediately got three replies from very young tweeps. I said young, based on their photos. For the record, I do not follow them. One gave me a link on the definition of Tuwid na Daan, straight from a propaganda toolbox. Another characterized my comment as “blah, blah, blah, #noisycans.” When I asked who are “#noisycans”, he stopped. So I ended asking if dissent is blah, blah, blah; and “#noisycans” then trolls are “#hollowblah”, an in your face retort.
Why am I going into the context of that exchange? Because the Aquino administration and their paid hacks in traditional and social media should understand, appreciate and value dissent. This administration was borne of, by and from dissent, unless guys there have totally forgotten their origins. Dissent allowed them contrast in the 2010 elections. Dissent made them holier than thou compared to the so-called devil incarnate in the past three years. Funny, the devil allowed dissent while the “angelic” cabal of this administration plant trolls in social media and, using taxpayer’s money, hire young techies and socmedia savvy users to launch their own brand of propaganda. No wonder the communications group is spending millions of pesos on cell usage to communicate, as a spokesperson defended in a press briefing. And that is your brand of propaganda? Quite elementary!
Probably, the communication team of this administration should start training young minds on dissent first and foremost. Dissent, according to Webster is “to withhold assent or to differ in opinion.” Nothing in the definition refers to bashing. To bash is to “strike violently, injure or damage by striking”. Another definition is “to attack physically or verbally.” When the Constitution guarantees citizens the right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances” no troll has the power to impede such right. If the troll’s principal thinks he can, then somebody should read the riot’s act to him because that is not how to do it. Had he forgotten what was said before that “dissent is what rescues democracy from a quiet death behind closed doors”? But I guess a newsreader can’t grapple that fact.
Impairing dissent, we could end up a nation of whistleblowers and that is the way the Arroyo Administration was from crisis to crisis. When it is because of whistleblowers that we get to know the rottenness of a system, we just might end up with Wikileaks and have the Snowden effect to ensure accountability and transparency, the twin goals of Tuwid na Daan.
Amartya Sen, when making the case for democracy as a universal value, he suggests three characteristics of the democratic process. One, “an intrinsic value, in the form of social and political participation in decision-making.” Surely, when President Aquino makes reference to his Boss, it is an honest reference and not a spin. To be barred from such participation is a major deprivation. Secondly, Sen sees an instrumental value in democracy, as it “offers people a hearing and helps direct political attention to their claims and needs.” This is done through communicating people’s demands effectively to political leaders. And that is why the opposition is very important in a democracy. Thirdly, Sen posits that democracy has a constructive value, where “its necessary dialogue allows citizens to learn from each other and thus helps society to develop.” The constructive impact of democracy depends on the quality of dialogue that citizens engage in among themselves and with the agencies of the state, and together form society’s values and priorities. It is here that the communications group of the Aquino administration fails. When engagement is superficial and dialogues an afterthought, it is easier to brand individuals as bashers. As Leonardo da Vinci once said, “nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.”
If the members of the communications group still don’t get it, let me say then in very simple terms that one’s willingness to express a differing opinion appears to be inextricably bound up with one’s most cherished values. Finally, you insult your principal by using trolls as gatekeepers of your grail. Trolls are anonymous players in a game without rules. Is communication now down to that level?
The psychology of trolls is related to disinhibition or the “phenomenon wherein one abandons social inhibitions that would normally be present in face-to-face interactions.” Trolls have no place in conversations. Masters of trolls should learn the science and art of communications and when you are paid by taxpayers money, don’t bite the hands that feed you. Let us not have blind beliefs to authority as Albert Einstein cautioned, for “it is the greatest enemy of truth.”