I’m ready to throw in the towel, concede to the fact that while we celebrate our freedom to think, and that we are the social media capital of Asia, that we are not using any of our freedoms to actually think, blinded as we are by our biases that are slowly being revealed to be premised solely on our social class (i.e., our wealth, or lack thereof), our comforts, the status quo, as fed by mainstream media that seek only profit and ratings and online hits.
One knows this because of how media and the public have handled the presidential debates, how we’re all handling the elections, not looking at candidates’ track records anymore but only at spin and press releases, not discussing issues at all, much less programs and platforms.
If I were the Liberal Party, I’d be congratulating myself. After five years they have successfully dumbed down public discourse, selling us the true, the good, the beautiful about matuwid na daan, making us believe that it is all we need, handling criticism and crises via spin, always using notions of anticorruption and transparency to respond to anything at all.
Pick any instance at all when this government messed things up, made the wrong decisions, sacrificed public good for government savings or credit ratings, for big business or foreign investment; pick the tragedy that was Typhoon Haiyan, or the failure that is our transport system, from dangerous trains to congested airports and overcrowded roads; pick the decision to build inhumane houses for storm survivors, the refusal to speak with families of those who died and were injured at the Luneta hostage taking, the insistence on handling tragedies like Mamasapano with little sensitivity or compassion; pick the silence on the displacement and killings of the Lumad, the loss of their ancestral lands to mining and big plantation projects; pick the conversation about the Zamboanga siege.
Pick the various instances in which the government revealed its burgis slip and refused to act on a tragedy of the poor.
All of these were in the news for a while, but none long enough to be resolved. No one stays long enough on one issue anymore, as if media is illequipped, undermanned, or uninspired, to stick to a story and see it through to a resolution. As with social media, everything is dealt with quickly, easily overshadowed by the next story that will trend or make headlines.
To imagine that this is not being controlled by one entity or two, to imagine that there is no money being spent on making sure that issues and tragedies and major events are spun until they are forgotten and deemed unimportant, is to be naïve.
To think we are not complicit in this exercise of forgetting is just foolish.
Middle–class crisis, educated bias
So close to the elections it becomes clear that we are paying for the kind of media that we have, the kind of forgetting it perpetuates. No one is talking issues, not deeply enough, not widely enough. No one is looking at programs and platforms, no one is working at tying together what each candidate says and what kind of bigger picture it paints of nation.
And no one’s demanding better. It seems we don’t know how to do that anymore. It seems we are happy enough to let the state of discourse be, never mind that it is superficial and shallow. It is what’s easy after all, and it is what we’ve learned to expect of media – and of ourselves – the past five years. Case in point: two weeks ago I questioned the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s series of stories on the AMLC report against Vice President Jejomar Binay. I question it because no one has seen this report, other than the PDI. I question it because AMLC reports are confidential, its release by a media entity is illegal. I question it because it is a rehashed story and if you cared to do research, you’d find that they are saying exactly the same things about it as they were early last year. I question it because documents prove that AMLC itself had discredited its own report in the past year.
I question it because it is clear to me that Binay is the victim of black propaganda like no other, the kind that’s been playing since the Senate hearings last year, the kind that has gone extralegal on us – but also the kind that banks on a middle and upper class, a Pinoy social media, that will not ask questions, will not care enough about justice and fairness because we have all made up our minds about this family.
Yes, the bias against Binay played out as his opponents expected, and few have the balls – or the brains, apparently – to take a stand even just for fairness. Sure, let’s talk corruption, but what about its other forms including the kinds that matuwid na daan has institutionalized via the DAP, the BUB, the PSF and the discretionary funds? What about the question of nationality and her knowledge of nation given the years spent away for Grace Poe? What about the question of human rights violations and killings for Rodrigo Duterte? Certainly these are as huge as corruption, if not bigger?
But we’ve been so brainwashed by matuwid na daan, by the media, by Malacañang propagandists, that we do not even know to weigh these things anymore.
After all, this campaign was being run long before it became clear who would be running. It was being run by matuwid na daan for the past five years, it was being run by the Comelec which had all the time in world to make sure to give us credible machines with unquestionable results, it was being run by the media that is still pretending that they are unbiased and objective, even when the articles they release, the perspectives they take, the angles they choose to articulate, are all so obviously tied down to their biases.
We keep comparing ourselves to America, pointing out how our debates are the same, how this or that candidate is the same as Trump. At least America is choosing with eyes wide open while awash with information that’s important and critical.
We are choosing blind.
And the most tragic thing of all: we put those blindfolds on ourselves.