WE now live in a period of inauthenticity and contradictions.
We have a sitting Vice President who prides herself in being familiar with the world of the marginalized, which she lovingly refers to as the “laylayan,” yet seem to have been surprised that malnutrition is prevalent among the poor, to the point that she is amazed at its “uniqueness.”
In her debut as a host of a public service radio program, Leni Robredo used the words “nakamamangha” and “katangi-tangi” to describe her experience of coming face to face with the poor and malnourished. This makes you wonder what took her so long to be familiar with a sector of the population that she brandished as her constituency.
And in so doing, Leni Robredo has painted herself as inauthentic.
And then you have the impeachment complaint filed by Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano against President Rodrigo Duterte, which was quickly dismissed by the House committee on justice on the ground that it was insufficient in substance. The committee’s basis for such a conclusion was the failure of Alejano to show that he had personal knowledge of the acts for which he was accusing the President. Alejano, as it turned out, depended on media reports, such as those by Rappler and ABS-CBN, for his complaint. To make matters worse, he failed to back his allegations with authenticated documentary evidence.
This is just symptomatic of how the authenticity of traditional media has been diminished. Instead of providing a stable warrant to provide basis for an allegation, news reports have been dismissed as insufficient to provide substance to it.
The Nixon Watergate scandal was exposed through investigative journalism, at a time that investigative journalists were seen as bearers of truth and facts. Now, Rappler and its cohorts have, through their own conduct, practically diminished the power of journalism to bear witness to truth and facts.
It is easy to blame the internet as the cause of the decline in the power of traditional mass media. But on the contrary, mass media would have been an effective way to neutralize the tendency of social media to propagate fakery had it been authentic to its ethic of fairness and neutrality. And when traditional media became active players in partisan politics, as propagators of propaganda lines and practitioners of public relations masquerading as journalism, people migrated to social media as their sources of information.
Thus, it could be said that it is not the excesses of social media that caused the decline of traditional media. Instead, it is the shortcomings of traditional media that fueled the rise of social media.
Again, what we see is a problem of inauthenticity.
Yet, inauthenticity is not a problem just of Leni Robredo, or of traditional media. It is a problem that infects ordinary people as we live our everyday lives.
And examples will show that inauthenticity leads to contradictions.
You have advocates of women’s rights, who deplore as misogyny the manner in which the case of Sen. Leila de Lima has been handled by government, while in the same breath protesting the appointment of Mocha Uson as an assistant secretary on the basis of her being a sex celebrity. People who carried #EveryWoman hashtags in their FB profiles posted, liked and shared posts that slut-shamed Mocha.
Several students and alumni of my university went on overdrive when a woman who defended Mocha Uson claimed that she was an alumna, even going to the extent of threatening to sue the pretender. Some students and alumni who disliked my politics, and who probably do not have an appreciation of academic freedom, and of how universities operate, demanded that I be censured, to the extent that some threatened to initiate an online petition to have me ousted from La Salle. Yet these very same people who think that the exercise of a political choice that runs counter to their biases is a blot to the name of La Salle are silent on the continuing appropriation by a political analyst of their alma mater as his institutional affiliation despite having been separated from it, perhaps because they agree with his politics.
We have leaders of organizations who claim to work for social concerns and action, and are at the forefront of fighting for human rights and against the evils of the Marcoses and of martial law, but have abused their power and violated their workers’ rights.
We have people who purport to be scholars that propagate knowledge on good governance, that counts as one of its tenets the ethos of transparency, yet fail to be transparent in their dealings and actuations. We have people who are experts in elections, and theorize about democratic processes, yet have gone against what they preach by helping politicians undermine the process, if not being involved more directly in sustaining traditional political practices that privilege politicking over transparent electoral processes.
There are more examples that show inauthenticity as the dominant modality in how we exercise power.
And you come to the realization that to be authentic is now a rare gift.
Many people blame social media for causing an epidemic of inauthenticity and fakery.
But lest we forget, inauthenticity is already a problem that infects our body politic, and social media has just given it a new domain to thrive.