A friend said to me the other day that nowadays he doesn’t know what to believe when he reads the news. Well, I think I can agree with that. Elections are coming up within a few months and the media is full of heavily spun reports about various things that will tend to either portray the current Administration as deserving continuance due to its achievements over the last five-and-a-half years or to vilify or praise it, depending on which side you happen to be on the great rafts of political contenders.
All this does, of course, is to confuse those people who pay attention to the media by skewing and misrepresenting whatever the facts may be! It’s worth repeating “whatever the facts may be,” because out of all the words used you never really know what the truth is, unless, of course, the statements are so blatantly questionable as to defy rational justification.
A couple of rather odd reports caught my eye over the weekend. HSBC, the bank, did a survey of its expatriate customers around the world, to which I contributed, to try to determine through gathering views from over 22,000 expatriates what were the best places in which to live. The Philippines came in at No. 28 out of 39 “acceptable” countries (interestingly not only in this survey but also in some other unconnected expatriate surveys, Ecuador seems always to be the top choice).
It was reported that Malacañang was delighted with this result for the Philippines; “demonstrating what an open and welcoming place it is,” “we roll out the red carpet for visitors and residents as they become integrated into our society.”
Well I don’t think ranking at 28 out of 39 is anything to be particularly happy about. Shouldn’t that indicate that there is room for improvement, that something needs to be done?
The other rather odd piece was that the Philippines, as part of the international initiative on climate change, had offered to reduce its carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030. I checked several reports to see if this was a misunderstanding or even a typographical error. How on earth can a nation, which is just about doubling its current national electricity generation capacity by the use of coal fired power plants and which has one of the highest growth rates for new vehicles in Asia, possibly reduce its carbon emissions by 70 percent? It’s ridiculous.
Apparently, earlier figures discussed were around the more standard 20 percent to 30 percent reduction, but it stretches the imagination to see how even that level of reduction could be achieved.
Then there is all the criticism of Social Weather Stations, etc., surveys that certainly produce some non-intuitive results and are accused of having been the subject of political tampering. All sorts of odd things get reported. When coming in 28 out of 39 is advocated as a triumph, things are surely getting well out of hand.
Elections are a dodgy sort of time in the Philippines, the thirst for power position and privilege is exceptionally strong and all sorts of stratagems are used in order to achieve it. It is obvious that the media will be subject to the risk of interference in order to make political contenders shine or in order to destroy the credibility of their opposition. The local media is in a difficult position and needs to be very conscious that in addition to its being the main line of mass communication in the Philippines, it is also the source used by international media to inform their own followers. What picture does the Philippines allow itself to be painted to be viewed by the rest of the world? Seventy percent carbon emission reduction by 2030? I don’t think so, it just looks naive.
There is a question asked of aspiring political science students at Cambridge University: “Why not get rid of politicians and allow the managers of Ikea [a Swedish department store]to run the country?” The sort of answers that they are looking for would reflect that in a democracy, politicians are elected to represent the interests of those who vote for them—they are elected to serve, whereas Ikea managers are appointed for their managerial and business capabilities in order to make profit for Ikea. Wonder what would be an objective and honest answer in a Philippine context, in which politics seems to influence every aspect of life?
So I can understand why people don’t rely on news for information, even that is a victim of politics and the various spins so frequently go unquestioned and unchallenged. Greater objectivity would be welcome.
Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.