Ressa, Mocha, fake news


Katrina Stuart Santiago

The Canada Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News website came out with an interesting piece about the state of discourse in the Philippines given mainstream media on the one hand, and the rise of fake news as propaganda on the other. Written by Senior Correspondent Adrienne Arsenault, it had as headline a quote from Rappler’s Maria Ressa, saying that “Democracy as we know it is dead,” which first made me imagine that the article was going to talk about the urgent concerns of summary executions on the streets and drug-related deaths, or the continued control by big business, oligarchs, and feudal lords over government despite a President who seems to stand squarely for the people (if / when his pronouncements hold and given his pro-people appointees), or even just the continued verbal assault against free speech from the President and his men.

Instead Ressa, and this article, were referring to the death of democracy … in relation to fake news and people like Mocha.
Yes, I’m as stunned as you are.

‘Unique challenges’

According to Arsenault, while we are the same as many countries that have a problem with fake news, there is something unique about what we have in the Philippines: “the bogus stories that pollute the internet <…> are startling in their venom, frequency, and sometimes clumsy attempts to look like the real thing.”

She then frames this in relation to the idea of fact checking and how despite Filipinos’ “spending more time on social media than anyone else in the world,” our slow mobile Internet services plus free mobile Facebook has cradled the current state of affairs. According to Ressa, relying on free Facebook “helps both the disinformation and misinformation, because if you can’t afford the data, what you see on your free Facebook is the [headline]” which is the most “interesting, provocative information.”

Ressa’s voice then takes over the article, where the work Rappler has put into “investigating the trajectory of fake news stories <…and> bogus social media accounts and online attacks” is highlighted, as they have traced it to the “coordinated social networks deployed” during Duterte’s campaign, which “turned their full force on the traditional media” once he became President.

Mocha is mentioned as one of the key pro-Duterte personalities with many followers. Layered with Arsenault’s personal experience with Mocha, the article forms a pretty sound analysis of Mocha’s function in current discourse which is nothing new to any of us: she is a propagandist for the President, plain and simple, full stop.

No context

What Arsenault’s piece failed to do was to work with a more nuanced discussion about Ressa and Rappler, given that both were being used as credible yardstick against which fake news and propaganda were being measured.

Because it would have been clear to anyone who was also victimized by and following the rise of fake news and online vitriol from Duterte supporters that people like Mocha were not attacking mainstream media blindly. In fact, early into the Duterte presidency, it was clearly about calling out media enterprises for biased reporting and being so unforgiving of the President and his new government.

Many media practitioners would go on their social media accounts and blogs, and explain the notion of bias, the fact that it does exist (of course!) but that it should not remove from the fact of the news, and the need to report this. (Off the top of my head, Ed Lingao spent a good amount of time doing this.)

Rappler was unique in its tendency to turn defensive, instead of engaging properly and soberly with this particularly pro-Duterte public. Unsurprisingly, what this also revealed was Rappler’s elitist slip: half the time they would be looking down on this public, the other half they would insist they were beyond reproach.

Either way, Rappler was losing credibility not just with the pro-Duterte mob, but also with the rest of us who might not have cared much for it before, or really only cared for it when it was the only one carrying a certain story (in my case, that would be about the debacle of Torre de Manila and the complicity of the NHCP leadership).

We might all stand against fake news and lies, as well as the violence and vitriol perpetuated online, but we were also not blind to Rappler’s (and Ressa’s) own foibles, upon which Mocha et al.’s criticism was based.
Arsenault’s piece said of Filipinos who were on free data and reading only headlines: no nuance, no context. It could be said as well of this article.

A dollop of democracy

For Ressa to say that: “Democracy as we know it is dead <…> What you’re seeing is exponential growth of propaganda networks that hijack what used to be called democracy” – all seems like an overreach.

Because democracy in this country, at least as far as discourse is concerned, remains the same. It’s just that for the first time since Rappler was launched, Ressa et al. cannot claim control over discourse.

Fake news and propaganda accounts – as fueled by huge amounts of cash – are giving sites like Rappler a run for their money. To say that it is the Duterte propagandists who have ruined Rappler’s credibility is an overstatement – Rappler ruined its own credibility. What people like Mocha did was bait them into revealing their elitism, and sense of entitlement – things we’ve always known about Rappler anyway, just this time there was more reason to believe it.

Meanwhile, Ressa would like to generalize about how the vitriol is for everyone who even so much as mentions the drug war and criticizes the President – the better to paint a terrible picture of the state of affairs given Duterte propagandists. She says: “You look at anyone who says anything against the killings, against the drug war, especially if they are women, they will get clobbered on social media. They are threatened with death, with rape. You name it, it’s happened.”

I do not doubt that it has, and to Rappler writers even more so. But it hasn’t happened to me, and I’ve been as critical as the next person especially on social media. Here lies the difference: I was not biased against the President from the beginning. I had given the drug war, the President, the benefit of the doubt. It was only six months into his Presidency that I took a clear stand against the drug-related killings and summary executions, and I have not stopped since.

I also am not competing with Mocha et al. for follows or likes or shares – as a writer, I am more skeptical about what those mean, and how those function.

But then again, one understands this dichotomy between Ressa and Mocha, Mocha and Ressa.

After all, Rappler sold itself as “new” media that lived off crowdsourcing data, so that it could claim to know and write stories to feed “public pulse.”

According to Arsenault, when she asked Mocha why she posted about De Lima being the number one drug lord, Mocha had “defended her actions by saying that if you read the post’s comments, many of her followers agree with the claim.”

That reminds me of Ressa who, whenever Rappler would be questioned for any of its stories or any of its claims, would reply with the standard line: Let the crowd decide.
Ressa, meet crowd.


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  1. Democracy is dead. Drug pushers are dying. Main stream media are Not believed anymore. Anonymous writers are spouting information. Millions of netizens have become pseudo journalist. Propagandist are competing with each other. Where is democracy? Bring back the old system that citizens should not talk back in media, social media whatever. Post back the uncombed hair of ‘radikal chick’, she looks more like it than in comb chubby hair.

  2. Amnata Pundit on

    What Ressa really meant but could not bring herself to say is that the yellow political force as we know it is dead. Her fate is inextricably tied to that of the yellow tribe, and her falling readership merely reflects the sagging fortunes of the yellow crowd. The funny part is that they did this to themselves with their contemptible hypocrisy and mediocrity, without the equivalent of the Plaza Miranda bombing or the Ninoy Aquino assassination. The bigger picture is that the vindication process for Marcos has started which no force in earth can now stop. The process of sending the yellows into the dustbin of history has also started, and no force on earth can stop this either. Napoleon was rehabilitated 20 years after his death, while today no one in France talks about the Bourbons anymore. God always makes things right in the end. God is Great indeed.

  3. Written by Senior Correspondent Adrienne Arsenault, it had as headline a quote from Rappler’s Maria Ressa, saying that “Democracy as we know it is dead,”

    The write up already shows that they are on the same league discussing how to make a Fake News.

  4. arnel amador on

    on one accpount ressa of rappler, said that she was receiving rape threats as much as 90/min….no wonder mocha beat her big time….i would rather stop here than saying further what’s in the back of my head….

    rappler itself is a very interesting entity: it’s function, purpose and those behind it. all under the shadow of democracy, freedom of the press, etc, well funded with very deep connection inside and outside. to whom they serve is a question one would like to ask, it includes me…

    hopefully and perhaps, SEC, will give a little help for us to know more about this entity….

  5. Democracy in the Philippines has long been abused by those who own mainstream media. When Ferdinand Marcos attempted to re-claim Sabah which has always been part of Philippine territory, Ninoy Aquino exposed it to the media and made up a most unbelievable tale of how a Muslim trainee was shot in Corregidor and still managed to swim across the Manila Bay at night and reach Cavite, without bleeding to death, and undetected by sharks. This was sensational headlines and together with the senate investigation in aid of publicity, the Filipino people lapped it up. When Ninoy Aquino and the NPA bombed Plaza Miranda the mainstream media blamed Ferdinand Marcos and fooled most Filipinos into believing it. The mainstream media invented the number of thousands of people purportedly ordered killed by Marcos, and never blamed then PC commander Fidel Ramos even though 99% of the atrocities were committed by the PC and BSDU. In recent times the mainstream media demonized Gloria Arroyo with fake news when she refused to take the side of Hacienda Luisita. The mainstream media went to town with many fake news demonizing Chief Justice Corona after the Supreme Court ruled that Hacienda Luisita should be returned to the farmers. Now the same mainstream media is demonizing Duterte because he is serving the Filipino masses instead of the oligarchs, the US, the drug cartels and the Catholic church. On the other hand, mainstream media covers the election fraud Vice President Leni Robredo even though all she says are motherhood statements and does not do anything to help the masses. Most Filipinos are not even buying mainstream media broadsheets because they are known to consistently publish fake news. Social media is where we the vast majority of Filipinos rely on for accurate news because Mocha Uson takes us where the unadulterated action is. For insightful analysis, social media again delivers via Thinking Pinoy, Dr. Lorraine Badoy, Showbiz Government, and Sass Rogando Sassot.

    • Batang Genyong_Alah Eh on

      Freedom of the press and democracy cannot co-exist without the other’s support. So, if democracy is dead its because the press has killed it with biased reporting and paid envelope-mental propaganda .by the entrenched oligarch to suppress people’s power over human rights, political and economic interests. Little by little, the DU30 govt is raising people’s awareness to face squarely these issues which the social media bravely are being utilized to neutralized the control of mainstream media by self-interest groups.

  6. Mocha Uson and her allies is beating Maria Ressa and the Rappler organization in their own game and all games they want to play as media personalities. The difference between Mocha and Ressa is Mocha does not deny that she is all for President Duterte and his administration and she and her small group will defend this administration to the hilt and they are very aggressive in criticizing and demonizing the personalities who dare do the same of Mr. Duterte and his men. It means that there are no hypocrisy in Mocha and her group. On the contrary, Maria Ressa and her Rappler team are wearing different masks. While they are in realty anti-Duterte and pro-yellows/LP’s, they sometimes pretend to be for the President but in the end, they will show their true colors. This is where fake news became factor in the exercise of media. The pro Duterte group are better understood because they do not deny their being such while Ressa’s rappler group reveals and show different kinds of faces showing them as hypocrites as well as partisans and lirs. It is true, if Marie Ressa makes the people decide, at least 80% favors Duterte.Maria Ressa’s downfall is her own making.

  7. Rappler and Ressa Robles have lost their credibility so much that the name Rappler is now synonymous to fake news. I now group it with the New York Times, an erstwhile prestigious U.S. daily that probably because of poor revenue has resorted to manufacturing news and publishing it.

  8. The propagandists who become the politician’s weapon of mass delusion shrink the minds of the youth, and are a far bigger danger than drugs to progress and prosperity. They have no dialogue just spout slogans, no contribution but negativity, and no ideas just bile.

    They are the role-models for the extremists who want an outlet for their anger, but by following false prophets and opportunist hypocrites they will end up as the flotsam and jetsam of society, brought about through their own naivete and neediness.

    Narcissists and co-dependents need each other for mutual adulation and validation, but end up destroying each other. Abuse is in their natural character.

    • Mocha is NOT a PROPAGANDIST – she is just pretty and sexy!

      As they say in the real world ‘sex sells”. Mocha is sexy, pretty and beautiful and not such a bad sight while Ressa is alright – you can look at her but you CANT stare at her and she becomes boring in one second – as there is nothing to look and my god – sorry lord – listening to that horrible voice – you just dont absorb anything – nor would you understand what she is saying, It is a shallow concept but it works all the time. Simply, Ressa is not pretty – what is that word that starts with u- undesirable – it is the other but we wont say it here.

      That last paragraph is so deep to understand – if you are going to be too intelligent like Ressa people will just get out of your way and ignore you.

      If you want an effective marketing – Mocha is the one and the best part of it – Duterte is not paying her and she is doing it out of her own will and she wants to. I guess you can not call her a PROPAGANDIST if she does not get paid for doing it – she is doing it for free – and there is nothing wrong with it. So, there is that big difference there Ressa is paid to do her job while Mocha donates her time.

      There is nothing bile said here – it’s just the truth!

    • Mocha uson is pretty stupid and has sexual identity problems, along with validation issues, and middle class angst. All together a mental mess with a filthy mind matched with a foul mouth, and definitely no class.

      Glad you are so discerning when it comes to formulating your views and choosing role-models. If mocha uson is your dog in a fight then good luck!

      3rd world is as 3rd rate thinks.

      Sex sells propaganda to the masses.
      Ideas creates jobs for the poor.

      Rather than focus on sex, why not create some jobs.

  9. I think democracy is very much alive in the country. But yes, it is messy indeed, as the country moves forward and undergoes some rather dramatic changes. It gets messy as traditional media is challenged by social media. But, it is my guess that this messiness is probably healthy in the long run.

    In the media wars, I do think economic elitism is being challenged by social media. I see the elitism coming in part from traditional media, but a big part of it really coming from powerful economic, social and political forces that are looking out for their own self-interests – rather than the public good. For example, I think these powerful forces used the media to do a hatchet job on Gina Lopez. Of course, many of the social media platforms rose to her defense. And this kind of scenario plays itself out on many other issues.

    Social media does not necessarily offer better news. Some of the stuff that shows up on my Facebook page is pure garbage. But there are also many gems to be found. Gems that represent the voice and the frustration of the people that provides a balance against the powerful and wealthy interests and their privileged side of the story.

    Contrary to what some are claiming, I believe that democracy is alive and well. But awfully messy. And it is not something that is unique to the Philippines. If one takes the time to look, similar challenges against the elite are arising all over the world. I think I’m better off with Facebook and the blogosphere for all its good and bad – than having just the traditional media as my sole source of news.

  10. As usual the serious issue gets lost in the filipinos desire to reduce everything to personalities and miss the big picture, which is being discussed in advanced countries, and a major report on facebook and government propaganda has just been released.

    “The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human”
    Aldous Huxley

    Propagandists are fantasists with anger issues. They appeal to the emotions of anti-intellectuals, but only parrot their master’s voice, and offer no original thinking, just bile and red meat for rabid followers.

    no doubt sass sasot will also jump on this bandwagon. propagandists work in unison.