JUST the very title of this column will already be enough to incite rage in people who would like to burn Rappler’s Ressa and Ranada at the stake, like witches during the Inquisition.
And I can just imagine the fall-out it will bring upon me, with allegations of sleeping with the enemy expected to be hurled in my direction. In fact, I have already paid the price. Some of my Facebook “friends” have either unfriended or unfollowed me just because I appeared to have defended Rappler’s right to offend us.
That is how effectively Rappler has controlled our narrative, that it has the ability to enrage us, enough for us to forget about reason, and the more important matters that we need to collectively address as a people.
Just one malicious spin of a Post-it note attached to a complaint letter could mobilize almost half of the Cabinet to stage a show of force in support of Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Bong Go at the Senate hearing on the frigate controversy.
The impish smirk on Pia Ranada’s face and Rappler’s kind of journalism launched a presidential ban on her and Rappler. This is intense, when compared to the readiness of the President to resume peace talks with the armed Left which not long ago he had declared to be terrorists. In short, the President would rather talk peace with terrorists than allow Pia and Rappler to set foot in Malacañang.
Pia Ranada must have offended so much that she has provoked the President into banning her and her boss Maria Ressa, even as we plan to send our soldiers to train in China. This is a country that has transgressed our sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, by installing military infrastructures in islands which are well within our exclusive economic zone. The Chinese are so bold that they even had the audacity to arrogate upon themselves the naming rights to underwater formations in the Philippine Rise.
And the anti-Rappler rage is so intense that the frenzy about Pia was able to mute the noise about the Dengvaxia controversy in both mainstream and social media. Dengvaxia was simply no match to Pia Ranada.
And this is the sad part. This attention given to Ressa, Ranada and Rappler, dramatized by the top-level ban on them, as well as the top-level mobilization in support of Bong Go, occurs at a time that more serious issues need to be addressed.
For example, demanding equal attention are the lingering doubts about the integrity of our electoral system, dramatized by the pending protest of former senator Bongbong Marcos, and further made compelling with the allegations against former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andy Bautista. We speak of changing the political landscape of our country by redrawing our fundamental law. Yet we do not take seriously the fact that at the heart of our political malaise is a flawed electoral system, the ills of which can be revealed if we could only find Andy and force him to talk.
It is obvious that Rappler, while appearing to be beleaguered from all fronts, from the SEC ruling, to the Presidential ban, to the public ire, is in fact controlling the narrative.
Rappler was in fact already losing its engagements, and was bleeding financially. It’s litany of lies and distortions was being patronized only by those who are already convinced to take their side, both locally and abroad. The damage that it was doing to the President was something that could easily be negated with facts. Under normal circumstances, Rappler would have simply died a natural death, or would have been forced to reinvent itself to become relevant.
As it is turning out, Rappler appears to be embarking on what is called in military parlance as the Fabian Strategy, by waging a war of attrition on the President. This is designed to wear him down, harassing him through skirmishes triggered by the peddling of disinformation and misrepresentation. Through this low-intensity form of organized and methodical smear campaign, Rappler is literally buying time by taking the punches, painting itself as a victim, seeking shelter in the protection that the law provides it, as it keeps on taunting the President to do and say things that it can further spin to aid its war of attrition against him.
The SEC case, and now the Palace ban imposed on Ranada and Ressa, are now easily spun as selective forms of harassment, and as assaults on their constitutional rights. And the thing is, even if the SEC ruling eventually becomes final and executory, Rappler will remain a thorn on the side of the President. Its goal is to outlast him.
And Rappler appears to be winning because we are all falling for its tricks.
We react with so much anger to a point that we forget reason.
In this entire scenario, the best way to deal with Rappler is to refuse to be led into the trap of letting it control the narrative.
In the TV film “Merlin,” which isthe story of the wizard who lived during the time of King Arthur. Merlin faced a determined, powerful evil sorceress named Morgana. Camelot, more so Merlin, were just too powerless to deal with her, until they realized that what fed Morgana’s power was the fact that she had a strong presence in their minds.
And they defeated Morgana by simply erasing her from their memories.
Rappler’s power is because we allow it to direct us to what it expects us to do and where it wants us to be.
There is only one way that we can deal with Rappler, Ressa and Ranada.
Let us mute them in our minds. Let us allow them to set foot in Malacañang, even as we ignore their presence. Let us deny them their story arc. Let them spin the lies that we will not believe. Let them ask the questions that we will not answer. Let them sow the intrigues that we will simply bury with factual truths, effective policies and successful results.