Philippine media’s role in the castration of the Pinoy mind

Problems and conflicts are the driving forces behind a good story. The bigger and seemingly impossible the odds against the protagonist, the better the story. It’s the virtual lifeblood of every classic story, novel, legend, mythology, and even religious texts and movies/TV shows we have devoured all our life. No one wants to read or watch a story about someone who is contented with his life with no challenges to face.

The classics, for one, endured the tests of time because they showed the many triumphs of the human spirit through very trying hardships that are still a part of daily human struggle. All with the same premise that most people unwittingly ignored or probably did not notice: Eschewing self-pity or victim mentality.

These works of fiction, though obviously a creation of writer’s imagination, are compelling statements about universal truths on human existence. At the same time, they also gave a template of how one can use the same perspective when confronted with similar scenarios that the story presented.

propagandaEven if these are works of fiction, they provide valuable insights and even inspiration simply by presenting situations that the protagonists were able to navigate through and come out defiant with their principles, or victorious in the end. Even the tragedies, like the popular plays of Shakespeare, were cautionary tales that should be heeded by their audience.

That they were primarily created to entertain or provide a momentary diversion or a brief escape to an audience was what got them classified under the arts. And art, incidentally, is a big part of mass media.

And media is a very powerful pillar of society.

In the Philippines we enjoy a semblance of media freedom not found in some totalitarian-ruled government. But looking at the way things are going, we might as well be. We may be democratic on paper, but we are ruled by oligarchs utilizing media and other mind-numbing tools like poor education prioritization to produce generations upon generations of doe-eyed jejemons —our modern-day version of H.G. Wells’s Eloi—waiting for their daily fix of noontime trash, teen romance programs approaching pornography-levels in terms of imparting wrong values & priorities to their young audience, and primetime teleserye escapism to lull them in apathetic stupor. All of that, to maintain the status quo of the powers-that-be and laugh their way to the banks.

Time and again a few keen observers, part of the media themselves, have placed Philippine mass media under a microscope with the same dismal but accurate diagnosis: Mainstream Pinoy media blows. In what should have been a good tool to combat ignorance, apathy, and many cultural dysfunctions existing in our midst, it has assimilated the culture’s abhorrent traits and gradually became a big part of the problem.

In a very revealing online article on Philippine media featuring veteran journalist and Marshall McLuhan awardee Ed Lingao, he said this about broadcast news:

In TV, the emphasis is in packaging not only the massenger but the news, Lingao adds. As a result, a lot is lost on the substance, as prime time news is limited to one and a half minutes airtime, minus 30 seconds for the anchor introducing himself or herself. Delivery is bombastic, music is introduced and even accompanies the entire broadcast, and the oftentimes annoying stingers (“dyadyadyadyan!”) are occasionally added for emphasis and drama effect. Even by international standards, he says, a one and a half minute news segment is too short given the seriousness of the issues that are being reported in the Philippines, such as elections, the insurgency and taxation.

That’s just one of the problematic sides to news and public affairs that seem to have become the trend on the dominant local channels in the Philippines. Gone were the days when local news were handled with the least amount of histrionics and tabloid sensationalism and objectively focused on actual news than the news-readers themselves. Even the programming of the top broadcast networks leave a lot to be desired. It’s practically the same things executed by different people. Same types of shows, same format, same pandering to the destitute members of society via cash doleouts via game shows, same primetime telenovelas. You’d think, given these “choices”, that it all belongs to just a single channel. So much for the abolition of monopoly.

It’s good business after all, although good and bad depends on what vantage point you’re sitting at. As GRP contributor and Manila Times columnist Ben Kritz said: “It is, first and always, a business.” Of course if you’re the one getting it from behind as the audience, your days are bound to be lousy. The owners, on the other hand, are hitting two birds with one stone: Produce cheap, substandard, easy fare with a guaranteed tenfold ROI and, at the same time, conditioning the viewers into accepting and chugging down idiotic products to keep them at bay. Like some sick form of Pavlovian conditioning designed to turn people into becoming docile automatons who suck everything without question. Lather, rinse, and repeat indefinitely.

This phenomenon is even more apparent in the type of movies the industry gives out every year via the MMFF. And not a few notable people had scathing remarks about this disturbing trend. In her article aptly titled “Filipino films: they don’t make us think”, GRP writer ilda wrote:

Films are supposed to be cultural artifacts that reflect our culture and, in turn, affect us and our outlooks towards life. Most films are considered art, for entertainment and a powerful tool for educating — or indoctrinating — society. But nowhere can we find our culture or any significant message of consequence in our films. Films are powerful tools of communicating ideas and who we are as a people.

Palanca awardee Lourd De Veyra even wrote an open letter to Vic Sotto, appealing to produce something of value in the future:

Nasa posisyon ka na kumuha ng mahuhusay na manunulat at director na kayang magbalanse ng komersiyal na elemento at ng tinatawag na diskurso sa kondisyong mortal. Kunwari, sa bawat tatlo o apat na fantasy- o romance-comedy, ano ba naman ang lumikha ng isang komedya na tatalakay sa isang isyu ng lipunan, isang pelikulang kikiliti rin sa kanilang mga puso? Kikiliti na parang hindi “cheap” at parang hindi masyadong pinag-isipan.

Which brings me to my introduction in this essay about good, classical literature: For some reason I can’t help but feel that the horror scenario in Ray Bradbury’s brilliant Fahrenheit 451 had been realized in this country with the least amount of effort from those who are in control. It’s as if the media just turned into some arson unit sanctioned by the powers that be to eliminate or burn any symbolic representation of books through deprivation of things that would give the citizens the capacity think and discern quality from garbage. By eliminating appreciation for more elevated themes in the arts in favor of terrible or, at the very least, mediocre outputs, they can easily control and sway the masses via propaganda and whatever appeals to emotion and false sense of patriotism they can think of.

Media is a potent form of power. As much as we’d like to think of the average underdog from the farm as the archetypal hero who triumphs against the evil empire in the end, the reality is that money makes everything almost possible. As long as no one within the upper echelons of media decides to risk everything with nothing more than the overwhelming sympathy and care for the general citizenry, this will continue. The propaganda machines will just churn out the next lackey to vote and maintain the way things are, and people will be stuck in a rut for a very, very long time.

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18 Comments on “Philippine media’s role in the castration of the Pinoy mind”

  1. As Benign0 has put it before, the Philippines suffers from a different kind of Tyranny. Not a physical one, but a mental one.

    And though education may be the only chance to abate that stupidity, even most institutions are falling to the same kind of thinking popularized by television through the students.

    Case and point, students all squealing “uuuuuy” when someone does remotely romantic.

    Also, the grading curb is significantly lower as 50% is passing yet in the rest of the world, it needs to be 75% or above.

    This abatement is made worse because most Filipinos actively seek their mind-numbing “entertainment”. Especially among the youth. My director, who was a former educator in La Salle, I have seen his daughters look up the mass produced popular teleserye of the year via the internet. Never mind that there are plenty of other shows with better story and content online. They actively sought out the mediocre one in the bunch!

    There’s a problem when the Philippines is becoming alot like Oceana in George Orwell’s 1984… minus the government surveillance, minus the everpresent police force, but double the mental abatement, the ignorance and self-censorship.

  2. Excellent! This is what I’m talking about! The very first GRP article that I’ve read (at least for me!) that tackled the oft-repeated subject of the power and influence of Media Peddlers to introduce relevant social change is pinpointed as the real issue. And that the dysfunction of the society is not wholly attributed to GRP’s (Kate Natividad, ChinoF and as of late, Mr. Grimwald) fave and perennial public enemy no.1… often bashed ‘low-life’ agents of social stagnation… their oft-called ‘idiotic’, ‘brainless’, ‘stupid’, ‘ignorant’, ‘teleserye-fantards’, ‘starstruck ignoramuses’, ‘baduy’, ‘palengkera’, filipino ‘jeje-masa’! It’s so obvious, in this case, that the tail (the people) could not possibly wag the dog (‘the-powers-that-be’)! The problem of those who see themselves as intelligent people is when they perceived that the ‘hindi-kauri’ people’s becoming part of the problem is the root of their problem. The medium is the massage!

    1. You must be new to GRP. The media’s role in the dumbing down of Philippine society has been discussed on this site since its inception by various writers including myself. This latest article is proof though, that the problem cannot be emphasised enough.

      1. Well, there was one damn smart comedian in the Philippines who acted the fool but was very smart in reality – Yoyoy Villame.

        His satire on Chinatown is classic social commentary in foolish sounding form:

  3. “Garbage in, Garbage out”…the media puts Garbage in our: conscious and subconscious minds; we end up thinking garbage thoughts. Living a garbage life. Electing garbage politicians. We even elected a garbage President;with garbage government programs and resulted to a garbage economy.

  4. You can’t even rely on imported TV and movies, since they prefer to import the most banal and least challenging material.

    Now that Asia is the largest consumer of Hollywood films, this has had the effect of dumbing the industry down even more than it was already. Audiences in China, the Philippines and elsewhere generally prefer watching superheroes or CGI robots duking it out rather than having to deal with too much translated dialogue (the top films in PH last year were Spiderman and Transformers), so look forward to plenty more of that.

  5. “The viewers are dumb. We’re just giving them what they want.”
    – Stan Marsh, South Park Quest for Ratings Episode

    Enough has been said about how stupid Philippine media has gone over the last few years. I agree to all of those.

    What I am quite sad however is that it seems I am running out of choices. A few years ago, I have History, Discovery and Nat Geo as “refuge” whenever all other channels have nothing nice to offer. But lately, even that does not help anymore. I am not against shows like Pawnstars, Kings of Restoration, etc. they have a few episodes that really appreciate and I know there are a lot of people who like them but what I am looking for is balance. I miss those documentaries that made say “whoa! I didn’t know that.” I was even hoping that our network “giants” will create their own shows similar to those on PRIMETIME.

    It occurred to me that maybe somebody is just manipulating the shows from those 3 that I mentioned because they knew that the programs that I am looking for will not sell in the country.

    In fairness to ABS-CBN they have MATANGLAWIN but then they put it in a time-slot where I believe only have a few audience. Another request would be if they could raise the level of the show. I understand they are trying to reach a certain audience bracket but put a little something into it that will challenge your viewers.

    To end I remember one of Rizal’s letter to one of his siblings when he was abroad with a complaint that goes like – “Buti pa dito ang mga magsasaka dito alam ang tungkol sa barometro, nagtatalakay tungkol sa agham. Pero ang mga abogado(?) dyan sya atin mas alam pa ang mga milagro ng mga santo na ni hindi nga taga sa atin.” Not the exact words but I remember that was his point. You can see the quote displayed near his cell in Fort Santiago. What is the connection? Even before, it seems that the focus of most Filipinos are in the wrong direction.

    I remember one of the comments in this site said: “it is because they are too busy struggling.” I say we all struggle daily. It’s just that some of how are led by an unseen force to be numb and submit to it while others chose to look the other way (and flips a dirty finger to those who try to block their view).

  6. Since anything where one can’t gain something is nothing but a waste, the local channels feeding people with crap is as good as thieves selling products that’s not worth one’s time and money and instead take away or bury something valuable to one’s being such as potential and intellect. To those who are contented to watch our local channels and read for the sake of being entertained, they should realize that they are missing a lot. More than being entertained, they deserve to get awe-inspiring and mind-boggling or informative shows as well. Pinoys are forgetting that they are clients that deserved reliable and high quality TV shows/materials to watch and read. They are the ones who make the Phil media thrive anyway. It’s not true that the popular Phil media are only giving them what they want. With shows that make them simply laugh, cry, sympathize or fantasize and gossip instead of being productive, they are giving Filipinos cheap service.

  7. People are sheep. TV is the shepherd. A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.

    The biases the media has are much bigger than conservative or liberal. They’re about getting ratings, about making money, about doing stories that are easy to cover.

    I would not know how I am supposed to feel about many stories if not for the fact that the TV news personalities make sad faces for sad stories and happy faces for happy stories.

    The main problem with mass media is that it makes it impossible to fall in love with any acumen of normalcy. There is no ‘normal,’ because everybody is being twisted by the same sources simultaneously.

    Just because something isn’t a lie does not mean that it isn’t deceptive. A liar knows that he is a liar, but one who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of destruction.

  8. Dingdong Dantes, Herbert Bautista, Isko Moreno on LP list of possible senatorial bets – This was in the news just today.

    I bet they’ll come up on top. They are really “bankable”. Those much vaunted political makinaryas are going to have a really profitable season next year. They won’t need to “invest” so much. It’ll just be all profit. Yep, that holy democratic exercise of ours is really just another business enterprise.

    Lawmakers have so much power to correct a lot of things wrong with Phil media. But, with these three – Senatorial bets? Really?

  9. well, not only TV & movies are looking dumber these days in the Philippine mass media industry but also on radio as well. Like the best example, when a radio program from Magic 89.9 by the name of Boys Night Out, they’d sent a famous Japanese porn star by the name of Maria Ozawa into their show yesterday for their anniversary episode of the said show and eventually the social media like Twitter & Facebook made a trending topic yesterday & even today however as the news on the other Maria, that is Mary Jane Veloso is now making a news about her execution through firing squad in Indonesia due to her case on drug smuggling (and I hope this won’t happened, soon), her name didn’t made a trend on those social media here in our backyard and some of the netizens criticize that many of us forgot about Mrs. Veloso and made a bruhaha social media craze about that famous Japanese porn star instead. If you’ll don’t believe in me, maybe by tomorrow this issue will soon to become a national news on the net and you could even type their names on twitter’s search box as an evidence.

  10. there are still good tv programs naman:

    I watch I-witness of gma7 at ung pinoy explorer ni aga muhlac sa channel 5.

    ngayon may Bogart the Explorer naman na for comedy. team bogart is doing good actually.

    di ko gusto ung Tanods ng tv5. it’s a reflection of the dirt of metro manila only. it doesn’t represent the culture of the whole archipelago.

  11. dunno if i have to say to anyone here to try watch korean movies, pero better not read this comment if you have this mindset that its the same as local or dapat straight yung english ko dito. walang tirahan ok? to each his own.
    i just like to mention the korean drama they have is far more relatable on pinoy’s daily life than the local ones. the koreandrama always show respect sa elders nila, working/ studying seriously is always the norm, closeknit family, good hygiene, the cars/ phones etc they use on the film are all korean made thus a great marketing ad when their films are shown in se asia, china, japan or south america. interesting too is they seldom use guns to kill (bec of their gun ban) in their action films, but they are good in marshal arts and knives. their political drama on corruption almost reflect what is happening here. I often wonder if s.korea is depicting the philippines. and phils though are sometimes mentioned when they want to escape. its always either usa or the phils. for further english studies or to get a new life.
    their actors are well paid like ours but when they have a scandal they’ll be laos kaagad.
    i do switch to japanese movies, but its too artsy, stark or dark. chinese, taiwanese i can’t stay awake bec of the mandarin tone. western nah, laging parang destroy the world palagi. yung sa pinoy? for me pinoy tv or movie is only good so far in terms of cinematography and the acting skill of the actors. pero ang plot inaykopo- matalinhaga. dapat siguro i-drug test ang buong pinoy showbiz writers including media who have no qualms being partisan.

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