Because of the hardship of life in Filipino society – the degree of self-imposition of such hardship is another matter – a few behaviors seem deeply ingrained in the average Filipinos’ psyche: they will take any shortcut possible (even if illegal), they will resort to penny-pinching, and they will easily buy into things whose integrity and soundness cannot be easily verified.
Some of us can remember the time when fake CD’s, VCD’s and DVD’s were all the rage (they still are). Despite “buyer beware” warnings, Filipinos still go out and buy them anyway. Why bother paying an arm and a leg for a ticket to a movie house, when I can watch from my own home? The experience? I can buy my own food, I get to sit in a comfortable chair, there are fewer people at my house, etc. The only thing is, I’m not sure if I’ll also see shadows standing up when the credits are rolling.
Nowadays, warnings of fake rice abound. Despite assurances by rice retailers and the National Food Authority that these warnings are unfounded, naturally Filipinos will not take any perceived threat to their staple food quietly. All one needs to do is to remember the sort of criticism Senator Cynthia Villar copped when her concerns about Filipinos’ rice consumption were interpreted as “wanting to ban unlimited rice promos”.
Or maybe, they will. With some Filipinos, not even the onset of a life-threatening disease can get them to go to the hospital, much less the effects of consumption of a bogus substance. But I digress.
Now we come to fake news.
Unlike the disc with bad recording quality, or the rice with grains that behave differently, fake news is a bit harder to spot. It actually requires the content purveyors to do some additional reference checking and additional article browsing in order to verify if the report is true – activities they may not have the time or luxury for. This is something, unfortunately, that does not fit in with the Filipino penchant for katamaran (laziness); your typical Pinoy will believe anything, most especially if it jives with how he/she perceives the environment.
The expectation from mainstream media, of course, is that vetting and thoroughly scrutinizing the veracity and validity of their sources is their job. As is investigating every possible angle of a story – not just the one the media outfit’s sacred cows agree with.
For a long while, the mainstream media got away with being partisan, both for and against certain authority figures. It used to be untouchable and revered due to its supposed role in restoring Philippine “democracy”. Big media probably would have gotten away for longer with peddling its “unbalanced views” had it stopped blatantly covering up for an inescapably incompetent administration – one whose actions and results spelled bullshit no matter which angle people looked from. What is evident at this point, is that mainstream media has grossly underestimated the improved discernment of the consumers of its content. The improved discernment has come due to the rise of what used to be called the alternative media – bloggers, smaller scale news publishers, radio commentators, etc. not affiliated with the mainstream.
Rather than embrace the competition and rebalance its news reporting, however, big media has instead chosen to demonize outfits and entities who chip away at its perceived credibility, and who don’t put it on a pedestal that its leading constituents think it is infallibly entitled to. The cry of “fake news” has fallen flat, because content consumers believe the mainstream is just as culpable of chugging it out as the ones it accuses of doing so. While mainstream media makes a big deal of alternative media making lapses, its constituents generally consistently fail to own up to theirs. If ever an apology has been issued for erroneous, slanted, or malicious reporting, it is not because the action was regretted – it is only because the culprit was caught red-handed, or because someone who shouldn’t have been offended was.
The advent of social media has made information much, much easier to obtain and access. These days, content consumers are increasingly browsing news and opinion sites not just to get information, but to validate their own opinions and points of view. It seems that mainstream media has been unable to adopt to this consumer behavior; in all futility, it still believes that holds a monopoly on its ability to shape opinion and influence the behavior and worldview of the consumer public.
It is up to big media to figure out how it can salvage whatever is left of its credibility. One thing is for sure; the mainstream cannot claim to be at the forefront of “a thirst for change” if it refuses to adapt to the ever-changing reality.
What happens to animals that cannot adapt to the new conditions of their environment? They simply die out. It is generally believed that that was what happened to the dinosaurs.
[Photo courtesy: BBC]
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