Despite the length of the Senate inquiry on “fake news” and the amount of noise it generated, there was very little real insight that came out other than the realisation that information is “out of control” in the Philippines and, as a result, “the truth is dead” in its society. Yet, whilst a lot of navel-gazing on the culpability of information producers and regulators went on, there was very little said about the accountability of consumers of all this “out of control” information. Nobody in the body of “experts” that convened this “fake news” inquiry acknowledged that there is something seriously wrong about the collective intellectual faculties of Philippine society that predisposes Filipinos to act and react willy-nilly on false information.
Indeed, no less than a Philippine senator — Bam Aquino — continued to latch on to a baseless (presumably divinely-inspired) list of “fake news” sites to substantiate his assertions — never mind that nobody could ascertain how exactly the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) decided which sites should be in that list. As far as Aquino was concerned, it is true because the CBCP said so.
Aquino’s way of thinking mirrors the very ignoramous society that has become a hotbed of flawed, sloppy, and lazy thinking — one that could not even clearly define its own affliction and, instead, arbitrarily slaps a popular buzzword, “fake news”, to the cancer killing it from within. For lack of a clear understanding of its own illness, Filipinos (and their “representatives” in their legislature) have simply decided they are “sick” of “fake news”.
Not surprisingly, given this sloppy and lazy framing of the problem coming all the way from the top “thought leaders” of the land and the now widely-accepted use of a quaint buzzword to encapsulate it, the wrong solutions have gained traction. One such reported solution is the creation of an “information police” proposed by former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay. The premise of his solution is that the hapless Filipino is “confused by an environment where officials of the executive department, in particular, are able to disseminate false information while demonizing the press, and activist-citizens.” Hilbay envisions his information police as…
“[…] a public institution whose sole task is to identify and publicize government dishonesty,”
This is quite amusing considering that it is tantamount to a tacit admission that Filipinos are simply too stupid and too lazy to step up to their duty of participating in the democratic processes available to them such as actively engaging with their executives and representatives, voting wisely during elections, and intelligently participating in public discourse among others.
A democracy is presumably one where a people is ruled by a government created by the people. When one conveniently forgets that important feature, one becomes the kind of bozo Hilbay is; a bozo who comes up with the following laughable functions of a proposed “information police”:
• to create standards for verifying information provided by government;
• to actually verify information provided by government,
• to publicize its findings, and
• to issue rewards to citizens who are able to spot fake information provided by public officials.
The above functions describe a “police” function that operates under the presumption that government is crooked. When you apply the democratic principle that democratic governments are mandated by the people one can then go on to conclude that a crooked government is one that rules a crooked people.
That we have come to this point where bozos like Hilbay could actually come up with the notion of an “information police” and keep a straight face after the punchline, makes us quite sure that the Philippines has truly become a truly effed-up society. Back in 2001 Jaime Licauco pointed out in an Inquirer article that…
A nation whose policies and rules are based on the assumption that everybody is a cheat and liar unless proven otherwise cannot long endure…
When we start seeing a spectacular powow such as what transpired on live national TV yesterday, the 4th October 2017, where, presumably, the top legislative minds and media leaders, after hours of “debate”, utterly failed to get to the crux of the matter of the “fake news” cancer afflicting their constituents and where a Philippine Senator pompously waved a document produced by a medieval coven of men-in-robes given blanket immunity from scrutiny by a society of “God-fearing” people, it is perhaps high-time that we reflect on the prescient assertion Licauco issued back in 2001.
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