Stare into the eyes of Willie Revillame and you look right into the soul of the Filipino. Willie Revillame is The Filipino — the personification of the dreams and aspirations of the majority of the 100 million Filipinos who inhabit our little planet. In our condemning Revillame for his latest act of infamy, perhaps we in the chattering classes attempt to wash off our person the stink of the stigma of being Filipino. It is a stigma that in the last couple of days has found its latest physical incarnation in Willie Revillame. And so we self-described members of “civil society” try to purge ourselves of Revillame.
But to express our revulsion over Revillame in the hope of highlighting how much we are not like him is to fail to catch the irony of it all that is sailing over our heads. For it is us — the private school educated illustrados, the latte-sipping “coÃ±os”, the iPad-toting fashionistas, and the Edsa-happy “activists” — who have always had it in our power to root out the cancer in the Philippine Media that creates people like Willie Revillame. After all, Revillame is a creation of the megacorporations that filled the industrial void of opportunity that revealed itself in the aftermath of the 1986 “People Power” Edsa “Revolution”; a “revolution” that was, for the most part, driven by the Middle- to Upper Middle-Class. It was the idea of “free speech” that turned the Media industry and its cadre of “journalists” into the self-important monolithic power broker and self-styled Untouchables — the “guardians of freeom” — that it is today.
But, see, the fact of the Philippine Media being monolithic and, as such, controlled by a tiny handful of elite industrialists is, in fact, where the opportunity to make immense changes in the collective character of the Filipino lies. In the bigger scheme of our society, Philippine Media represents a single pipeline of mass influence that is under the absolute control of a small number of our compatriots. Even back in 2006, I wrote in my book how…
Philippine cinema [for that matter Philippine Media] has an immense influence over Filipino minds and is, bizarrely, the single biggest factor to consider â€“ primarily because it may be the easiest to change. As shown in the section on Technology, a huge proportion â€“ 61 percent â€“ of on-line discussions in PinoyExchange.com is accounted for by topics on Philippine cinema and television. It is a number that dwarfs all the rest, which is not a surprise because watching movies and television are disproportionately affordable forms of leisure activity in the Philippines (you donâ€™t hear of too many Filipino families going off on scuba diving trips over the weekend despite an abundance of scuba diving sites around the islands).
However, of the Filipino massesâ€™ favourite, readily-available form of leisure Isagani Cruz wrote in an [Inquirer.net] editorial dated 16 June 2006:
Benjamin Franklin said that if the people misuse their suffrages, the remedy is not to withdraw the precious privilege from them but to teach them in its proper use. The entertainment industry, which has the most available access to the [Filipino] people through the movies, television, radio and the tabloids, is instead purposely miseducating them.
The Philippine entertainment industry is not only a vast wasteland, as television has been described in America, but a vicious instrument for the abatement of the nationâ€™s intelligence. The shows it offers for the supposed recreation of the people are generally vulgar and smutty, usually with some little moral lesson inserted to make them look respectable, but offensive nonetheless. On the whole, they are obnoxious and unwholesome and deserve to be trashed.
The indiscriminate audience eagerly laps them up because it has not been taught to be selective and more demanding of better quality shows for their pastime. In fact, the easily satisfied fans have been taught the exact opposite reaction — to accept whatever garbage the industry offers them and, to add insult to their injury, to pay for it too.
The leaders of the entertainment industry are supposed to be responsible people but they have evaded their duty to elevate the taste of their mostly unthinking supporters. They have instead cheapened them into a mass of automated individuals whose ultimate joy is to roll up in the aisles at the lewd jokes of potential senators.
In the article Cruz goes on to describe the obvious link between the way the Filipino masses behave in the polling booth come election time and the twisted values, dearth of insight, and dismal vision served to them by the Philippine Media. Of course it can be argued that the Philippine entertainment industry produces according to public demand (and, itself, is a reflection of the character of our society). But it can also be argued that the Philippine public get what they deserve, as Cruz himself points out. There is only one nugget of insight that can be drawn from this â€“ Filipinos deserve their entertainment industry and the Philippine entertainment industry deserves the Filipino people. Just as there is a sector in Philippine society that is frustrated or even disgusted with the quality of the products of the industry, there are artists within the industry that have given up on producing quality as well.
However, the fact remains that between the Filipino masses and the captains of the entertainment industry, it is the latter â€“ the producers, studio owners, and artists â€“ who are in a position to be agents of change. This is a bit of an idealistic expectation and a stretch given that we have just about entrusted cultural leadership to private enterprise.
We have become so addicted to the tagline that the power to reform our sad society lies in this nebulous concept of “The People” — standard fare in Aquinoist propaganda since the 1980s. But stop and think how so much of the power to influence lies in the hands of so few. These are industrialists — the owners of the biggest media conglomerates in the country, ABS-CBN and the GMA Network, and the biggest publication (by readership) in the land, the Inquirer Group of Companies — who, as it happens, are also the biggest propagators of Aquinoist “People Power” propaganda.
Perhaps consider for a moment the possibility that all this Media-originated hype about the power of what is an undefinable (and ultimately flaccid) concept, “The People” as far as real political power is concerned, may be a strategy (pre-meditated or unconscious) to divert our attention away from the specific people that we should be directing our “indignation” over the “ills” of our society to — the handful of owners and operators of the vast information dissemination infrastructure of the land: The Philippine Media.
Admit it. It sucks to be Filipino. But all that could be changed. And we got the approach to do so all wrong in the last 25 years by pinning our hopes on the wrong level of our social pyramid. It’s time we take to task those who have real power to drive reform.
[Note: Also recently-published: “Filipino TV shows like Willing Willie make Filipinos dumber“. Check it out!]
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