Media’s role in Philippine society undermines rather than strengthens the process of seeking truth

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According to Chay Hofileña, Director of “citizen journalism” for “social news network” site Rappler.com journalists are “neither lawyers nor judges” and are, from the depths of their DNA she claims, hardwired to “look for patterns, inconsistencies and lies, and to point those out”. This, it seems, forms the kernel around which she launches into a mini tome on her view of how the role of the media in society in general is to “connect the dots”.

Is it just me, or did Hofileña get it all the other way around? Didn’t she just attribute to “journalists” what are really things that judges and lawyers do do as part of a system that governs just that?

Lawyers after all are trained thinkers. They build cases from the ground up using the scientific method. They form a hypothesis that guides their investigation and a careful evaluation of the data that is the outcome of that investigation. They then piece together the information that is an output of that evaluation to form a conclusion that either validates or invalidates the hypothesis that guided their earlier efforts.

A key component of that effort to critically evaluate and arrive at sound conclusions is to follow a process that has built-in mechanisms that tease out inconsistencies, filter out noise, and encourage the identification of patterns. It’s called the legal system. And there is a reason why lawyers train for many years before they can be licensed members of that system — because working within the system requires a way of thinking and problem solving not readily grasped by the untrained. I summarised in an earlier article how the legal system pretty much mirrors the scientific method, key aspects of which include…

(1) formulation of a hypothesis – analogous to the charges brought forth by the prosecution;

(2) collection and validation of empirical data – analogous to criminal investigation and verification of the evidence that is its outcome;

(3) presentation of findings and subjection to peer review – analogous to the court trial itself; where evidence and arguments coming from both sides are presented and evaluated; and,

(4) formation of a conclusion – analogous to rendering of final judgment.

In the modern application of the scientific method, popularity plays no part in evaluating all the input into the process undertaken.

In a criminal investigation and trial (which, admittedly, the impeachment proceedings are not), the standards of rigour are clear. In advanced societies, the exclusion of the media from the process of arriving at the truth is very palpable. On top of and exercising full jurisdiction and control of the investigation and trial of the accused are the police and court officials respectively. The charges laid are, in principle, a direct result of an investigation controlled by the police, and the verdict issued is, in principle, a direct outcome of the court proceedings officiated by a judge. All involved in the process — prosecution, defense, witnesses, and jury — are under strict orders not to come in contact with the media.

Of course the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona is, as has been widely accepted to be, a political exercise. As such, participation of the media — and the noise this participation brings into the exercise — is tolerated.

That this is so does not in any way make the nature of the role of the media any closer to what Hofileña would like to imagine it to be. This has been plainly evident from the beginning — in the way those who seek to maintain sobriety in the manner with which the Chief Justice is tried have had to undertake efforts to mitigate the effect of media’s participation in the exercise. In short, rather than make more sound the process of seeking the truth in this trial, the media’s contribution to the exercise undermines it. Efforts to maintain the order and soundness of the process were ones that aimed primarily to exclude the media rather than include it.

Funnily, Hofileña’s assertion that the role of a “journalist” covering the trial can be likened to an “academic” who similarly…

[…] has done extensive research, spent long hours poring over documents or interviewing insiders and people on the ground with intimate knowledge of details related to the articles of impeachment […]

…to earn the distinction of being regarded as an “expert” in that field contradicts what she later writes; that,

Many times, journalists come face to face with a lethargic public, too tired or lazy to do the math, or simply apathetic. Then it becomes the role of journalists to move them to action by shaking them with solid information that will either enrage them or even inspire them.

On the contrary, no real academic would in her right mind rely on appeals to emotion to test, validate, and propagate her hypothesis. If that is the way knowledge progressed, then we would still believe that the sun revolved around the Earth today.

Indeed, as history has so far shown, it is precisely this tired, lazy, and apathetic public that had all too easily succumbed to the misguided rage and vacuous inspiration elicited by the holy “information” shoved into their gaping mouths by the Philippine media. That the most unqualified among the candidates who aspired to be President of our sad Republic back in 2010 now sits in Malacañang is a testament to this pathetic reality.

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19 Comments on “Media’s role in Philippine society undermines rather than strengthens the process of seeking truth”

  1. “. . . and apathetic public that had all too easily succumbed to the misguided rage and vacuous inspiration elicited by the holy “information” shoved into their gaping mouths by the Philippine media…”

    It could be worse, though. Like in a situation where all media are State-controlled and news is spelled long propaganda.

    We just have to accept the fact that have has evolved a democracy gone haywire, where its more form than substance, where the scale seems to be always overacting
    .
    You still have a choice if you don’t wish to be ‘dumbed down’ by vacuous broadcasters, politicians, religious leaders, etc .

    Don’t buy newspapers. Turn off the TV/radio. Or migrate.

    It’s more fun in the Philippines! 🙂

  2. I agree certain sectors of mercenary media have distorted the truth, abused the right to press freedom and the freedom of speech. I have observed that not all of the people are mesmerized by the subliminal repeat black propaganda and trial by publicity practiced by pro-yellow media outfits. The “target zone” affects the ignorant, gullible, opportunists and the political followers of the yellow/red ribbon.I refuse to believe that the majority of Filipinos are dumb enough to be influenced by Mr. Aquino’s simplistic propaganda style of repeat lies, deceit and disinformation.

  3. Impeachment being denominated “political” does not mean that the role of media during such trials is–to Hofilena–to “enrage them or inspire them” for partisan ends.

    Impeachment is “political,” because the accusers come from a body of politicians–elective representatives of the qualified electors in their respective districts–and the accused is a public officer charged with having abused or violated the public trust; hence, the penalty for the convicted officer handed down by another assembly of politicians, the Senate, is removal from an office of public trust and perpetual disqualification from holding public office thereafter.

    But even though the accusers and the judges are politicians and the trial itself is dubbed as “political”; the Senate Rules of Procedure on Impeachments (2011) clearly provide otherwise, since Senators–in their role as judges–are required to solemnly swear to or affirm that each one of them “will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws of the Philippines: (So help me God).”

    The words inscribed in this Oath are echoed in a provision in the same Senate rule which emphasizes that:

    “Senators shall observe political neutrality during the course of the impeachment trial. ‘Political neutrality’ shall be defined as exercise of public official’s duty without unfair discrimination and regardless of party affiliation or preference.”

    This rule is consistent with Alexander Hamilton’s exhortation (The Federalist No. 65) that Senators must strive “to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality” befitting their role as judges during such trials.

    Hamilton, nonetheless, is cognizant of the political reality that–

    “The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”

    Hence, owing to the “political” credentials of the accusers and the judges, Hamilton concludes:

    “The difficulty of placing it rightly, in a government resting entirely on the basis of periodical elections, will as readily be perceived, when it is considered that the most conspicuous characters in it will, from that circumstance, be too often the leaders or the tools of the most cunning or the most numerous faction, and on this account, can hardly be expected to possess the requisite neutrality towards those whose conduct may be the subject of scrutiny.”

    Not only that–and owing to the relentless barrage of open political propaganda as well–what the public is now made to endure is that, by peddling “rumors for ratings,” corporate media and social networking (as defined) have since lowered “traditional standards on checking sources and facts” to the point of distortion and misinformation.

    Still, I’m confident the Filipino is not as naive and as easily manipulated as portrayed to be.

    (In fact, “the most unqualified” may have been declared the winner in 2010, but PNoy was able to garner only 42.6% of valid votes cast for president–not the “overwhelming majority” media trumpeted.)

    1. This constant self-congratulation we keep seeing from the media is a legacy of the “hero” status they secured for themselves during the ‘revolutionary’ euphoria of mid-1980s politics.

      So now we see them exhibiting a sense of entitlement to being a holy participant in even the most sober of state undertakings. Have they really earned that right?

      A quarter of a century hence, we now see how they used this command over the vacuous minds of the consumers of their products to pervert the national consciousness rather than enrich and enlighten it.

    2. Still, I’m confident the Filipino is not as naive and as easily manipulated as portrayed to be.

      Considering the number of people that follow this blog vis-a-vis the number of people that believe impeaching Corona is part of THE GOOD FIGHT (caps intended), I am highly inclined to disagree.

      1. Frank, that confidence in the Filipino sustained our opposition group in Lapu-Lapu City during the Marcos regime, where I then was an elective official. I remained with the Liberal Party throughout that grim period when all others were joining Marcos’ KBL. (I retired from politics after Marcos fled). In fact, I was personally appointed by PNoy’s dad at his Senate office to head the Ninoy for President Movement in our city sometime before Martial Law was declared in 1971. So, I’m used to being with the minority, Frank, to the extent that our group would hold meetings in a table for four with only three seats taken.

  4. This is almost inevitable when something becomes a commodity. It becomes commercialized and profit-oriented. The truth belongs to the highest bidder.

  5. Philippine “journalists” will never be taken seriously by people who actually think. 3 strikes already proved it:
    1. Manila Peninsula “Media Kami!” fiasco (“journalists” openly siding with criminals).
    2. Quirino Tour Bus foul-up (“journalists” ensuring that they had right-of-way, not the police).
    3. This whole piss-wad impeachment “trial”. It’s more of a pillory now with the way the “journalists” cover it.

    “Journalists” are no different from pimps: they’re more than willing to whore out the innocent facts to people willing to be taken for a ride, at the right price. ABS-CBN, the Inquirer, Philstar, and GMA already proved that – profit above all, no questions asked.

  6. In the Five (5) minutes impeachment of Justice Corona in Congress…some of the Cogressmen are lawyers…did they follow the procedures they studied in colleges, to arrive to the truth?
    The Law can be bended. However, it can also be twisted by wicked people…
    This is the reason, I blame Enrile, for allowing this Corona impeachment case, to continue in the Senate…Now, we have a Circus Court, with 100 witnesses, and fabricated evidences…a series of Clowns, who want to hug th limelight, and become “sikat”…we have also lawyers who are ignorant of the law…and just want to delay the proceedings…It is a waste of time and resources of our country…Noynoy Aquino has mental illness…it seems, he has transfered this communicable illness to his YellowTard people…

    1. The Media people are mostly mouth pieces of politicians. Paid to sell those who pay them. Some Media networks are in cahoots with Noynoy Aquino to : bend, twist and sanitize the truth, for Noynoy Aquino’s good image…the owners of those Media Networks get juicy government contracts. From the 112 Billion Pesos Pork Barrel Fund of Noynoy Aquino…Philippine Journalism is already contaminated, with the Culture of Corruption, and Culture of Political Patronage…they have sold the truth for gold…

  7. This is exactly why I stay away from most forms of media particularly the ‘news’ type. The downside is that I become the last to know about issues and well, news. Like when I was so surprised to see the mess Sendong wrought in our city when I went downtown the morning after.

    With regard to the power of media to manipulate the masses into a particular direction of thinking or belief, this is the area where ‘education’ must strengthen in Juan dela Cruz – the power to think and analyze for himself and not easily fall for the baits the media toss to us.

  8. Always remember that “Bad News is Good News” for the media. They tried to make everything bad as possible to feed the hungry mind of pinoys for the downfall of others that relieves their own aborted attainment. Also it is very true that yellow media dominates the mediasphere everywhere spreading yellow viral infection.

  9. Haha here in australia, I get to watch all kinds of news from around the world in a certain channel called SBS. I get to see all kinds of ways each country presents their news.

    However, seeing ‘Bandila’ filipino news up on tv and comparing it to other countries’ news, how I wish these news anchors just get other jobs since they entirely suck in even presenting news. They’re talking pidgin english/ taglish- why don’t they just freakin speak english entirely or fluent formal tagalog. My aussie friend tells me how he likes looking at filipino news presentation sometimes cause he finds it entertaining *as in* variety-trash-show-like-no-sense-of-formality news. When they talk news they even include facebook for opinions and unnecessary crap with facts WTF? And what’s with the flashing lights and sound crap every time they’d flip to other topics? My dad always go facepalm everytime this lady starts yapping her ugly mouth (and her face a cake of prosthetic make-up).

    Even the way they talk tagalog was utter bull- they talk as if they’re in ellen degenres talk show, and the news they give out- so simplistic. You just can’t directly get through to the point of their bullocks. Simplistic and flashy bull shit, which I don’t even find in Indonesian news flash.

  10. abs-cbn media network is the puppet media of aquino- cojuangco group because it was cory who gave it back to the control of lopez after edsa revolution. this abs-cbn supposed to be a government owned network because during the time of pres. marcos he redeemed it from bankruptcy, paid by the peoples’ taxes.

    this abs-cbn network is really very lucky:) di ba kris aquino?

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