A lot of people remain baffled by the attention that the Vhong Navarro and Deniece Cornejo show attracts. They cite that there are more important things going on — the Disbursement Acceleration Program imbroglio that President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III is entangled in, the plight of Leytenians still reeling from the carnage wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, and the fate of the Reproductive Health Law that as of now is teetering on the edge of legal oblivion at the Supreme Court. Why then do we remain transfixed on the indiscretions of a couple of two-bit celebs and a Chinese mobster who suffers from anger management issues?
The disturbing truth about Media is that it is an escape. People escape to cinema and the nice glitzy photos and videos that Media companies have made a profitable business out of delivering. But people also read the news to be entertained. Why else would delivering the news be such a profitable business if it did not tap into a primal component of the human condition such as the need to be “informed”? Interesting news is novel information. When said information becomes old, it loses its novelty. Politicians stealing millions of pesos: Old. Thousands of Filipinos dying in a “natural” disaster: Old. The sad plight of initiatives to control and reduce population in a Third World Catholic country: Old.
Starlet allegedly luring a popular celeb to her pad after which the latter gets beaten up by the earlier’s presumed boyfriend: New. New, as of early last week, that is. The Vhong Navarro and Deniece Cornejo “issue” is now old, however. As such, there is less interest in it. And besides, it’s the Superbowl. That one is new. Which is why it makes the news. Because “new” makes up 75 percent of the news — literally. On to the next story.
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Where is the justice in that?
There is no such notion of that “justice” people who consume media feel they are entitled to as far as running a media business goes. Delivery of justice is a state responsibility. Delivering news that is novel enough for millions of people to voluntarily tune in to is the responsibility of the managers of media organisations.
Why is that so difficult to understand?
It is difficult to understand because every news organisation and their dog have one or all of the words “fair”, “balanced” and “objective” somewhere in the gigabytes of marketing collateral they pump into our media consumption appliances every day. And so we’ve pretty much all been led to believe that news and the “journalism” that goes into producing it is necessarily all that.
Best thing to do is to use Media output to gain a deeper understanding of the society it “serves” — which brings us back to the question of why stories about celebrity scandals occupy more of Filipinos’ headspace than the issues that are behind their chronic wretchedness. Why nga ba?
Simple. Because most of us can relate. People like Navarro, Cornejo, and even Cedric Lee, are the sorts of people many Filipinos aspire to be. As such the misfortunes that befall such people never fail to stoke our interest. Compare that to the affairs surrounding people who live in ocean front slums, or of those who depend on politicians’ “generosity” for most of their lives, or of those to whom falling pregnant virtually guarantees lifelong impoverishment.
Nobody aspires to be such people. So when misfortune hits such people, it becomes newsworthy for a while (if at all). Then people get over it.
Who makes such people relevant? Enter religion. The Philippines’ Roman Catholic Church made its vast fortune assuring people that the meek shall inherit the Earth. Trouble is, history has proven that that is quite simply absolutely not true. People like Navarro, Cornjejo, Lee, as well as generations of politicians who’ve ruled and “served” Filipinos, routinely get away with lots of stuff — stuff that their “victims” have been assured they will “inherit” one day. It is on this notion upon which “concern” for the poor ekes out a place in society’s collective consciousness and on that rests the Catholic Church’s claim to relevance. Indeed, Media and religion are partners in a symbiotic relationship that feeds on the masses. Religion feeds them entitlement porn while the Media feeds them the misfortune porn that they desperately crave to validate their subsistence on the earlier.
Whilst, empirical evidence will point to the reality that when you are poor, you are more likely to lead a wretched and unhappy life and more likely to die violently in a preventable “accident” or crime, statistics show that physically attractive people with lots of money are more likely to lead happy, fulfilling lives to a ripe old age before they die of natural causes. This fact is what gives that lucrative novelty to the scandals and other unfortunate events or tragedies in which the victims are rich beautiful people — because rich beautiful people don’t often get found wandering streets with their pants down or get thrown into prison. Rich beautiful people make a louder splat when they fall while poor people merely deliver a dull thud when they do. And in a country that likes welcoming their New Year with loud bangs, it is hardly surprising what sorts of sounds grab the most attention.
Sorry folks, that’s just the way it is.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.