Social media and the dismal state of Filipino activism and political commentary


Sad to say, Philippine “activism” hasn’t progressed much over the last several decades. The “movements” may have moved from the streets onto social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, but the quality of the discourse has remained pathetically dismal.

The venerable former blogger Dean Jorge Bocobo (DJB, a.k.a. @SagadaSun on Twitter), for example, has taken to Twitter to accuse a number of fellow Tweetizens he’s been in exchanges with of being “fascist pigs”. Included in this list are Yours Truly (bizarre, considering Dean has me blocked on Twitter), top gun lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, columnist Teddyboy Locsin, and our very own thought leader extraordinaire and GRP writer Ilda.

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((Murder-mongering #FASCISTPIGS)) @maxell_lander @ilda_talk @sampalocangel @fstopacio @galangir @teddyboylocsin @benign0

Does DJB even know what a fascist is? Apparently not considering that the people he named (and attempts to shame) are neither racists, genocidal, nor hold any political power — which makes any parallels DJB draws between our esteemed bunch and the likes of renowned fascists like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini quite ludicrous. For that matter, one begins to question whether these so-called online “activists” even know what they are talking about whenever they wax indignation about despotism, fascism, totalitarianism and all the other “isms” that pepper their online discussions.

One favourite whipping boy of Filipino activists is U.S. Republican Party presidential contender Donald Trump. Trump had, in recent months, built much of his pitch to American voters upon a xenophobic platform, putting up the demonisation of immigrants and minorities as the cornerstones of his vision to “make America great again”…

Trump has been rather vocal about his dislike for immigrants in general, and his calls to “make America great again” by rousing anti-immigrant sentiment have roused support among angry white voters. Among this group, Muslim immigrants receive a substantial part of his vitriol; he has called for a ban on their entry into the United States, due to the perceived terrorist threat they pose.

Trump had, for that matter, proposed various measures to curtail the flow of all immigrants into the U.S. even going as far as proposing the building of a wall along the U.S. – Mexican border. Recently, the menace of a possible Trump presidency became even more real to Filipinos after Trump reportedly “included the Philippines on a list of countries he said had sent immigrants who had plotted to kill Americans, sometimes successfully.”

Understandably, outrage over Trump’s position on immigration and minorities in general resonates across the world. The threat to everything held dear by modern liberal civil society — universal human rights, multiculturalism, multinationalism, equal opportunity, open borders, even free markets — posed by a Trump presidency is clearly recognised across the board. Interestingly enough, the rise of Trump could not have come at a worse (or better, depending on the perspective you take) time. Newly-minted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, himself, ascended to power on the back of a get-tough-get-real platform that resonated with crime- and poverty-weary masses as well as widespread disillusionment with the supposedly “liberal” slant of his predecessor, former President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III. Almost on cue, various activists have likened Duterte’s style to that of Trump, even calling him “the Donald Trump of Asia.”

It is on this flawed analogy, it seems, that the flavour of the activist month capitalises on a renewed fear that the Philippines might, again, descend back into the darkness of totalitarianism. Thus, the on-going witchhunt amongst the chattering classes we observe today where characters like DJB summarily slap the “fascist” label on all those who dare run counter to his views. Ironic, isn’t it?

What is even more amusing is the banal hypocrisy with which other similarly-pompous Filipino Twitter “activists” style themselves as champions of liberal and “progressive” thinking. Aspiring lawyer Jego Ragragio (a.k.a. @JegoRagragio on Twitter), is one such “activist” that consistently exhibits the same verbose pomposity that DJB displays on Twitter. Responding to a tweet by Sri Lankan born Filipino TV personality Ronnie Nathanielsz, Ragragio tweeted “You weren’t even born here. Go back to Sri Lanka, your village misses its idiot.”

Nathanielsz is a noted sports commentator who enjoyed the height of his fame in the 1970s as a mainstay of the sportscasting team of state broadcasting network PTV-4. He is now reviled by so-called anti-Marcos activists such as Ragragio because of his links to the Marcos regime owing to the PTV-4 network’s alleged history of biased news reporting in favour of Marcos that time. Perhaps (and rather unsurprisingly), Ragragio in being so blinkered by his hate for the Marcos regime failed to see the quaint contradiction in the way he’d style himself as being part of the camp stirring up outrage fads over the looming despotism gripping the Philippines and his Trump-like regard for long-time immigrants like Nathanielsz. Maybe give Ragragio the benefit of the doubt. Hate is renowned for its blinding properties, after all. Just the same, I couldn’t resist this tweet quoting Ragragio’s now-infamous gaffe:

Tsk tsk. And here we have the same people who would demonise Donald Trump for saying similar things… #hypocrisy

What do Dean Jorge Bocobo and Jego Ragragio, both Filipino Twitter “activists” of note, have in common? Aside from that characteristic verbose pomposity normally attributed to self-important, self-styled “thought leaders”, there is that blinding emotionalism that seems to consistently dull the higher intellectual faculties of the Philippine National “Debate” — which raises the obvious question:

Are Filipino liberal “activists” up to the task of ensuring that the Philippines is well-placed, at least at a grassroots level, to prepare for and respond to the global winds of conservatism blowing by?

It’s quite certain there are smart folks out there who are qualified to lay the foundation of right thinking and right perspective needed in the national discourse to make sense and come to terms with the political trends of the times. But if these two characters represent that essential thought leadership needed to build in the Philippines that thinking class that is essential to transition to the next level of social progress, suffice to say, Philippine society is in trouble.

4 Replies to “Social media and the dismal state of Filipino activism and political commentary”

  1. For the life of me, I cannot see any connection between the netizens tagged as “#FASCISTPIGS”. Not having a Twitter account, can someone provide the context of the discussion?

  2. Strength of character comes from being hit by stray verbal stones, while protecting discarded ciphers in the snow.

  3. Dean Jorge Bacobo…was my fellow blogger in the, “Filipino Voices”. The web blog is now closed, because, it endorsed Aquino.

    I’m giving my two centavo thoughts to the good Dean Jorge Bacobo. Please do not call your fellow bloggers: “Facists”. People will disagree with your opinion. Some will even call you names. It is just part of being a web blogger.

    To me, I tell the truth and stand by it. If you believe in me…thanks…If you do not believe in me…Thanks !

    The Donald, Trump will always be Trump. Like Duterte, will always be Duterte…

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