Across the political spectrum, Filipinos still completely miss the point of social media and the so-called “free market of ideas” it represents. The latest project of Malacanang allowing “bloggers with a following of more than 5,000 to cover presidential events” is attracting a lot of questions. Unfortunately, true to form, all the questions being asked are the wrong ones.
“So what are the standards?” asks Pia Ranada of Rappler — a question that encapsulates the narrow thinking being applied by all camps to this issue.
Back in February, a group headed by certain old familiar names already proposed a set of such standards…
Noemi Lardizabal-Dado or Momblogger, one of the co-founders of Blog Watch, said giving bloggers access to the President was nothing new. The Aquino administration welcomed bloggers in the beginning of its term.
She suggested the following criteria to be used in accrediting Palace bloggers:
1. They must have a blog site that writes on politics, social issues or advocacy
2. They must have an About Us page that offers description of the blog
3. The blog must be at least one year old with archives of at least 52 articles.
4. There must be a contact page where the editor or bloggers are identified and where readers can contact the blogger
5. Submission of duplicate copy of an ID during the application
6. A disclosure page that lists the blogger’s political affiliation, sources of funding, and feedback mechanism for readers to hold the blogger accountable.
Blog Watch was formed in 2009 by a group of bloggers to conduct a voters education campaign. They have since become an advocacy group on a number of social issues.
Like Ranada today, they too did not get it back then. They never have.
The fact is, this is not an issue of standards. Those who are hung up on “standards” are stuck in the 1990s, the decade that saw the accelerating disappearance of the line that separated people with license to address a mass audience (a.k.a. “journalists”) and the rest of us who were, at the time, embracing new technologies to compete with and ultimately bypass these dinosaurs. Back in the old days, “standards” were relevant — because people invested money and a chunk of their youth studying to be “journalists” for the privilege of being employed by a capital-intensive organisation with access to mass communication equipment.
It is not surprising therefore that those who continue to harp about “standards” — in “journalism”, in “blogging”, or, even more ludicrous, in social media “influencing” are those who have credentials at stake. Across all political camps — left, right, Yellowtard, Dutertard, atheist, religiot, whatever — those most actively engaged in the “debate” over “standards” surrounding these activities either have “official” license to be “influencers” or presume to be an authority on the matter. They are “journalism” graduates, are employed (or were once employed) by mass media businesses, have some kind of education degree (usually law, public admin, or polticial science) to brand their work with, or, in one way or another, draw credibility from some kind of higher anointing power or institution.
That’s the same ol’ credentialist mindset again being applied to a tired old issue. From here, it is easy to connect the dots and paint a profile of those who continue to beat this dead horse. “Influencers” who have credentials to exhibit would, of course, be fixated on the “accreditation” issue — thus failing to think outside the square they define themselves within. Aside from the usual stalwarts of Philippine “journalism”, we find the usual suspects in this chatter — self-described “social media practitioners” who had been beating the “accreditation” drum since the early days of blogging and standing up one form of “blogging awards” body or another (all now largely defunct following a golden age of this moronism that spanned the 2000s).
Apparently, the goal in the minds of these credentialed idealists was to organise the blogging and, by extension, the social media landscape around their “noble” ideals.
Unfortunately that landscape is nothing like anything that existed at the time these folk were forming their “ideals”. The fact is, the Internet is a jungle and blogging and social media influencing are digital bloodsports played within it. It is a bottom-up competition for dominance and involves crushing competitors (eventually). True bloggers (the ones that came of age before “credentials” were perceived to matter on the Internet) aren’t in it for those latte-fuelled love-ins that a tiny pompous clique of self-accredited “influencers” keep organising “debates” around. They’re in it for memetic dominance. It is an approach where personalities, identities, and loyalties do not matter — only brands defined around ideas. Focus on ideas and anchor your integrity on the consistency and coherence of these ideas and you deliver a timeless body of work. Hinge your work on personal loyalties, identification with a clique, cult of personality or some other, and some kind of “accreditation”, and you set yourself up for obsolecence in the long run.
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By the way, that notion that a Facebook Page “ain’t a blog”? Guess again. Facebook is a blog. Commenting existed in blogging apps long before Facebook existed. Facebook is just a blog that grew a network. For that matter, there really is no point even in the debate around what is and what isn’t a blog. That’s just the obsolete credentialist mind at work. Again.
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