It’s a jungle out there, so goes the words of caution that we, our elders, and friends often throw out. Once we step outside our comfort zones, we soon realize – usually the hard way – that the world outside them is unforgiving, brutal, and not for the faint of heart. Whatever rules and conventions of civility seem to exist, survival of the fittest has been a constant natural principle. Survival of the fittest is more succinctly explained in three words: “adapt or die”.
The landscape of social media today – in particular, Facebook and Twitter – is not much different. Especially in the subsection involved in political observation/punditry.
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What does this have to do with the topic of ‘unmasked’ anonymous bloggers? Well, everything.
Unfortunately for the blog SilentNoMorePH (SNM), known for being critical of president Rodrigo Duterte, it may have finally bitten off more than it can chew. SNM had attracted a lot of attention recently when certain senators had taken issue with being tagged as “Malacañang Dogs”, among them Tito Sotto. Sotto in particular stands out, because of his insertion of a libel clause into RA 10175 (the Cybercrime Act) a few years ago. Sotto, back then, had gained quite a bit of media mileage, and notoriety, with netizens who perceived him as pikon when faced with online criticism.
SNM was thrust into the spotlight again soon after, when blogger Thinking Pinoy (TP) dedicated an entire article to presenting a case that, SNM was not only owned by Cocoy Dayao, but that he was also involved in, if not directly responsible for, creating content for several other blogs critical of the Duterte administration, among them Pinoy Ako Blog (PAB). Dayao is a former consultant for the PCOO (Presidential Communications Operations Office) during former president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino’s term.
Among the anti-Duterte camp, Yellows and supporters of the Liberal Party have stood above the rest in exposing other bloggers whose ideas they don’t agree with. They do this in the hope of shaming and silencing them, and inciting others to “extract accountability” – which can go as far as inflicting physical harm – from the unmasked bloggers. TP was one of those whose identity was unmasked – “nabulatlat” – because of his open support for president Duterte. A similar thing had happened to Get Real Post webmaster benign0, and Ilda, the site’s most prominent writers, simply because Yellows disagreed with their criticism of BS Aquino.
TP and SNM are comparable cases of “unmasked” anonymous bloggers. The difference between them, however, lies in how they reacted to being unmasked. TP owned it, shrugged it off, and though he may face occasional threats to his life, continues to write, inform, and break down complex ideas for his readers to this very day. SNM, on the other hand, according to another pro-Duterte blogger, Sass Sasot, has been busy issuing half-baked admissions, and removing any traces on the websites that have been linked to him.
Predictably, the Yellows cried foul, again. They have lamented that the “unmasking” of SilentNoMore/ PinoyAkoBlog is tantamount to silencing dissent against the Duterte administration. Never mind that, clearly, their own aim in unmasking unallied anonymous bloggers is to get them to shut up.
What Yellows conveniently keep neglecting, however, is that standing and credibility as dissent are not entitlements; they are earned. I say this with a bit of pride because I, along with other GRP writers, earned the stripes by being consistently focused on ideas regardless of who the dominant personalities in Filipino society and politics have been.
Now an obvious question is just begging to be asked: Can anyone objectively explain, why exposing Thinking Pinoy was ok, but doing the same with SilentNoMore/PinoyAkoBlog is not?
Before we get around to finally resolving the questions posed in both the title and in the previous paragraph, let’s elaborate more on how the Yellow playbook on anonymous bloggers has evolved (or not) since the time of the former administration.
Quite simply, the way LP supporters and Yellows regard anonymous blogging is self-serving and hypocritical. They are quick to get behind any anonymous blog that says what they like to hear, but are unsurprisingly hostile and condescending towards those they don’t agree with. How so? They pull out the “use your real name” card and insist that the blog does not have any credentials and standing to say what it says.
Because mainstream media (MSM) is predominantly sympathetic to the Aquinos and the LP, they are quick to label any other voice that contradicts them as fake news, never mind that these media outfits are themselves habitually into spinning their reportage, and passing off their opinions as news. Many blogs, on the other hand, are by nature opinion sites, with GRP falling into this category. Those who have followed GRP for quite some time know that it is not the blog’s objective to replace MSM, but to offer an alternative point of view to the heavily co-opted one promoted by MSM. People come to sites like GRP for the diversity of views and insight that its independent writers offer.
Of course, this does not sit well with the so-called thought leaders, who would like the monopoly on influence among social media and internet users. Which is how the fake news scare, and the race to silence opposing views, came about. Even RA 10175 mentioned previously was used in the hope of scaring BS Aquino’s online critics into submission. And yet, I can hardly remember any news about bloggers who were sued, or filed a case against, from that time. I wonder why. One thing I would like to believe, though, is that the lack of cases and the buzz surrounding them is not necessarily the critics’ fault.
Anonymous bloggers, like myself, realize that they have to prepare for eventually being unmasked themselves. I say this with utmost cynicism because there are no secrets in the Pinoy Paradise. For me, however, it is hard to feel sorry for unmasked bloggers because they should know very well the risks involved in making their thoughts public. Eventually someone influential is going to get offended by what you write, and will do everything to make you pay; the best defense is to make sure your writing is factually grounded and logically holds water. Writing founded on innuendo and unverified information is the kind that will definitely get you into trouble.
Anonymity shouldn’t really be a big determinant of credibility; the degree of intellectual honesty in the writing is. It is up to every writer to check, double check, to self-edit, and to be accountable for their work. It is up also up to every writer to be transparent about the objectives and vested interests that will influence their writing. Unfortunately, bloggers – especially those who write merely for the self-fulfillment of it – are uncontrollably dragged into the bad reputation that “paid hacks” incur – those who write to do hatchet jobs against designated targets.
If only Filipinos were more intellectually honest, self-accountable, and genuinely agenda free, then perhaps they wouldn’t have to deal with this mess of fake news, gaslighting, political correctness, and influence-peddling that they currently find themselves in.
As a final word, here’s something to think about: if unmasking you does indeed “silence” your dissent, then perhaps it was inherently flawed and unsustainable to begin with.
А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. – But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.