Back in October 2016, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa wrote about how an army of trolls have “weaponized the Internet” and that she is the protagonist in a “propaganda war” waged by an enemy that is “chipping away at facts, using half-truths that fabricate an alternative reality by merging the power of bots and fake accounts on social media to manipulate real people.” Ressa’s fellow rapplerite, Chay Hofilena chimed in, writing in another article how many of these trolls are “sockpuppets” that “act according to how a puppeteer motions them.”
To give credit to Ressa and Hofilena, the grand conspiracy theory they laid out over those articles was quite prescient. Almost a year later, in an explosive exposé released recently by blogger RJ Nieto (a.k.a. Thinking Pinoy), a vast operation that fit Ressa’s and Hofilena’s conspiracy theory to a tee was uncovered revealing a Google AdSense money trail that seemingly leads to one staunch Liberal Party “Yellow” camp supporter Cocoy Dayao. And, thus, #CocoyGate is born. Dayao, as it turns out is also a former consultant of some sort of the administration of former Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III and, not surprisingly, has kept mum on the subject.
So has Philippine mainstream media — also not surprisingly. It is quite interesting that the issue of “fake news” which Ressa and other rapplerites as well as other mainstream “thought leaders” have been screeching about over many shrill articles is made out to be such an important problem in one instance and is now, in this instance, evidently being deliberately buried. Why this is so is a no-brainer. The idea that “fake news” is an evil nation-destroying scourge is premised on the assumption that its purveyors are associated with the anti-disente camp of current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Justification for the effort to bury #CocoyGate amongst this clique of like-minded “influencers” is encapsulated in a tweet fielded by the venerable social media personality Noemi ‘Momblogger’ Dado who asserts…
I stand by @cocoy. #CocoyGate is a distraction to critical issues like extrajudicial killings, @OmbudsmanPh investigation.
This is the same person who wrote at length about the scourge of ‘fake news’, offering tips on how ordinary netizens could prevent its spread in her own late-2016 article Tools and Strategies to Determine Fake News, Half-Truths, from Real News. That Dado would write at length in such detail about “fake news” attests to how important she considers the subject to be. Yet today we see the selectiveness with which she, like Ressa, Hofilena, and other “infuencers” who presumably “stand by Cocoy”, seek to brush aside what is otherwise one for the books. Indeed, #CocoyGate is a brilliant case study on the fall of a vast social media PR machine built upon a foundation of intellectual dishonesty — one that deserves an entire chapter in public relations textbooks to come.
Perhaps Dado and her ilk should learn to find in their pointed heads the intellectual humility needed to take on board the wise words of a commenter who responded to her tweet, suggesting that, “The fight against Fake News should hit purveyors of such whichever side they are.”
Suffice to say, the “truth” is not being killed by “fake news” per se but by those who have the power to highlight it but, instead, choose to bury it.
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- Maria Ressa plays the “Assault on Press Freedom” card again - December 3, 2018