The Philippines is a paradise for con men and carpetbaggers. Because Filipinos lack a substantial foundation of principles to stabilise their journey through life, it is easy to use modern technology and basic persuasion techniques to herd them in different directions. It is a nation of 100 million people just asking to be milked of their hard-earned OFW remittances. Just toss Filipinos a basketball, a glossy Korean telenovela, a sound byte from a popular celebrity, a noisy “Senate Inquiry” circus, a cleverly-crafted slogan, or a gone-viral outrage fad and they’ll flock around like pigeons to breadcrumbs. I call these the opiates of the Filipino masses. They are the pipes that enable the crafty entrepeneur to siphon the last peso off the pockets of the 100 million cash cows lazily grazing off the Philippines’s abundant natural resources.
That’s just the free market economy at work. The folk who make the big bucks are the folks clever enough to invest in the development and implementation of systems that create capital and harvest income off resources employed by said system. As such, there really is no point in demonising people and entitites that “monopolise” control over the economy. Domination of a market is always the end-game of astute players in a free market. The only things in a market that will keep that desire to dominate in check is competition.
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“Fake news” is the latest bogeyman seen by many as a threat to everything decent and one blamed for the “death of truth”. Doomsayers are also warning that it has all but dominated mass media and edged out legit players like corporate media and “ethical” bloggers. But, really, what these “fake news” crybabies don’t realise is that there are far more lucrative businesses that “kill truth” out there that enjoy not only a blanket get-out-of-jail pass but institutional protection from vilification. Popular noontime shows like Eat Bulaga, for example, are renowned entertainment institutions that for decades fed off the poverty and ignorance of its audience to deliver popular low-brow “entertainment” — one of those opiates of the masses that big marketers and corporate sponsors salivate over to the tune of billions of pesos spent on advertising and product endorsement.
The Roman Catholic Church is another purveyor of brain-killing mass opiates that feeds off fear, ignorance and intellectual poverty. The Catholic Church is even more insidious as it sells its vast reach and influence to the highest-bidding politicians. Proof of this has, time and again, been exhibited in the way it used its “pastoral letters” and the homily sections of its widely-attended “holy sacrifices of the mass” to disseminate sermons that deliver politically-potent payloads.
‘Fake news’ just happens to be the easy target of the moment of ‘activists’ — because it is the new kid on the block in a neighbourhood already crowded with legal and untouchable mass-scammers such as Eat Bulaga and the Catholic Church. It is easy for the Philippines’ disente “thought leaders” to mount their quaint crusades against “fake news”, simply because it is an ill-defined enemy.
Interestingly enough, as recent events have revealed, once a tangible aspect of this shadowy enemy is put on the spotlight — like Cocoy Dayao, for example — these crusades suddenly become complicated. Dayao and his circle of admiring “thought leaders” are institutions in the social media cliques of the Liberal Party (a.k.a. the “Yellowtards”). So when popular blogger RJ Nieto recently released a damning report that seemingly put Dayao at the centre of a vast network of anti-government websites (some of which are known producers of content that fits the label “fake news”), suddenly the anti-“fake news” crusade was no longer as simple as its champions made it out to be.
Once partisanship infects a debate, clear and critical thinking goes out the door — not that the “debate” around “fake news” has ever enjoyed any semblance of clarity. We have seen in this recent “Senate inquiry” on “fake news” that the introduction of personalities — such as the no-show Dayao and the unfortunate lot of pro-Duterte bloggers RJ Nieto and Mocha Uson who signed their death warrant by walking into this den of thieves — into the “debate” easily turns everything untenably political.
Who ends up laughing all the way to the bank? Ultimately those who profit the most from the scourge of “fake news”. For now, the politicisation of the “fake news” debate turns one camp or the other into either the good guys or the bad guys in this raging drama. That’s just a function of the political wind of the moment. The real winners will be those who find the best means to profit from all of that. For some insight into that, it is best that we turn to the experts — those who are veteran owners and managers of the, shall we say, more institutionalised traders of the Philippines’ more traditional opiates of its masses.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.