The irony in the clique of “social media influencers” who hosted an event dubbed a forum on “Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls and Bots” just flies over people’s pointed heads. The event was organised “by the Journalism for Nation Building Foundation (JNBF), Rappler, and other stakeholder groups”. This is not mentioning, of course, that “other stakeholder groups” very likely only included groups who agree with the organisers on all points.
So the dynamics of this little powow played out quite predictably. Basically, it was a gathering of onion-skinned crybabies from mainstream media (or those who closely schmooze with its execs) who cannot accept they are losing the battle to secure their traditional dominance over the discourse. They discussed how “bots” and “trolls” are supposedly having a chilling effect on “dissenters” but seemed to conveniently ignore the nature of key personalities in their ranks such as Florin Hilbay and Tonyo Cruz who are notorious for blocking all dissenting opinion and even making downright slanderous claims on their Twitter accounts.
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Indeed, Cruz in particular, was part of a panel of “experts” discussing, get this, the “limits of free speech”. Considering that Cruz sees no limit to his entitlement to making slanderous remarks about other social media personalities, it comes across as quite rich to see him part of this picture. Even more interesting is how “serial blockers” such as Cruz and Hilbay seem to be inconsistent with their own amigos in these little cliques when it comes to dealing with “trolls”. The eminent “journalist” Ed Lingao who sat with Cruz in this panel, for one, insists: “You have to engage them (trolls) because we cannot leave the internet to them.” Unfortunately Lingao stopped short of calling out deserters in his camp like Cruz and Hilbay whose cowardices are contributing to their mounting loss of territory to the enemy “trolls”.
The inconsistency is surprising considering that this particular panel was a notably inbred one. Aside from Cruz and Lingao, two other celebrated heart-bleeders — Caloy “God’s Gift to Philippine Human Rights” Conde and Leloy “The Atenean – period” Claudio — sat as members in this panel to add to the din of mutual high-fives being verbally exchanged. Not really sure what kind of thinking went into deciding on the composition of this panel, but one would think that such a panel would have been made more dynamic had it been a bit more diverse in terms of points of view and partisan leanings represented.
Two words can describe what went on in that panel: intellectual dishonesty. Indeed, that term can even be extended to describe the bigger soirée overall. The output of this affair cannot really be considered to be a good basis for drawing conclusions if the scope of input excluded such a broad swathe of the social media landscape. More inclusiveness would have contributed to making this occassion and its outcomes a bit more credible. Instead it merely sent out and reenforced the same messages that are pre-engineered to appeal to a narrow subset of the broader community of social media communicators. In short, it all seemed quite contrived — even scripted.
Rather than address the root cause of why the mainstream is rapidly losing ground and why its credibility is on a death spiral, the notion of a “fake news” epidemic and an invasion of online “trolls” is put up as a scapegoat and a strawman to wax liberal rhetoric around. This focus on burning “fake news” and the “trolls” who bear them in effigy has reduced these Catholic-school educated latte-sipping clique of “activists” into no more than a swarm of moths flying around the liberal light in ever-smaller circles. They mirror the sad picture painted in the post-mortem written by Trent Lapinski of the catastrophic loss of the United States’ Democrats to current US President Donald Trump in the last elections…
By only following other liberals on social media, and only reading liberal or corporate news, once again ignoring reality. When Hillary Clinton was caught rigging the primary against Bernie Sanders, and Democrats nominated her anyway they ignored reality.
Everyone was simply insulating themselves within their own echo chamber ignoring anything outside their bubble.
…which may as well be the post-mortem on the crushing defeat of the Philippines’ own Liberal Party in the 2016 elections. From what we’ve seen in the way “Truth, Trust, and Democracy in the Age of Selfies, Trolls and Bots” was conducted, it seems none of the hard lessons had been learned.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.