The on-going hoo-ha over certain fears that certain spokespersons would “throw hollow blocks” (or cinder blocks, a popular low-cost building material used in the Philippines) on the heads of certain noted reporters from one of the big mainstream media outlets who, in turn, is threatening legal action against certain pro-administration bloggers for suggesting such an attack is telling of how one-dimensional Filipino minds work.
Here are the characters in this comedy-of-errors and the actual “offensive” quotes verbatim:
Malacanang spokesman Harry Roque as reported by the Inquirer on the 30th Oct 2017…
Binibigyan ko na po ng notice ‘yung mga walang hiya diyan na naninira lamang. Kung dati-rati hindi kayo nababato bagamat kayo’y nambabato, ngayon po maghanda na kayo dahil kung kayo’y nambato, hindi lang po bato itatapon ko sa inyo, hollow blocks…
Government consultant and popular pro-Duterte blogger RJ Nieto as reported by Rappler on the 3rd Nov 2017…
In the interview, Nieto asked Roque: “Pero, sir, kahit isang hollow block magbalibag naman kayo, sir, para ano lang pakagat lang ganoon,” then laughed. (But, sir, just throw one hollow block, sir, to give them a taste.)
Roque replied: “Pero dapat pipiliin din ang target.” (But we also have to choose the target.)
Nieto then shot back: “Kasi ako po, si Pia na lang po. Si Pia Ranada, sir.” (If it were me, I’d just choose Pia, Pia Ranada, sir.)
Rappler reporter Pia Ranada as posted on Twitter, the 3rd Nov 2017…
I’m calling out @dwiz882 for letting one of their hosts, RJ Nieto, ask Presidential Spox Harry Roque to throw a hollow block at me on air.
Harry Roque, presumably in response to Ranada’s tweet, as reported on the Inquirer on the 3rd Nov 2017…
To my DDS friends: Please leave Pia Ranada alone. Let us please not throw anything at legitimate journalists. Let’s give them, particularly the critical ones, hot pandesal instead…
Since that last statement issued by Roque, Nieto has become highly-critical of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointment of Roque as his spokesman and has posted a series of Facebook updates to articulate it. In one, he “tutored” Roque on how “legitimate journalists” treated Duterte since the campaign leading to the 2016 election and up to the present. In another, he suggested that the president replace Roque with Filipino comedian Roderick Paulate who (translated in English) “does not insult his supporters”.
Stepping back from this messed-up situation, it really comes down to the person where all this started — Malacanang spokesperson Harry Roque. Roque should really think twice about cracking jokes or, at best, making liberal use of figurative speech in his official statements. Filipinos, after all, are serial point-missers who habitually fail to comprehend higher forms of humour. Dry humour, black comedy, satire and even sarcasm, for example, routinely fly over the heads of most Filipinos. Evidence of this limited capacity for comprehending complex humour can be seen in the prevalence of slapstick comedy in Filipino entertainment and even in the political discourse where pedestrian commentary that focuses on literal off-the-hip interpretations of sound bytes and the hasty “analysis” spun around these gain the most traction.
This low-brow class of commentary on the back of mere superficial takes on deeply-complex national issues is behind the recent emergence of “resibo” culture amongst bottom-feeders in the political pundit community. Resibo is a term currently bandied around by “bloggers” associated primarily with the Opposition (specifically Liberal Party supporters a.k.a. the “Yellowtards”) who use it to demonstrate some kind of imagined intellectual ascendancy over all the rest within the context of a landscape on which a “war on truth” is being waged. Sounds nice within this community of minds hobbled by stunted comprehension faculties but is, ultimately, meaningless from the perspective of the more seasoned and more professional communicators higher up in the food chain who apply sound thinking to their work as a matter of routine.
It is before such an unsophisticated audience that Roque needs to do his job. Roque needs to recognise these cognitive limitations that characterise the way Filipinos consume information and adjust his style accordingly. He needs to reduce the amount of nuance and dimension in his work, make his style as straightforward as possible, and leave little room for misinterpretation. Indeed, the fact that some of the most prominent pundits and even so-called “journalists” in the mainstream feed off such trivial issues like this “hollow blocks” circus already demonstrates that this habitually-shallow — even intellectually-bankrupt — manner with which important discussions are glibly conducted has become a disturbing norm amongst the chattering classes.
For sure, Roque is facing a steep learning curve he will need to traverse to get on top of the Malacanang communications game. When you’ve got influential bloggers who wield their million-strong followers like a personal shotgun and shrill media womanocracies nipping at your heels, you will need to learn how to clamber up coconut trees really fast. What you do with those coconuts once you are up there looking down upon the baying dogs below, Mr. Roque, we will leave to the imagination for now. For the benefit of some of our readers, that last sentence was an attempt at half-meant humour.
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