The media and the partisans who presume to constitute the Philippine National “Debate” may have succeeded at dividing the Philippines into Dutertards and Yellowtards and, they presume, maintain a lively chatter that, they say, is the heart of a vibrant “democracy”. But whilst this chatter is generating a lot of noise, none of that noise seems to be turning into any real insight.
What constitutes insightful commentary is defined along very stringent lines which means that only a tiny elite community of commentators constitute the set of people who actually contribute insight to the “debate”. Insightful commentary is useful because it is readily converted to actionable intelligence. The opposite of insight is the 80 percent of content that infests the Net that fail to pass the So What? Test.
Only true thought leaders produce true insight. They live at the top of the intellectual food chain and apply a disaffected outsiders’ perspective when observing and evaluating the ecosystem they comment on and when formulating and articulating their theses and conclusions. The intellectual tools they apply are critical rather than reactive and are designed to mitigate the effects of emotional response and confirmation bias.
Intellectual added value, in short, is a parameter that varies up and down the intellectual food chain. In the political commentary industry we can actually use existing jargon to tier intellectual added value along notional roles and personal labels various players in the industry take to describe or define their work. At the bottom of the food chain are news reporters who trawl the streets for facts to populate the factual reports that make up the bulk of news media content. Feeding off these news reports (and perhaps their own fact-gathering from other sources and references) are “investigative journalists” who take facts and connect them with other facts to form compound facts and theories. The conclusions “investigative journalists” draw from “connecting the dots” are validated primarily by fact checking their component factual parts and determining whether the methods they use to string these parts together follows sound logic.
News reports and investigative journalism form the atoms and molecules of information that the next two work with.
Opinion-shapers are the intellectual alchemists who have a type of substance in mind as an end-state to achieve from which they backward-engineer ideas and frameworks into which they shoehorn news reports and “investigative journalism” to elicit an emotional response. Their primary tool of persuasion is appeal to emotion and their argument-of-last-resort is credentialism or appeal to authority.
Finally there are the true intellectual titans — those who eat planets and suns. These are the thought leaders. They exhibit astounding consistency grounded on first principles across time and conceptual space unparallelled by any of the bottom- to mid-tier feeders. As a result, the theses they form are more often than not innovative, original, and unprecedented. More importantly, their ideas are also timeless and anti-fragile (i.e. they grow more robust the more they are subject to critical evaluation). This is a rarefied domain where true thinking outside the square happens. This is where insight that fuels forward-thinking and strategic roadmapping is produced.
There you have it. The class hierarchy in the Philippine National “Debate” ordered from smallest to biggest intellectual added value to the discourse:
(1) News reporters
(2) Investigative journalists
(4) Thought leaders
No one person or entity does work exclusively for any one class. But one can be measured on how big a proportion of one’s work fits each one. A fun exercise would then be to classify the who’s who of social media personalities who contribute to the current political chatter along these lines.
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