There is something disturbingly familiar about the way Maria Ressa, CEO of “social news network” Rappler, blames social media giant Facebook for her troubles and even that of the Philippines’. In a recent tweet, Ressa cites the news report, Mark Zuckerberg makes ‘fixing’ Facebook a personal goal for 2018 (which she republished on Rappler) and adds…
[…] #DearMark, please start with the Philippines and emerging democracies
It is a presumptuous tweet where Ressa bizarrely concludes that whatever is supposedly “broken” about Facebook is the cause of the Philippines’ political problems.
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Ressa presumably refers to her pet peeve about Facebook — a platform, one need be reminded, that served as the foundation for the whole being of her “social news network” — implementing an algorithm that, she claims, prioritises for display in its users’ timelines other people’s “fake news” over her “fake news”. She blames this algorithm for supporting the spread of content that influences Filipinos to vote for the “wrong” politicians and be on the “wrong” side of pertinent national issues. More to the point, she blames Facebook for not controlling the armies of “bots” and “trolls” who had all but “weaponised” the Internet against her and Rappler.
Perhaps she is right. Or perhaps not. Filipinos are renowned for habitually blaming external factors for the wretched state of their society. First it was the “evil” colonial and imperialist powers that they blamed for “oppressing” their lot. Then it was the “evil” former President Ferdinand Marcos and his “Martial Law regime” who had impoverished their country. Encompassing all that is how Filipinos see their destinies and fortunes subject to the whims of a vindictive God or the machinations of the Evil One down there himself. Or it could be vast conspiracies being mounted by “evil” capitalist multinational corporations to oppress the lumpenproletariat.
Everyone and everything else is at fault for Filipinos’ impoverishment — except Filipinos themselves, that is. So the Filipino way of thinking goes.
In blaming the new 21st Century God and his religion — Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook respectively — for the Philippines’ troubles Ressa has styled herself as the quintessential 21st Century demagogue. If Ressa had her way, she’d see Filipinos now regarding Facebook and Zuckerberg as the new “Evil One” to revolt against — much the same way as how the Yellowtards put up Marcos as the key antagonist of their “EDSA Revolution”, how the commies put up the “evil Capitalist” and the “US-[insert current president here] Dictatorship” as the all-powerful oppressive forces Filipinos are up against, and, before them, how the Katipuneros put up the Spaniards as the single biggest roadblock to fulfilling a national destiny.
Ressa conveniently forgets, however, that way before Facebook was even a twinkle in Zuckerberg’s eye, Filipinos were already getting behind the wrong politicians and betting on the wrong arguments in the “national debate”. Back in 2000 (before the term “social media” even existed) an “admired Filipino economist, based in New York” wrote about the Philippine National “Debate” which she described as “droll and unintelligent, focused on the trivial or the irrelevant.”
When the issues are of some significance, it’s the wrong arguments that prevail, the wrong side wins. Logic and common sense take the backseat to political arguments and the views of the poorly-educated.
In short, even before Facebook was revealed as the “Evil One” by Ressa’s demented mind, the roots of the Philippines’ political dysfunction were already deeply-embedded in Philippine society: lack of common sense, highly-politicised discourse, and a poorly-educated electorate.
Indeed, to this day, many Filipinos still do not understand the role their “democracy” plays in putting accountability for the fortunes of a country squarely upon the shoulders of the Filipino Voter. For example, one “online activist” pompusly proclaimed that “We need a mechanism against Trapos (“traditional politicians”) like you,” which she directed to embattled Senator Sherwin Gatchalian. This “activist”, it seems, forgot that such a “mechanism against trapos” is currently in place. It’s called national elections.
Filipinos, in effect, already have all the needed tools to influence how their government works and serves. They just lack the skills and the intellect to use these tools properly. Social media is one such tool. But if we were to subscribe to Ressa’s logic, faulty carpentry can be blamed on the hammer and not on the carpenter.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.