The Philippines joined other authoritarian nations in southeast Asia to ban the film Abominable, a joint production by DreamWorks and China’s Pearl Studio.
The animated film about a Chinese teenager helping a yeti return to his home shows a chart featuring the “nine-dash” line which sets out Beijing’s expansive claims to the flashpoint waters.
By including the U-shaped line, the movie — a joint production by DreamWorks and China’s Pearl Studio — has stumbled into a festering row that has long been a source of friction between Beijing and Southeast Asia.
The Philippines’ community of “woke” Netizens are, as expected, ecstatic. This community is at the core of the Philippines’ political Opposition camp and have been railing against what they perceive to be increasingly troublesome Chinese influence over the Philippines under the government of President Rodrigo Duterte. The trouble is, they are exhibiting yet again the very inconsistency that had become a feature of their style of “activism”.
Free markets and free expression are at the core of the problematic state of affairs here. Unlike the rest of most of southeast Asia, the Philippines styles itself as a liberal Western-style “democracy” with an economy where capital freely flows to where return on it is highest. Perhaps Abominable, in its portrayal of Chinese interests, offends the “woke” crowd of snowflake “activists”. But does it break any laws? Does its producers use it as a tool to unfairly influence the market using illegally obtained information, monopolistic behaviour, or to spread misinformation through dishonest means?
As usual, the top “thought leaders” of the Opposition apply a selective lens to who they condemn for dishonest expression of political positions. Some time back, for example, a CNBC report revealed that Rappler CEO Maria Ressa had engaged the services of “lobbying juggernaut” Covington & Burling to boost her PR campaign against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. This, and an ongoing investigation on allegations of her company’s foreign ownership — illegal under Philippine law — arguably makes Ressa and Rappler a candidate for banning using the same arguments used against Abominable today.
The bigger point the Philippines’ “woke” crowd are missing is that, in a free market, consumers can simply opt not to patronise products that they find unsuitable to their needs or, in this case, a source of personal offense. They can even call for a boycott of the movie, and that’s perfectly alright.
However, rather than rely on the free market to determine what flies or not, many of these so-called “activists” — many of whom are noisy advocates of free expression, free inquiry, and are self-styled anti-authoritarianism campaigners — prefer, as in this instance, to call for outright censorship. Ironic, right? Inconsistent, definitely.
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