No Filipino will disagree that one of the biggest problems the Philippines faces is the quality of thinking of its populace. This is specially critical in a democratic society where popularity is power and specifically in the Philippines where leaders are elected by popular vote.
What is interesting to note is that the institutions of family and education are often singled out as disproportionately responsible for the sorts of citizens produced by Philippine society. To be fair, it is hard to argue against this. People spend their formative years and acquire much of their values within the families they are raised in and within the schools where they spend most of their waking hours growing up. As such, most of the calls to uplift the quality of the country’s citizenry is directed at families and schools.
Consider though that any initiative to improve something should include getting rid of factors that contribute to degrading it. In the case of people, implementing strategies to make people smarter should include a clear plan to eliminate factors that contribute to dumbing them down. Clearly, the biggest factor in the Philippines that dumbs down Filipinos is the entertainment industry. Something needs to be done about this.
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The late Supreme Court Justice Isagani Cruz wrote back in 2006 how serious a threat to national development the Philippine entertainment industry poses in the course of reaping enormous profits from its mediocre products…
The Philippine entertainment industry is not only a vast wasteland, as television has been described in America, but a vicious instrument for the abatement of the nation’s intelligence. The shows it offers for the supposed recreation of the people are generally vulgar and smutty, usually with some little moral lesson inserted to make them look respectable, but offensive nonetheless. On the whole, they are obnoxious and unwholesome and deserve to be trashed.
The indiscriminate audience eagerly laps them up because it has not been taught to be selective and more demanding of better quality shows for their pastime. In fact, the easily satisfied fans have been taught the exact opposite reaction — to accept whatever garbage the industry offers them and, to add insult to their injury, to pay for it too. The leaders of the entertainment industry are supposed to be responsible people but they have evaded their duty to elevate the taste of their mostly unthinking supporters. They have instead cheapened them into a mass of automated individuals whose ultimate joy is to roll up in the aisles at the lewd jokes of potential senators.
Indeed, it does not make sense to fill a pail with water if it has a big hole at its bottom out of which the precious fluid flows to waste. It also does not make sense going to the gym everyday if you feast on sweets, soda, and mounds of rice every meal time.
In other words, Filipinos cannot progress if their minds are stunted by bad movies and bad television. Under this light, it is easy to see that there is cause to apply drastic regulation to the sort of content being pumped out by the Philippines’ big media networks. There is something wrong with a business model that allows easy exploitation of stupidity — a business model that the operators of the top entertainment channels of the Philippines employ with impunity. They are no different to Big Tobacco. Indeed, it took decades before society came to the realisation that smoking was not only uncool but downright deadly. How long will it take for society to come to the same realisation when it comes to the crooked mass entertainment they routinely subject themselves to?
One need look no further than the topics routinely reported in social media “trending topic” reports to see the effect of the intellectual bankruptcy of the Philippines’ entertainment industry.
Indeed, many “thought leaders” look to “fact checking” as the silver bullet to combat the proliferation of “misinformation”. There is, however, strong evidence to show that there is a deeper root cause that needs to be addressed in order to uplift the nation’s thinking faculties. As long as people prefer to live in the fantasy world of batang yagit melodrama, canned laughter, and slapstick humour served to them by their entertainment networks, any amount of “factual” news reporting will neither change the way they think nor enable them to make more sound choices.
Filipinos need help — help in making the right choices and help in selecting what their minds consume. Mass entertainment is the opiate of the Filipino masses. It needs to be severely regulated in order for its ill effects to be mitigated. It is not surprising that media giants like ABS-CBN and the GMA Network often pander to the “cause” of “media freedom”. This is because media freedom is their license to continue feeding Filipinos crap. License is a privilege granted to licensees by authorities that are responsible for ensuring the best interests of the public are upheld in a free market. It’s time the Philippines’ authorities on mass media start doing their jobs.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.