2nd of three installments.
Pol Medina leaves his mainstream pugad. And finds another mainstream pugad really, that thought it wonderful that you could choose-your-own-punchline on comic strips. But that’s getting ahead of the story. First was a Pugad Baboy strip that was submitted by Medina in April of this year, which was rejected by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It would then be published in June to public social media outcry.
This would earn the ire of the St. Scholastica’s College for the strip’s statement that (1) there are no pretty St. Scho students who are not with girlfriends, and (2) that maybe even the nuns of St. Scho are lesbians too?
That St. Scho would react the way it did, sending PDI a letter about how they’ve taken offense and might file charges, is understandable. That Medina at the onset was confused: What’s going on exactly? Am I fired? Is the strip merely suspended? Am I merely suspended? And later on was absolutely apologetic, and in the end resigned from PDI, was the honorable thing to do. That it would fuel a discussion about freedom of expression was off-the-mark: this man who was gainfully employed as contributor to this mainstream broadsheet knew he had gone overboard. He apologized to the nuns of St. Scho, as he did to the institution that had nurtured his strip for more than 20 years.
That a particular sector of St. Scho alumni would go on and build a Facebook page standing by Medina and calling out St. Scho for its threat to file a lawsuit against the comics artist was just as off-putting. Medina, because he had apologized, had already agreed with the St. Scho nuns that he had overstepped his right to free expression. But also this group was fashioning itself to be speaking for all St. Scho alumni saying: “”We are the best people to speak up about this incident: Natamaan ba tayo? Hindi. (Are we hurt? No.).” Failing to consider that before they even put up the page, Angela Stuart-Santiago, St. Scho alumnus batch HS 1966, had already blogged about her own take on the issue, and was in fact taking offense. Wouldn’t she have also been the “best to speak about this incident”?
And this is why the question of other generations of St. Scho students was / is important: it forces us to discuss cultural production vis a vis the imperative and impulses that inform reception and offense. It would’ve been great had these St. Scho alumni gathered the courage to engage in a public discussion about the exclusive girls school and lesbianism through the years. It would’ve been great were they capable of leveling up the discussion about satire and comedy, about what the changing populace and generations find funny and what they do not, and how the LGBT cause has evolved with the making of humor, and how the latter hasn’t.
It would’ve been great had they sustained the discussion, at the very least, and not left it with nothing but a Facebook page declaring love for Pol Medina. But no, the LGBT cause is not that lucky.
Getting away with plagiarism. I imagine that we will think that the bigger story of plagiarism was that of the University of the Philippines student Mark Joseph Solis, who had won the Smiles for the World photo contest of Chilean Ambassador Roberto Mayorga. Gregory John Smith later claimed the winning photo his, something that Solis had swiped off his Flickr account. It would later be found out that in fact Solis had plagiarized many times over, this was just the first time that he was caught.
Social media went crazy, where the story became about Solis being a UP student, which made this moment of plagiarism a surprise. I, meanwhile, was surprised that many even thought being a UP student means anything extraordinary still. Disillusionment came late for too many it seems.
And yet it seems that for other things we do not become disillusioned at all, neither do we insist on apologies. The bigger story of plagiarism is not an individual act of plagiarism, but an institutional one. Self-proclaimed “new” media site Rappler.com’s team members would commit some glaring acts of plagiarism in 2013, yet few on social media would respond with raised fists of any kind. Certainly not with the same kind of anger against Senator Tito Sotto when he was caught plagiarizing an anti-Reproductive Health speech.
Though probably the biggest online booboo was when Rappler CEO Maria Ressa responded to DZIQ’s Erwin Aguilar on Twitter, when the latter charged Rappler with using one of his photos without permission. Ressa, in her usual I’m-the-boss-of-social-and-online-media tone says: “Social networks are in public domain. Something to keep in mind.”
It was laughable to say the least, that someone who runs a purported “new” media site, which is really just putting mainstream writing, on the Internet, would reveal how skewed her thinking is about plagiarism and the Internet. Because in fact lifting a photograph off anyone’s Facebook page without permission is plagiarism. Even getting permission to use a photo, and then watermarking it with the Rappler logo? Unethical practice.
But maybe one can’t expect ethics from a site with a CEO who thinks that social media is public domain. Especially since it seems to have Pinoy social media in the palm of its hands.
The only thing I am thankful to Rappler for is how it has inspired the creation of The Spin Busters website, one where the heads of the sacred cows of journalism are had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Now that’s some online success for 2013.
this was written for and published under the RADIKALCHICK column in The Manila Times, January 2 2014.