Last of three parts.
2013 elections and social (and online) media reveal its class. And its limitations. Social media screamed bloody dynasty at the Binays during the May electoral campaign, when Jejomar’s daughter Nancy decided to run for the Senate, she with no track record of public service whatsoever. This pointed to an arrogance really, where fielding Nancy as Senator was to say that it doesn’t matter why she qualifies, what matters is that her last name is Binay. Yet what this also pointed to was social media’s double standard, where no one even spoke of Bam Aquino running for the Senate, presidential cousin as he is. What, everyone thinks that Bam’s social entrepreneurship stands for “public service”? Then why could we not be critical of precisely that, too, when there is plenty that is wrong with a platform that runs purely on entrepreneurship?
Or you know, why could we not be critical of an Aquino running for the Senate while the President is an Aquino, in the same way that we were angry that a Binay was running for the Senate while the Vice President is a Binay? The call against dynasties is one that should cut across every political family that has continued to reign in towns and provinces in this country, it should not excuse one and condemn the other.
Too, in the end, Nancy and Bam won, thanks to the names they were born with. No thanks to the name-calling and un-critical discourse on dynasties on social media.
#YolandaPH. The truth is that as expected and as always, social media would rise to the occasion of people in need in times of tragedy. The biggest storm in the world to make landfall killed thousands, and flattened whole towns and cities and provinces. Life as people knew it in these places changed, and starting over has yet to begin.
The worst of times, of course, either brings out the best in us, or the worst in us. And no, this is not gearing up to talk about the Philippine government— I’ve talked about that enough in this space. One of the bigger elephants in the room when we talk about this tragedy though is that of national mainstream (online, print, broadcast) media’s failings in relation to Yolanda, which has everything to do with this question: why did we need Anderson Cooper to tell us all—and the world— about how bad things were on the ground? Why did we need international media to drive home the point of dire need, hunger and thirst in Tacloban and other parts of Eastern Visayas? Why did they need to be the ones to show the world the dead lining the streets, the lack of hospitals and medical assistance, the absence of authority and control?
That we needed international media to tell these stories four days after the storm hit, that it was international media that would break this story, is something our own media institutions must reckon with. Because members of the media from Manila were in Tacloban before, during and after the storm. Because we made a hero out of Atom Araullo for reporting in the rain about . . . uh . . . how strong the rain was (look! it’s breaking glass!), and we know Ted Failon and Love Añover survived the storm, too. And yet we could not depend on them to come out with the stories that we needed to hear. I cannot for the life of me believe that no one focused on the number of evacuees in the Tacloban Convention Center, and so now we do not know how many exactly perished in the astrodome, how many were just taken by the sea as it surged into the convention center.
It makes one believe that a news blackout was in effect— and no, you cannot use as excuse the fact of no electricity. Because it still feels like a news blackout really, where media continues to come out with the stories that are expected, as if the usual and normal does justice to a tragedy of this magnitude. If media were truly an alternative institution out to serve the Filipino people, it would have the sense to do a parallel count of the dead, instead of letting government manipulate the numbers. If media were truly about telling this story, they would know that first-person accounts are key to a better understanding of what wasn’t done at all, what should have been done, and where things are at this point. The human interest story is not what we need right now, as it does not do justice to the stories and needs of those affected. The task at this point should be one of erasure, where the reporter’s voice, the writer’s pretty words, are deemed irrelevant to the telling of the Yolanda story.
But it seems our media practitioners have yet to realize that the trappings of being “celebrity” is a trap in itself, where being hero only means being there, running after stories, taking photos and videos (of self even), and forgetting really that there are stories to be listened to and shared, with no intervening or mediating voice.
We measured our national mainstream media—print, online, television, radio— against Yolanda, and what did we find? Media fashioned itself the hero, and as such, failed tremendously at being so.