Sunday ∗ 29 Jul 2012

the emperor’s new what?

i do not understand this insistence that PNoy calling out Noli de Castro and TV Patrol on doing commentary instead of straightforward news delivery, is like the emperor’s new clothes. is like a kid having the temerity to tell the emperor, you’re naked sir, everyone — including yourself — has been duped into thinking you’re wearing something.

this is to say that Noli etal don’t know what they’re doing? that they were duped into doing what they’re doing? that this large news and public affairs enterprise is oblivious to the truths they live off, the ones that allow media to sensationalize yet insist on the honesty of our public officials? naman. certainly this shift in the way news is delivered, the decision to take Noli back, the change of having Noli (and Korina and Ted on TV Patrol, Julius, Karen and Ces on late evening news) do commentary in the midst of news delivery, was a conscious decision. in fact these news and public affairs personalities obviously agreed to this shift because why would we otherwise be given this wondrous display of absolutely biased opinion in a space that’s supposed to be about the news? no one’s duped this media enterprise into doing what it does. and in no universe must they be seen  as victims, made to believe they’re wearing something invisible.

and i cannot imagine that PNoy is one innocent boy, ay sus, calling the media out like this. how can he be innocent when he’s the one who has taken offense? and no, he isn’t the first to speak about media’s biases, as so many others have. if anything, that media enterprises, new and old and everything in between, are only discussing this now, is telling of how it has to be the president calling them out: everyone else can be ignored,


that is the bigger crisis here: so if the President doesn’t call you out, you’re doing something right? the buck stops with him as far as speaking the truth about media is concerned? is this what we meant to do? give PNoy this amount of power to say which media enterprise, which media entity, is doing this correctly? properly? and which ones are doing it wrong? PNoy’s become media’s “innocent” watchdog? the boy who calls us out on what were wearing because he knows not to pretend? goodness. goodness.

When the President calls the media out for being biased against government, for writing incessantly about what he perceives to be negative things, when because of the latter he invokes crab mentality, it does seem like the pits for media, doesn’t it. Even more so when the Vice President calls media out on an obvious spin. We can only shake our heads.

It’s the pits because we know this to some extent, at this point in time, to be true. The choice of what stories are relevant to cover, of talking about the President’s love life for example, or picking the angle that’s negative about a story, is borne of the lack of balance that the media works with in general. And while these stories are telling of the kind of government we have, it is also telling of the kind of stories the media thinks it tells objectively. Here is where we realize that when what’s invoked is objectivity, media must know it is talking to itself.

Because opinion and commentary aren’t about that. Because opinion and commentary is about being responsible, yes, but only with one’s perspective, one’s own reading of what is right and wrong and in-between. The lifeblood of this kind of writing has always been the self-aware critique of one’s world. That in these wired times it is the negative commentary that’s shared and re-tweeted, is telling of the readership and not the writer. When grounded in the truths that befall institutions and dysfunctions, the commentary is society’s best friend, the opinion pages a source of wisdom, a reason for hate. Done well, opinion and commentary are the complete opposites of crab mentality.

News and reportage, meanwhile, might have it better: it can reassess its role, reconfigure its notions of how things have become, towards making the spin less obvious, maybe going back to showing every nook and cranny of a story versus just taking one side and running with it. Mainstream media can go back to that, and leave the critical slant, the obviously opinionated angle, to commentary, whether in print or on TV, even more so online. Media can go back to being critical watchdogs that demand of the public the ability at discernment, that do not presume what the public wants to read, but decides that all stories are worth telling, all voices worth hearing, all angles worth getting, the more the merrier.

Otherwise media can only give the impression that it is ultimately and still an entity that will bow down to this country’s powers-that-be, if not one that might be bought and owned by every other institution in this country, from the government to the Church, capitalists to oligarchs. Because media, even the purportedly new, has yet to actually take control of that double-edged sword of profit and capital, and has yet to work with notion(s) of independence and freedom, full stop. Granted that these are not easy things to juggle, but if there’s anything that current technology allows us to imagine it’s precisely the possibilities for creating new and exciting spaces for intelligent discourse, where money can be a question, but does not need to be the point.

Because the moment money is the point, then it becomes even easier to imagine that anyone with the money and power can just scold media and threaten them into silence. After all, there is much to fear in a country that still operates on guns goons gold as the journalist-victim of violence would know. Contrary to what the media imagines about its responsibilities, what we need here is a sense of the good, bad and ugly about us, throw in every nook and cranny, and every tangent in-between. That this sounds like a dream is telling of how we’ve been living in this nightmare.

excerpt from “Oh What a Circus” in Rogue Magazine, June 2012 issue.

Posted in: bayan, gobyerno, kapitalista, komentaryo, media, pulitika

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