Monday ∗ 12 Dec 2011

the Marge and Jeremy show

i’m one to dish it out and so i know to take it, too. and i will apologize, i will admit to my own faults, as i already have in this case. but Mr. Jeremy Baer has not only attacked me twice, refusing to accept my apology; Dra. Margarita Holmes has also moved the discussion from her and my private Facebook pages to her Facebook fanpage. and so it seems about right to take this one on with as much kindness as they have.

i misattributed this question to Dr. Margarita Holmes in the 13th paragraph from the Rhian and Mo article: “Dr. Margie Holmes asks on Facebook: why weren’t they careful?”

after which i say: “We are after all living in a time when there seems to be no excuse for accidental pregnancies, a time when information might easily be had about birth control. But that is not true.”

about which she sends me a private facebook message:

in the comments section of the link to the article that i myself posted on her Facebook wall (obviously thinking she’d want to read it) she said this. and with it is my response.

Jeremy Baer, husband of Dra. Holmes, launched his first attack in response to the above exchange, quoted below with my own explanations, and pertinent quotes from the second attack he wrote when relevant.

From: Jeremy Baer, asawa ni Dra Holmes
(Primarily) for: Katrina Stuart Santiago but to you

That’s it?!!?
This woman puts words in your mouth that are untrue. Words that you supposedly said, about a subject you know about, makes you come out looking like an idiot, and all she says is, and I quote: “Katrina Stuart Santiago ooooh, yes you’re right tita. the discussion is what became about why they weren’t careful. yours was just mo. true true. that correction should be easy to make though. :)”

let me begin by saying, as i have said in that previous apology, and as is clear with this exchange from someone i call “Tita” and that doesn’t happen for many people in my world if you’re not my relative, that i was working with the fact not just of familiarity, but also with the tone that Dra. Holmes took with me in her reprimand. in the PM she said it was a “minor correction” in the Facebook wall comment she said “itty bitty correction” and a “slight tampo.” she ended that PM with “lovelovelove.”

and so i was wrong in thinking that Dra. Holmes’ tone was equal to how offended she was by that mistake? or i was wrong about thinking that she was giving me a kind reprimand? and i’ve apologized for reading wrongly the tone in the words of someone i respect enough to call “Tita” and who seemed to have been treating me like a “pamangkin” of sorts. Mr. Baer’s accusations though deserve a response too:

This woman puts words in your mouth that are untrue. Words that you supposedly said, about a subject you know about, makes you come out looking like an idiot.

here is where a textual misinterpretation is clear to me. when i said  “Dra. Margie Holmes asks on Facebook: why weren’t they careful?” all i meant to attribute to Dra. Holmes because she was “asking” is that question “why weren’t they careful?” and not the statements that followed it, i.e., “We are after all living in a time when there seems to be no excuse for accidental pregnancies, a time when information might easily be had about birth control. But that is not true.”

Mr. Baerns says i made his wife “look like an idiot” in this section. Dra. Holmes says in her comment above that having mistakenly attributed this question to her that “perhaps could be interpreted” as her saying that “there is no excuse for accidental pregnancies.” but that is not at all what the question “why weren’t they more careful?” means. in fact that latter question is everything and valid, and all i follow it up with — which i do not attribute to Dra. Holmes — is the fact that it is not easy to be careful in these shores.

but that is all moot and academic precisely because i have apologized for that wrong question attributed to her, and as i tell her in my comment, it was what that thread ended up being about, given the question she started with:

but also if i am to nitpick, in fact Dra. Holmes herself kept agreeing with people who in that same comments thread actually said that rhian was as much at fault:

so Dra. Holmes in fact agrees that responsibility falls on Rhian too, and not just on Mo, which in fact points to the question: “why weren’t they more careful?”

and yes that is my interpretation of Dra. Holmes’ stand on this issue, as she and her husband have interpreted what i’ve written, too.

but Mr. Baer has got more things to say:

First, if the correction is easy to make, why hasn’t she done it yet? I’ve just checked. Not only does she attribute a wrong sentence to you; she then corrects you about your supposed misperception. Then she doesn’t even apologise for doing this, once you have drawn her attention to it with your comments. Bloody cheek.

first, i attributed one question to Dra. Holmes, which if you read that thread of comments in fact is practically a question she herself validates. two, the apology or lack thereof is premised again on the kind of reprimand that it was — my bad for misreading the kind of tone Dra. Holmes took with me.

third, re the correction not being made right away: i have no access to the backend of GMANewsOnline, and as such could not have put in that correction myself. as this happened on a weekend (Saturday December 10), i did send my correction to my editor, but knew it would probably have to wait until the following Monday (December 12). ah, but that doesn’t stand with Mr. Baer, as he says in his second attack, after he refused to accept my apology, that:

3 Your excuse for the late response was that GMA doesn’t work on weekends. Perhaps that is true, or perhaps you made it seem not that important. I find it hard to believe that, unlike other news agencies that take themselves seriously, they would not have 24/7 service. This is a news story, and you represent them.

and also:

Perhaps she didn’t spell out that she wanted you to do it immediately but that is what journalists should do automatically when they are serious about their job and hate to find that they have twisted other people’s words. As soon as they realise their mistake, they do something about it, not think waiting over the weekend is ok. After all, you could have made an correction on your wall, and on Dr Holmes’s wall as well.

number one: there is no reason to bring in the 24/7 service, or lack thereof, of GMANewsOnline. this was an opinion piece, one that appears on their site, one that’s all mine, mistakes and all. i am a fulltime freelance writer, and i am not an employee or a boss at GMANewsOnline. in this article as in most of my writing i represent no one but myself. that is clear to anyone who reads me, anywhere online and in print. whether or not i represent any of the publications i write for is a matter of interpretation: what is clear to me and to my editors is that i’ve always kept my freedom to write what i want, how i want it. and they are free to refuse any of my pieces as i am only a contributing writer.

number two: i had corrected that mistake — not a twisting of words at all but a question not even in quotes — but knew of the standard time it takes for corrections to come in. this is not about me waiting on a correction to be made. were this something that appeared in a broadsheet you’d have to wait at least a full week for corrections and errata and apologias. i responded to Dra. Holmes on that same day she posted that comment. that my response was not up to Mr. Baer’s standards confuses me: i was not talking to him.

but given Mr. Baer’s anger, one that was not at all in Dra. Holmes’ note and comments to me, i did write that apology on my blog, and did put it on my wall, as it was posted on the thread in which the attack had happened.

number three: THIS IS NOT A NEWS STORY. this is an opinion piece, as all of my writing is, two of the more recent ones Dra. Holmes had praised. this one she herself praised not just in that PM, but also right above that comment slash reprimand.

this brings me to number four: Dra. Holmes gave me the impression here that what was more important was what i said in the rest of that article, extraneous to the “itty bitty correction” and “slight tampo” she had with me. the sense of urgency was not there at all, but again, that is apparently my fault for misinterpreting Dra. Holmes’ tone.

Mr. Baer attacks me in these rhetorical questions he addresses to his wife Dra. Holmes:

Finally, it was so easy to check what you really said. Why didn’t she? Too eager to show how you, who should know this field, actually don’t? or just sloppy journalism?

first, Mr. Baer also says that i “quickly sullied” Dra. Holmes’ reputation, that i was being “cavalier about the reputations” i “might have destroyed” because Dra. Holmes is “after all, considered an expert on this field.” and that if Dra. Holmes “were corrected because <she> needed correction, that would be ok.”

Mr Baer works with the premise of malice here, that i intentionally wanted to ruin the reputation of Dra. Holmes, that i wanted to put into question her credibility. again, that question is all i mistakenly attributed to her and nothing else. that he thinks the rest of that paragraph is about Dra. Holmes is his interpretation. that i’ve apologized for this is fact.

two: i am no journalist. i have never fashioned myself as one, have never ever called myself that. i do not even call myself a member of the media. that i’m called the latter is a matter of convenience for the institutions that need to label me as such. anyone who knows me would also know that rarely do i call myself a writer; i say that i write. those are two different things.

in Mr. Baer’s second attack, after he refused to accept my apology, he questioned the correction i asked my editor to make on that section mentioning Dra. Holmes. he also points out

how important it is not to misquote people, especially people who are respected for their knowledge, measured responses and integrity who try to ensure that what is based on research is presented as such, and what is based on opinion is also identified as such.

and what is in that Facebook thread of Dra. Holmes is clearly opinion, wasn’t it? she was not only asserting an opinion about Mo carrying the bigger responsibility here, she was, as she was responding to comments, also agreeing with other people: about Mo being older, Mo being without a career, Rhian being more responsible than Mo, etc etc. i did not even mention any of that because they were irrelevant. again all i attributed to Dra. Holmes was that one question, not in quotes, because it was a question that the thread ended up asking.

oh but let me not even make that correction in the piece anymore. it’s obvious Mr. Baer is unhappy with any correction i am to make, and has made up his mind about me and my writing.

i have asked my editors to remove altogether any mention of Dra. Margarita Holmes in that piece. it will stand on its own.

Mr Baer says:

While my wife is perfectly capable of taking care of herself, she is currently giving a talk at, and for, Occupy4RH at the Batasan. <…>

Finally, this is my own version of events and everyone else is free to give theirs, or decide too much has been said on this already, but for clarity’s sake, I think it’s important that somebody say something. My wife has three clients to see and two columns to write tomorrow (to say the least) and because she takes her work very seriously she may therefore not have time to respond to your apology for a while.

in fact Mr. Baer, while your wife was giving a talk at the Occupy4RH at Batasan, i was at Rock the Riles which raises consciousness about the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. and as your wife has a busy day today, so do i.

but here i am responding to you, because unlike your wife, i have no one to fight my battles for me. especially a battle that she herself — Dra. Holmes herself — didn’t seem to think was a battle to begin with.

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