I have great respect for the people who write on Filipino Voices, and so it was with some trepidation that I set out to write this post. But still, freedom of expression and all that…
In Worst Case Scenario, Benj wrote:
With Bloggers’ Kapihan’s bold plan to launch blogs authored by Jun Lozada (yeah, remember him?!) and Ed Panlilio, the blogging community could be headed to a position that places is dead center in the cross hairs of the Arroyo government’s sights. Lozada was one of the most talked about personalities until recently due to his statements regarding the ZTE deal. He has been muffled in recent weeks because of high fuel prices and a looming food crisis that have dominated the headlines, effectively rendering people much less interested about a shady under-the-table deal with a Chinese firm.
First off, what’s so bold about a blog by Jun Lozada and Ed Panlilio? It’s the new millenium. A blog is like a radio talk show. Anyone with higher political aspirations gets one, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gonna be a humdinger.
Second, Lozada isn’t being talked about because he’s pretty much run out of anything new to say. The whole topic has been talked to death, hasn’t it? Not even the pictures of the Prez in Shenzen were able to resurrect that dead horse. This isn’t to say that the issue is no longer relevant. Of course it still is; it’s just not interesting to the general public anymore, and so the media – ever the slave to the issue du jour – has moved on. So, why should a blog wrest the headlines back to Lozada?
The current administration has been very particular regarding keeping unnecessary information out of the press’ and public’s hands. Blogging has always been a viable platform that enables people to broadcast their message to an almost infinite audience but for some reason, those who have been muffled and disenfranchised in the past have chosen to just keep what they know to themselves. You can blame the technological divide and the generational gap, but you just know that these people who have been told to shut are probably just dying to get their side of the story. Opening the path to blogging to people like Lozada and Panlilio seems to be a double-edged sword.
Please. Blogs in the philippines – especially political blogs – rarely ever contain actual information not available in mainstream media. Blogs in the Philippines contain opinions and analysis. Sometimes, the opinions and analysis are truly worth their weight in gold (whoa! how do you weigh words in grams?), but alot of times, the opinions are just cobbled together from the opinions of other like minded individuals; and the analyses are uninformed musings of the lay mind that was given access to some colorful graphs or filled with tons of unsusbtantiated reports, rumors, and wild accusations.
Take Mon Casiple for instance. Mon Casiple has more political acumen in his little finger than Jun Lozada or Ed Panlilio combined. And yet, the admin doesn’t take him seriously enough to shut him down or shut him up. Because whatever he says, it’s just an opinion and he can’t sway the millions who don’t even know what a blog is. SUre it can be argued that Panlilio and Lozada are about a hundred times more famous than Casiple, but, at the end of the day, they still have to contend with the fact that even a blog will not reach the number of people they need to reach in order to make a dent in the way things are.
And even if we were to consider only appeal among fellow bloggers, Lozada and Panlilio will still have to measure up to a certain standard of interesting-ness in order to sustain the initial popularity. Lozada is like Brian Gorrel. He will probably be all spit-fire and confessions in the beginning, but after he runs out of things to say, he’ll start repeating himself and branching out into other areas of discussion where he will pretend to be a significant contributor of ideas. But he won’t be, and sooner or later, people will realize that. Just like they’re realizing that Brian Gorrel isn’t all that.
Panlilio, on the other hand, really rose to power simply on his charisma and what he represented: a new and untainted leader. Has anyone ever really heard anything new from Panlilio, other than the repeated claims of his new-ness. We get it. He’s not a traditional politician. But what else is he bringing to the table. Having a blog doesn’t really matter much in the grand scheme of things.
For one thing, blogs are not as commonly accessible as many bloggers think. Oh we have our circles that adore us and tirelessly comment on our blogs, but beyond those people, bloggers don’t really have a steady audience. SO, what kind of impact is to be expected from a Lozada blog? That’s the trouble with closed communities or organizations; it is so easy to imagine that an impact is being made because basically, you’re all just talking to each other.
Remember Malu Fernandez? Everyone was so het up about her, and someone even made a badge. In less time than it takes to say it, she was back as if nothing ever happened.
Ok, so a few more people will know about Panlilio. But these are likely to be bloggers themselves. In other words, people who already know anyway. What impact will he have on the thousands of Capampangans who aren’t wired?
Over-all, its a little too much to imagine that Lozada and Panlilio blogs will merit more than a passing glance from the administration. The blogosphere just isn’t the front line in the battle for power.
While the value of freedom of expression is undeniable and is arguably a concept that should almost supersede any other idea out there, this move also exposes the once sheltered community of bloggers to possible run-ins with the administration. If there are thousands of people who are willing to read to a heartbroken and vindictive man’s repetitive and poorly-written diatribe against the person who stole his money, could you just imagine how much more people would be interested in a blog written by cult figures like Lopez and Panlilio?
This is the kind of conditioning that really has me in stitches. “Exposes bloggers” indeed. Jaywalking exposes you to a possible run-in with the administration. And the only reason people like reading Gorrel is because he trades in gossip. Does this make Lozada and Panlilio gossips as well? Of course not (que horror!)! And I would agree. What Lozada trades in is possibly factual insider information; and Panlilio will most likely populate his blog with sermons. Neither can possibly be as interesting as the brand of who-does-who and who-does-what drivel that Brian Gorrel spews and recycles.
In countries like Egypt and China, bloggers have gone to jail because of the things that they wrote against the state’s official religion and elected leaders. It is not a far stretch to extrapolate such incidents to happen in the Philippines. Filipino political bloggers have always had their way all these years. No one has ever been charged and they could criticize using the strongest terms but what happens once the spotlight finally hits this corner of cyberspace.
The Boy Bastos incident of 2007 showed that the government can in fact do something that is remarkably similar to the beginning of a “cyber crackdown”. With more eyes and ears listening in to blogs, we may be just a few months away from seeing our first blogger arrest.
Melodrama much? Egypt and China isn’t the Philippines, and we’re not likely to head there anytime soon either. This kind of fear-mongering, to my mind, serves only one purpose. To generate sympathy – in advance – for the Lozada and Panlilio blogs. I can respect that, because of course, promoting the blogs in this way fits right in with the overall goal to make the blogs relevant. But, I find it to be a bit of over-kill.
There will be no cyber-crackdown in response to a Lozada or a Panlilio blog. ‘Course, if it makes you feel like a maverick to think that you might be engaging in some politically risky activity to be reading Lozada or commenting on Panlilio (oooh! you’re such a rebel!) well, hell, have fun. Otherwise, we should all just get a grip.