smoke

I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Slant

GMA News TV bannered the headline: Arroyo says it’s hard to govern RP if media is free. And just like a good marionette, my initial reaction was outrage. OUTRAGE! I tell you. 

And then I read the article.

 

” I know for a fact from being around my father who incidentally was a protege of President Quirino… I learned from him how challenging it is to govern our nation, especially with a media that is the freest in the whole world, as it was during my father’s presidency,”she said.

“But a president governs for the benefit of all the Filipinos and should not be focused on public relations,”she added.

And I’m, “Ahh. SO that’s what she meant.” Isn’t slant a wonderful thing?

Look up the word ‘slant’ in the wikipedia and you’re taken to a disambiguation page. Apparently, the word is used in several different contexts:

  • Bias or other non-objectivity in journalism, politics, academia or other fields
  • Slant (route), an American football play pattern.
  • slant (handwriting), an attribute of Western handwriting
  • Slant (journal), a Catholic journal
  • / (or Slant), a book by science fiction writer Greg Bear
  • Slant Magazine, a film, TV, and music review website
  • Slant (fanzine), a fanzine by Walt Willis, winner of the 1954 Retrospective Hugo Award for Best Fanzine
  • A racial slur for people of Asian descent, in reference to the shape of their eyes.
  • The Slant, a student humor magazine at Vanderbilt University
Of course, it’s the first one that interests me, having been freshly victimized.
By phrasing its headline the way it did, GMANews successfully planted in my head the initial idea that the President was being an idiot once more. I mean, who in their right mind would say something like that? It’s belligerent, it’s arrogant, and it’s a clear-as-day expression of willingness to muzzle the freedom of speech. 
Fortunately, I had the opportunity – and the inclination – to read the whole article and still remain open to the possibility that things were not all as they seemed. There are many many others, however, who would not think twice about repeating that scurrilous headline as though it was a self-contained absolute truth; there are any others who would never have the chance to read the whole article and so come away with the impression that the President has added yet another offense to the charge sheet waiting for her on the 1st of July 2010; and there are countless who, already convinced that the President is Lucifer’s midget mistress, will go on and read the article but never even consider that the headline was misleading. 
For one thing, ‘challenging’ does not necessarily equate with ‘hard.’ GMANews should really be careful with its synonyms, because not all synonyms are appropriate. Context is crucial, as well as nuance, in deciding which of Roget’s synonyms to use.
Context, first of all, tells us that when the President was talking about how challenging it was, she was just reflecting the sentiment that living in a fish bowl makes governance less effective. It might also be said that, with her reference to ‘public relations,’ the President was bewailing her inability to push tough-but-necessary measures – an indirect dig at media-savvy populist politics (which is surpassingly ironic, considering her dole-out programs). Some might say that these are anachronistic sentiments, but hey, that’s her opinion. 
The word ‘challenging,’ in turn, carries a more positive sense – in that the difficulties being posed are not considered hindrances but provide motivation to do better – than the word ‘hard’ – which carries with the sense of intractableness. The one should not have been synonymized for the other, if accuracy were a consideration. Of course, if the attractiveness of the headline were the only criterion, well, then the synonym use worked like a charm.
And that’s the bitch, really. Now, even NEWS reporting dips into the realm of Advocacy Journalism. Call me old-school, but I really think that hard news should be as objective as possible, steering clear of these clever headlines that insinuate a non-objective viewpoint while pretending to still be fair. If I want my opinion shaped for me, if I want my reporting slanted, I’ll go look through the OpEd pages, thank you very much.
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Ransom

The next question of course is “Will abs-cbn ransom Ces Drilon?”

The negative answer to that makes my blood run cold; the threat of KFR is, after all, something I am familiar with. But one can’t help wondering if giving in to a kidnapper’s demands doesn’t just embolden them more.

I can understand the logic behind not giving in to the demands of kidnappers and terrorists, but I can’t completely divorce myself from the innate wrongness of letting someone die just to prove a point. This isn’t Sparta, after all.

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Blackout

I guess benign0 beat me to it. Reacting to abs-cbn’s news blackout of the Ces Drilon abduction, I mean. Myself, the gist of my reaction was this: Oh? So it’s okay for abs-cbn to suppress news, and howl bloody murder when others – for security reasons not terribly unlike those invoked by abs-cbn – ask for a similar embargo?

Don’t get me wrong. I understand why abs-cbn felt it necessary to ask for an embargo – and of course I hope Ces is okay (I’m optimistic, in fact, that she will be ok); I am merely commenting on the apparent double standard in effect. The safety of one of their own justifies denying the public access to a newsworthy event; but the safety of others doesn’t?

On a related note, I was also struck by this unintended but no less blatant exercise of power to control what the public knows. It reminds me of a quote from Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, a game I used to play:

As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth’s final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.

Commissioner Pravin Lal
“U.N. Declaration of Rights”

Filed under: journalism, media, , , , ,

Unnecessary

The Department of Health – apparently caving to pressure from big media – has gone ahead and released the names of the doctors and nurses involved in the Black Suede incident. Did they have to?

The other day, Ted Failon didn’t make attempt to hide his disgust at the person he was interviewing who refused to divulge the names of the docs and nurses involved. He kept saying that since the names had been submitted to the DOH, they were “of public record” and therefore, fair game. Which is ironic because, just a few minutes before he sneered at that guest, Ted Failon was criticizing the government’s practice of parading suspects in orange t-shirts – in some cases, even before they’ve been charged.

And yet today, Ted Failon mock solemnly announced the names of the doctors and nurses, before they had been found guilty of anything. Exactly like the practice he was deriding. I would have hoped that he would choke on the irony of what he was doing, but that man is oblivious to his own faults.

Like anyone in his right mind, I was disturbed by that video – apart from the gross-out factor. I was disturbed by the idea that in that moment of utter vulnerability, people could ridicule you with complete impunity, and hold you up to the entire world for ridicule. That’s just not right.

But equally wrong is this pervasive practice of parading people before the bar of public opinion even before they’ve had a chance to go through due process. Media should really do something about policing their ranks. Unfortunately, it seems that too many media practitioners simply relish the idea of their being part of an alternative justice system; one that condemns without due process, and very rarely apologizes for murdering reputations unjustifiably.

Or is that just ABS-CBN? LOL.

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Much ado about nothing

Man, that Gonzales sure knows how to stir up a hornet’s nest, doesn’t he? I’ve been holding off writing about that advisory of his, knowing that I would really just be in opposition to the inevitable reaction of media. But as most media has been dragging it out and Ping Lacson has already sounded off about it anyway, I thought I’d get my licks in before the whole thing gets too stale.

First off, the wording of the advisory is pretty clear. Media people will be criminally charged if they refuse to obey lawful orders. Dispose of all the legalese and rationalization bullshit, that’s basically what it says. If you refuse to obey lawful orders, be ready to face the consequences.

But now come the media and all the international busy-bodies claiming chilling effect. Excuse me? When has it been unduly chilling on any profession to be told that if they violate the law or disobey the lawful order of a person in authority there will be consequences?

So basically, when they ask Gonzales to retract, what they’re asking for is that they not be reminded that disobeying lawful orders will lead to criminal prosecution. More to the point, I think, is that they’re reserving their right to use their own discretion in whether to obey lawful orders. Wow. That’s a great deal! We should all be so lucky. Then we won’t have to worry about pesky red lights and one way street signs.

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