Joshua Fidel Feria
Idealism, if nothing else, provides the narrative arc in the lives of otherwise boring people.
You see, in a discussion on the prevalence of fake news this July, our Online Journalism instructor ran a poll to our class of Communication majors: Which sites would you wish to be taken down completely for peddling misinformation?
Immediately, I, seething with what some would call liberal delusions, became wary of Marcosian pretexts to place a stranglehold on dissent. I was worried that its noble intentions would regress into a tool to favor the interests of the would-be censors. I jotted down on my paper diligently: ‘none’.
My block mates saw things a bit differently, and the usual suspects were dragged through the slop. The heavily pro-administration pages MindaNation and Pinoy Trending were all unceremoniously tagged as ‘fake news’. Even Wikipedia, for all of its heroism to students through time and tide, found its way on the wrong end of the burn list.
As the tally wound down to a close, a certain MOCHA USON BLOG was heralded most deserving to be struck off by the hypothetical Thought Police. It was a rather uncannily unified plea for ‘Off with her head’. These budding boys and girls of the mainstream media reviled the woman that much.
The class’s consensus was almost unanimous: she peddles misinformation, she mistook Honduran policemen for Filipinos, and she was an unabashed sex-guru.
All of a sudden, as if to spot himself an antagonist, my instructor blurted out, “May naka-like sa MOCHA USON BLOG dito, class?”
I had to remind myself my idealism. This, I suppose, is the price I pay.
I raised my hand. Then and there, I was placed in the odd position of defending the honor of Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Margaux Uson, placing my name at very risk of being tagged with the infantile derogatory ‘Dutertard’.
I declared, in rather hushed tones, that I follow her blog not because I share her opinions, but rather in the interest of getting a point of view different from my own, regardless of how inflammatory.
What of the misinformation? The partisanship? Her dabbling in the performing arts?
All I managed to say then was meek, “Sir, she’s not a journalist.”
And while it was still very much the point I wanted to raise, I was infuriated I didn’t do so with more panache. So, in the alternate reality where I have blustering confidence and am an orator worthy of Vladimir Lenin and Graciano Lopez Jaena, these were the points I could have articulated, preferably atop a pulpit to an audience of thousands:
“Countrymen! Excoriate Miss Uson as much as you please for her fumbles as a public official, for being a blind follower to her ‘Father President’, and her frequent missteps in the pursuit of truth. Bear in mind, however, that Ms. Uson is not bound to any traditional journalistic code of ethics, and it would prove only foolish to judge the Assistant Secretary by the same standards you would a Jessica Soho or a Karen Davila.
In all honesty, my comrades, advocating the liquidation of her page would be tantamount to censorship. And as much as a lot of you find listening to her voice a Draconian agony, her freedom of opinion remains very much a privilege all hers to exercise. Stripping her short of her online platform would be a reduction of our democracy to a masquerade. Are we so quick to forget our Voltaire, and defending to the death the right of others to say their piece?”
For a while it was beautiful. Then, as quick as the bell went a-ding, I was ushered back to my reality of uncouth. Things are never as dramatic as you’d like them to be. Nonetheless, I like to think that day, even if only in a pipe dream, I stood up for my idealism.
(First published at The LANCE's July issue)