Much Ado About Mocha

Photo Credit: kendrak Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: kendrak Flickr via Compfight cc

Warning: If the mere mention of Mocha Uson’s name makes your stomach turn and makes you want to strangle the person nearest to you, please do not read on, for your own safety and for those around you.

The hot topic for this week in social media seems to be Mocha Uson and the petition to shut down her facebook page, Mocha Uson Blog.

A certain Paul Quilet started a petition at Change.org, a website that gathers electronic signatures from people and sends a formal petition to a key decision or policy maker. In this case, Mr. Quilet’s plea was directed to Facebook Inc., asking them to suspend the Mocha Uson Blog page, for the following reason:

Mocha Uson, a Filipino entertainer-turned-Duterte die-hard supporter uses her Facebook page to spread fictitious/unsupported claims, fake news, and false information about pressing issues in the Philippines, from the role the USAID plays in the country to news concerning government officials and other personalities, eliciting unwarranted hate from the public. The said Facebook page widens the rift between those who support the current administration and those who are critical of it.

The first reaction I felt was amusement. People critical of the president’s “dictatorial” regime now want to shut someone up and muzzle her. The irony is apparently lost on them.

The issue has then sparked an online debate on rights versus responsibilities and on freedom of speech, and has resulted in another round of name-calling, unfriending and blocking. Isn’t social media a wonderful tool for venting and for making you feel more significant than you really are?

I found some time to revisit the Mocha Uson Blog and found that I had “liked” the page, probably during the election period. I rarely followed it though and would just get the occasional update on my feed. I went through the wall that supposedly spreads misinformation and elicits hatred. I found little to warrant this extravagant claim.

Sure, she posts from informal websites and non-mainstream news sources, usually with the statement, “Eto ang sabi nila…ano sa tingin nyo, ka-DDS?” (This is what they say…what do you think, fellow DDS or Duterte-Diehard-Supporters?).  But she also posts from mainstream sources as well, and not everything she shares is fake or untrue or illogical or worthy of derision (which is the impression you get when you listen to her critics — and yes, I have a lot of them on my feed).

In fact, some of those who are criticizing her of “hate speech” and of “widening the rift” between administration supporters and critics would do well to examine their own posts about her and her followers. Isn’t calling people stupid, bobo, tanga, or mindless zombies also hate speech? How exactly are they helping to narrow the rift by doing that?

A few months ago, I got into a heated discussion with someone I didn’t know who was criticizing a friend of mine on his wall. Instead of just sticking to the arguments, that person combed through my wall and made fun of what was there, even mocking my glorious bald head.

Another person made a snide comment about my support for the president on what I thought was a totally unpolitical joke, and even called me a genocide apologist. Not content with that, she posted on her own page that I was a genocide apologist par excellence.

Wow! If someone manages to find this piece that makes me deserving of such an honor, please tell me where I can read it. I feel like I’ve won a Palanca award for literature without having to write anything.

Anyway, do I write a petition to have Facebook remove their pages? Do I report them for hate speech? No, I just leave them be. I understand that it is easier to despise others if you stereotype and dehumanize them.  I understand that some people are not yet mature enough to handle freedom, or that they are too blinded by their own bloodlust at pointing out others’ shortcomings to see the three fingers pointing back at them.

But that’s ok. I am, in essence, a hopeful person and I believe that humanity will one day wake up and see the overpowering force of love over hate, of joy over despair, and of acceptance over derision.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Deadline Tomorrow

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks Flickr via Compfight cc

Deadline tomorrow!!! Everything you’ve ever posted becomes public from tomorrow. Even messages that have been deleted or the photos not allowed…I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, messages or posts, both past and future. With this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents…

If you were one of people who became genuinely concerned about your online privacy and reposted this message (even if it was “just to be safe”), then pat yourself on the back and greet yourself a Happy April Fools Day in October. There were apparently a good number of you as this recent viral trend made it to the news again.

“Again?” You might ask.

Well, yes, because this little prank or hoax has been around since 2012 (according to Snopes.com).

So let’s be clear about a couple of things:

  1. Facebook is not making all your posts public, and certainly not those messages or photos that have been deleted.
  2. Nothing you post on your wall, even if it sounds legalese, overrides the Policies and Terms Of Use that you agreed to when you signed up for a Facebook account. In other words, there were certain things you agreed to when you decided to get an account. Yes, it’s that long, boring blob of text that you probably skipped or hurriedly scrolled down to just to tick the “I agree” checkbox at the bottom.

Let me tell you about a tool that you can use before falling for these hoaxes again. But it really needs no introduction as  I’m sure you know the tool I’m talking about. It has been around far longer than Facebook. It’s called Google.

Whenever you see any of these things again, go to Google.com and paste a significant portion of the text. For example, you could copy the phrase “I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission” and put that into the Google search bar, and you will immediately see a number of links leading to articles that you can read and discern for yourselves whether it is true or not. Instead of copying text, you can also use key words. For example, “Facebook privacy hoax or not” also works.

Now, like I said, this is a tool and like any tool it needs to be handled properly. Not all articles you find on Google are guaranteed to be true. The next thing you should do is check the source of the article. Is it a personal blog, a relatively unknown newsletter, or a known news source? And then read the article itself. Is it an opinion piece or a fact-piece? Does it cite credible sources? And so on.

“That sounds like a lot of hard work,” you might say.

Well, of course it is. But why do you think a lot of people fall for pyramid scams and get-rich-quick schemes even if they have been around for decades? Why do people fall for rumors and false stories? Why do people believe in self-medicating with herbal remedies instead of getting proper medical diagnoses?

Getting to the truth is hard and involves some work and some thinking, but what is the alternative? Would you rather be fooled? Would you rather spread false stories? Would you rather suffer from complications because you took that concoction your neighbor boiled rather than seeking sound scientific advice?

You decide.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

 

Mostly Unplugged

Photo Credit: davidmulder61 Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: davidmulder61 Flickr via Compfight cc

Slow internet, a hacked site and offline concerns – those have been my issues this past week. They have kept me mostly unplugged from Facebook. Where before I would have the urge to check my phone regularly when it beeps to the latest Facebook notification, I have been blissfully uninterrupted in the office as my phone can barely connect to the internet there. This has been a blessing as I could focus on more pressing concerns at work.

When I arrive home, the notifications come in a swift barrage and I mostly just scroll through them and clear them all without clicking on them because I’m too tired to have any sort of serious discussion. I just look at some funny links to de-stress and that’s about it.

I also found out that my website had been hacked and Google had flagged it for containing malware. So the past few days were spent on the Linux command line trying to remember all the stuff I learned in college when Linux was still at its infancy. I had to weed out the malware, identify it, remove it, then figure out how it got in, and plug that leak.

Google seems to have been satisfied with my efforts and has now cleared my site from their malware list.

There was a time when I was crazily in Facebook for hours on end. I would be endlessly debating with one person or another, scrolling here and there, clicking on links, reading them and posting my comments, arguments, agreements or disagreements.

Now, I laugh when I remember those times, and I remember that life is certainly not just on Facebook, especially this past week when I found that I am comfortable being hardly active on it.

It’s funny when some people I hardly know judge me by what goes on in my account or my wall. My thoughts on religion, spirituality, politics and so on can hardly be encapsulated in a few status updates or even a few blog posts. They are also ever-changing and evolving as I consider other points of view.

Last night, I read Clinton Palanca’s piece 100 Days of Dutertopia. A paragraph that struck me there was when he talked about having laughed and dined with people he thought were his friends, and then later finding out that they supported the current administration. He felt betrayed, he said.

And I thought, for what? Because you made some wrong assumptions about them? Because you think that a prerequisite of friendship is that they should think the same way as you in all matters and have the same values you hold? Those people did not betray you (unless they were willfully deceiving you for some ulterior motive). It was only your assumptions that did.

It is the easiest thing in the world to stereotype people and put them in these little boxes so you can decide whether to love them or hate them – yellowtard, dutertard, those pretentious, exploitative Americans, those arrogant, self-serving Chinese communists, drug addict, criminal, and so on. Stereotypes and generalizations have their uses, but to use these to label a person and not to see them beyond the label is simply shortsighted.

No one person can be reduced to a label. Talk to a fanatic and you’ll find he’s not so bad after all. Talk to an intellectual and you’ll discover that she is not above being ruled by her feelings. The more you try to know someone, the more you discover that there is always more to know.

I just had a nice chat with a friend who has a different political stand than me, but we respect each other and can have decent conversations that do not degenerate into insults and name-calling (except in jest). I think that beyond sharing the same thoughts and values, the true test of friendship is acceptance of who the other person is and treating that person as respectable despite glaring differences in your beliefs and opinion.

And for those who can’t take that, there is always the option of the unfriend button.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

 

Dear Mr. President

Photo Credit: jjpacres Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: jjpacres Flickr via Compfight cc

Many years ago, when my father was still alive (and perhaps the same age as you are now), we had a long talk — just me and him. I had decided to be open and honest to him about certain behaviors he was exhibiting that I found disturbing. So for perhaps the first time in my life, I decided to be quite candid about it. The conversation went better than I expected. He did not react in anger and in fact opened up to me about his struggles with the same problem I noticed. So I understood him better after that, and my respect for him was not diminished in any way.

So I write to you today, not as a critic nor a detractor, but as one of your supporters and as one of the people who voted for you. I write openly with no intention of pulling you down or of lambasting you in public, but with the intention of giving voice to my fellow supporters who feel the same way as me but cannot express what they feel in their hearts nor have a venue for doing so. I write to you as a son of Davao of which you have been a father for many years. I was born here in the 70’s and grew up here in the 80’s. I know what Davao was back then and I know what it is now.

I write to implore you of one thing and one thing only, and it is not even unique: Please choose your words carefully. Please learn to control yourself.

I understand that in the election season, your street language was what endeared you to your voters and also attracted media to you to provide the necessary exposure and mileage to win. However, it is no longer election time. You have already won and have just marked your first 100 days as president. You no longer need the media splash and attention yet you are still getting it, for all the wrong reasons.

I understand that you do not really care what other people say about you. I used to be that way until I learned that some things I said hurt people I deeply cared about, even if I had no intentions of doing so. Like you, I had to apologize and explain myself several times, and I knew I had to work on improving my behavior, because apologies and explanations can get old pretty fast and people will tire of it if they see no true intent to change.

Speaking of which, your whole campaign was built on this one word: change. You promised to bring change and indeed we have seen many changes for the better in this short time, yet they have been overshadowed by the same careless language that you used prior to assuming office. It is ironic that in this regard, you have been showing a seeming unwillingness to change — you give reasons like you are really just fit to be a mayor and that people should not mind your mouth or your words too much.

May I respectfully remind you, sir, that words have power — as I’m sure you understand when you use those words to instill fear in criminals. Words can heal and words can kill — they can inspire a person to dizzying heights, yet also bring him down to the depths of despair. However, the sword cuts both ways and the careless use of words can come back to bite you as well when they cause people to be unsure of what you are saying and to lose their respect for you.

Also, change starts with yourself. In fact, may I remind you of your promise to be more “presidentiable” once you are elected? We cheered your efforts to change that one time you caught yourself before uttering a curse in a televised interview, but you soon slipped back into your old ways. Change is most effective when it comes from within, when people start doing things because they are right, not just because they fear the consequences of doing wrong. As our leader, showing to us your sincerity and willingness to change for the better will go a long way in inspiring others to do so.

When asked to describe your first 100 days in one word, one of my acquaintances answered, “polarizing” and as much as it pains me to hear it, I have to admit it is also true. Your detractors from before the elections have not been won over and have in fact, entrenched themselves further from you. The moderates have swung to either unapologetically defending you or outright hating you.

Mr. President, Mr. Mayor, Tatay, whether you like it or not, you are now president of the country, not just your 16 million voters, but of 100 million Filipinos. We are watching your every move and taking cues from every little thing you say and do. It is your unenviable task to bring us all together – red, white, blue and even yellow – not to let us drift further apart.

And it all begins with your words, for words shape our beliefs and beliefs inspire our actions. Imagine 100 million Filipinos with one mind, one vision and one goal. That would be a force that can change the world.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

 

Related Posts with Thumbnails