Fifteen suspected NPA rebels were killed in an encounter in Nasugbu, Batangas last November 28, 2017. One policeman was killed in an ambush by rebels in Maasin, Iloilo last November 24, 2017. A few months ago they were able to over run the town’s police station carting away 15 firearms without a single shot fired. Just last December 3, 2017, in the early hours of the morning, rebels also attacked the Binuangan police station in Misamis Oriental but according to government reports, they were repulsed successfully by on-duty policemen.
After the collapse of the peace talks, this will be the news that we must grow accustomed to reading and seeing in our feeds whether online, in the network television news, or in the newspapers. But there is a new dimension to the reportage and consumption of news these days. Apart from the hard and detailed facts that are given to us by reputable news outlets, there is another layer that adds a most crucial dimension - that is the spin that social media provides.
If it still needs saying, although it would be stating the obvious, social media has affected the way news is shared and consumed. It used to be that there was a direct line between news outlets Thisand their audience in the now distant age of the television and the radio. Whatever facts they covered and then sent, arrived directly to the audience with little or no filter.
Of course, this is not to say that there is no framing or filtering of news at the level of news desks or even at the reporter’s own biases. Everything is ideological after all and neutrality is at best an ideal that is impossible to attain.
These days, however, there is an intervening process that comes into play that changes the very manner news is sent and consumed. After the news is sent from outlets to their audience, their audience, providing their own spin, regurgitates these back out again to social media. Of course, an ideological framing and filtering takes place where likeminded (i.e. ideologically-captured) individuals cherry pick the news that they find aligning to their biases and beliefs. They then share these news with click-bait headlines that likewise summon those who happen to think alike who, in turn, also share these as acts of self-affirmation by way of other people’s likes and shares. This is separate but complements the socially-engineered outcome of troll farms.
What this process creates is a grand narcissistic echo chamber that stunts deliberate public discourse. Instead, what is created are expanding but exclusive pockets of people in social media conversations that think alike. And it is not accidental at all that majority of these bubbles of online discourse merely reflect these dominant beliefs in society.
This is how I appreciate the kind of contemporary discourse that is churned out by many in social media following news about the encounters between government troops and the communist rebels. There is a range of reactions but they share a common perspective – believing government propaganda, the communists are terrorists and must be crushed.
Sometimes, there is befuddlement and incredulity as to why some Filipinos still go up to the hills and at times, social media can also sound like a lynch mob with their hunger for blood as if they and their ilk have been at the forefront of the centuries-old civil war still raging in the countryside. It had always been the conscripted peasant class who fight and die at the battlefields at the behest of the generals on one side, and the radicalized peasantry who have been awakened to struggle for their class interests.
This dominant perspective that look at rebels from a mystified standpoint actually reeks of a glaring and deep ignorance about the long history of peasant and indigenous struggle in the country such that even well-meaning collegeeducated folks are unfamiliar with. These all expose the failure of a backward kind of educational system and the continuing ideological grip of a system that is built on the backs of peasant and workers’ labor.
As a peace advocate, seeing my news feed occasionally display this practice of the unconscious ideological framing and filtering of information about the conflict in the countryside is disheartening. Social media has a tendency to amplify existing dominant discourses because it feeds off the same narcissistic impulses that prop up this social system. But fellow dreamers for peace should take this as a difficult but necessary challenge. There are yet many we have to reach and convince from their complicit and ultimately murderous ignorance.