Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Opinion -

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.

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