IT was at the Pope’s summer residence in Castelgandolfo, a few miles away from Rome, where they held the NetOne International Media Congress a year ago which gathered media personages from five continents. I was then panel speaker and it was there where I advocated for more media coverage of the good news. However, I had then also taken exception to the fact that in many instances, even bad news is good news.
It is certainly bad news when you learn you have cancer. But bad news, as bad news can get, becomes a good thing when one gets to know the truth and its realities. As soon as one learns about the cancer, his whole system reconfigures itself into a psychological journey towards acceptance. It is in this acceptance that one eventually learns to adapt and prepare for the remedy or the inevitable.
If the bad news comes at the early stages of cancer, one is allowed to address and heal it. Otherwise, when the news comes too late and remedy is no longer an option, one still benefits from the news because it allows him to prepare himself and his family to cope with the inevitable. When this happens, the bad news of one’s existence becomes the good news of one’s spiritual liberation.
Cancer runs its course, regardless of whether or not you are aware of it. But there are certain ‘cancers’ that de-humanize and reverse the gains of the moral and spiritual man. This is the cancer that is created by man, the same type that Madame Arroyo flaunts with dexterity and craft. It is called the
Cancer of the Big Lie.
Madame Arroyo’s lie-making machine is well-equipped and well-funded. When Madame Arroyo rants and raves about not getting her fair share of ‘good news’, she is actually expecting media to take reality and truth out of context so that they may convey her brand of ‘good news’ – the kind which covers up her sins and her lies. In effect, it is like asking for the censorship of information on the genocide of the Jews because it is too unspeakably abominable, never mind if society will not benefit from the value of knowing history.
Many people could not believe that the Nazis under Hitler had murdered six million Jews between the latter part of the 1930s and early 1940s. In fact, revisionists and anti-Semitic elements today peddle the lie that the genocide was all part of an elaborate Jewish propaganda plan to gain sympathy and tolerance for the Jewish state’s Middle East expansion.
Such genocide happened because there was a successful subversion of the truth. A similar genocide would have gone unchecked in the Balkans during the 1990s had world media not exposed the atrocities that were being committed during that conflict.
Among those who supposedly knew about the Jewish Holocaust and did not denounce it was then Pope Pius XII. The long historical feud between Catholics and Jews fueled this perception. In fact, the late Pope John Paul II apologized for the historical offences that the Catholic Church had done to the Jews in Europe and in the Holy Land during the Crusades which were anything but holy. One wonders if Bishop Fernando Capalla and Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales are aware of the late Pope’s apology and dedication to the truth. They seem to be comfortable with the subversion of the truth about the alleged rape of democracy here last May 2004.
One of the reasons why the Philippine economy made a swift nosedive during the Marcos dictatorship was because he tightly controlled information and media. For over a decade, we were fed ‘good news’ that hardly anybody challenged, save for a few brave souls like Ninoy Aquino. We were told that all was well and looking up but in truth, the cancer of the big lie had all along been consuming our economic, social and moral fiber. By the time we got rid of Marcos, picking up the pieces of our disintegrated sense of nationhood and vigilance for the common good had become as impossible as re-assembling the yellow pages that had been turned into People Power confetti.
All the tyrants and despots of the world want to control this truth-dispensing machine called media. For them, only their agenda matters and they will use lies and half-truths to achieve their objectives. Naturally, a free press will be the nemesis of tyrants. But in our so-called ‘democracy’ where freedom can assume the mold of being irresponsibly licentious and irreverently bold, inglorious leaders can only resort to stealth tactics and manipulation of media.
Clamoring for ‘good news’ is a cheap way of making media go out of their way to seek the odd-man-out nice stories, even if these stories are not representative of reality. Paying editors and any other media practitioner willing to compromise their integrity for a fast buck, is another, albeit more expensive way.
What makes it worse is that while all forms of distortions of the truth take place in our milieu, we find Filipinos only too willing to play along in delusional oblivion. Delusion has become a national malaise that has turned into a coping mechanism in dealing with lies, lies and more lies. Instead of facing the truth and accepting reality, we take the cowardly path of staying in denial. Madame Arroyo’s pressure on media to highlight the ‘good news’ gets the approval of some sectors of society who do not relish hearing the ‘bad news’ – especially when this calls attention to their responsibility to set things right.
Subscribing to the saying that ‘no news is good news’ is an indication of a mind in denial. We grow with the accumulation of information and knowledge. The absence or deficiency of it makes us vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation. Of the main distinctions that separate the masses from the upper class, one is the amount of information and knowledge in their heads. The money in their wallets is but a manifestation of that knowledge gap.
Former Marcos information minister, Kit Tatad, admitted that the dictatorship intentionally applied an ‘idiotization’ media policy to ensure that the Filipinos know less of the truth. This is intended to make it easier to control the subjugated nation. These days, Madame Macapagal-Arroyo is attempting to survive efforts to rectify the stealing of the 2004 elections by obfuscating and muddling the issues.
Good samplings of these recent attempts to mislead us are as follows:
1. “Her administration’s sound fiscal policies have resulted in the rally of the peso.” Nothing is farthest from the truth. The peso rallied with the arrival of the Christmas season because of the remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Moreover, analysts say that the reluctance of Filipinos to spend due to their anticipation of worsening times also has a boosting effect on the peso. OFW remittances are indications of bad economic management and are not really good news. The reason why there are more remittances lately is because the economy is so bad that people have no choice but to leave the country, even risking the loss of life and limb by working in such danger zones as Iraq. No Filipino who can earn that money here would want to work overseas, separated from his loved ones and coping with the social costs of a divided family.
2. “E-Vat is another Macapagal-Arroyo ‘landmark fiscal policy’ achievement.” E-Vat in truth is the result of Macapagal-Arroyo’s fiscal mismanagement, a good part of which had to do with her misuse and abuse of public funds for her 2004 election campaign. Because she overspent, Filipinos now need to pay more taxes and have less money for their personal needs.
3. “Opposition to her administration is what is derailing the economy and destabilizing the country.” It is the crime of stealing the people’s mandate in 2004 that is destabilizing the country and eroding the economy. Madame Arroyo’s protestations are no different from that of a serial rapist claiming violation of his rights when the justice system seeks to make him account for the crimes that he committed.
Media does not make the bad news – Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo does. Media does not steal elections and subvert constitutional processes in order to hide the truth. But media will be remiss in its duty to serve the people’s right to know if media reneges on its responsibility to convey the truth.
We may not want to hear the truth about our cancer, but not knowing it will do us a lot more damage. The fact that media is still capable of exposing the truth should be welcomed by society, no matter how unsavory the truth may be. After all, feeling pain is proof that one is still alive. Pain, much like bad news that is related by media, alerts the body to take corrective or remedial action. If we instead choose to talk about how nicely manicured our toes are instead of telling the truth about the beginning gangrene on the big toe, we are only leading ourselves to the destination of all our delusions – our own ultimate and collective nightmare.
Not knowing – worse, not wanting to know – that our government officials are robbing us blind can only lead to more damage to our currency and economy. We pay a bigger price for not wanting to be inconvenienced with the bad news. Not wanting to hear the bad news that two rebellions in our country are now escalating their attacks can only result in our waking up one day to find an armed group taking over, something that happened in the early hours of 1959 to citizens in Cuba who had no inkling that Fidel Castro had already defeated the forces of then President Fulgencio Batista. Batista being a dictator, the real score about the Cuban rebellion was intentionally withheld from the Cuban people.
The birth of Jesus Christ was the single, most awaited good news for a world seeking salvation. Yet the reigning despot of the time, Herod, the puppet king of the Romans, considered Christ’s birth as ‘bad news’ and all the newborns of the town of Bethlehem paid with their lives so that the malefactors can kill the ‘bad news’.
But of course, we all know that slaying the innocents does not guarantee a peaceful existence, much less a happy death. Herod’s paranoia worsened and at a later point in his life he even ordered the slaying of his own sons. Such is the overpowering power and insanity of delusion. Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, upon hearing what Herod did to his sons, commented that it was far better to be Herod’s dog than be one of his sons. Come to think of it, the dogs of Gloria M. Arroyo could well be eating better than most Filipinos who are mired in poverty.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo does not care about the rejuvenating effects of truth in bad news because it does not fit her selfish agenda. Madame Arroyo’s suggestions of ‘killing the bad news’ has the same self-serving motivation and effect as Herod’s edict during the very first Christmas.
You may email William M. Esposo at: firstname.lastname@example.org