Saturday, September 22, 2018
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At Large

Credulity and consent

“Whistleblowers” made it to Time magazine’s Person of the Year, while locally, this paper’s editors voted for bloggers — led by Pinoy Ako Blog’s Jover Laurio (photographed against the Wall of Martyrs in the Bantayog ng mga Bayani or Citadel of Heroes, no less) — for their defense of “truth” and pushback against fake news and alternative facts.

The women on Time’s cover were honored for their courageous exposé of the sexual harassment and even worse forms of abuse and exploitation prevalent in, first, show business, and then leaching out and staining the media profession, the academe, and of course politics, starting with The Donald himself.

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As both a feminist and journalist, I’ve spent more than two decades exposing sexual harassment and worse forms of abuse in the workplace, especially in previously sacrosanct institutions, including the church. So perhaps the avalanche of news and juicy revelations about sexual abuse in the United States left me feeling rather … bleh.

But it was the consequences of the whistleblowers’ actions that perhaps caused the biggest impact on American society. Even if the United States is one country without a law explicitly declaring sexual harassment a crime, the men “outed” by their victims paid heavily for their abusive behavior. Almost to a man, they lost their jobs after being forced to resign or being fired outright; a few face lawsuits, some of which had been in legal doldrums for many years.

Perhaps one reason the “whistleblowers” were honored by Time was that they forced America to open its eyes to a social problem that had been simmering beneath its egalitarian surface.

I haven’t been a fan of Pinoy Ako Blog for long, stumbling on it only after it had been appearing regularly in my FB news feed for many months. But I was won over by the wit and sarcasm, the marshaling of facts (what was termed “resibo”), and the naughty, sardonic jabs taken at politicians and other bloggers.

But ever since she was outed in a brutal wave of insults and personal abuse by pro-Duterte propagandists, Laurio has emerged as a legitimate hero, an “Everywoman” standing up to a powerful political machinery.

The honor, though, didn’t belong to Laurio alone, who I understand works in the BPO or call center industry. The Inquirer editors who voted for her made clear that PAB shared the honors with a small community of internet warriors who dared take on the organized, institutionalized network of pro-Duterte propagandists.

It was (and is) a war fought in the trenches of cyberspace, waged against those who would twist history, invent facts, and burnish the deeds of officials who in other times and climes would themselves be facing charges of corruption, if not of incompetence.

Of course, the war is far from over.

It is a struggle waged daily, hourly, with every volley of abuse from paid hacks answered with equally fierce cannonballs of wit and sarcasm.

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Indeed, those who watched the recent Peta play “A Game of Trolls,” about a cyberwarrior employed by a company engaged in the creation of fake news, struck close to home to many in the audience. For the battles waged on social media, spilling over into the “mainline” media, are in fact skirmishes for the capture of our souls.

We are the battlefield, and control of this territory is what the armies clashing in the night are fighting over. The exchange goes on, battling for our minds and hearts. To whom will we give our credulity and consent?

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TAGS: At Large, consent, credulity, Jover Laurio, Person of the Year, Pinoy Ako Blog, Rina Jimenez-David, Sexual Harassment, Time Magazine, whistleblowers
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