Facts must be a key basis of opinions, just as opinions give facts a context. Both enhance each other. When they do not, there is a problem.
Facts are like musical instruments that each produce a certain sound. Opinions are like an orchestra playing a symphony. When the facts and the opinion create noise more than music, then it shows that their harmony is gone and conflict has taken over.
Facts and opinions most often go together, like science and human creativity. When they form a perfect fit, they create beautiful music and a beautiful dance. When they clash, the sight is ugly and the sound unpleasant to one’s ears.
Today, there is so much noise and very little music. That simply means that facts and opinions are like circles and squares forcing themselves to fit – and they cannot. They are like two dancers who each who like to take the lead and they really should not be dancing at all. Unfortunately, in real life, we are all on one dance floor, we all listen to the same music or noise, and we simply cannot disengage.
Let me mention the existence of trolls. They are mercenaries or perverts. They are jukeboxes of the worst kind, operating totally under the baton of puppet masters whose main purpose is to create confusion and conflict. They do not know, or care, about the meaning of facts and opinions, no better than the robots of devices they manipulate. It is sad that they are there, and no matter what most of us want, the trolls are part of the dance floor.
Technology, laws, and advocates are doing what they can to spot trolls and, in fact, there are many ways that these trolls can be quickly recognized. But the State with the leadership of the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary, must take the initiative to give resources and support to the exposure and conviction of trolls. And they will not for as long as partisanship reigns supreme and not the refinement of society.
So, for this article, let me disregard trolls. Let me simply focus on facts and opinions, and how partisanship blurs and blinds to what is fact and what is opinion. News, for example, should be factual. Opinions may follow, but not as news. Opinions may focus on the news and then give a variety of perspectives but must be differentiated from the factual. If trolls have been effective in disrupting facts and science by deliberating distorting them, it is basically because partisanship has colored the hearts and minds of Filipinos. Objectivity itself has conceded its lofty position to the brute called partisanship.
I watched excerpts of one televised Senate hearing on the issue of fake news. I felt that each side had a basis for doing what they did or saying what they did. Of course, reputations have been besmirched, families shamed by having the same names, and even public officials base some decisions on what was really false or distorted facts. Even international connections have been dragged into the partisan dynamics, global agencies taking sides in what government says are purely internal affairs. Unfortunately, globalization, economics, politics, and technology make the world of internal affairs truly small and relegated to only to those issues which matter little.
When wrong is committed, that wrong is not as important as who committed it. It is not about truth, it is not about law, it is not about good and evil, it is all about partisanship. The devil that hurts our enemy is a devil we can like and support, even follow. Until that devil, having the traits of a devil will eventually turn against us.
So, it is not whether the news is accurate or fake, it is whether that news favors our side or not. The very value system that our culture has long held dear and placed on a pedestal have surrendered to partisanship. Everything seems to be a contest, a most unfriendly one, where victory is primordial whatever the means. Today is Machiavelli’s moment because more and more he wins – the end justifies the means.
It is not the majority of Filipinos that are caught up in the partisanship game. In fact, most are just focused on trying to have as good a life for themselves and their families as best as they can. Simple as that is, it is very difficult just the same for tens of millions in poverty and those just a little better than them. Their being less partisan, however, does not exempt them from the consequences of a society that is driven by partisanship. Where power and wealth rule, partisanship is deeply entrenched.
The innocent are collateral victims to fake news, to misinformation, especially by others who are supposed to know better than them. The relative ignorance of the poor, caused primarily to their lack of exposure, mobility, and access to technology and opportunity, can more easily make them believe the incredible and distrust the truth. It is government that can best protect them, and also government that can manipulate them the most.
If I am not convinced that there is a divine design that prods man to seek what is nobler, that there exists an unerring measure of what is just beyond time and space and material power, then I could quickly succumb to the game to win at all cost. But life lessons have taught me otherwise, mostly from my own mistakes, that victory can be bitter, sometimes more bitter than defeat. And the same life lessons have taught me that facts and opinions must be respected, though the truth is greater than them.
It is best to know the facts. It is natural to form opinions. We may not be perfect as we do so, but fake news will always queer facts and pollute opinions. May we and our young be spared from them.
Editorial cartoon, February 1, 2018