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Made for fake news and political shams

12:30 AM December 17, 2021

Almost three years ago, in January of 2019, results of a research in the United States showed that the single biggest age group that was prone to sharing fake news were senior citizens. If I remember correctly, seniors shared fake news about 7 times more than those aged between 18 and 29. The survey results did explain that sharing fake news was not representative of seniors, but among those who did share fake news, seniors led the pack.

That was 3 years ago. Much has happened since then, and it has not been better. What had begun 3 years ago was zero 3 years even earlier, 2016, according to that same study. Unless that trajectory was nipped in the bud, it can really be worse today – and I believe it is. Why? Because there was no deliberate and universal effort to stop doing so, not just from senior citizens but from all age ranges.

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The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. There has been much talk about the younger generations from 45 years and below as quite vulnerable to fake news. Politics has proven that even history cane be revised with a great degree of success, that the younger set of Filipinos are both unclear of what it was like 50 years ago and tend to believe what is fed to them by sources who know what they are doing.

It is only incidental, and fortunate, in my view, that politics is highlighting the frailty of critical thinking among Filipinos. It is the age of information that has morphed powerfully to the age of misinformation. There are so many nuances to information in great volume spread with great speed. If we start with the older generations, specifically 60 years old and above, they themselves were brought up by those 20 or more years older than them, their own parent generation.

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In our word of mouth downloading of our family histories, from our own parents and grandparents, same as the parents and grandparents of our friends and relatives, we have this picture of a society where lies and theft scandalized our communities. There were scandals then that today would not merit more than just a mention in news publications or broadcast media. I hate to say it because new generations are always repositories of idealism. What happened, then, to the idealism of the older generations that they themselves are so worried about the morality of today?

There was a time when the word “conscience” was more than just a word – it was the lynchpin of an individual’s and society’s morality. The older ones among us were taught that conscience is God-given and, therefore, enough to disturb us when we turned towards moral wrongdoing. It was not up to parents or teachers to give their children and students their consciences, it was God’s task, or gift. What the older generations would do was simply emphasize and affirm the reality of right and wrong to the younger ones.

If so, then many of us here who are seniors or near seniors must have badly botched our responsibility. Value systems do not drop from the sky and enter our hearts and souls. They are taught, they are shown – repeatedly. They are not random, even in the spirit of things; rather, they are habitually transmitted from the parent generation to the generation that follows. A degraded moral and ethical ethos is the fruit of examples displayed over decades. It may not have been deliberate, but it was effective, nonetheless.

In this campaign for the presidency, there are many accusations of a comprehensive and sustained script full of fake news. In other words, messages are not true or factual, packaged to revise historical facts. The fakery of these messages can easily be discovered – only cursory checks of fact using Google can show how they are lies. But the source or sources of fake news apparently intend to generate doubts on already public facts in order to build a new narrative.

Another clue of what politicians see as obvious weaknesses of Filipino voters, at least the majority of them, is the recent zarzuela of political substitution in the registration of official candidates. It is as though a drama was again going through a script, repulsive to some but obviously acceptable and effective to many. I have heard one political analyst after another that the highest officials of our land wanting to remain in power are disrespecting the Filipino voter by engaging in political antics. However, I disagree.

Politicians want to win, and some will want to win at any cost. It will matter less to them that some values greater than their selfish interests will be seriously damaged – that, in fact, a whole value system will be perverted. Those who appear to disrespect the truth, who seem to be making a joke of the election process thus far, they are not stupid. They may be greedy for power and making money, but they are not stupid.

They are not disrespecting the Filipino voter but know them more intimately. Sadly, they are deliberately playing up to their weaknesses. If they see that most voters will fall for lies, if most voters will elect even those who steal the people’s money, they will plan how to use lies and stolen money to win people’s hearts and minds. Maybe the interviewed political analysts are too shy to say that it is precisely the ignorance or gullibility of Filipinos voters that motivate corrupt and greedy politicians to take advantage of them.

From a higher standpoint, we must thank those without the conscience for teaching us where many of our people are most vulnerable. One is the area of critical thinking, sacrificed for convenient thinking. We may have to think fast but fake news is there ahead of us, using the same technology in a more efficient way. All fake news needs are the bad characters, and we have more than enough of that.

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