Blogging under fire

Blogs and social media are powerful forums for more enlightened societies, active citizenries, and critical thinkers everywhere there are Internet connections.

But why have so many used this power to defame, to hate, to manipulate the truth or lie outright?

Don’t get me wrong, the expression of opinion and the free voice of contrarian views are, in my opinion, absolutely fundamental to a society that is involved in its surrounding social fabric made up by government, corporations, and unions, amongst others. As a guest on Monday’s Y57 Youth in 57 Minutes segment on Co-op Radio 102.7, I was asked how I was able to grapple with media bias and how I escaped it as a young journalist. “Oh, no, don’t get me wrong, I write with bias,” I replied to the raised eyebrows in the room. “Because the lens of opinion can put any issue into any light.”

As a result, I believe the advent of news blogging and its plethora of lenses analyzing newsworthy events should be ushering in a groundbreaking era of unprecedented journalistic integrity.

But, indeed, the power for anyone to publish his/her mind is a double-edged sword as more and more blogs are instead perpetuating hate and racism disguised as factual news.

The generation growing up in the new-media world now has to sift through the misinformation of Beck, Palin, and Breitbart, who have successfully convinced millions of Americans that Obama is a Muslim, health insurance will kill your grandmother, and the NAACP condones racism. For many who trust these three vivacious media personalities as credible news sources, those aforesaid outrageous ideas can seem reasonable and logical.

After all, Obama’s middle name is Hussein, right? Just like that guy that was supposed to have nuke-u-lar weapons in Iraq!

Indeed, this “reporting” with no base in fact has begun to turn even the staunchest defenders of blogger-journalism-- like myself-- against the merits of the blog as a trustworthy news source. Bloggers now must collectively denounce the farcical “journalism” that is increasingly pervasive online. One such example is an article I came across recently which had in fact linked to my article last week on the Manila hostage crisis.

Completely ignoring the tone of the article, posted on a site imprudently—at least if they want to be perceived as a credible source—called antipinoy.com, the 8,000+ word essay analyzing President Aquino’s failure in leadership was punctuated by an abundance of offensive labels, not only pointed towards the Philippine government, but also at Filipinos as a whole.

Unsubstantiated claims like those stating that the police SWAT team, poorly trained and led even by the Mr. Aquino’s estimation, were “police desk clerks” and “traffic enforcers” are exactly the untruths that destroy the educational value of journalism.

In this blatant attack on the President, which in and of itself is not improper, the author of the in-depth, well-written essay continues his factless speculation by asking his readers whether or not President Aquino was with his girlfriend—photo included—“having an uninterruptible event” during the time of the crisis. This is exactly the type of misinformation, even if it is in the form of an open question, which guides people to believe the ridiculous. Indeed, the prospect that Mr. Aquino was too busy sleeping with his girlfriend during the crisis is no less preposterous than the idea that Mr. Obama’s health reform includes bureaucratic “death panels”.

In my opinion, bloggers have every right to voice their opinions, slam political leaders, and even put forth absurd suggestions like those that say that the President was in bed during a hostage crisis. But putting those suggestions in the guise of trustworthy news—and so much of those 8,000 words was perceptive commentary—is not doing the public any good.

Information in today’s media age runs wild. When it is holding government accountable, spreading talking points and engaging the citizenry in fiery debate, today’s media age is one of unprecedented power for the people.

But on the other side of the coin is the deceit that is so often published on the Internet, passing off as trustworthy news. The very technology that has such unlimited potential in educating society is simultaneously slanderous and irresponsible.

There is always a forum for speculation and opinion, but it must be passed off as such.

And if bloggers, including those at antipinoy.com, want the public to take their writing as serious journalism, the blogging community as a whole must come together to clean up the fiction that is flooding the airwaves and replace it with intelligent, fact-based argument.

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