POSTSCRIPT / April 3, 2018 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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No need to talk dirty like Duterte

WHILE there is not much we can do to stop President Rodrigo Duterte from cursing and spouting obscenities in his speeches, we plain folk can hold back from imitating his sometimes vulgar language in our social media postings.

Interjecting fu*k and put***in* may add color (and character-count) to our private texts sent via cellphones and similar gadgets, but foul language does not bolster our arguments when debating on FacebookTwitter and such social media platforms.

Some people might characterize the cursing as being smart. This senior citizen thinks it is not, but our opinion does not matter as much as social mores, or what the whole community generally thinks and feels about it.

Having just emerged from the stillness of another Semana Santa, maybe we can agree among ourselves to scale down, or even stamp out, in our social media posts not only unnecessary cursing, but more so vilification and character assassination of private persons.

Note our specifying “private persons” because citizens and taxpayers must not relent in their critical appraisal of government officials and public persons, whose acts and statements are subject to fair comment.

Individually, whatever others do or don’t do, our self-restraint can help clear the air and thus enlarge the space for constructive communication and lower the temperature of the spirited debate over sensitive issues.

We lose nothing watching our language, but gain more attention.

Assuming we agree with this proposition, who will enforce it? No one, but ourselves. We begin and rely on our own self-control and sense of propriety. Our individual example may yet catch on.

Denizens of the socmed jungle may have noticed already that falsehoods and foul language are spreading fast over Facebook and Twitter. Even on popular TV entertainment shows, such words as g*go are heard from participants, prompting disclaimers from the hosts.

If this contamination keeps on, and rages on an algorithmic scale, the pollution may just smother the digital communication channels. Facebook, for one, is already going through a credibility crisis exacerbated by the massive misuse of its users’ personal data.

The losers? We the netizens.

Regarding the President’s propensity to curse in his speeches, we have watched enough of his video-audio recordings of his talks to understand better this aspect of his personality. His cursing is a speech habit.

Vulgarity sometimes adds vehemence to the President’s delivery, sometimes gives a humorous nuance to his attempt to be folksy — but it detracts from his duty to be presidential in his public functions.

This means that since Duterte is actually playing a role – no longer as a provincial politico but as a president of a nation of 105-plus million Filipinos — he should adjust his language to the crowd, the occasion and the nobler objective of his address.

Meantime, going back to the point we set out to make here, it would help if we the citizens refrained from imitating or adopting his foul language in our dialogue in social media.

We lose nothing, but gain much, by not talking dirty like Duterte.

• Media reminded of truth, integrity

TWO years ago this week, then President Noynoy Aquino shared his observations on the responsibilities of mass media. We are recalling them, because they are timely reminders to the mainstream press now locked in competition with social media.

In the high and low of the public information business, the declining print media business may yet see a possible recovery in its loss of reach and influence.

The integrity and credibility of social media platforms, which pose the biggest challenge to print media’s viability, are under fire after they allowed themselves to be used in a big way by political and commercial interests.

Addressing the Publish Asia 2016 ceremonies organized by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), Aquino reiterated the recurring questions on the press’ dedication to the values of integrity and truth.

He told local and foreign journalists in attendance: “Your dedication to these two values is especially important in light of your expansion to new media technologies.

“There has been a great shift away from the primacy of print to a 24/7 news cycle, where it only takes a single Tweet to break news — where anyone can report on anything, at any time, and have it reach anywhere in the world. These new forms of media challenge what print, at its best, is supposed to represent: depth and breadth, context and a clear delineation between opinion and news.”

While citing the need for efficient dissemination, Aquino said media’s “most basic responsibility is to deliver information — information that the people can trust, can lead to fruitful discussions on issues of national and global importance, that can even lead to positive transformation.”

He also called attention to news and views sometimes overlapping, warning that when the distinction gets blurred, “the journalism profession is endangered.”

The President said: “By far and large, you — the press — already have our people’s trust. This alone reflects the magnitude of your responsibility to wider society: to disseminate information, instead of speculation; to foster higher levels of discourse, instead of becoming a rumor mill; to empower citizenries and nations, instead of tearing them down.”

Aquino was addressing the media assembly a few weeks before the May national elections where his Liberal Party candidate, Mar Roxas, eventually lost to Rodrigo Duterte who was running under the PDP-Laban banner.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 3, 2018)

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