Made for fake news and political shams

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

| Photo by Mike MacKenzie www.vpnsrus.com via Flickr/Open Verse CC BY 2.0

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

That was three years ago. Much has happened since then, and it has not been better. According to that same study, what began three years ago was zero three years earlier, 2016. Unless they nipped that trajectory in the bud, it could 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.

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 can 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. The age of information has morphed powerfully into 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, precisely 60 years old and above, they were brought up by those 20 or more years older than them, their own parent generation.

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. What happened, then, to the idealism of the older generations that they are so worried about the morality of today? I hate to say it because new generations are always repositories of idealism.

“Politics has proven that even history can 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.”

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. It was not up to parents or teachers to give their children and students their consciences, and it was God’s task or gift. The older generations would simply emphasize and affirm the reality of right and wrong to the younger ones. They taught the older ones that conscience is God-given and, therefore, enough to disturb us when we turn towards moral wrongdoing.

If so, then many of us seniors or near seniors must have badly messed up 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.

There are many accusations of a comprehensive and sustained script full of fake news in this campaign for the presidency. But the sources of fake news apparently intend to generate doubts on already public facts to build a new narrative. In other words, messages are inaccurate or factual, packaged to revise historical facts. We can quickly discover the fakery of these messages – only cursory checks of fact using Google can show how they are lies.

“Politicians want to win, and some will want to win at any cost. Those who appear to disrespect the truth, who seem to be making a joke of the election process thus far, are not stupid. They may be greedy for power and making money, but they are not stupid.”

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. After another, I have heard one political analyst 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. Those who appear to disrespect the truth, who seem to be making a joke of the election process thus far, are not stupid. They may be greedy for power and making money, but they are not stupid. It will matter less to them that they will seriously damage some values greater than their selfish interests – that, in fact, a whole value system will be perverted.

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, electing even those who steal the people’s money will plan how to use lies and stolen money to win people’s hearts and minds. Maybe they interviewed political analysts who 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 thought. We may have to think fast, but fake news is ahead of us, using the same technology more efficiently. All fake news needs are the bad characters, and we have more than enough.

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