That free marketplace of ideas

    “SABI NGA sa isang kaso: Kung walang fake news hindi natin malalaman kung ano yung true news. Kung hindi natin malalaman ang kasinungalingan, hindi rin natin malalaman ang katotohanan (As stated in one case: Without fake news we won’t know what’s true news. If we don’t know what’s a lie, we also won’t know what’s the truth) … So, let there be a free marketplace of ideas.”

    Furious and fast was the torrent of denunciation and ridicule in the net heaped upon presidential spokesperson Harry Roque for what has been deemed as his spirited, if vain, attempt to justify the Duterte administration’s use of fake news as undeclared policy.

    Roque’s statements on Jan. 28 at the sidelines of the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City even stirred a number of netizens to reference to a quotation in Mao’s little red book: “Let a hundred [not a thousand, as often misquoted] fl owers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend…” Which led to the extermination of all criticism of the communist system, with the extreme prejudice to the critics.

    As for me, it was John Milton’s Areopagitica that Roque may have wanted, but miserably failed, to channel, to wit:

    And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing or prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter. As indeed, on Jan. 30, Roque did a passing mention of Areopagitica in an effort to convince us that fake news is neither encouraged by the Duterte regime nor has it any place in government policy.

    Spewing a slew of US jurisprudence on free speech, Roque cited the “conviction that the solution is never governmental censorship, but better journalism. It is an idea as old as John Milton’s Areopagitica.”

    “So, let there be a free marketplace of ideas.” Really, Roque?

    Where lies fake news in that free marketplace of ideas which, straight out of the Age of Reason, has always stood on moral grounds? Grounds that have through all these years withstood the twisted turns of evil minds.

    G.K. Chesterton said it so rightly: “Right is Right even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it.”

    That, but a re-phrase of St. Augustine: “Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”

    Indeed, nowhere but in the marketplace of the proverbial fishwives can fake news find – fittingly – its wrongful niche.

    Pope Francis puts it point blank: “Fake news is a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred. That is the end result of untruth.”

    Should we now hear Roque’s patron reprising his infamous “ ka, Pope!”?

    Cry “Dilawan!” then and let loose the mangy mongrels out of Malacanang’s kennel that is the Presidential Communications Operations Office! Thus, the Pope: “This false but believable news is ‘captious’, inasmuch as it grasps people’s attention by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices, and exploiting instantaneous emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration.”

    Thus, the brags and blusters: God, I hate drugs! Shoot me if I extend my term. Magdasal ka na. Kill them. Bobombahin ko yan. Mamatay kayo sa hirap, wala akong pakialam. Kapag hindi maipasa ang federalism, ‘wag n’yo ako sisihin. Magkakagulo, magkakamatayan.

    Furthered His Holiness: “Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue; instead, it risks turning people into unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas.”

    Thus, the demonization of mainstream media at every turn.

    Which brings me back to Areopagitica.

    For who knows not that Truth is strong, next to the Almighty. She needs no policies nor stratagems, nor licensing to make her victorious – those are the shifts and the defenses that error uses against her power. Give her but room, and do not bind her while she sleeps.

    And — even while wide awake – Rappler is being bound.


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