who will watch the watchers?


IF YOU think getting up for Monday shift with a hangover, saying sorry to someone who doesn’t deserve it, or changing funky diapers is hard, try coming up with an original idea.  If ever, I haven’t had one since I thought of writing love letters for a living (ala Love in The Time of Cholera in the 1980s, look where it got me), it’s hard as sticking a needle through your soft spots or cutting your nails to the quick, and even less fun.

In place of an original idea, cleverer creatures try putting parts of two original ideas (swiped off other brains, of course) and linking them together, try turning original ideas inside out (e.g., if A = B, B = C, and A = C, then most of the time if A =B and B = C, then A = C; sorry but the strikethrough is the closest thing I could get to an “unequal” sign) or even use original ideas specific to one field of study and try it in a totally different field, then bask in the admiration of ooohs and aaahs.  That’s how hard it is to come up with original ideas.

So much so that until the 18th century, Wikipedia lectured me that it was common practice to copy wholesale from the classics, and the closer you were to the original works, the better.  Even original thinking was discouraged, until reason prevailed, in the form of if you use someone else’s original work, at least acknowledge somewhere in the same work.

There’s still one bailout clause if you still can’t come up with an original idea, and that’s when you come up with your opinion.  And your opinion is given at least a semblance of credibility when (1) your opinion attempts to disagree with government, big business, or organized religion, (2) attempts to correct an outrageous error, unfairness or injustice, or (3) attempts to organize or mobilize genuine change, however nebulous a concept that may be.

[ Note that all the above, as well as the below, heh heh, is just my opinion, get it? 😉 ]

This is why Filipino opinion-makers, aided by mass media (print, radio, TV and recently the internet), are commonly held in high regard by the rest of society, and given a cachet that only the very rich, the very powerful, and the very beautiful traditionally possess.  Because of their quixotic mission of going against establishment, doctrine, naked power and authority, at the very least people are willing to, at face value, give them the time of day and listen to their rants and raves, and certainly get more than their five minutes of fame, as long as they do their job, which is give their opinion.

Those last three words assume that such idea, original or not, are theirs, meaning for the moment, it belongs to them from conception to communication, from the brain to the mouth, in the form of utterances, the printed word, audio, or gestures aided by video.

Let’s admit it : because of the hurly-burly nature of our work-a-day lives, we rely heavily on specialists to break apart and explain to us the nuts and bolts of the issues that matter to us, literally the life-and-death topics that affect us to our core.  By our belief (in the form of readership, listenership or viewership) and support (in the form of advertising and/or awards) we substitute these opinion-makers’ critical thinking for ours, and we repose in them a huge chunk of our trust, to challenge government, big business and other power blocs of society to be honest, on their toes, and to never shortchange us on our purchase of their expertise.

Conversely, when four different supposedly leading opinion makers (in the form of newspaper columnists) make the same, almost identical opinion, and use throughout their columns similar words, modifiers and phrases describing one person, event and issue, then their credibility as said opinion-makers is jeopardized and their usefulness to society erodes.

The situation, reported excellently in the rappler blog and reposted by an alert FB friend is revealing not just in the insidious reach of big business on mass media, but on how susceptible even the supposedly incorruptible of our columnists are to influence.

The four columns in question are almost unanimous in their description of inefficiency of a senior legislative official, resulting in a position that, coincidentally favors the giant, monolithic tobacco industry that the official’s legislative committee is trying to regulate via new tax law.  It may be true that the convergence of intentions happens to be happenstance, but when this convergence favors the very moneyed few, what conclusion/s can a reasonable person arrive at?

That the opinion pieces use very similar language and make reference to exact observations, even when the writers of these pieces weren’t present during the event reported on, makes the conclusion almost inescapable : that four writers had reasons other than professional in writing the way they did.  No matter what these writers received in return for writing their columns, the damage to their professional reputations will hound them to the day they retire.  Sorry to sound so brutally frank, but intellectual (and professional) dishonesty is the worst kind there is.

Thanks for reading !

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