“For the times,” as Bob Dylan sang, “they are a-changing.”
In the Philippines, change has come indeed. But what kind of change?
Gone are the days when diplomatic language takes precedence in public discourse. Gone are the days when journalists dig at the facts the public would hold them in high esteem. Gone are the days when the carefully worded statements from the office of the president hold credibility no matter how slightly.
The rise of Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency signals the erosion of liberal values and sensibilities in the game of public imaging. What we see in Duterte is what we get — at least, that’s how his spinsters would put it. True enough, his roughness serves as a facade to his impetuousness. He says things unthinkingly only to be retracted the next day by his horde of interpreters, apologists, and blind followers.
Nowadays, “factual journalism,” which is a tautology, is under attack. Reporting the activities and statements of the president has become a truth-finding game. A verbatim quote that the mainstream media reported can be biased.
Duterte’s style and behavior have become the potent breeding ground for political satire that was Jose Rizal’s pastime. His constant flip-flopping, double entendre statements, unbridled pronouncements, the campaign against illegal drugs, and the stubborn support for the Marcoses are a rich fodder for the creative imagination of humorists. Pol Medina Jr. will never run out of material. The Philippine Daily Inquirer writers Benjamin Pimentel and John Nery have found their new niche in satirical columns.
Not only that memes and parodies invade the social media they have also become the means of relief to those who are frustrated and disappointed by this government. On the other side of the spectrum are the army of trolls and the cult-like Duterte fanatics spreading propaganda and fake news.
We live in the post-truth era where it is difficult for readers to determine fact from fiction. If this is the case, then we have to be more creative in delivering the message in a way that entertains and shocks the people. And satire is one of the ways to do it.
When we have attention seeking politicians and government officials, it is precisely this condition that gives rise to satire and comedy. Tragic it might be, but that’s life. We can only do so much and have a good laugh.
Satire has a bright future in the Philippines. In fact, it is slowly gaining a traction in social media. Satirists have a good run for their money. But once the object of the satire piece got onion skin there’s the risk of getting backlashed. That is part of the business. The only downside is that the government and the law are not on the side of the satirists.
In this country, journalists, editors, and publishers are frequenters of a lawsuit for libel. There’s the tragedy. Satirists are at risk of getting jailed, and those in power will have the last laugh. Nevertheless, the potential is bright. It is the reason why I created this website. And with that, I’m leaving you with this line: There is nothing truer than The Truest News.