Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The usual suspect

FIRST, the Church.

And now the president, too, wants media to be “agents of hope.”

During the Oct. 17 opening of the P1-billion studio of GMA Network, Gloria Arroyo urged media to “sustain our people’s hope” in the face of a “global economic crisis that is responsible for driving up the prices of food, fuel and rice in the Philippines.”

In the next paragraph, however, the president debunks the country is in a crisis. Although the US is going through an “economic meltdown,” Arroyo says we only “face strong challenges.”

I check the mirror for signs. Whenever I hear doublethink, the cynical journalist in me always rears her head, an unlovely sight.

Doublethink can make two contradictory realities exist in a politician’s mind. As George Orwell wrote in his book “1984,” a fictional political party adopted these three slogans: “WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH."

But what did Orwell know? The man didn’t even get the year of the new dystopia right.

So I decide to take up the president’s suggestion, and go undercover in the sunny isles where journalists are loathed to tread.

I choose a day when I don’t have any deadline to beat. One has better credibility as an instrument of positive thinking when future articles are still at a hazy remove and one’s editor has, as yet, no idea what’s going to hit him or her.

I walk around our village. I smell the flowers along the roadside, and end up sneezing from the dust-coated petals.

I drop by a neighbor’s stall of local and national dailies to seek inspiration (and to be honest, some shade to relieve the headache that’s threatening to erupt from this excessive strolling).

Every reporter begins the day by scanning with hope the competition’s coverage. To survive in this business, we hope to have more scoops than our rivals.

I scan all four dailies. I scan them again. The story I’ve hoarded has not come out in the others. I’m alive!

About to give myself one point for giving one person—myself—hope to live till the next deadline, I catch the well-curdled face of my neighbor beside the weathered sign of “No free reading.”

When I walk away, my ears strain to listen to the jingling coins that have crossed over to my neighbor’s palm.

I am no closer to finding elusive hope but am richer by four dailies that I’ve already partially read. My heart plummets.

It zooms up again when it encounters half-way down the evilly cackling journalist that’s just bidding her time to resurface.

When I reach home, I spread the newspapers and read, page to page. I reread a couple of times just to be sure.

I realize then my fatal mistake. Why did I undertake this experiment in the first place? I should not have read the news at all.

Pandora opening the box released all evils except one: hope. The Greeks, in this legend, believed hope to be a weakling but still a risk

What is more dangerous than holding out a lifeline of optimism that life will ever be free of lying politicians, greedy generals, interfering journalists?

Yet what good is there in denying or ignoring the hard truths behind the headlines: “rice crisis,” “financial crunch,” “euro-generals mess”?

Beyond the pittance of her pay, a journalist exacts no influence on economic policies and trends, but she will report on these.

A journalist has no discretion over public funds, but will probe how these are spent or misspent.

Whenever hope becomes a fatality, why do we not look accusingly at those who betrayed, lynched, murdered and bragged with impunity afterwards?

Why do we blame the messenger?

mayette.tabada@gmail.com/ mayettetabada.blogspot.com/ 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Oct. 26, 2008 issue

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