Where free speech flourishes, the people get to decide. This is why truly democratic states cherish and protect this most basic of freedoms.
Now, regarding the social media superstar named Mocha Uson, more than four-million people have apparently decided that she’s worth “following,” as the platform’s terminology calls the action of finding out what she has to say on a daily basis (or more often). If there is currently another commenter on the local political scene in this age of multiple traditional and digital media media platforms who has a bigger soapbox than Uson, I haven’t heard of him or her.
But Uson is not a journalist, an academic, a politician or a member of any of the professions that usually give birth to such celebrity pundits. In her previous career as a dancer and leader of the eponymous Mocha Girls, she achieved only minor success.
That was before she discovered her true metier as the pundit of choice of millions of Filipinos, by transforming herself into the arch-defender and booster of all things Rodrigo Duterte. Her career path has less in common with old-school media giants like the late Louie Beltran than it has with the former comedian Cynthia Patag—if Patag was ever read and followed by millions, instead of just the few remaining loyalists of the Aquino family.
Uson has had the distinction of being one of the very few people to have conducted a sit-down interview with Duterte, who appreciates her work and her media reach. As I wrote many moons ago, the people who thought nothing of then-President Noynoy Aquino according the same privilege to that execrable comedian Vice Ganda should not begrudge Uson the “scoop”; what president, after all, doesn’t relish the opportunity to talk to a “safe” media person with great reach who will lob only softball questions and gush at any answer?
(Fun fact: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo once had a one-on-one with Arn-Arn, the muppet double of the broadcast journalist Arnold Clavio. After that low point in presidential sit-down interviews, Ganda and Uson doing the same was, in my opinion, unremarkable.)
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Because this is the time of Duterte, when the people (not just the political and economic elites) have taken a proprietary interest in the success of their president, any attempt to silence Uson can be expected to be met with stiff popular resistance. Especially online, where Uson’s regular audience is now up in arms over a petition for social media giant Facebook to take down the former dancer’s personal Mocha Uson Blog page.
The online petition has gathered the signatures of several thousands, reports say. But because Facebook is a business, first and foremost, I doubt very much if Uson will ever be silenced—the millions who visit her FB page certainly generate a lot more revenue for Mark Zuckerberg than some piddling number of unreconstructed Aquino fans who want her mouth taped over, like in the photo that Uson herself posted to dramatize her supposed persecution.
Of course, if we assume that Aquino supporters are behind the move to shut down Uson (are there any other suspects?), this represents another irony: The people who so virulently attacked the regime of Ferdinand Marcos for preventing free expression are now hell-bent on silencing someone whose views they don’t agree with.
But in a free market of ideas and commentary, the people get to decide who they want to listen to and read. As someone who makes a living by selling my own point of view to whoever is interested in hearing it, I understand this perfectly well.
And instead of calling for outside agencies—or website owners—to shut up the competition, I’ve always believed that the success of others should prod me to do better. At a time when some people think that they should appoint themselves as editors and curators of what the rest of us should be consuming in media, supposedly for the good of the nation and everyone else, I offer this paraphrase of the old admonition to doctors—edit and curate yourself.
There is nothing Zen about the media world, anyway. If nobody reads or watches or listens to what you put out, you might as well have never written, broadcast or blogged.
If people want Mocha Uson, they’re welcome to her. If they want someone else some time later, that’s really up to them.
Democracy is like that. It’s noisy, unruly, shallow, conflicting, partisan and contradictory —but the people, if you let them choose, would not have it any other way.
If some people have a problem with other people’s views, they can just tune out—or unfollow, as they say these days. Or they can find some other place to reside where their “betters” always tell them what’s best for them and punish them for not doing as they’re told.
North Korea would be one of the places I would recommend to those people. And if they can find their way there, I hope they purchase only one-way tickets.