Valley Golf Mauling: What We Have Learned

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Okay, this post may be tad bit late. It was meant to be late, because there are somethings that can only be said in retrospect. I'd like to take time off to write my opinion on the issue, and on a problem that's related, but completely on a different level.

I remember one month ago, an issue spread the internet like wildfire - a politically active father and son were accused of beating an old man and a child. Bloggers were going wild about it, crying injustice and action. The spread of reactions on the matter was unprecedented, almost like how people rallied the night before EDSA DOS.

I remember looking for the exact source and reading it word per word. It was a plurk/blog entry by a certain Bambee De La Paz, eloquently written, pleading, and to some extent horrifying. The entry was so emotionally stirring, it's not surprising to feel anger toward the Pangadamans. Or maybe it wasn't because it was well written. Maybe it's because an old man and a "child" were involved. Maybe it's because political figureheads were involved. God knows how we love to hate those. It was the perfect firestarter for the forest called the blogging community.

It didn't take long for the incident to reach mainstream news. Bloggers were screaming huzzas. More and more people were taking to the net to get the now spread out account of Bambee. At this point, the Pangadamans were one label short of being classified as satanspawn by half of the civilized population of this country.

And then the investigations began.

The truth is a funny thing, because although it exists, nobody can ever completely capture it in any medium without missing details or mistakes. The same can be said of written accounts. We have emotions when we write, and thus we develop biases.

After various fact-finding groups got into the scene and started taking witness accounts, Bambee's tale started contrasting with what the witnesses were saying. The old man wasn't the old peaceful guy we see in the Alaska commercial. He was found out to have been pulling rank during the argument, going so far as using an umbrella to physically intimidate the other group - something which he later admitted to. The young kid who was pleading for his life didn't look too young after he turned out to be a baseball bat- weilding 14yo which is, personally, something I'd expect more when you see your grandfather clobbered.

How could Bambee have missed all these details? I won't call her a liar. The mind has it's way of filtering out information that doesn't work towards the goal that it seeks. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and say she was just being protective of her family, and forgot about details that may have put a bit of rationality on the other side's account.

More witnesses came in and the real story became more and more consistent. Bambee's version suddenly looked biased from an objective point of view. "The witnesses were paid!", screamed by rest of the country. Was it really?

Blogging is at its best a personal publishing medium. It has the authoritativeness only equal to the one who wrote the article. There are no editors, no third party confirmations, no threats if libel and slander for blogs. It's in essence a hightech version of "pass the message".

If you look at it in a different light, would you believe an article written by Mike Arroyo explaining why GMA is the victim in the recent political scandals? We'd say it's propaganda, because they're on the same camp. Of course, anything that the opposition will say will contrast with what Mike would've said, but that doesn't mean they're liars. Likewise, Bambee will never say anything against her grandpapa and her brother.

But that never really stopped the big bad blogging machine from attacking the Pangandamans like locusts on a ripe ricefield. Most of us let emotions get ahead of rational thinking, and with the numbers involved, it's hard to turn away from a cause and start looking at the big picture. It's basic instinct for swarm mentality to kick in when associating with a group, thereby blocking other thought processes, as programmed in our genes.

That doesn't mean we should act like sheep and advocate any cause blindly. In the end we learned that Bambee's side had been victims, but not completely innocent ones, as the community has been advocating them as. They provoked a fight and the Pagandaman's fought back. They were both wrong at the start and towards the end. Picking a side in any fight like that is stupid, the same way parents should never take sides of two kids that are fighting, simply because fighting in itself is wrong.

Let's not take this incident as a victory of blogging over injustice, because in the course of the events, there were other injustices made. The right of people to speak out and explain their side was unduly shut out of the process. It is right to consider blogging as a new power that can be utilized by the masses, but like any form of power, it also has a chance of misuse. Misuse, however, is something we ourselves can fix.

If ever there's something to be learnt here, it should be that we should be critical of anything that we read online. We should learn to be objective. To discern. Fourteen year olds don't go down on their knees and plead. Not all Old men belong to the type that just sit down on a rocking chair and talk pleasantries while smoking a pipe. Mayors may be assholes, but they're not 24/7 liars and should not be treated as such until proven so.

The internet and blogging are perfect tools to give voices to people. Let's not make it exist at the cost of vanishing individual, independent thinking.

I'll end this article with a quote from my favorite author, Michael Crichton:

“In the information society, nobody thinks. We expect to banish paper, but we actually banish thought.”

Let's prove Mike wrong.

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