Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ms. Fernandez on blogging

A few months back, Manila Standard - Today columnist Malu Fernandez elicited a firestorm when she wrote condescendingly about Pinoy overseas foreign workers. The loudest howls of protest made themselves manifest through blogs and email groups, calling for her sacking by publications she worked for. If memory serves the magazine she worked for, People Asia, did sack her but the MST chose to stick by her. At the time I did criticize her but was against calling for her ouster on the principle of free speech. When MST announced that she would remain on board, I applauded the move as courageous. Needless to say, I was in the minority. Although I agreed that the vitriol she spewed deserved an equally vitriolic response from those she maligned, this blog was openly against her sacking, and I also voiced that opinion on other blogs more popular than this one. (This blog really is primarily a medium in which my pals and I keep in touch. The stuff here is what we'd be talking about if we were all in the same country. But I appreciate and welcome the people who weigh in and comment. This is after all a public blog.)

Anyway, back to Ms. Fernandez. Her new column in MST is about blogging, and understandably she is bitter. She writes:
Before I go any further I must stress the point that this is not about my previous issue, but simply the point of view of someone who has been a victim of vicious blogging and blogging as a new communication medium.
After assuring her readers that this is not about her, for which I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, she continues, after thumbing her nose at bloggers as slackers or lonely:
The difference between a journalist and a blogger is that journalists have to adhere to certain guidelines that govern the freedom of speech. And whatever a journalist chooses to write about—be it popular or unpopular—we do not hide behind an anonymous name and are resigned to the fact that we have to take as much as we dish out. However, I simply detest people who place vicious comments and slanderous statements in blogs yet sign their messages as ‘anonymous.’ If you have something to say, don’t hide behind a false name. It’s just plain cowardice of you to do so. I have more of a deep sense of respect for those—however unpopular or vicious their statements are—who post their views with their real names and make no bones about it. At least they stand for something; I would rather take it from them than the cowards that hide behind false names.
Let us ignore the fact that she calls herself a journalist. I prefer to call her a columnist, but that is neither here nor there. The difference between a journalist and a blogger is that journalists have to adhere to certain guidelines that govern the freedom of speech. Last I checked, freedom of speech and the "guidelines" thereof cover both journalists and bloggers, and in fact cover all citizens. The principle of freedom of speech does not discriminate between journalists, bloggers, butcher, baker, and candlestick-maker. Perhaps what she means is journalists are covered by the standards of the publication said journalist happens to work for. Bloggers, not working for anybody for the most part, do not have to adhere to standards other than their own. A blog is the blogger's own private space where the blogger can do whatever he or she wants, say anything he or she wants, insult or edify whoever he or she wants. The only courtesy a blogger affords to his or her readers or to his or her targets is to open the blog up for comments, an open invitation to his or her readers to agree or disagree with whatever was written. A blog is just like any other conversation, or at least it should be. The only standards bloggers adhere to are the standards of the host and society at large.

Ms. Fernandez doesnt like the anonymity of the blogging community. She calls it cowardice. But such is the appeal of the medium. In the comments section I visit, I like the fact that I, an ordinary schmoe, could exchange opinions with other people on an equal basis, whether they be doctors, lawyers, rocket scientists, or movers and shakers of the business world. I never ask for credentials; the opinion itself is what's important, although some would insist on giving you their resumé every chance they get, as if that mattered. It doesnt. What I care about (or not care about) is what you say. Truth be told, I dont like anonymouses either, simply because it's so easy to pick a handle. Call yourself something and stick with it, for the love of God. That is your cyber-identity, and your opinions are you. You are nothing else in the blog community other than what you write.

Ms. Fernandez then purports to diagnose Pinoy culture:
Perhaps it is the Filipino culture to foster backstabbing because they never mean what they say face to face. Just how many times have you dealt with co-workers who will smile in your face when you ask them to perform a task or engage in just plain conversation, when in fact they are quite uncomfortable with the situation and are forced to do what they absolutely detest with a smiling face. I guess it’s the kind of culture brought about by 300 years of Spanish colonization.
Perhaps that's true. Although I myself have had no problem with the 'wily Filipino' for the most part, having met but a very few of them, and those that Ive met are easy to spot. I think that's called empathy; when other people know they can be comfortable around you and can say what's on their mind around you. If Pinoys can't do that around you, then I think it's safe to say that the problem is not entirely with the other person. Notice that she wrote "when you ask them to perform a task". Sa Tagalog, kapag may iniuutos ka sa kanila. That ought to give you a clue where she is coming from -- from the position of 'order giver'. As we have seen from her OFW articles, she's not exactly respectful of people whom she perceives as not belonging to her station in life. I repeat, her problem might not entirely be with the other person. Perhaps the other person sees something in us that is not worthy of full trust. But this has nothing to do with blogging, so let's move on.

It is true that some people hide behind anonymity, and these people usually have the nastiest comments. In blogs I have visited, and I dont visit many, anonymous comments are indeed cowardly. But Ms. Fernandez doesnt single out only anonymous comments, but generalizes about the blogging community as a whole. No doubt her past experience has left a few scars, especially since most bloggers dont belong to the alta-sociedad she aspires to. I mean, how dare they?

She ends with:
Maybe I should start an anonymous blog and really let go... but then again I don’t want to be responsible for World War Three and I would sleep much better being brutally honest in your face than hide behind an anonymous name. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I started a blog just to shake things up and got a ton of money in advertising?
That, I believe, is what she calls her acerbic wit. It would be perfectly all right if indeed she starts an anonymous blog. She can do anything she wants in it, subject of course to the rules and regulations of her host -- is as lenient as they get. I am willing to bet that she would enjoy the anonymity. She can rant and rail about overseas foreign workers or her househelp, or bloggers, or Spanish mestizos, or whoever else is fortunate enough to merit her attention. I hope she goes for it.


Preston D. said...

haha, patulan pa ba natin siya?

Jego said...

Go for it. It's like buying a green Hermes bag and suddenly wanting to exchange it for a Louis Vuitton after you spilled Jo Malone on the red one.

(That didnt really mean anything. I just wanted to drop brand names because it makes me look like I belong to the alta sociedad like I do in my dreams.) said...

Her statement that she can blog anonymously and earn lots of money through advertising is misleading.

Most bloggers who make reasonable income through ads are hardly anonymous.

Jego said...

By 'anonymous' she probably meant getting a pen-name. Like her role model Perez Hilton.