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Broadcasting hate

By: Radel Paredes October 21,2017 - 08:37 PM


While hanging out with fellow writers in a café and talking about a certain controversy that was feasted upon by local radio commentators who took it as yet another opportunity to show off their “hard-hitting” ranting, a friend said that it amazes him to think of how these broadcast personalities could afford to display such hatred against someone they may not even know or have met personally in the first place. What could be in their hearts, he asked, that they could manage to demonize others who have not really done them harm?

And to make a career out of it by throwing mud at someone on-air on a daily basis, it indeed makes us all wonder where they could have sourced such vile and venom that they seem to ooze out of them so naturally. Of course, their subjects do not enjoy the same control of air time or audience. They may not even know that they have been maligned in public incessantly by these thugs with a mic.

The usual excuse is that it is okay since the ones being criticized are politicians or public figures who are accountable for their job being public servants. Yet to make it sound as if you are taking it too personally, claiming to be the voice of public wrath, it still makes us wonder if there is an even deeper motivation behind it.

One could easily say that it is just a job, nothing personal. Or to quote a famous line in a Tagalog movie, “Trabaho lang, walang personalan.” Being a commentator, one has to, well, comment. But with the airwaves already saturated with other commentators and “block timers,” one has to be able to stand out or make a strong impression on the public. There is, therefore, a tendency in some to overdo it, to push it a bit harder to make it sound authentic. Indeed, one has to be “hard-hitting.”

And so it must be this need for immediate and sustained attention of the public that inspires this tendency to amplify hatred on-air. One has to impress the audience by pretending to be its voice. One has to be, well, theatrical. So although it is political commentary, the broadcaster has to borrow some elements of radio drama in his program to be more effective. And just as the mob is not in control of its passions, the radio commentator also needs to vent its anger with the least restraint as possible. And with this need for immediacy and drama, radio is the perfect medium for such kind of expression.

The same immediacy and theatrics must also be behind all the ranting on social media these days. Bloggers and trolls bash and throw mud not just at certain public personalities but at each other. If Gen Xers have radio commentators, millennials have “influencers” or anyone who is able to make a strong impact on the public, judging from the number of their followers or likes and comments to their posts.

To be a good influencer, one has to be social media savvy in the first place. He or she has to be proficient with the technology and speak the language of the target audience. This rules out most Gen Xers and Baby Boomers who did not spend their childhood and youth with internet and digital gadgets. So most influencers are millennials. Gen Xers grew up with the traditional triad of print, radio and TV. And as these media increasingly become obsolete, they too find it hard to adjust to the world of social media, which is now being colonized by young trolls who have been exposed to the internet since birth.

To most of these young influencers, instantly getting the most number of followers, likes, favorable replies and comments is more important than obtaining “public trust,” which may be gained only after a while through constant demonstration of the old values of accuracy, objectivity and fairness. Various methods are employed to maximize results. These include conspiracy and deception tactics, such as coordinated use of fake accounts to swarm on targeted opponents, the use of fake news, hacking and cyberbullying.

The latter is the most familiar. Influencers employ cyberbullying to attack their opponents or the opponents of those they serve, being modern-day vassals to political lords in this strange recurrence of feudalism in the digital age. They have to be able to impress their masters by showing that they are ready to do the fighting for them. They have to demonstrate that in that ruthless war of propaganda, they are willing to give up their dignity and integrity, all for the glory of their master.

But still one wonders: Is mere loyalty the sole reason behind the self-sacrifice? Or is it, in fact, self-interest which lies at the bottom of it? Is it mere love for the master or the expectation of gaining his constant favor and patronage? Or is it just a job like any other, where one’s survival or luxury is more important than principles?

A lot of media commentators have been exposed to be under the payroll of certain politicians. Some operate in more discreet ways under the guise of being PR men, publicists and political marketers, but they still carry out the work of propaganda for those who pay them. It is not a surprise at all that some of the meanest influencers on social media end up having nice positions in government or get to join a junket somewhere. It’s just a job, they might say, and if it seems that there are feelings involved, they are not necessarily for real, like everything else.

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