Friday, August 24, 2007

Lynch mobs (and Malu)

You may have seen it on TV or even in person: a crowd catches up with a crook and, in the heat of the moment, proceed to beat him up. It's not a pretty sight. Almost always, there's one neighborhood tough who just has to throw in the last punch.

That pretty much sums up an initial impression that I had of l'affaire Malu, especially after seeing the long and extensive lists of commentary and invectives that's circulating on many blogs. Sean wrote an analysis that echoed my sentiments. Even though, like the last thug, I also threw in my own shot.

Not long after putting it up, I briefly considered whether I should take down my own Malu post or not. Did I really need to add to the milieu? Already it looked like the lynch mob I had just described.

But I decided to keep it. Why? Because I came upon her unrepentant and condescending "Diva" riposte.

Parallels have been drawn between Ms Fernandez and US radio commentator Don Imus. Imus was suspended, then afterwards fired, after making racist comments about a women's basketball team. It helps to compare the timelines of their events:

Two days after making the comments, Imus made a public apology. Three days later, he did so again on another show. When the public refused to be mollified and after advertisers pulled out sponsorship, NBC and CBS dropped Imus' show. Action was taken no more than a week after the incident.

In contrast, the Malu affair dragged on for over two weeks with no clear action from either the woman or the newspaper she was associated with. Indeed, there seems to have been denial of the affiliation. And then, of course, the "Diva" response which simply added fuel to the fire.

Lynch mobs form and grow out of control because there's no clear authority that will say "the guilty will be punished thus" and "the line ends here." The drama could have ended earlier if the Manila Standard Today or People Asia had issued a categorical position regarding Ms Fernandez.

Instead, it seemed like they buried their heads in the sand and waited for the reactions to blow over.

Did Ms Fernandez have to be fired? Not necessarily. MST or People Asia could have said: "We do not condone the statements of Ms Fernandez but we acknowledge her right to free speech" and stood by that position. It wouldn't have pleased everyone but it would have shown that someone was indeed in charge and would take action.

Closer to home and not too long ago, the Philippine Daily Inquirer faced a similar situation when retired Chief Justice Isagani Cruz took a swipe at homosexual culture. It took almost a month for the controversy to die down, but it helped that other PDI columnists addressed the same issue. Ultimately, it was an editorial acknowledgement that with finality closed the issue.

Without any action from the paper or the magazine, Ms Fernandez has taken what can be construed as the only honorable exit that would satisfy this lynch mob: a virtual seppuku.

(And as to the death threats? Well, that clearly crosses the line. Unfortunately, that's the undesirable combination of empty bravado under anonymity which, sadly, marks some Pinoys.)


  1. I think I just discovered a new phrase today...Lynch Blogging! ...*snicker*

  2. Aaargh! You beat me to it, man!

  3. A blogging mob is a - blob?

    Whether or not MF resigned because of the bloggers, I still think there is a way to turn this to a positive, say for a cause like Open Source, Uno or The Omega Man, Higher education or Nightfall. (sorry for the rest. This is supposed to be an internal joke.)

    Off topic, entirely: Thanks for taking time to meet me, I really enjoyed it. It seems as diverse as we are, bloggers have a lot of things in common too. Oh, I forgot the talecraft. arrrggh! Uno!

  4. Quite an apt comparison on the matter. Though like I told Sean, I think that this is one of the few instances when a pile-on has been occuring in our local blogosphere. Or is it just me and this is a regular happening locally that I've never really noticed?

    (You can also make reams of theses on events like these-- whether the beating up of a crook or a pile-on-- on the Pinoy's feeling of powerlessness in the face of reality. Ah well...)

    On the other hand, have you seen the blog link given by the ABS-CBN news report? Out of the 1K+ comments, it seems like trolls will be trolls in any scenario. ;-)

  5. Hi, BC: no, not the first time on the matter, though if you might want to expand beyond just blogs and include mailing lists and forums. This incident looks like the most widespread, though.

    I can cite several other cases:

    * the spoon incident in Canada, which really turned out to be the fault of the boy;

    * former Chief Justice Isagani Cruz's comments against gays;

    * Art Bell's racist comments against Pinoys, actually a hoax

    * the Digital Pinay incident, though that one pales in comparison

    * the Faye Nicole San Juan incident, before it turned out to be a hoax

    * the Subic Rape Case

    If I take a Campbellian view, this sort of thing happens on a regular basis -- this fills our own need for catharsis. It's a drama that needs to be played out.

    Just remembered that I wrote about it way back when --

  6. Hi, Jun: he he, I had fun, too. More card games next time. Post the pics naman!

  7. hmm. the world is not kind to fat people. besides, there can only be one bryanboy - and she tried WAY too hard.

  8. Hi, Nikka: he, he, only for the mean ones.

  9. Hello, Dom. Very well said. I took a different approach since a lot of level headed writers have already done a great job in dissecting the Malu issue.

    But I am an OFW, and so is my mother (who first became a domestic helper during her first year abroad), so understand if my idea of poking fun at Malu includes actual, heavy, finger poking. =)

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  11. There's also that time Claire Danes came to the Philippines and was declared persona non grata because some people didn't like hearing what she had to say about her experience. And then there's also the one where these Americans went to Jollibee and blogged about the weird food, only to get flamed by a thousand angry Filipino internet users.

    I should really compile some kind of pinoybloggers.txt.