Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Blogging can ruin your life!

Yes, blogs can ruin your life, so says the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The article itself isn't nearly as sensational as its title makes it out to be. But this sort of feature deserves some comment because of its context.

First of all, anyone on the Internet these past couple of months will likely already know what triggered this coverage. Such a reaction only bespeaks of the immaturity of traditional Philippine media. Rather than addressing the core issue, newspapers and broadcast stations have been attacking the medium instead. All this points to how much of a threat mainstream journalists see blogs to be.

Yet another example: last Saturday, I caught the replay of ANC's debate competition, Square Off. This was Ateneo de Manila vs. San Beda. The issue: this house believes that blogging is harmful. San Beda spoke for the government side, and Ateneo spoke for the opposition.

The core of Ateneo's argument was that blogging is a discursive medium: blogs permit interaction between the author and the readers. Furthermore, blogging is a medium for free speech and should be protected. San Beda's argument, on the other hand, revolved around the lack of accountability of blogs. Core arguments aside, Ateneo did present their case better and so, I am glad, came out the winner.

Being a blogger, my biases should be obvious. But I've also tried to see how I might have pushed the government case. The only arguments that I could come up with are: 1) accountability; and 2) competence.

Accountability because, under cloak of anonymity, bloggers can dispense their vitriol and lies without any restraint; and competence because bloggers are essentially untrained journalists, and one does not hand over a potent weapon like media to untrained hands.

I know: both are pretty weak arguments; and moreso because the same criteria could also be applied to traditional media.

Is traditional Philippine media any more accountable than bloggers? Philippine media is essentially governed by self-policing bodies. If they are accountable at all, it is to their advertisers, which would actually make them worse because they are beholden to commercial interests.

Is traditional Philippine media any more competent than bloggers? They may be, because ideally they undergo training in ethics, style, and coverage; but a quick glance through the lifestyle section of the two top dailies quickly demolishes this argument. What's the selection process for the privilege of writing in a national daily again?

What do most bloggers write about anyway? On the whole, it's the most trivial of things (by mainstream standards), matters that would otherwise escape notice. Any malice that may be ascribed to bloggers certainly represents the fringe, the exception rather than the rule; and in any case, bloggers have a refreshing earnestness absent in mainstream media.

Perhaps the root of the real harm that bloggers cause, the reason why blogging could be considered harmful, is naivete. Then again, better be idealistic than jaded; for it is idealism that breaks down walls and crosses oceans.

Long live free speech.