Friday, January 13, 2017

Delusion is the Ultimate Weapon

No sooner had I sent out my piece on fake news when a friend, with all sombriety, told me: "They've filed plunder charges against Aquino and Roxas."

"Really now?" I said, one eyebrow raised, or so I imagined it.

"Yes! They smuggled in some gold bars. Mother and I heard it on the radio while we were driving home."

"Hmm," I said. Surreptitiously, I checked my sources for mentions of the incident. A couple of links later, I confirmed my suspicions and decided this was a story that did not deserve credence. All the same, mainstream papers like the Philippine Star already published the news as I suppose did broadcast media. "Hmm," I said again to my friend, this time with a hint of smirk, or so I imagined it.

So here we are a few days later and that story has been pretty much debunked. When I tried to piece it together, it appeared that the whole thing was wrapped in labrythine legalese of BSP Circulars and Republic Acts, which upon closer examination were either non-existent or unrelated. Apparently the case was also brought forward by, of all people, lawyers whom we presume should know better. The story lives on, however, in fake news sites and in Facebook.

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes, so the saying goes. That seems to be the principle in operation here. In some parts, truth never even stood a chance. The Philippine Star, for instance, has three stories on the subject but no definitive retraction. Clearly a correction does not carry the same weight as a lie designed to provoke outrage.

At the same time, I can't help but wonder what mental illness afflicts the people who concoct these stories and the people who gleefully spread them. (Are you one of them, by the way?) The prevailing posture is one of persistent paranoia and persecution, finding monsters in every nook and cranny. There's a pathological need to imagine enemies to fight against, with plots brewing in every corner. They seem so desperate to bolster their own beliefs, even at the price of a lie. (And if uncovered? Why, no matter, just move on to the next lie.) I don't know, maybe they all should take a chill pill, some Fentanyl, perhaps?

Ever since my own run-in with fake news, mild as it was, I've been far more careful with what I believe and more importantly with what I relay. Now I become especially dubious if it is news seems one designed to titillate. I'll leave it alone for a few days, focus on my work, read a novel and drink some wine instead of getting unnecessarily worked up.

"Hmm," I will say, and I will say again, "Hmm" with the hint of a smirk.