May 21, 2024

When we were kids, an uncle was fond of telling us ghost stories, which, in Iloko, is termed as “Istorya iti pugot”.
He was such a good storyteller that our imagination would wander beyond this world and made us believe about the existence of ghosts. Of course, in whatever size, shape or form.
On a stormy evening when only a candle illuminated our bedroom, us, kids, would gather around and hear him tell us tales that made us cling together in fear and praying that the lights would soon come back. But a ghost story can also be funny as when he is friendly like Casper.
Whether funny or grim, we have lived through it as part of our entertainment or diversion from the harsh realities of life.
The entertaining part of a story is something that is more appealing to the senses and that makes it more interesting, if not acceptable, than the facts of life. This is why the chismis spread by “Marites” is easily absorbed and becomes viral on social media. Before you know it, chismis is accepted as the truth because people keep sharing it.
We are reminded of Joseph Goebbels who handled the propaganda machine of Adolf Hitler’s antisemitism and how this influenced the behavior of society.
His famous quote which continues to be used at present, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it…”. “The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed.”
At our age and time and with the advances in communications technology, including in social media, it thus becomes more expedient to spread and repeat a lie, that sooner or later, the lie substitutes for the fact.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB (Committee for State Security), had also effectively used Goebbels’s strategy including the control of the mass media and suppression of dissent.
His government made Russians believe their invasion in Ukraine was legitimate to demilitarize and “de-Nazify” Ukraine, which had allegedly been practicing genocide against the Russians living in Ukraine.
His government bombarded its people with propaganda about so-called atrocities being committed by the Ukrainian government against Russians, when in fact, genocide was never committed.
So powerful are the media outfits that they can even greatly influence and control the outcome of corporate policies and decisions, including government policies and elections.
To whoever could afford to pay for their services, victory is assured. With this tool, I wonders if the mothballed Bataan thermonuclear plant project will be revived and pass Congress and even gain social acceptance.
So, too, will it be possibly used for the acceptance of joint Filipino-Chinese exploration and use of marine resources in the West Philippine Sea. A farfetched possibility you might say, but we just have to wait and see.
When we read the case of Sen. Leila de Lima and the affidavits of witnesses (which they later recanted) which were used to charge her with a non-bailable crime for which she is still languishing in jail, we could now understand how ghost stories can destroy lives and even history.
Remember that de Lima initiated the Senate investigation against President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. Before her election as senator, de Lima was the Human Rights commissioner while the President has bombarded the media with misogynistic propaganda against the senator and released details of her personal life, including an alleged “sex tape”.
Then de Lima was charged with accepting bribes from drug lords which she used for her senatorial bid. Since then and for five years now, she is in detention.
Of course, the sordid details about de Lima’s personal life and supposed sex tape was what the public gorged on “at pinag-tsismisan” such that the trumped-up charge was ignored.
It even made a lot of people believe it was true. After all, it was a very entertaining story, especially to the “masang pipol”.
As to allegations of extra-judicial killings against Duterte, the “masang pipol” seem to have accepted it as shown by the high popularity rating of the President at the time.
So at our age and time, it becomes more difficult to know what is the truth because facts, from which we can draw the truth, can now be manipulated and substituted with lies. Media practitioners should now be familiar with this scheme most usually employed with trolls.
First, facts or messengers of facts are undermined in order to create doubt. Then when doubt is created, the lie is fed and soon a culture is created where nobody trusts anything, even with their own eyes, because one person’s fact is just as true as anyone else’s and there is no such thing as a lie.
So, even the truth is doubted and even make people doubt it exists.
Even a ghost story will soon be believed as true because it is more entertaining than fact.
Forget about history, it will just be a figment of our imagination. (DEL CLARAVALL)