Makati City (September 8) – There was a recent invitation from the Mindanao Institute of Journalism for me to be a resource speaker at an academic forum attended by around a hundred lecturers and students of Kidapawan Doctors College.
MasterPeace Leadership Summit:
Theme: “Filipino Youth at the Forefront of a Peaceful Future”
Organized by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Sept 29-Oct 1, 2017, Crown Regency Hotel, Davao City, Philippines
The Media Today
War Journalism vs. Peace Journalism
Sample Cases of Reporting in Mindanao
Editorial Policies Relevant to Covering Mindanao Events
It is said that the communications revolution signals “the death of distance” as it has allowed activists to gain more influence as new communications and information technologies are beginning to enable advances in e-government, e-democracy and e-participation. On the other hand, they also empower NGOs, social movements and activists, among others.
Michael Ayers and Martha McCaughey document and critique in their edited Cyberactivism the growing importance of activism taking place through the Internet by showing that it can be used for protest as well as in supporting real-life protests. It is shown in a similar volume that given its transnational, many-to-many communication facility, the internet offers revolutionary potential for social movements to speak directly to the citizens of the world. Moreover, electronic mail, mailing lists, websites, electronic forums and other online applications provide powerful tools for coordinating activity.
In dealing with “cyberpower” – defined as the power that structures culture, politics and economics of cyberspace and the Internet – Tim Jordan discusses in length three theories of power as the theoretical toolbox of his book. First, he touches on power as a possession and its three elements that are accordingly ought to be identified. First, according to him, power is intentional as someone wills something to be done and it is done. Second, power understood as a possession needs resistance to manifest itself and unless power manifests itself there is no idea that it exists. Third, if power, says Jordan, concerns the ability to overcome resistance then stable patterns of power can be equated with forms of domination, or simply put, systems of domination occur when there are patterned relations of power. He identifies this theory of power with Max Weber, quoting him to have said: “In general, we understand by ‘power’ the chance of a man or of a number of men to realize their own will in a communal action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action.”
Having discussed this “common sense conception of power”, Jordan points out some questions that in his view are remained unanswered: What is it that enforces obedience to the powerful will? What is it that ensures compliance? What overcomes resistance? In attempting to address these questions, Jordan also looks in turn with other understandings of power that begin from just such a criticism of power understood as a possession: power understood as strategies that situate subjects as dominated or dominator and power understood as the result of interactions between knowledgeable individuals.
Jordan associates Michel Foucault with the conception of power as domination whose principles are that power is a force that generates structures of inequality between people; that a form of power both intends to produce certain effects but is not driven by any one’s will, implying that different elements move in a way that fulfills an overall purpose and which is served by a number of tactics common to different micro-parts of the army; that domination implies both dominated and dominator and power as a relation implies both powerful and powerless; that power is manifested in great strategies of inequality; and that attempting to define power in the abstract is not necessary; instead, a methodology for studying power is needed and only then can specific forms of power that exist in particular times and places be analyzed.
While elucidating his theory of power as social order, the British sociologist, Barry Barnes, explicates:
In a stable normative order knowledge that an action is normal and routinely done encourages the performance of the actions, so that the general dissemination of the knowledge suffices to validate it in practice… Any specific distribution of knowledge confers a generalized capacity for action upon those individuals who carry and constitute it, and that capacity for action is their social power, the power of the society they constitute by bearing and sharing the knowledge in question.
In order to make his argument clearer, Barnes cites the classic example of traffic light. Why do cars stop at red light? Why the pedestrians do not cross the street at red light? For both the drivers and the pedestrians, two off-putting things can be pointed out. First, in the case of the drivers, they are afraid that fatal car accident involving them might occur as the drivers of cars in the adjacent street are most likely to go by following the green light which means, “Go!” As for the pedestrians, they are afraid to be hit most likely by the running cars as it is green light for them. Second, the drivers know that even if by chance no car mishap happened as there are no nearby cars in the adjacent street, they might not escape the wrath of the traffic policemen who will definitely penalize them for violation of traffic rules.
Similarly, the pedestrians know that even though the running cars are still far away from the pedestrian lane, their crossing the street at red light is tantamount to being legally charged with jay-walking. In other words, both the drivers and the pedestrians are taking into account two kinds of sanction for their action: physical (accident) and legal (penalty). This established social norm for the drivers and pedestrians will be more embedded within them if they regularly observe more people, i.e. more drivers and pedestrians following the same social norm – drivers stopping at red light and pedestrians not crossing the street at red light. There will be the same effect if they see more people penalized by either or both the physical and legal sanctions – cars bumping on other cars from the adjacent street or drivers whose license are confiscated by the traffic officers for violation, and pedestrians hit by running cars or penalized for jay-walking.
On the contrary, should the people start to witness that more cars are not stopping at red light and are neither having accident nor incurring penalty for doing so, and similarly, more pedestrians are crossing the streets at red light and yet they are not hit by running cars or incurring penalty for jay-walking, they will also tend to gradually remove in their minds the two restraining physical and legal sanctions. The social norm of the red light will die out. The red light’s ‘power’ of stopping cars and preventing the pedestrians from crossing the street will cease to exist as the people believe it so.
In a recent work, Barnes states:
Suppose we think of so many responsible agents, acting and interacting together as members on the basis of their shared knowledge. Now concentrate on that part of their shared knowledge which is knowledge of their own social and institutional order, made of statuses and the associate rights, powers, responsibilities, and so forth. This is knowledge of things that are what they are because they are counted as being what they are, that is, because they are known to be what they are.
In this context, he cites how banks work as social institutions. Banks are external to us, he says, because we all know them to be so and the important knowledge we have is the knowledge of what we all do in relation to banks. That some deposit money in the bank which lends it out to others and making itself formally bankrupt at all times is overcome by the shared knowledge of individual depositor that others are not about to withdraw their money. In short, a bank’s objectivity hinges on the knowledge all its depositors on the likely actions of other depositors. This will be exposed when there is a run on a bank and the shared knowledge of depositors changes into “Most other depositors are going to withdraw their money and I have to do the same”. Accordingly, the outcome of such a shift in collective knowledge is the eventual bankruptcy and collapse of even a competently run bank.
In the above explanation there are two crucial elements that constitute a social order: routine and knowledge. Along this line, Tim Jordan argues that social objects and structures exist on the basis of persisting routines of behavior of individuals and these persisting routines are based on common, collective knowledge of those routines. Societies and communities are nothing more or less than the knowledge that members of those communities hold about their societies, he states. He explains:
In short, while social structures appear external and objective to the individuals who constitute them, such structures are wholly internal to the collective or group. Social structures can change but only through concerted collective action. The structures that constitute a society can now be understood as the result of the knowledge individuals have of those structures and of the consequences actions will probably have. This knowledge is self-referring; it is knowledge about what others do, and it is self-validating – the more knowledge is used the more valid it becomes.
Put in a diagram for clarity sake, we have the following:
Therefore, the proposition here is that the persistent routines of a certain behavior create a common, collective knowledge of those routines. At the same time, the commonly and collectively held knowledge of those routines by the people reinforces their continuous observance of the same routines of behavior. The constant interaction between the routine and knowledge establishes social order. Once the routine-knowledge interaction is not sustained, the resultant social order will consequently fade away.
 Frances Cairncross, The Death of Distance 2.0: How Communications Revolution Will Change Our Lives (London and New York: Texere, 2001), p. viii.
 Jonathan D. Aronson, “Causes and Consequences of the Communications and Internet Revolution,” in The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 3rd edition, ed. John Baylis and Steve Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 630-633.
 Michael D. Ayers and Martha McCaughery, “Introduction,” in Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice, ed. Michael D. Ayers and Martha McCaughery (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), pp. 5-14.
 Wim van de Donk et al., “Introduction: Social Movements and ICTs,” in Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens and Social Movements, ed. Wim van De Donk et al. (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), pp. 1-9.
 Ibid., pp. 15-19.
 Ibid., p. 56.
 Barry Barnes, Understanding Agency: Social Theory and Responsible Action (London: Sage, 2000), p. 149.
 Tim Jordan, “Social Movement and Social Change,” Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) Working Paper Series No. 7, September 2005, p. 7.
 Jordan, p. 12.
 Ibid., pp. 12-13.
(Images courtesy of phillwebb.net and digitalactivismnow.org)
Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister of Adolf Hitler, once said, “A lie, if it is repeated a hundred times, becomes the gospel truth.”
The World of Propaganda
When the people of Sham received the news that ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib was fatally wounded by Ibn Muljim in the mihrab (niche) of the Kufah Mosque, they could hardly believe that Abu Turab (‘Ali ibn Abi Talib’s epithet) would visit a mosque and much less that he knows how to pray! These they were saying about a person who would spend the whole night privately conversing with His Lord, entreating, imploring and beseeching Him in utmost humility and abjectness. Lady Zaynab bint ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib – that articulate voice of ‘Ashura – had to swim against the tide of ‘truth,’ ‘justice’ and ‘movement’ in inverted commas in order to hoist the true banner of the truth of Muhammad truth, the justice of ‘Ali and the movement of Husayn. Regrettably, the minbar (pulpit) – that sacred Prophetic platform for the conveyance of the Divine revelation and dissemination of socio-political instructions – was not spared from the blemish of black propaganda. As can be recalled in history, it was in the very minbar that the foremost defender and believer of the faith and scribe of the revelation would be cursed every Friday prayer throughout the then Muslim world from Sahara Desert in the west to the Ganges River in the east. This malpractice would continue for more than a generation until it was finally ended by Umayyad caliph ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. Yes, whether we like it or not, we are living in a world of propaganda. Look around us – billboards, tarpaulins, graffiti, monuments, and simple signboards. These are all tools of propaganda. Yes, ours is a sphere of incessant struggle; ours is a stadium of perennial competition of winning the hearts and minds of the people. Yes, ours is a world of media spinning and manipulation.
In Arabia during the time of the Prophetic mission, this role being played by the mass media, as we know it today, was played by the poets or shu‘arā’. At the very beginning of ‘The Message’ film, poets could be seen in a poetry-arena vying one another in impressing more the tribal and clan chiefs and prominent figures with their words of flattery and eulogy. On various occasions – marriage ceremony, war declaration and burial procession – poets would compose rhymes and elegies to incite emotions and move people. Innermost feelings were also expressed in poetry. For instance, Abu Talib’s unflinching allegiance to the Faith of his forefathers Ibrahim and Isma‘il as well as his unwavering support to the mission of his nephew Muhammad could be gleaned from his poetical verses. In the same manner, Yazid ibn Mu‘awiyah’s skepticism and mockery of the Prophetic mission and the sending down of revelation could also be found in his couplets, as recorded in history.
The Poets in the Scripture
Given this pivotal role of the poets at that time, it is not surprising that Chapter 26 of the Qur’an is known as Sūrat al-Shu‘arā’ (or, Chapter: The Poets). Interestingly enough, out of 227 or 228 verses of the Chapter, the poets were the topic in only the last seven verses, yet the sūrah is still called Sūrat al-Shu‘arā’. Without quoting anymore in this marginalia the Arabic text, an English rendition of the said verses is as follows: Shall I inform you (of him) upon whom the satans descend? They descend upon every lying, sinful one. They incline their ears, and most of them are liars. And as to the poets, those who go astray follow them. Do you not see that they wander about bewildered in every valley? And that they say that which they do not do, except those who believe and do good and remember God much, and defend themselves after they are oppressed; and they who act unjustly shall know to what final place of turning they shall turn back. (Q 26:221-227) The following points can be inferred from this passage: * That the majority of poets were condemned for being liars and sinners; * That these poets were followed by the misguided ones; * That these poets had no specific agenda of their own – they wander about bewildered in every valley; * That these poets say in their poetry what they themselves do not do; * That there is also a group of poets not included in the categorical condemnation – those possessing such qualities as (1) belief in God, (2) doing of good, (3) constant remembrance of God, and (4) defending the rights of the oppressed.
The Poets’ Burden
In today’s setting, this exceptional group of poets may be represented by a very few media people and journalists who are neither submissive to the selfish interests of the corporate media nor included in the payroll of politicians and power-holders. This is while the rest of the media people, with due respect to those who are not guilty, are a showcase of those characteristics of the poets for which they are categorically condemned by the Scripture – being liars, sinners, followed by deviants, paying lip service and having no wholesome agenda. As such, the burden of the upright ‘poets’ of today is to possess those four exceptional qualities – (1) belief in God, (2) doing of good, (3) constant remembrance of God, and (4) defending the rights of the oppressed – while upholding the ideals of journalism – honestly and fearlessly relating the events to the people.
Media 2.0 as the Modern Poets’ Arena
This burden of the upright journalists is compounded by the nature of the new playing field. Not too long ago, the study of media would deal with the post-Gutenbergian mass communication through a small number of key forms like the printed books, newspapers, cinema, radio, and television. It was characterized by the writer or reporter shaping the ideas and opinions of the recipient or reader about the events. This is what mass communications students call ‘Media Studies 1.0’. With the advent of the computer technology and the paving of the information superhighway, there is now a murky distinction between the news producer and receiver. Gone are the days when the news production owners had the sole monopoly of the creation and production of the events’ narratives. Through social networking sites, for instance, the ‘conventional’ news receiver could easily react to the news, thereby shaping the opinion of other ‘receivers’. Most often, the news of an event would shape the trend and even the outcome of that event. (For instance, a septuagenarian wife reported in the news that her fellow septuagenarian husband was missing. After sometime, the missing old man was found through the voluntary efforts of young netizens who had helped in locating him throughout Metro Manila and the surrounding towns.) This ambiguity concerning the producer-versus-receiver and event-versus-news divide is dubbed ‘Media Studies 2.0’. In fact, some media scholars and practitioners are now talking about Media Studies 3.0. For the meantime, it is not our concern to delve into this matter.
The Challenge Facing the Upright Modern Poets
After stating the nature of the media, its crucial role and the present playing field of the players, let us lay down the aspects of the challenge facing ideal journalists or what we may label as ‘upright modern poets’. The challenge facing them is to narrate the true account of events in the most convincing manner. Unless the concerned netizens tell their own story, others will do so on their behalf – but in the most unjust and unfair way possible. This is our own version of the “Publish or perish” dictum.
Sunday, 22 July 2007
TEHRAN, Islamic Republic of Iran (22 July) –Barely an hour after signing in Friendster.com early today from a student dormitory for couples here in central Tehran, the first three persons who joined my ring of friends are of course my better half, Mamot, followed by sister Mayhanie, and then an anonymous Papanok (meaning ‘bird’ in Maguindanaon vernacular), thanks to its extraordinary vision.
Since Papanok is flying with its wings of anonymity, I was curious to know its identity. So, I decided to sneak a look at its photo album which contains 14 pictures. Perhaps, at least one of these images could give me a clue.
Seven minutes of browsing failed to suggest any exact identity I could recall. Why? All the pictures are aerial views, impressive though—7 each showing different parts of Cotabato City and its suburbs (where the ORC Complex and the Pulangi River appearing like anacondas are prominent), and the MSU Main Campus (from the furthermost part of the 7th street down to the College of Forestry and KFCIAS).
True, I failed to identify Papanok but nevertheless my venture reminds me of the notoriety that winged-creature has earned here in the Middle East exactly a year ago.
With Papanok’s supply of Google Earth’s free repository of satellite imagery, maps and terrains of the world with exact cartographic grids which is becoming an emergent favorite toy of many online surfers, both the young and the young-at-heart, Hizbullah fighters were able to make a difference with their 4,180 Katyusha rockets fired into military and strategic targets in northern Israel during the 34-day showdown in Lebanon last year.
Through this surreptitious interference of the Maguindanaon bird in a far-flung region’s conflict, a geopolitical landscape is changed, a long-standing balance of terror modified, and the result of a war reversed.
Papanok has illustriously demonstrated the dynamics of asymmetrical warfare in the information age, embarrassed an invading army, shattered decades-old myth of invincibility, emboldened a defeated nation, deterred (or at least delayed) a regional war, and thereby surprised the world.
The unexpected outcome of the war, political pundits believe, significantly deters, or at least delays, impending Washington and/or Tel Aviv aerial sorties against Iran that could trigger regional war with catastrophic global repercussions and for which last year’s month-long devastating face-off was supposed to be a laboratory for experimentation.
Given this exposé, I advise you Papanok, whoever you are, to fly higher or hide yourself in the thick forest of Timaku island as my hunting gun is now loaded with the bullet of a newly crafted draconian law (Anti-Terrorism Law).
(Source link: MINDANEWS, July 22, 2007)