AT the Sept. 20 Senate hearing on the budget of Presidential Communication Operations Office for 2018, PCOO chief Martin Andanar was asked by Sen. Nancy Binay how his department could fight fake news when his asst. secretary, Margaux Mocha Uson was herself peddling fake news. “It’s difficult,” said Binay.
Andanar told the senators Mocha insisted on the “arrangement” that her online comments in her blog are personal comments and don’t reflect the views of PCOO.
Two things first:
■ Andanar didn’t deny Mocha’s use of fake news. He didn’t dispute what the senators must have long known: about the asec’s use in May of a photo of the Honduras police in an appeal for prayer for our soldiers fighting in Marawi City; the posting in August of the story of a policeman killed a year ago to respond to the publicity about the murder of a teenage drug suspect; and her posting weeks ago of Sen. Antonio Trillanes’s alleged bank accounts abroad, which the senator disputed and sued Uson over the fake news.
■ Andanar didn’t say he rejected Uson’s “arrangement” and didn’t promise he’d end it, saying only “Thanks for the reminder” to Senator Binay.
Binay had already torn down the argument that Uson the asec is separate from Uson the blogger who calls journalists as “presstitutes” or paid harlots in the media.
The government has taken in Uson as a public official and allowed her to go on writing a blog. Very well, if that’s the “arrangement.”
She will be not much different from Kellyanne Conway, U.S. President Trump’s presidential adviser who at the same time serves as one of his “surrogates,” the euphemism for Trump’s attack/defend dogs. Conway does interviews in the media talk circuit. Uson writes her blog.
Not on her own
But neither Andanar nor Uson can say she’s on her own. Conway is labeled as Trump’s surrogate; Uson must be correctly tagged too. Whatever Uson says, genuine or fake, can’t be disowned by PCOO. When Conway mentioned a fictitious mass murder (“Bowling Green [Kentucky] massacre”), she and Trump’s White House bore the embarrassment of being caught using fake news.
Actually, Uson could’ve been more useful to the government by staying as a blogger cum dancer in the private sector. She could’ve defended the president more effectively. And she wouldn’t have been scrutinized as rigidly as she has been by the public for what she says and does -- and the government blamed for it.
Andanar said there’s a debate on whether Uson could be stopped from doing her political activities when she’s a “political appointee” (as reward for her support to the candidate during the campaign). Right, she can’t be prevented from going all out for her boss who reportedly trusts her “very much.”
But the gripe of Binay and other senators was not about Uson’s politicking. It was her use of fake news, although she is already a high official of PCOO which, relevantly and interestingly, will use a sizable amount of its 2018 P1.3 billion budget to fight fake news.
Surely, she can wage her battle without concocting or beating up facts and shaming the presidential communication arm she represents.
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Defending ‘alternative facts’
WHEN U.S. presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway explained last March 19 her use of “alternative facts,” many thought she was giving b***s**t.
She said: “Two plus two is four. Three plus one is four. Partly cloudy, partly sunny. Glass half empty, glass half full. That’s alternative facts.”
Right? No, said Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” who told Conway “alternative facts” are not facts; they are lies.
Her examples show different descriptions of a fact and each doesn’t clash with nor change the other. A half-empty glass has the same content as a half-full glass. But a crowd in one inauguration that was verified by experts as less than a crowd in another inauguration? One cannot be an alternative fact to the other; one is true, the other is untrue.
If two reports disagree, check out which is correct. Which of, say, two bridges is longer. That is verifiable.
Interpretation of facts may vary. Politicians or their surrogates make a spin of an event but they cannot change facts about the event and offer them as alternative facts. Journalists by training and experience understand that better than many other people.