Carvajal: Freedom from the press

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

INDEED, much of the barbed verbal exchange in the local political scene is between people who wrap their opinions around their own facts. For instance, opponents of the drug war insist on their own fact of as high as 13, 000 killed extra judicially while supporters admit to none or a much lower number.

(Two facts actually have to be established here before an intelligent and objective, as opposed to emotional and partisan, opinion can be formed. One is how many have been killed and two, how many of these were extrajudicial. Neither of the two can be conclusively established unless there is agreement on what constitutes extrajudicial killing.)

Fake news might be defined as a non-fact that somebody reports as fact. A problem arises when an opinion formed around a non-fact is also considered fake news. It is not. It is an opinion everyone is entitled to which must be respected but only until it is proven to be based on a non-fact.

What really muddles the issue is when people consider as fake only news and opinions that do not jibe with theirs. I can understand partisanship from opposing political parties and their mainstream and social media mouthpieces. But I cannot understand the Human Rights Commission’s partisanship, why it does not mediate by settling the issue of which side has the right facts about alleged human rights violations by the current administration.

It is not like fake news is a recent phenomenon either. This gained prominence only since social media became the more prolific source of news and opinions. But disinformation (fake news, unverified news, slanted news, etc.) had always existed even before social media’s entry, for the obvious reasons that mainstream media are owned by powerful people with vested interests to protect and journalists in their employ are not angels but error-prone humans.

Thus, if we take out the malcontent-trolls we should be able to see how social media have actually leveled the field of free speech. Mainstream media that also have the equivalent (in corrupt journalists) of today’s social media trolls no longer have a monopoly on news and opinions. Bloggers, many of them well-intentioned and some better-informed, are now giving us the other side of a story or maybe even the more complete story.

The issue, therefore, is not freedom of the Press but freedom from (users of) the Press. And the only way to free ourselves from disinformation by the Press, now comprised of both mainstream and social media, is to acquire the needed mental and emotional discipline to distinguish fact from fiction, opinion from partisan posturing.
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