by Nestor Ravilas
Is fake news an emerging normal? Or our society is actually built on a web of propaganda?
What is somewhat redressing in last week’s forum on fake news is that the virus does not only inflict this country. That is to say that we are not the only home for millions of idiot in this vast galaxy. What is distressful, however, is the report that the phenomenal rise of fake news, or misinformation, is worldwide in scale, and its continuing proliferation is beyond imagination. The only possible explanation for this is the ubiquitous presence of a market that patronizes and consumes all these lies and propagandas. This sheer assertion, however, is not one of the misinformation circulating around. I see good people myself, pastors and church leaders included, sharing and disseminating this falsehood. Even after calling their attention, they will just ignore you, and share and post again in social media another fake news. As it shows, therefore, they are not victims of misinformation; they did it on purpose to misinform people. And here’s the rub, propaganda intends to exclude and damage people.
With number of practical solutions offered as how to combat this phenomenon, its proliferation baffles us still. The more you fight to stop it, the more it multiplies itself. It behooves us therefore to look for the mother queen that produces the disease.
Fifteen years ago during our wedding, it made some of our religious friends raise their eyebrows when we refused to do the traditional veil the way it was practiced in centuries. Instead of putting it to my shoulder to show my authority as a man, and the other end of the veil to my wife-to-be’s head to announce her inferiority, we decided to cover both our heads to symbolize shared authority and mutual submission. The issue of inferior position of women in marriage creates a raucous recently when Cheska Garcia Kramer, in agreement with it, promotes it in their family Facebook page. There might be some individuals who were offended by such unlikely acceptance of self-debasement, but Cheska might be speaking in behalf of those who have internalized such lower state. We may ask, however, if there are scientific and biological proofs to warrant the self-deprecation of Cheska. There might be differences between men and women, but they do not infer either inferiority or superiority. So where this does condition of differentiated allocation of authority come from?
It comes from the long period of development of our society said Jurgen Habermas. When kinship communities were started to break up to give way to larger groupings like empires, legitimation of authority has turned critical. The need for politics to draw its power from religious elements has become imperative, therefore. Laws must emanate from the divine to confer power to the rulers for them to gain commands over their subjects. Heaven and earth then conflated in politics, and so in social structures and social arrangements. As succinctly puts by Habermas, religious practices have turned to be state rituals.
Here is where the tension lies, what religious practices did creep in into state and social rituals? Michel Foucoult himself clearly pointed out that our institutional violence is an offshoot of ritual violence of religion. I have talked of this topic in length in my published article in Asia Journal Theology, so I will rather indulge on other mythic narratives that turned to be legitimizers of these differentiated social arrangements. Secular scholars from Charles Taylor, to Jurgen Habermas, and Richard Rorty are basically problematizing this tendency of our society to draw its legitimacy from sacred history or mythic narratives. As in the case of men’s superiority over women, as the general position of women as inferior, as gay orientation as perversion of alleged original design, as those outside of one’s religious “we” are doomed, as having a violent god justifies our impulse for violence, all of these draw their justification from mythic narratives, and given an existential application in formal social arrangements and socialization. To say it simply, fake news is not an emerging normal, it is the normal we live into from the earliest civilization known to humans.
Going back to the question, “Why we patronize and share fake news?” It is probably because our society is a fertile soil that every fake news dropped will surely live, grow, and flourish. We exist in a world of misinformed faith, misinformed beliefs, and misinformed principles that intend to hurt, malign, exclude, and destroy people. We are used to it. Those who benefit from it, sustain it; those who fall victims, internalize it as in the case of Cheska. So why qualm on two or three or more additional fake news in the plethora of collection of propaganda we already have in order to victimize more people? We are standing on it, so better to live with it. By the way, this essay might be a propaganda as well, friends!
PENUEL SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY