One fiction ends but false narratives remain
A junked poll protest is not the end of this story, and it isn't the only story either
This week marked the end of one Marcos fiction—that former senator Ferdinand Jr. was cheated in the 2016 elections—with the Supreme Court's dismissal of the electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
That decision also birthed new ones like his spokesperson's contention that the Supreme Court may only have dismissed the protest in part, or that the unanimous decision was actually split with seven justices concurring with the decision in full and eight only concurring in the result.
These narratives will likely persist even after the court releases the full decision and will join false information about the clan patriarch and deposed dictator that has not gone away despite repeated fact checks and efforts to debunk them.
VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Post revives FALSE claim ex-president Marcos scored 98.01% in bar exams
Just last month, VERA Files flagged posts claiming Ferdinand Marcos got a score of 98% in the 1939 Bar Exams, false information linked to an earlier debunked claim that he had received the highest score in the history of the Philippine Bar Examinations.
According to the Marcos Regime Research Group at UP's Third World Studies Center, the claim stems from "For Every Tear a Victory," a commissioned biography that is part of a network of commissioned and ghost-written books as well as propaganda by Marcos associates that cite and prop each other up "with the intended effect of conferring a patina of well-researched scholarship to Marcos."
The claim is one of three that researcher Miguel Paolo P. Reyes, speaking at the "Where’s the Lie? Research Findings on Disinformation" forum last December, said illustrates how propaganda produced by the Marcoses and their loyalists and allies "has a limited but important influence on the new forms of disinformation that pro-Marcos sites on social media are producing."
The research team found that a small portion—15%—of entries in a database they are compiling on false claims about Marcos that have been flagged and debunked can be traced to these pro-Marcos books.
Most pro-Marcos claims, 31%, are about recent events like the 2016 and 2019 elections while 21% are distributed through social media as memes and graphics and are "not attributable to pro-Marcos books."
Another 20% are attributed to a person—President Rodrigo Duterte, for example—quoted by media while the remaining 13% are very general claims.
"Most of the false claims or misrepresentations gathered are clearly recently produced given their reference to recent events and/or the media used to make them," Reyes says.
Where there used to be an attempt to legitimize and rehabilitate the Martial Law years through books and publications that could ultimately be traced back to the Marcoses, the way propaganda is produced and spread has changed in the 35 years since the fall of the dictatorship.
"[T]he point [now] is not to build on an existing lie or an outlandish claim but to saturate the audience with all sorts of information up to a point that the propaganda effort appears to be without an author, that the algorithm of the social media networks geared towards the new and the ridiculous hides the hands of the Marcoses," he says.
These online claims, which Reyes describes as "more crude falsities," mingle with the earlier propaganda from the commissioned books and ghost-written pieces and helps the Marcoses keep and grow their base.
Although he only presented the preliminary findings of the study, Reyes suggests looking into the provenance of claims about Marcos and the supposed "golden years" under him to find out whether the claims are based on the original pro-Marcos books.
"Discrediting sources besides debunking false claims may help address such an affront to democracy," he says.
Despite the effort that reading through decades-old books would require, convincing people that these pro-Marcos claims are propaganda will be even more difficult.
In the first place, they're already framed as information that a broad alliance of oligarchs, communists, and other shadowy figures is trying to keep hidden. It doesn't help either that some of the views "are also amplified by the President himself, who openly celebrates the Marcos legacy by burying the late dictator in the Heroes’ Cemetery and supporting Bongbong and Imee Marcos’s political ambitions," writes Dr. Nicole Curato in a report on disinformation published in January.
This endorsement, coupled with persistent revisionist content, "create a mutually reinforcing affective narrative that simultaneously combines feelings of nostalgia, hope, and irritation against the liberal version of history."
Which is not to say that we should stop doing fact checks or trying to set the record straight. Panelists at Balik Ka/Saysay/an, a forum held last September on historical revisionism surrounding Marcos, and who looked at disinformation on YouTube, said that revisionism should be countered “with the narrative of ‘Never Again’ and ‘Never Forget.’”
A RELATED ATTEMPT: Stories on the myths that made Marcos
Historian Francisco Jayme Paolo A. Guiang writes that same month that “the only way to defeat efforts at dismantling the truth is to tirelessly persuade and reeducate Filipinos using reliable and credible source materials,” but notes too that revisionist videos “manage to obtain sympathizers (as seen in comments sections) because their approach is distinctively attuned to the language of the pedestrian.”
“Historical revisionism through social media is not a crude attempt at manipulating public conversation by unscrupulous actors, but are rooted in ‘deep stories’ of ordinary Filipinos about how they view themselves, their personal circumstances, and their relationship with the nation,” Curato writes, adding that facts might not always be able to counter strongly-felt narratives.
“After all,” she says in the same piece, “can we fact check feelings?”
Elsewhere on the Internet
Facebook has blocked Australian media organizations from sharing links on its platform days before vaccination there against COVID-19 starts, a decision that “will make it harder for people to access good information, at a time when they need it most.”
Myanmar may soon have cybersecurity laws "that have been widely condemned as draconian, giving the government sweeping powers to access user data and block online sites." (h/t Doc Ligot)
Also, a behind the scenes look at Donald Trump’s Wikipedia page, where, apparently, “editors are fighting a brutal, petty battle over every word.”
Finally, a long read on information literacy and how lessons on it should include a look at information systems, or “the architectures, infrastructures, and fundamental belief systems that shape our information environment.”
Holy Angel University Communicators' League is holding "Online and Active: Breaking Virtual Curses", a National Democracy and Disinformation Conference this afternoon.
Registration is already closed, but the democracy-and-disinformation event will be streamed live here from 1 p.m.
UP Visayas in Iloilo is hosting the 3rd National Conference on Democracy & Disinformation, a virtual gathering of mentors, media personalities and experts in health and law, on February 22, 24, and 26.
Cheryll Ruth Soriano, among the panelists at the Balik Ka/Saysay/an forum on historical revisionism last September, will be presenting new research findings on Marcos propaganda on YouTube on the 24th.
Do sign up for "New Normal, New Media: The Emerging Challenges of Disinformation" through this link.