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Sacked by Sackur

If you’re saying that their opinions are somehow fake or false, then where’s democracy?




Before an interview with the venerable British Broadcasting Corp. carried on by the unyielding veteran Stephen Sackur, Rappler founder and chief executive officer Maria Ressa was exposed as a fraud.

The frantic critic of President Rody Duterte won a Time Person of the Year award just for keeping a steady stream of claims that media freedom is under assault in the Philippines, which explains her supposed persecution.

In reality, however, she faces tax problems with the government and allegations of unfair reporting from a private individual, while her news outfit has been alleged to have violated constitutional limits on media ownership.

Sackur would not have any of Ressa’s melodrama, however.

In one part of the recent interview, Sackur asked, “Maria Ressa, do you think the Filipino public care about your fate and the fate of other journalists in your country? Because if one looks at Duterte’s approval ratings, they are consistently above 80 percent approval. The kind of figure that other leaders around the world could only dream about, and the Filipino public are well aware of what he is doing to the press.”

To which Ressa replied using another of her persistent claim of manipulation through propaganda primarily in social media.

Then her own spin poured out: “We’ve had a pandemic, the lockdown. We are just in our 14th week of a very security driven, military-stick lockdown. It’s a lockdown when President Duterte has told Filipinos to stay at home! And he told troops that if they come out, if we break quarantine, and he told them — and this is a direct quote — he said shoot them dead.”

Of course, she would not ascribe the statement to the sly remarks of the President as part of banter with his official family, the Cabinet members, during one of the weekly briefings to update the nation on the government response to the health crisis, which Filipinos, except Ressa and her yellow backers, are familiar with.

Then Sackur delivered the smackdown on Ressa telling her, “You have to get real in a way. Everything you say about what Duterte is doing is not deterring a really big majority of Filipinos from giving him their backing.”

Ressa then conjured a self-serving scenario where Filipinos supposedly support the President out of fear. “I think you have to look at the surveys and actually talk to the people who do the surveys. And the biggest question you have to ask them is how do you count fear?”

“It is easy for you to focus on the threats to freedom, which you fear, and the fear you talk about, but what about the other Filipinos whose fear is much more street-level? It’s much more about the insecurity, and your Rappler website has made a point of investigating the drugs war that Duterte has initiated for the last three, four years… But the drug war, according to most Filipinos, has made their streets safer, thousands of drug dealers have been taken off the streets. And they like that,” Sackur countered.

Ressa then dug deeper into her bag of tricks and cited a supposed “UN report, one just released a few weeks ago — you can see that the people who die in the drug war are the poor,” which is non-existent.

The Rappler chief may be referring to data supplied by like-minded detractors of the war on drugs and the President, but which the United Nations did not take part in.

Caught in a corner by Sackur, she then exposed her true venom as she said, “You know, I always say there are three things that really characterize living under the age of Duterte. You have to do one of these three things, three Cs: corrupt, coerce or coopt.”

In reply to a suggestion from Sackur about “a sort of brotherhood feeling between Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte” and the use of social media, Ressa claimed “manipulation of the public at mass scale using Facebook has happened here in the Philippines.”

To which Sackur interjected, “I have to interrupt because what you are suggesting is that democracy doesn’t work anymore. If you are talking about, quote-unquote, manipulated public opinion, as you’ve just done then, you’re undermining and delegitimizing the notion that people have a right to choose their governors. If you’re saying that their opinions are somehow fake or false, then where’s democracy?”

Ressa then propounded the idea that democracy is indeed dead “and part of what killed it are social media platforms that have become part of behavior modification systems.”

All of the demonization and absurdities were neatly packaged by Ressa in her fake crusade in the face of legal ordeals that have nothing to do with press censorship and all that jazz.