Watching the year-ender of a late-night talk-show reminded me how important alternative media platforms are. As 2018 concludes, reports of DoS (Denial of Service) attacks probably launched by DDS bots against Pinoy Weekly (still down as I write), Bulatlat, and other resources of progressive news and analyses flooded the social media.

Media corporations, I suppose, never had the chance of dealing with cyber-attacks; and if ever they did, they can easily resolve and counter such offensives. As I endure the talk-show, the guests that the host called “newsmakers” were, really, gatekeepers of information—and of the news company’s status in the industry and, of course, business interests. Media giants, too, can utilize troll armies. For instance, some satisfied viewers of an MMFF entry have exactly the same, verbatim, tweet about the film. Different user-names, same copy-pasted texts to boost hits and gain mileage.

Desperate, powerful institutions have cyber armies and defence systems, and part of the latter are talk-shows. That’s the bottomline. Let us proceed: I have not bothered with the names, so let me just assign variables to each guest according to their corresponding beats: S = Sports, P = Police, D = President, C = Congress, T = Transportation & Commerce, G = General Interest, and, last but most probably the most short-sighted, H = Congress (or House of Representatives). No need to assign a variable to the guest whose beat is showbiz, for obvious reasons. If not apparent enough, a trivia: PNP versus Ang Probinsyano was out of the latter’s jurisdiction. P was surprised at the vibe of a “shooting” (not the one that ensues cardboard justice) during the press conference where actor Coco Martin peaceably settled differences with Police Chief Albayalde.

Two questions of the host revealed (or re-revealed because I think some of us already know these tendencies of mainstream media people) the attitude of the guests toward their public service and their publics: What are your top news for 2018? What are your hopes for 2019?

Most answered like academics, who dared not tread beyond their disciplinal boundaries. Something expected. For instance, of course, S highlighted how the UAAP finals between Ateneo de Manila University and University of the Philippines was the most memorable—without having to mention how both topnotch universities serve as venues for other “battles” of Katipunan. Again, understandable, but lest we forget:

Are home courts of the Maroons and Blue Eagles safe havens for bullies, bigots, and degenerates? These macho-feudal cultures are not just graphic violence of bathroom brawls, superiority complex, homophobia, misogyny, genocidal dreams, fascist fantasies, among other barbarisms that hone civilizations. Choices offered by Joaquin Montes to his would-be victims, “Bugbog o dignidad” (damage or dignity), and the leaked group chat of alleged members of Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity (aka Lonsi) made rounds in social media feeds shows how savagery manages to dress up like boys for others and of scattered light.

Hence, the call against darkness of a UP official: do not wear black during the UAAP finals, wear maroon for school spirit. There was a suggestion from the student formations of both the Ateneo and UP to wear black to protest against all types of violence. The mentioned UP official, who said that politics should not mix with sports, is a member of the mentioned fraternity, whose logo is accompanied by “we gather light to scatter”; some re-worded the phrase making it sound conyo-like: we gather light to “kalat” (garbage).

Preceding the #LonsiLeaks was a frat war. The “war on drugs” is never a war to begin with. Yet, P spoke of his beat as if “war on drugs” is an objective, neutral phrase. Again, a war happens between two camps or contending forces, with somehow equal capacities to exchange blows and defend their ranks; the poor cannot defend themselves against organized, state-sponsored, quota-driven, trigger-happy police force.

P looks forward to the coming year because the “war” will continue and he wants to find out what we have gained after all the bloodshed of, according to him, 5000 casualties. There is something perverse with the manner most of the guests exhibit their enthusiasm for 2019. After expressing hopes that the DOTR secretary learns this year how to face the media, T implied that the government official, being someone who works silently and privately, is just camera-shy. Like P, T feels interesting days are coming, due to the war on traffic and D on the war between the dilawan and the DDS.

D contained the feeling of novelty and wonder for the President, to which the host responded: the President changes the meaning of “presidential.” The conversation of the host and D was as spirited as people who have just watched Inception, without having the opportunity to watch Paprika, asking what the ending means and could further mean for their lives. There is an air of acquiescence among “newsmakers,” a shared eagerness to figure out how the jigsaw puzzle of the country under this regime turns out this year.

The variables herein seem excited for the colourful materials that the crises of Philippine society shall provide for stories they meant to sell to the impoverished from whom they extracted the narratives. Such a sick cycle. Facial expressions of these newsmakers and their somewhat inappropriate jouissance about their respective beats and the state of the nation is disconcerting. For D, the president himself is the news. Such fascination with controversial sound-bites smokescreen more relevant economic policies and shifts in political power; its reproduction and circulation in social media signifies the maintained stranglehold of corporate media’s control over supposedly new democratic spaces proffered by “new media.”

I thought G talking about Estero de Magdalena and being glad that a fraction of its “informal settlers” were relocated was the worst part of the talk-show. But H proved me wrong. First, H dismissed the helpful but limited power of social media—emphasis on “limited” since I myself do not overestimate platforms where everyone can speak all at once but this perhaps deserves another separate write-up. Somehow, insisting on the primacy and superiority of mainstream media against social media is like a leader flaunting his authority against followers. See previous anecdote of D and Duterte, for emphasis.

Second, H took his speaking opportunities to take jabs at people he is supposed to serve such as (again, another label I despise a bit is at hand) “netizens” and voters. Unlike his colleagues, according to H, netizens can neither see the bigger picture nor suffer consequences of problematic data-gathering and outrageous analysis. What H failed to realize is this: The short-sightedness of uncritical and enlightened mainstream media people is further propagated by netizens who rely on available and “reliable” traditional news sources: TV and radio. Corporate news stories manufacturers that employ H shall be responsible, not just to their sponsors, but also to Philippine society. But of course, that is not the case.

Third, H also mentioned the importance of networks in their work, so he expected the takeover of Former President Gloria Arroyo as House Speaker. No surprises for him at that very moment of the power struggle in the Congress, as he was just second-guessing the particulars of what happens next. Through the vast network of people he knows, and through other forms of connections happening off the camera, he had the advantage of taking a position and an angle before everyone else senses the scoop. What among the information at hand do they air and what do they keep for their clients and for themselves?

Finally, H had the last say and he used the airtime well: As an expert in politics he hoped that the people take their voting power seriously (seriously?), as the elections are the only way, according to him, that civilized people can enact change. Such a child. Or a jaded grown-up. But whose children and grown-ups are these newskeepers (or news skippers?) who claim to be bearers of truth, due to their training and professional experience yet scoff at the uninformed? How did they learn to blush and fantasize about the great write-ups they can publish and garnish with railroads (in legislature and in transport), killings, price hikes, expletives, among the other novelties showcased by the Duterte administration?

No interest and fascination at all with mass actions and peoples’ struggles in resisting these interesting times under this challenging and unorthodox leader that panders between two imperialist powers? How twisted can fetishists of the demise of the dispossessed be, if they fixate on trivialities and presidential quirks yet it seems taboo for them to even mention Martial Law in Mindanao during a talk-show that, well, talks of the highlights of 2018? Isn’t such a denial tantamount to a momentary news blackout, hence a betrayal of their alleged advocacy for truth? Where, then, are other versions of our national realities?

Find out for yourself. Visiting alternative media platforms is the next best thing to visiting the sectors concerned. Thanks to whatever that brought you here, as this space is a good start—and perhaps a bad ending. (

About the author: Tilde Acuña teaches and studies at the Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature in the University of the Philippines. His works were published in Kritika Kultura, Likhaan, Pingkian, hal., High Chair, Bulatlat, and other publications.

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