Media's Public

‘Destabilizers’ and ‘deep state’

By Pachico A. Seares
Public & Standards Editor
Sun.Star Cebu and Sun.Star Superbalita

‘Threats’ on Duterte, Trump show parallels. And media unavoidably would’ve a part in reporting the clash

Palace spokespersons dispute most criticisms of President Duterte as acts of destabilization: more recently, opposition of the mining industry to his environment and natural resources secretary, Gina Lopez; the filing of an impeachment complaint against the president with the House; and Vice President Leni Robredo’s calling out the United Nations to the extrajudicial killings in the country.

They’re out to destabilize the Duterte government, his spokespersons allege, even noting a “plot” among the “destabilizers.”

What they share

U.S. President Trump, on the same groove of concern or fear, lashes out at a “deep state,” a conspiracy theory that a state within a state influences public policy, regardless of which political party controls the government. Trump blames it for damaging leaks that hurt his image. Critics say he’s using it for his failures.

Duterte and Trump, in a way, share the same plight: they face enemies, perceived or real, who’re out to derail programs or oust and replace them.

And both have a distaste for media or, more precisely, for media that criticizes. Media is crucial to their defense and offense in beating off the enemy.

Close to loathing

Trump’s relations with media borders on loathing. He called the U.S. media “public enemy.” In campaign rallies, he’d call media “dishonest” and their product “fake news,” sometimes even heckle reporters and anchors by name. In tweets, he insults media again and again. In their faces, he told network owners and anchors that he hates them (“I hate your network and everyone in it”).

A similar quote, in reverse, comes to mind. Then Cebu governor Lito Osmeña, accepting an award from Sun.Star, said, “Everyone in Sun.Star hates me, from the editor to the janitor.” Classic hyperbole.

Trump uses more than hyperbole: he lies, which he and his surrogates hardly back down from, tagging the lie “alternative fact.” Duterte admits to being hyperbolic, even chiding media for not distinguishing an exaggeration from a plain declaration.

Not a Trump, not yet

The good thing that media finds is that Duterte has not reached Trump’s zenith of narcissism: that victory in the election gives the president the right to do anything he wants, the other branches of government and the public, especially media, be damned. Except for his rant on media corruption, set off by a Davao-based news correspondent’s question out his health, he has since kept down his skirmishes with the press, thanks to his communication office and surrogates.

It’s a difficult time for media in both countries, made tougher by the climate of suspicion there are forces out to destabilize, or derail the government’s agenda and, in the U.S. so far. an open and direct assault on media credibility.

The stubborn thought of those in power is that their foes can’t succeed without media help.


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