Of the recent brouhaha involving Mocha and Ateneo’s Matanglawin’s annual lampoon issue (called Tanganglawin), some observations can be made on how the first months of Duterte have shaken us out of stupor (whether ‘just’ in social media or in the fleshly streets of everyday) and how being ‘involved’ is not enough.
A few days ago, the Facebook page “Mocha Uson Blog” called attention to Matanglawin’s recent lampoon issue which is called “MOCHANG TANGA BLOG.” Apparently, Mocha took offense at the publication, as hinted at the way she continued talking about it in the comments section (There was implicit imputation of malice in the very way (or more aptly: how she thinks) the publication is being circulated: “patago daw na pinamimigay,” as if it is unlawful, illegitimate). In its own page, Ateneo’s Matanglawin was quick to clarify, accentuating the “officialness” of their lampoon publication, quickly negating Mocha’s implication that since she thought the issue was being spread around campus unopenly, there is something fishy about it.
We even have a personal copy of the issue, which Jesa chanced to obtain sa Ateneo mismo when she had a work-related visit to its library last August. Maliban pa syempre sa aming familiarity with Matanglawin being Ateneo de Manila’s official student publication and the inference that Tanganglawin is its lampoon issue. This is thanks to our quite special, quite notable involvement with the campus press during college – a stint that brought a libel case to Outcrop, a case based on – surprise, surprise! – a lampoon issue.
How then can we read Mocha’s response to Tanganglawin which obviously played around with the blog she is maintaining? Is this fanaticism, Mocha being the prototypical dutertard – the dutertard being, I strongly suspect one of the types of citizens Duterte himself detests? In his side comments, he often underlines how criticizing someone, mostly if he or she is a public official, is part of one’s freedom of expression and it is something that is essential to democracy. Following this, are the dutertards not the destroyers of the ideals of democracy themselves: instead of a critical and productive exchange of ideas about societal issues, they espouse a fervent and unknowingly passive behaviour, electing the Almighty Shepherd – in the person of the President – to lead them and chart the way for them?
Does this make then the other camp – contra the Duterte fanatics are the anti-Duterte – the favourable position to be in? That is, being fanatic of the President is to be unintelligent and submissive and being against him, specifically his iron-fisted war on drugs and the more recent anti-US stance, is to be a protector of human rights and more generally, to be the more ‘enlightened’ one? Am I even asking the right questions? What if not all supporters of Duterte are fanatics, and what if not all who oppose him are the same (reminiscent of the silent clarification: to criticize Duterte does not necessarily make one “dilawan” or a member of the yellow army)? To frame the possibilities of positioning in relation to Duterte as a black-and-white matter is to deny the complexities that surround his presidency and the various social issues that his first three months in office have boldly opened up. As these matters are simplified, so the ways by which we negotiate and think about them and eventually, imagine how we can intervene are limited.
Clearly, Tanganglawin is a gesture of intervention. How does it imagine Duterte, how does it want its readers to imagine and relate to Duterte? And what does it say about the potentials of critique in a society that narrowly understands democracy as casting one’s vote every three years?
Campus Journalism as Always-Alternative? Lampoon, Laughter and Avoiding Leniency
In my four years in college, I have been involved in campus journalism. I was writer and then editor in UP Baguio’s student publication, Outcrop. My stint there taught me how campus journalism can be a venue for alternative discourses to be aired. This is coming from two major premises: (1) that student publications must serve the interests of the students, their being the student papers’ publishers (via the student fees collected every enrolment) and (2) that the main characteristics of the education system (colonial, commercialized and fascist as we call it) mostly put the students at a disadvantage in various ways (the collection of exorbitant fees – the very fact that education is being paid for, actually! — the stifling of academic freedom, the skewing of education’s orientation in general to bypass the needs of the nation and so on). Airing these alternative discourses is done by writing about things that are not normally discussed, if not overtly made hidden to the student; issues that otherwise they should be minding about. These alternative discourses hence act as propaganda – or more aptly, counter-propaganda, for what they seek to counter is ‘propaganda’ as well, propaganda of the ruling ideology. Since they carry more the baggage of what the term “propaganda” connotes (as dry, as dogmatic, as narrow-minded, as simplistic), the concomitant burden of complexly formal presentations is similarly heavier for the camp of the marginalized. The lampoon is one of the more effective ways by which student publications can downplay their status as ‘propaganda,’ with the formal ingenuity making the ideological content less explicit (again, a task that is less prominent for the ruling ideas, since they have this aura of being matter-of-fact).
This is where I am coming from as I venture to offer my reading of Tanganglawin; as I venture to offer this critique of a publication which in itself is (I believe, consciously) critiquing something.
That “something” being, what?
The cover page conjoins the parodied title of the blog (Mochang Tanga Blog) and the line “Dudirty Die hard Supoters”). An early jab at fanaticism?
This will be sustained in the next page, “Kuta ng DDSS, Natagpuan!” The second and third paragraphs of the article read as follows:
“Nagsagawa ng isang raid ang Feelipin National Pulis Patola (FNPP) at Feelipin Bureau ng Imbestigasyones (FBI) tungkol sa pugad ng mga tagasuporta ni Pangulong Rodrigow Duteti na Die-hard Dutetians Super Square (DDSS) o “Dutetrolls.
Walang natagpuan sa nasabing gusali maliban sa 109 na abandonadong mga kompyuter unit at altar na may mga pigurin ni Pangulong Duteti.”
Note the ironic play: the PNP, supposedly the main implementer on the ground of Duterte’s notorious war on drugs, is being parodied here (as the FNPP). It is the FNPP who raided the “pugad,” the place where the Dutetrolls are nestled. But the twist is that the FNPP found nothing but computers and Duterte figurines. What is being implied here: first and more solidly, how fanaticism over Duterte is getting alarmingly akin to the religious and second, how the presence of the Dutetrolls can be reduced to a cyberforce, a force enabled less by actual people than digital computer mechanisms.
What else does Tanganglawin read from Duterte aside from the Dutetrolls they evidently repulse (albeit the two must not be collapsed with each other; as hinted above, Duterte himself might be ashamed of what his avid supporters are doing)?
There are pages about two former Presidents and Duterte’s problematic attitude towards and relationship to them: first, the controversy surrounding former dictator Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani and Duterte’s professed approval of it and the executive pardon given to Gloria Arroyo.
Here are excerpts from the page dwelling on the latter:
“Dahil sa Acquittal Beauty Bar, naalis ang dulot ng plunder virus! Nakaalis na si Glory ng Veterano at nawala na rin ang kanyang neckbrace.”
And the last paragraph: “Mabibili ang Acquittal Beauty Bar at iba pang mga produkto sa Karte Supremo, Palasyo ng Mekelengyeng at sa lahat ng ahensya ng gobyerno. Tanging kailangan gawin ay palihim na abutan ang saleslady o ‘di kaya naman kaibiganin si Rude Dutirtry para magkaroon ng pribelehiyong magamit ang produkto.”
These concerns related to Duterte are valid points of discussion, and by bringing it up at the very least, Tanganglawin deserves some credit.
It also appears that there is this existing notion that Ateneo is a bulwark of “yellow minions,” supporters of the Liberal Party, or the Aquinos. I am not part of the community so I do not have a more solid notion of how this is alive there although I suspect that this has something to do with an anti-Marcos statement that was released by the Ateneo professors early this year (This connects to another simplification: to be against the Marcoses is to be supportive of the Aquinos or the Liberal Party, a narrow view that symptomatizes how we look at history as a stage where big families (and not individual and collective agents) are at play.
But several parts of the lampoon make us reconsider this simplification.
Is this not precisely where the potency of the entire Tanganglawin is coming from: this exhaustion of the possibilities of play that are proffered by the chosen form – the lampoon? Notably, the lampoon issue does not exempt its creators, as can be seen here:
Since they are also part of the Ateneo community, the very community being tagged as “napaka-bias sa mga Akinoknow,” it can be argued that the writers of the piece are also poking fun at themselves, revealing the extent of their awareness of the issues which they are tackling, to which they are responding. Most importantly, this reveals that they are aware that they are part of this whirlwind of events, that in their practice of writing, they do not subscribe to the hackneyed and already-refuted idea that the writer is this privileged documenter of events. What this practice of writing evinces is that these campus journalists are aware that writers do not merely document; writers also analyze the events, and since they are also players in that string of events, they are also analyzing themselves and how they relate (and more vitally, act in relation) to the events around them.
And maybe this is where I would finish this essay – for now (and if that sounds paradoxical, then let it be paradoxical; after all, it is mostly through paradoxes, if we only unflinchingly negotiate them, that we advance our thought) – if only to finish in a sort of positive light.
In an old essay, “Hermeneutics for our Time: From Where do We Speak,” Edel Garcellano closes the essay by recalling the very opening he made in the title: “Finally, there is therefore only one question that must be immediately asked of all of us: From where do we speak.”
In the rabid, and rapid exchanges happening in our time, no thanks to social media (the very platform where Mocha calls attention to Tanganglawin), we become more oblivious to this very important question: where are things, opinions, dispositions, attitudes, coming from? We all know this: how most of the ‘discourses’ happening in the Internet have only reinforced generalizations, sweeping statements, sweeping attacks, non-dialogues pretending to be worthwhile exchanges.
This can remind us of the two pervasive attitudes when it comes to the pursuit and the production of knowledge, of ideas, of truth; two attitudes that are seemingly diametrically opposed each other but are actually two sides of the same coin (as two disparate things commonly are): the attitude that is adamant in claiming it represents the singular Truth and the attitude that resigns to the multiplicity of truths, all having equal valence and value. In the explosion of opinions in social media, we see these two attitudes dominate: (1) a close-mindedness stemming from stern belief in one’s position, blocking meaningful exchanges with contrary views and (2) a liberal celebration of pluralities, usually concluding (when tedium sets in) with the very loserly “Let us agree to disagree” statement.
What did Zizek say? This: “There is, among the multitude of opinions, a true knowledge but this knowledge is accessible only from an interested, partial position.” Forget about Truth, forget about the Master Opinion, the Most Right Opinion, the Most Valid Point-of-View. But also do not get charmed by the allure of the pluralistic and often non-committal let-us-respect-each-side eklat. What I propose is truer, more committed engagement, with each side showing awareness of the bases of their positions, the interests and biases that these positions articulate.
Is Mocha coming from her fanaticism, a fanaticism which she herself does not acknowledge? A closed doggedness she herself is blind to?
How about Tanganglawin? I want to believe that they are aware of the political functions of their “having fun.” The back page of the issue will appear to support this:
Clearly, they are not just “playing around;” this “play” is aware of the very situations where their play is launched.
Maybe this is the most important reminder of all: when we type things, when we make our keyboards bleed with our emphatic sharing of opinions and views, when we engage someone in social media, we are located someplace, literally and symbolically. These social locations and our very identification with them, we articulate with our online presence. The cyberspace is not as big as we would like to believe; neither is it cut off from our social realities. Old thing to say.
Locations are significant. Adbots are real things – so are fanatics and pluralists — but we can be realer and more proactive and smarter and self-aware and self-critical than them.