Monday, June 16, 2008

Public Disinformation 101

There’s supposed to be a “truth in advertising” law, but are we on guard and protecting the public against violations of this law? We live in a media atmosphere that is like a thick soup of lies and half-truths (which are whole lies too). Take this cold medicine ad that says, “Hindi sapat ang
tubig at pahinga … Kailangan, i-‘Nose-zep.’” I obviously changed the name of the drug a bit so as not to be obvious; but the company propagating this clear disinformation isn’t at all shy to issue an outright lie to push its product.

It is now a truism, a widely accepted truth, that sufficient fluids and rest is all that is needed for viral cases such as colds and flu. So to insist that one needs phenylpropanolamine and paracetamol to recover from colds or flu is an outright falsehood. And to see tarpaulin signs of this drug all over Metro Manila’s streets, dishing out its lie against the body’s natural healing with fluids and rest while propagating the drug, enraged me even more.

On the Internet, one can find consumer advocacy groups against phenylpropanolamine (PPA), a substance banned in the U.S. for the many cases of death. One website called “Consumers versus pharmaceuticals,” for instance, says, “…here in the US, not a single cold tablet or syrup uses
Phenylpropanolamine. All use Pseudoephedrine.” I wonder: If the US FDA does not allow the use of phenylpropanolamine even in small amounts, why is it still being allowed by our BFAD?

As a matter of fact, the warning against phenylpropanolamine had already caught on for a while in the Philippines but the people’s short memory has allowed one of the giant pharmaceuticals to push its potentially deadly drug on consumers again.

How do you treat colds? Family Doctor on the Internet says: “Get plenty of rest, especially while you have a fever. Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke, which can make cold symptoms worse. Drink lots of fluids like water and clear soups. Fluids help loosen mucus. Fluids are also important because they help prevent dehydration. Gargle with warm salt water a few times a day to relieve a sore throat… Avoid alcohol. Use saline (salt water) nose drops to help loosen mucus and moisten the tender skin in your nose.”

Not to be outdone in this big disinformation campaign is the Meralco blitz--not just about the other PPA (Purchased Power Agreements with take-or-pay terms) but also with Juday. I have nothing against Juday earning a good living from her public image, but she should be careful in
preserving her credibility.

Several celebrities who have found themselves endorsing bad products or ideas have paid dearly with their careers, such as Jolina Magdangal who was paid by Gloria Arroyo’s handlers to boost her administration’s sagging public image. Jolina has since seen the number of her fans following in her decline. Manny Pacquiao, too, has paid a high price for endorsing Gloria’s regime and her candidates. Yes, he still keeps winning boxing bouts, but his standing has suffered considerably when it comes to his politics. Even ‘Star for all seasons’ Vilma Santos has failed to shore up her rVAT of a husband; so let’s see how she gets clobbered once she runs for the VP slot and the rVAT issue is raised again.

Disinformation comes in many forms, but the end purpose is always to affect mainstream media and gear it to waylay the public from truth.

I consider the court decision on the Villaraza versus Ninez Cacho-Olivares and the Tribune as a case in disinformation--using the controlled judicial system. Reading the decision of the lower court on the matter, I noticed it repeatedly described the complainant as “private” parties, yet only the most innocent of innocents would think “The Firm,” a law corporation, is a private party. The Firm is as intertwined with public figures and public interest as a Balete tree is to its host until it kills and takes it over. The Firm has handled cases directly affecting, and in many cases disadvantaging, the public. The effect of the decision versus Ninez and the Tribune then is the emboldening of the power manipulators in government and the judicial mafia.

Consider the glee of consummate liars like Bunye of the “Hello Garci” infamy upon hearing the decision. He said of the adverse ruling, “It should serve as a wake up call for the media.” So, in effect, Bunye calls the decision as a warning to media not to expose, oppose or excoriate government anomalies and lies, nor the legal manipulations of the powers-that-be in cases of public interest.

The Firm has gained enormous power to “fix” the judicial system with the appointment of justices and judges taken out of the public realm into the private auspices of the Judicial Bar Council, where appointments are traded for loyalty for Edsa I and Edsa II civil society, the Firm and GMA’s interests. The courts were merely used in a disinformation campaign in this case. The truth will just have to wait for the higher courts to affirm.

The fight against the powerful interests and their disinformation is everywhere. In Thailand, a recent case is highlighted from the libel cases filed by British retail transnational Tesco against several journalists. Kamol Kamoltrakul, a Thai business writer, is now facing a libel action by
the giant Tesco for criticizing the retail behemoth’s policies of edging out small retail stores.

A report on his case narrates: “’The shocking truth is that 37% of [Tesco's] income comes from Thailand.’ And he goes on to make the case that Tesco’s Thai profits are mostly returned to the UK ‘because of the complexity of accounting which can deduct a lot of expenses and show low profit.’” For this, he is being sued for millions of Baht, threatening to throw him out of his house and home.

This is in no way different from my fight against NLEX’s exploitation where a P100-million case has been lodged against me.

Lastly, a political disinformation I would like to put in perspective is what CNN and BBC are projecting about Zimbabwe. They claim Mugabe is using state resources against his opponent, the British and EU gofer ‘Tsongo’rai, but more significantly, we should see just how the Western conspiracy’s transnational forces are being brought to bear on him, from the West’s economic embargo to CNN-BBC-Al Jazeera’s media demonization. Thus, at its root, Mugabe’s struggle is an anti-colonial one that goes beyond electoral politics.

Daily Tribune
June 16, 2008