Keep calm and carry on

For a country we're supposedly at odds with, I don't understand why we're so utterly fascinated with China.

No, I'm not talking about their many traditions that we've adopted, the traditions that have definitely gone outside the bounds of Binondo and, perhaps, of the home of every Filipino family with a strong Chinese heritage. I totally understand why I had to run around Ortigas for two weeks to buy boxes of mooncakes for our clients. I totally understand why My Binondo Girl became such a big deal, although not why Xian Lim is considered a matinee idol.

I'm talking about our newscasts. From the moment I wake up, to the moment I get home, and the moment I sleep, there's always a news item about China - and it's not necessarily something about the country's issues of personal space. Our television networks' definition of "foreign news" isn't exactly that of news that can affect the way we live, unless it's a war threatening the safety of our OFWs (and the headlines still read "dalawampu't-lima, patay sa tumitinding kaguluhan sa Syria," day in, day out) or an unknown virus threatening the safety of our OFWs ("dalawampu't-lima, patay sa pagkalat ng West Nile Virus"). Otherwise, it's the very trivial stuff.

"Bata sa China, naipit ang kamay sa pintuan ng kotse!"

"Bata sa China, naipit ang ulo sa bintana ng kanilang apartment!"

"Tatlong taong gulang na bata sa China, muntikang mahagip ng malaking trak, huli sa CCTV!"

I don't honestly know what these headlines prove, save for the already widely-known fact that Chinese gymnasts do really well in international competitions. Perhaps a shock moment for news programs? Two birds with one stone. You tell people about what's going on in the world, and give them a chuckle or two. Job done. And then some. But it's been a frustration of mine, seeing our newscasts don't really help people be aware of what's really going on, perhaps insulating the common man from (justified but, perhaps, unhealthy?) paranoia.

I'm probably preaching to the choir here. I mean, if you're reading this, you probably know more than most. Not to dismiss anyone - it's just a bit of scratchy market research. Anyway, you probably know about Pussy Riot. You know, that Russian protest band who performed a song at a church in Moscow and was arrested, and sentenced to two years in prison, because of that. Officially they desecrated the church they performed on; in reality they were put in the slammer because they sang a song against Vladimir Putin.

You probably heard of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk about, among others, how much of a threat Iran will be if it develops nuclear weapons. And they're this close to getting there, he said, before flashing what is best described as a graph in the style of a cartoon bomb. That made for a bunch of memes. You've probably seen that.

And I'm sure you already know of China - let's stick with China - you already know of China's stringent censorship laws, where websites are blocked, subjects are banned, text messages are monitored and ideals are pushed. But you wouldn't think that is the case, though. The savvy Chinese have tooled themselves with proxy servers and gone to those parts of the Internet deemed unacceptable. That's why most of your downloads have Chinese characters all over it.

Still, that doesn't change the fact that we're fascinated - nay, obsessed - with China. I mean, we're taking the first steps towards what they do.

You definitely know about the Cybercrime Prevention Bill. It goes into effect on 3 October and, if you've read every dissenting opinion against it, it spells the end of our lives as we know it.

I am exaggerating, yes. And they probably are, too. But, really, who wants to live in a country where liking a Facebook status is potentially libelous?

To be fair, we do need a law that addresses Internet crimes. The Internet has, for the most part, become a wild west of sorts. You don't know what you'll get. And if you're not vigilant enough, you'll just find out that somebody has stolen your credit card details, used them to buy a domain name and some web hosting, and set up a website under your name which extols the wonders of having sex with a seven-year-old girl. We never really had a legal way of going after identity thieves, hackers and spammers, so this is a start.

But everything else? It's wrong. Of course it's wrong. Online libel, for starters. That insertion from Tito Sotto - I must point out, this was before the whole plagiarism issue, but him hinting at this insertion to get back at his critics is not a good thing - is going to get us all in trouble. Someone posts a graphic on Facebook denouncing, say, a government official caught up in a corruption scandal. I agree with him, and I hit like on the graphic. The government official, in his high pedestal as always, decides that graphic is libelous and moves to have the person who posted the graphic, and everybody who shared or liked it, thrown into jail. Up to twelve years, under the new law, more so than the six years stated for libel through traditional means, for lack of a better term. And I can still get those extra six years in prison. Holiday! Only with skin sores and the potential of rape.

But before we get thrown into jail, we lose access to our lives on the Internet. Everything will get blocked. My Facebook page will be used as evidence against me. My hard drive will be accessed, possibly to sift through any other evidence that I maliciously liked that graphic. Heck, this is the Internet we're talking about. It's much harder to plant marijuana on an unsuspecting businessman's luggage. And the worst part is, we don't have a say.

We didn't really have a say in this. Remember when the newscasts made a huge story out of the Cybercrime Prevention Bill being signed? They enumerated the offenses. Hacking. Spamming. Child pornography. Cybersquatting. Online libel. It took a couple of days before eyelashes were batted. It took two weeks before public outrage snowballed into this. And yet, unlike the situation in the United States earlier this year - where the Stop Online Piracy Act threatened to kill Tumblr because of its Glee GIFs - we can no longer do much. The SOPA then was still pending in Congress: there was a widely-publicized campaign against it before it went to a vote. In our case, the vote already happened, and the bill has already been signed into law. We're, more or less, too late.

Isn't this what the people up there wanted? Watch TV and everything else is glossed over to keep us in the dark. We have stories on murders and viral outbreaks (of both kinds) and Chinese kids getting their extremities stuck in tight places. But in other places, you get to know more, and then some. There's always more substantial news (and analysis) online. There are decidedly independent assessments of the things we use online. Maybe people reading Thought Catalog so they can get a grip on how to live their lives is a step too far, but if it suits them, fine.

But as we stand, we will all be kept in the dark. Casting aside all doubts that the authorities can actually implement this law, what with our middling-verging-on-backwards standing when it comes to Internet access, the fact that this potentially oppressive law is there is a ghastly proposition. Here's our government, a supposed beacon of change, which has turned out to be much like everybody else (or maybe it's because it's election season). They decide that the Internet has become the wild west for far too long. Such lawlessness. Such backwardness. I know! Why don't we put some order in here? Of course, it'd be our idea of order. Their beliefs, their morals, it will be imposed on all of us. Nope, Noynoy Aquino isn't a stupid president. Nope, you're wrong, Niko - he did read Republic Act 10175 before signing it. All he wants is to bring our country forward - what's a little restricting going to do?

Well, I probably agree with the last part, but while China is prosperous (albeit flagging of late), it's also a headache for the Communist government there. Admit it, China.

Also, netizens - a derogatory term if you ask me - you made things worse for yourselves. I mean, take a good look at the Internet. It's full of cat pictures. It's full of One Direction haters. It's full of jokes about the Teng brothers and Chowking. It doesn't get you anywhere! You're hurting Harry Styles, and cats, and the guy who used to play the chef in Chowking ads. Therefore, you need to be taught responsibility. You need to be disciplined.

Also, porn? If you can't get laid, and have to resort to wanking to be happy, then you are a pitiful Filipino. We have machismo. We can easily get laid! So, no porn for you. You love television? If so, why are you watching Pretty Little Liars on your computer? No file sharing for you. I don't give a damn if you like this Canadian chick who sings in French - you have to listen to today's shit music on Magic 89.9. Also, Filipinos think alike, so no message boards for you. No. Here's our morals. It's the best way. Take it, or else you lose the laptop you've spent ten years saving up for.

I'm probably exaggerating. No, I definitely am exaggerating. But this is what we all let slip, folks. This is why we should be afraid.

And yet we should not be afraid. It's not too late. Five petitions in the Supreme Court so far, questioning the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Prevention Law. Protests going all over, more so in the next couple of days, in the lead up to the law's effectivity. And when it does become effective, well, let's face it, nothing will change. Governments in Europe have blocked file sharing sites but it hasn't stopped Internet users from downloading illegally. It hasn't stopped them from setting up adult webcam shows. It hasn't stopped them from ranting against their governments. The Chinese have found many ways to circumvent their government's iron grip on information. We've done the same for so many things. I mean, do we have jeepneys with seatbelts, as stated by the Seatbelt Law?

We may be the wild west for people who don't understand our wired generation - which, ironically, includes the most Internet-savvy press department of any Philippine president. But go in here, and all we're doing is talking. Sure, some of us really are taking a step too far in speaking our minds, but we're just exercising the very rights we are guaranteed. If you're offended, fair play. If we went too far, we likely deserve to be incarcerated, but we cannot, should not, be restricted from disagreeing with the people on top.

What's next, radio broadcasters being slapped with online libel because their commentaries are broadcast on the Internet?

So you want us to buy things rather than steal them off? Then sell it to us! Give me a record store that doesn't just sell K-pop CDs, acoustic covers of "Call Me Maybe" and the token couple of copies of the new album from the Vaccines. Give me a television network that gives respect to the shows they acquire abroad - no censoring Klaine kisses, no hideous ads on the bottom third of the screen when Ryan Seacrest announces the winner on American Idol. Give me films that don't do the same things over and over again. (Isn't this law co-sponsored by a congressman who happens to be a relative of the owner of Solar Entertainment? Or am I just mixing things up?)

So you want us to stop complaining and start cooperating? Be open with us! Tell us all we need to know. We are your bosses (I hate to use Noynoy rhetoric, but stick with me) but you're keeping us in the dark about everything. If you told us about your plans to insert that online libel bit in this law then we'd probably have talked about it. But no, you sneaky bitches, you crept up on us and threw it in and now you expect us to be at your mercy. Whatever that means, because government priorities change with every new government - all but the priority of enriching themselves and their cronies.

Really, we're mostly a responsible bunch, but apparently you don't trust us at all. So, I don't know, I guess we'll just - to go with that annoying meme - keep calm and carry on.

And your responses...


Blogger jeany.9/30/2012     


Blogger Rainy Martini10/08/2012     

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