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BEWARE. You are about to enter a freedom zone. No censorship. No stereotypes. And completely biased. In my favor. This is my blog and it should be a genuine one. I will give my opinion on politics and governance, both local and international, law, and many other things - like vampires, books by Neil Gaiman, and the L.A. Lakers. In short, I will blog about anything I like. Or dislike.



I demand one thing before you view my random musings, rantings, hopes, and dreams: be open and have a sense of humor. Have that, and you are most welcome here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

THE AGE OF RANT

MANO-A-MANO By Adel Tamano (The Philippine Star) Updated July 11, 2010 12:00 AM




Everyone’s a critic. And with the pervasiveness of the Internet, where everyone — and his dog — has a blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Friendster account, this witticism has finally become a terrible reality. For the YouTube generation, criticism is no longer a privilege but a demandable right. Simply look at the seemingly infinite number of blogs (and by this, I include people who post comments, status updates, etc.) and you will realize how quick people are to criticize. While I can appreciate the democratic nature of allowing anyone online to share his or her thoughts (these are manifestations of free speech after all) the surfeit of wrong grammar, erroneous assumptions and the downright meanness of some of what is written and expressed in cyberspace is both appalling and revealing — it hints at how little criticism is valued both by the critic and the public. Instead of insightful, well-researched, and useful critiques — whether of a person, a government policy, a restaurant or a movie — all we get are rantings.

In the Apology, Aristotle described Socrates as one who aspired to be society’s true critic: a civil dissenter (Socrates referred to himself as a “gadfly”) who would spur Athenians to know what was true or at least strive towards that end. Criticism, therefore, had an important social function “to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth.” Without wise critics, society would invariably stagnate and fail to reach its full potential. “Wise” was the operative word, however, and so only those who possessed the quality of wisdom or intelligence could properly take on the role and mantle of a true critic. Some may question this point and say that it seems terribly elitist. Well, truth be told, it is elitist but not in the pejorative sense. One of the meanings of elitism is the rule by those of who are best qualified and thus it is a leadership based solely on merit and ability. As in the field of law, since we want only those who have the requisite legal skills and training to handle complicated legal matters, it is with equal reason that we want only those who possess sufficient wisdom and knowledge of a particular subject matter — whether it be art, politics, history, etc. — to be given the important task of criticism.

Let us be clear, however, that this admonition towards wise criticism does not mean that people shouldn’t blog or comment online. After all, these serve an important social function and they provide, at times, a much-needed dose of humor, sarcasm, or even outrage, particularly when aimed at self-righteous or corrupt politicians. In fact, as was expressed to me by a friend who had a long career in public relations, there is an emerging shift towards the alternative forms of media, meaning a shift towards the Internet through blogs and social networking sites. He explained that traditional media outlets (network TV, radio and print media) have been so focused on “press releases” — overly spun and prepared news and opinions — or have been captured by powerful lobbies or vested interests, that these traditional outlets are viewed as inauthentic and, in a sense, manufactured. So people, particularly the younger generation, turn to the Internet to see news and views that they deem genuine. However, my concern is that since the alternative media is such a powerful source of information, then those who choose to express their opinions for public consumption should bear in mind their responsibility to express their opinions — and thus to criticize — wisely.

I cannot overemphasize the fact that the Internet is a great tool for enlightenment. The speed in which we discover facts and information, for someone like myself who was in college before the Internet became so accessible, is mind-boggling. But it also fosters laziness and carelessness, which are qualities that are antithetical to wise criticism. I sometimes worry that because of the ease of communication afforded by the Internet, we take expressing ourselves for granted and so we underestimate the impact our arguments, ideas or views may have

However, I don’t want to foster the misimpression that I believe that blogging or commenting should be overly grave, difficult or serious. As a matter of fact, it should be simple: check the facts, do some research, think before you write. While you are at it, why not take time to spell-check? If you are writing in a personal diary, then feel free to engage in venting and ranting, without limitations and with no regard to any consequence. But expressing oneself online is very different from diary writing. By putting your thoughts in a blog or by giving public comments, even if about the most mundane matters, you open these opinions and ideas to the scrutiny of others who may be affected or persuaded by what you write. Accordingly, a blogger has a responsibility — and I believe that it is a serious one — to be mindful and to do her best to write truthfully and accurately.

Finally, I believe that whether we are critics on the Internet or elsewhere, we can rise to a level of responsible and wise writing without having to lose our spontaneity, genuineness and even irreverence, which are the hallmarks of what is good about the emerging alternative media. Ultimately, we should raise the benchmark out of simple courtesy: courtesy, consideration, and respect to the public, who, after all, we invite to view what we say and what we write.

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