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A Lesson from the Most Gullible Columnist in RP

March 29, 2011

I nearly got trolled! There’s a very interesting, entertaining blog article that caught my attention, and I nearly made myself

Beware of fake news!

Beware of fake news!

one of the most “gullible” bloggers in these parts. Yes, “gullible” or “gullibility” is now the word of the day after a Philippine Star columnist published the most gullible column in the Philippines a couple of days ago.

But before encountering Carmen Pedrosa’s laughable column, I caught this very amusing blogsite owned by a blog commenter named Fred. Fred, who maintains a satirical blog named Manila Bull, commented on my blog titled I’m an Atheist and I Oppose the Fascist RH Bill. That’s when I caught his engaging yet humorous article titled CBCP to Celdran: ‘Thou shalt not steal our tarps’.

Here’s an excerpt of Fred’s blog, which turned out to be a satirical story:

“Thou shalt not steal our tarps — steal others’ not ours,” CBCP told Celdran sternly in court Thursday.

Celdran was caught on a high-powered CCTV around 2:30PM Wednesday running happily toward a group of tourists with the tarpaulin over his head. A few seconds before he came to the group, he stopped to fix his pants which appeared to go down a little bit, showing part of the fault line on his back.

In his statement in court, Celdran explained why he had to get that tarp.

He said that the was just trying to help a group of tourists setup a picnic. The said tourists couldn’t find anything to be used as a picnic mat. Celdran said that as an act of hospitality, for which we Filipinos are known, other than police tortures, amnesty to grave offenders including plunderers, group slaughter of journalists,etc, he offered to help them find one.

“The tarp was just the exact thing they needed, just about the right size, too,” Celdran said. “I thought it OK to use it since that tarp has been there for so long already and the RHBill has been OK’d anyway. It would serve a nobler purpose if it helps a few tourists, right? I have nothing against your tarp, I assure you that.”

First, I noticed that I could use some alleged “facts” and “statements” for my future article so I clicked wordpress’s New Post and then began composing a damning blog about Celdran.

The running title was “Fascist Carlos Celdran Impresses his Stupid Media Fans”, and after a few moments I finished writing the lead story and its supporting details:

Fascist Carlos Celdran is the living proof that the country’s media have been infested with pseudo-intellectuals and stupid pen-pushers. This social reproductivist, who created a scandalous incident last year inside the Manila Cathedral to protest the Catholic priests meddling with state affairs, had just committed another act of indecency that impressed some of his social network fans. This time, Celdran turned looter.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines criticized Celdran’s latest display of imbecility, citing the Catholic pro-RH bill supporter was in breach of God’s eight commandment- Thou shalt not steal.

I was supposed to make a commentary about the opinion piece of Manila Times’ columnist Buddy Cunanan. This opinion writer wrote a column titled Catholic Taliban wherein he defended Celdran and criticized the Catholic church’s trying to “sway state policies by alluding to issues in homilies or employing back-channel approaches to quietly influence politicians.” The problem is, Cunanan has a very sophomoric, shallow and illogical understanding of the principle of separation of church and state. He wrote: “Unfortunately, the Church has just gone too far. For instance, emblazoned on the façade of the Manila Cathedral are two very big signs that read “Do we need the RH Bill? No!”. I have traveled extensively all over the Catholic world and this is the first time I have ever seen such a direct and barefaced manifestation of the Church’s interference in state affairs. What is even more shocking and alarming is that thousands of people pass in front of the Manila Cathedral everyday, yet no one seems to have noticed this or complained about it.” REALLY! Does that constitute the Church’s attempt to violate the separation clause?

But then I stopped writing as I deemed it best to do some fact-checking. I usually conduct fact-checking to check and to know the veracity of my facts considering the critical nature of this unpublished story.  I googled the following statement to know whether the mainstream media picked them up- “I thought it OK to use it since that tarp has been there for so long already and the RHBill has been OK’d anyway. It would serve a nobler purpose if it helps a few tourists, right? I have nothing against your tarp, I assure you that.” The result yielded only one source: Manila Bull. I began suspect that this must be a satirical blog article, so I made a reply to Fred’s comment.

Here’s what I said:

Hi Fred. I visited your blog and the Celdran article caught my attention. May I ask if you personally attended Celdran’s court hearing and if he really mentioned those statements. It appears that the only source of those statements is your blog. I commend you for that then. Good job!

May I ask if you’d permit me to lift those statements for my future blog article. You’ll be my source. Thanks!

This was the comment I encountered from Pedrosa’s Philippine Star column. The columnist wrote:

I would have been among many other Filipinos who would have said the same thing, but it is just as well that a Harvard study beat us to it. “The causes of this gullibility include the inability to question information and an over-reliance on interpersonal sources,” says the study.

“For Filipinos, a tsunami warning from the government does less than a mother’s directive to avoid the sea because of syokoys (mermen),” it notes. The Harvard Institute of Socio-Political Progression (HIS-PP) did not just say Filipinos were gullible, it said it was the first among “the world’s most gullible races.”

This is a serious allegation we should not ignore. For those who do not have access to the internet I found this item in a blog called “The Mosquito Press.” It may seem like a trivial source but according to the authors the study involved “content analyses of over 500,000 historical documents from 300 different societies. So we better take it seriously.

“What’s curious about the Filipino condition is that despite a respectable literacy rate, many of its people still believe that condoms cause cancer — or that Appolo Quiboloy, CEO of Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name, Inc. is the son of God,” said the report.

We are gullible because we are not able or do not question information. We prefer to believe what other persons tell us.

First, I noticed the term “Harvard Institute of Socio-Political Progression”, which, I believe, does not exist. And then the name of the organization caught my attention: “The Mosquito Press.” The name of the source itself should have warned Pedrosa about the accuracy and truthfulness of the alleged information she she borrowed for her column.

After a few minutes, Fred replied:

Please, no. My blog’s tagline reads “fake news, twisted views.” I’m glad that you asked me first. None of those are true. I’m AR admirer too. I highly respect your blog and I don’t want you to fall a victim of the fallacy i create.

Oh, yeah! Sometimes when reading online news, we have this habit of going directly to the main story without knowing the source’s name or tagline. Manila Bull’s tagline clearly states- “fake news, twisted views”– and damned I missed that!

So I wrote the following reply to thank Fred for giving me the warning shot:

Wah! I didn’t notice that. I went directly to the article. Thanks. That’s why I did a little bit googling and research before making the article. But I liked it. It’s funny and you nearly trolled me lol! It’s very I ironic that I just caught a column article written by this Carmen Pedrosa about the gullibility of Filipinos. It turned out that she made herself a new moniker– The Most Gullible Filipino Columnist. Lesson learned: Do some fact-checking. But yours is cool! Thanks!

Lesson? Well, bloggers, professional journalists and social networkers need to check the accuracy, timeliness, and veracity of online news and opinion pieces they encounter online. I suggest the following tips so you won’t fall for any fake online news and article:

  • If you’re a blogger or a professional journalist and you’ve encountered a news article from an unknown site, be very suspicious about the article’s facts, sources, and even author/s.
  • Check the name of the online site or organization. The name can somehow suggest whether it’s made to fool some gullible people.
  • Check the site’s tagline. Some satirical blogsites like The Mosquito Press and Manila Bull tell their readers the nature of their organization. They exist to entertain, to trick, or to con credulous people.
  • Whenever you encounter some dubious, impossible, suspicious “facts”, data, statistics, pictures, links, statements, etc., always use Google. You have to check whether they’ve been proved to be factual and accurate by the mainstream media, reputable organizations, etc. However, even some mainstream journalists like Rachel Maddow and Pedrosa fall for satirical, fake news articles.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask the source or author of the article. That’s what I did before posting my unpublished anti-Celdran article.
  • If you’re a blogger, always maintain some professional and ethical standards. Blogging is a selfish online endeavor. You blog not because you want to inform or impress others. You blog because you want to write. My attitude towards blogging is best explained by philosopher Ayn Rand: “You are not writing for the cause, for humanity, for posterity. You are writing because you *want* to write; and if you do not want to, you do not have to, neither today not ever. Remind yourself that it is all for your own happiness, and if you truly dislike the activity, do not try it. Writing is too difficult to do with a half-intention.”
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