The chaff and the wheat

I laughed so hard when I read this on my mobile phone yesterday; too bad I couldn’t update my blog immediately.

Prominent Filipino newspaper columnist Carmen Navarro Pedrosa became a prime example of what she ranted about. Warning Filipino readers not to be gullible, she then proceeded to unwittingly cite fake statistics from a satirical blog.
In her From A Distance column in the March 26 issue of The Philippine Star, Pedrosa expressed concern over the purported findings of a Harvard University study, which claimed that Filipinos are “the most gullible people in the world.”
‘A serious allegation’
“This is a serious allegation we should not ignore… we better take it seriously,” she said.
The problem is that the supposed Harvard study — including its “content analyses of over 500,000 historical documents from 300 different societies” by the “Harvard Institute of Socio-Political Progression (HIS-PP)”— is entirely fictitious, the work of recently founded satirical blog
Apparently, the satirical nature of the post was lost on Pedrosa, who concluded her piece by saying, “We are gullible because we are not able or do not question information. We prefer to believe what other persons tell us.”

* * * * 

Originally posted on March 15, 2011:

“… from birth to death, we aren’t taught to question the prevailing wisdom.”

 iwriteasiwrite on yesterday’s hoax text message

I blew my top on Twitter yesterday:

However, I’d like to think that this was the result of a series of unfortunate incidents.

Since February, a new Tumblr account, Mosquito Press, has been getting some attention. Its particular entry, “29% of Filipinos think ‘People Power’ is title of talent show that launched Kris Aquino into stardom—survey” made the rounds of Facebook and Twitter, posted with comments from Pinoys who know nothing but to criticize, whine and hate. Comments that just have to say something negative about Kris Aquino. Comments that spat on the memory of EDSA.

Since they are losers, I doubt if they realized that the joke was on them. If only they used their brains, or sige, kahit wala ng brains, if only they scrolled down to the bottom of the website, they would have read the disclaimer that Mosquito Press is a satirical blog. (I checked the site as I was writing this and the disclaimer is now gone; I actually like it better that way. My reason later.)

In any case, I opted to bite my lip. Even if I’d still occasionally see people post Mosquito Press news, believe them to be true and include some smart-ass comment, I still bite my lip.

So when a well-meaning friend forwarded me that now infamous radiation-slash-Betadine text message for verification (if there had been indeed, a nuclear meltdown), I just had to… let off some steam. I was angry, not at the original source or at my friend, but at the persons who were gullible enough to even believe them and pass them forward.

That was yesterday noon. Imagine my incredulity when I learned this morning that some schools actually canceled their classes because of the text message. Juice ko, nakaka-high blood!!! Good luck na lang talaga sa bansa natin. Bago tayo mamatay sa radiation, baka mauna pa tayong mamatay sa kabobohan ng ibang tao dyan. I can’t even say, “ng ilang tao dyan,” because it reached to a point that again, classes had to be suspended!  (On a related note, can the Department of Education close down these schools?! Seriously.)

So I learned about that and a few minutes later, I saw this ‘news’ item from Mosquito Press: “Harvard study finds that Filipinos are the world’s most gullible people.” It was funny until I read the many comments from readers. Comments such as this:

This article is JUNK!

#1 – What is the Gump Index? Google it… if this is indeed a Harvard study as you said… then why is it that nothing comes up on the search results? Is there even such an index?

#2 – You wrote, “Filipinos scored 1,344,399 points, placing it first, ahead of the Trojans of 12th Century BC, who scored 1,086. “The gross Trojan Gump Index was higher than Filipinos’, but it was offset by the fact that the Trojans are a dead civilization,” said Dawson.”

WHAT? Does this paragraph even make sense to you? How is it possible that “The gross Trojan Gump Index was higher than Filipinos” when as you wrote Filipinos scored 1,344,399 points while the Trojans scored only 1,086. (so inconsistent…)

It was so long, it won’t fit into a screenshot.

Nir Rosen said, “Twitter is not a place for nuance.” I say the Philippines is not a place for subtlety. When the person behind you at the cinema begins to kick your seat and you turn around to glare at him, he won’t get it. You’d need a machine gun to get your message across.

* * * * 
(Should make a good sociological, undergraduate study. Is it the Filipinos’ lack of experience in satire? Is it the ever-pervasive intrusive Catholic presence? What ever happened to good old Maria Clara flirting? Why does everything have to be obvious? In a soap opera, you can immediately tell who the bad guy is in the first episode.) 
* * * *

Which is why I liked that Mosquito Press removed its disclaimer: I think we should repeatedly bombard people with informationboth true AND falsein the hope that eventually, we will all be forced to stop, think, assess and verify.

Yes to more satire.


7 thoughts on “The chaff and the wheat

  1. gary says:

    sasha baron cohen is my hero when it comes to this. The more he stirs things up, the more people are forced to learn about intolerance and injustice. They may do it kicking and screaming, but they will learn.


  2. Jason says:

    EW — I hope it's a temporary dye ;-)Gary — We need a Pinoy SBC and I don't mean Merceditas Gutierrez. My mind's blank right now as to who comes close.


  3. gary says:

    On another note, just wanted to tell you, J, that the fact you are aware of these things and are writing about it is in itself a step in the right direction. SBC does it with comedy, writers do it by, well, writing. It really IS up to us, yung nakakatanda (and therefore mas may alam), to point out the ills of society and take action.yes this is a group hug post. remind me to do that when i see you next time.=D


  4. mida says:

    Let's just say that during the reign of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans (think uber-religious and more religious than Catholics ever were in history), many written texts hardly had a sense of humour. And people like Jonathan Swift (THE satirist of satirists) got loads of flak. Where public religiosity reigns supreme there lives ill or nil humour!


  5. Jason says:

    Gary — I'll take you up on that :-PMida — Re: nil humorYou just made me realize what was it exactly about interviews of religious zealots that I find scary and disturbing.


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