I have noticed the proliferation of fake news and trolls these days. This is a development that I find very disappointing and threatening. It should bother all of us.
We are witnessing change that is not good. It does not make us better as a people because fake news and trolls have lowered the standard and level of discourse. The inflammatory words have no use in a civilized debate. The lies do not only mislead but also destroy people and democratic institutions.
The standard of a democratic governance, the principle of check and balance among the branches of government, the level of “civilized discourse,” and of course the credibility of instutions are facing their strongest threats so far because fake news and trolls influence not only the press and the media but also public opinion.
I just hope that what history has taught us--- that strong democracy can overcome even the worst political cancer and enemies--- still remains true.
Remember how the United States survived the Watergate Scandal? Watergate reminds us about the danger and potential of the executive branch (the presidency) to abuse its power on a vast scale.
Then President Richard Nixon used the instruments of the government to destroy political opponents and although he was reelected with a large margin over his Democratic rival, the American people saw and heard enough to conclude that he had to go.
The Filipino people have the same experience during the regime of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Marcos was the first president of the Philippines to be reelected in 1969 but two four-year terms for him were not enough to satisfy his greed and itching for power.
Marcos wanted more and he wanted vast powers which led him to destroy the already weak democratic institutions in the Philippines by declaring martial law and imposing an authoritarian rule in the country and on the Filipino people.
His regime perpetrated a political system that concentrated all the government’s power in his hands. Marcos was not accountable and responsible to the constitutionally-created institutions of his country. He exercised power and made decisions arbitrarily and without regard to existing laws through the many proclamations and presidential decrees that he issued.
Fast forward to 2017. I hope that presidents Donald Trump of the U.S. and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines will not follow the tracks and the roads that Nixon and Marcos took by continuing to attack the mainstream media and labelling them as sources of fake news and alternative facts.
There are more than enough fake news sources and trolls in cyberspace that we do not need more. People need to learn and hear the truth so that important issues and concerns can be properly tackled and discussed.
Civilized discourse which is essential to genuine democracy doesn’t need trolls who sow discord and quarrels by upsetting and provoking people with inflammatory words and threats.
Trolls and fake news have no use in a productive society. If we allow trolls, fake news, and hate groups to dominate the discourse, our democratic institutions are in peril. And it can be much worse in developing countries where dictators and autocrats have a history of keeping private armies and vigilantes who perpetrate extrajudicial killings, murders, disappearances, and human rights violations and abuses.
Truth should always prevail and it must be available, not only to promote healthy and productive discourse but also to inform the citizenry about the affairs and concerns that affect their present and their future--- including their choice of leaders and elected officials.
Let us begin with the affirmation that there is nothing cool, acceptable, and awesome with trolls and fake news. Distorting truth and propagating lies is not cool. Sowing divisiveness instead of meaningful discourse is not acceptable either.
In short, trolls and fake news don’t rock!
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336. You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at www.liangcolaw.com.