Media News Analysis

The pits of reporting

“Even in a roomful of tinhorn dictators, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines would stand out”. That’s the opening salvo from the Editorial Board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a report, issued yesterday under the headline: ‘Blood money? Senators properly question US aid for Philippines’.

And why is that – why do they “properly” question? Does the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have first-hand knowledge of the situation in the Philippines? It has no bureau there; in fact it has no substantial bureau anywhere outside of Pittsburgh as far as we know. Certainly none overseas.  It may be very knowledgeable about life in the City of Bridges, but comprehending the Philippines a hemisphere away is a little unrealistic to put it mildly.

All the paper’s international or ‘world’ coverage, in fact, comes either from wire services, none of which are kindly-disposed to Duterte, or from fellow liberal media such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post – journals that have the Philippine president at or near the top of their Public Enemies lists.

Although by no means a hard-liberal publication – nevertheless, a supporter of US Democratic Party policies – the views expressed by the Post-Gazette’s Editorial Board, are nothing more than a distillation of the views and opinions of the liberal mainstream consensus. There’s nothing new in this hit piece; it’s just a lazy rehash of the Prog-Left’s anti-Duterte output of the past several months worked like a lump of soft clay by a remote editorial elite parked in a Pittsburgh boardroom.

The hook for the hit was the urging, by three US senators, for a State Department probe into how American cash, provided for law enforcement in the Philippines, was “being  diverted to extrajudicial drug fighting” – by which we are led to infer that the Duterte law apparatus is paying bounty money for the scalps of drug offenders.  Nothing new in that allegation then. In Establishment media in the US, however, conjecture is everything; verifiable fact is just an irritating inconvenience that can be easily glossed over. Now it seems that the Post-Gazette has succumbed to the same shoddy practice.

And so we’re entreated to the usual collection of slurs, innuendos and throw-away lines, from another willing tributary of the swollen river of anti-Duterteism sluiced out from the Western mainstream media’s polluted lake of agenda-driven hate. The truth is that the Philippine president embarrassed their president and messiah, Barack Obama and they’re angry about it. Duterte’s biggest sin is that he blasphemed; he called the man whom they’ve kept wrapped in cotton wool for nearly eight years “a son of a whore”.

Had Duterte adored him and idolatrised him as some Pharaonic god-king whichthey do, of course, he would be revered as the biggest defender of freedom on the planet. Such is the fickleness of the political media.  Had he pursued the futile anti-China policies of his predecessor, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, the Western media would be lauding him – drugs war or no drugs war.

What’s disappointing in this piece is that it blindly buys into the mainstream narrative. And so, the most pressing thing on the minds of those Executive Board members on Christmas Day was not the 68 people mowed down in Breitscheiplatz, Berlin, when a terrorist at the wheel of a Scania semi-trailer slammed into a Christmas market killing 12 of them. It wasn’t even the 16 people injured by schrapnel from a grenade left by radicalised bandits on Christmas Eve outside the Archdiocesan Shrine of Santo Niño de Midsayap in North Cotabato on the Southern Philippine island of Mindanao. No; such things are of far less consequence. More to the point, they can’t further the cultist Lib agenda.

The article, however, is more measured in its conclusion, that: “The State Department should undertake this assessment [of how the Philippine police use US aid money] and share its findings publicly so that, if the senators’ concerns are valid, US and international policy toward Mr. Duterte can be modified accordingly”. But then it adds, oddly: ”If he [Duterte] comes to New York, someone should be assigned to watch him”. Hands up anyone who knows what that means.

What we do know is that mainstream media is dying on its feet. Reader numbers are falling everywhere – The wounding of a journaganda. At the Pittsburgh Post circulation has dropped by 54% over the past 10 years. And the reason for that, unpalatable though it may be, is that readers no longer trust their media. And waffle such as that put out by the Editorial Board on Boxing Day is not going to stir people to rush and take out a subscription.

We would urge the Editorial Board to visit the Philippines; to travel light, leave the prejudice in Pittsburgh. Don’t meet with the human rights groups and their surrogates in Manila – you’ve already got their input; that’s the basis of that latest op-ed. Go instead to the parts of the city where not everyone has shoes; where even fewer have work – those places where there aren’t three square meals in a week, let alone in a day. Ask the people there for their opinion on Duterte’s drugland crackdown. Ask them if they support it; if they feel they have more human rights now than they had before.

Go to the rehabs where man and boy, woman and girl have been given the first chance in their miserable lives to get clean. See what they have to say. Would they like things back as the way they were before Duterte came along?

We guarantee they’ll come away with a very different perspective to the one gained from looking out of the boardroom window at 358 North Shore Drive, mulling over the latest anti-Duterte coverage from the likes of Time magazine. Let them try it. Go with no preconceptions, no agenda – that after all is the essence or the virtually lost craft of reporting.

What they’ll find is that life in the barangays of Manila is nothing like life in Pittsburgh. These aren’t places where people live; they’re places where people try to survive – and the odds of that are certainly shortened by a crystal-meth plague that has destroyed their neighbourhoods, their children and their dreams. Difficult to comprehend sitting in a boardroom 8,397 miles away.

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