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Raising the level of discourse

Cong Corrales .

METHINKS the biggest losers this election season will be politicos who hired trolls to either promote them or slander their opponents — like in the 2016 national elections — and ultimately, the voting public.

I admit, I was among the netizens who were dumbstruck by the attack of the trolls in 2016. It was something new. People were actually silenced by the bullying of trolls.

However, more and more people, actual social media users, are getting back at the trolls. As I have observed in some city-based Facebook groups, people are directly calling out trolls.

I based this observation on the threads of local group “Bantay Kagay-an.” I have been a member of the group even when it was called “Bangon Kagay-an.” It sprang up as a direct response to the devastation of Typhoon Sendong.

I must say first that it is unfortunate that this group has become a cesspool of trolls and its owner has not been forthright with his group members. The group is supposed to be an independent group.

The owner is running for a seat in the city council. He filed for a mayoral position but withdrew and posted a statement of sorts on his reason for his withdrawal to the mayoral race. He said he was waiving his candidacy to a person who supposedly bedazzled him in a brief encounter at a hotel lobby.

In its declaration of group rules, Sec. C: Values and Principles #2, it states that members must “be fair and balanced (in contrast to lap-dogging or doing a PR for somebody).” A cursory scan of the group posts now will show that it has since broken this rule.

The group page is being held hostage by a troll named “Jose Ma. Guerrero.” Since the filing of certificates of candidacy, this troll has regularly and consistently posted slanderous statements against the incumbent administration while bolstering how immaculately clean its principal is.

The funny thing is, real users are openly commenting against the troll’s ad hominem and non sequitur posts. Before, it was unthinkable that you would berate a troll online considering they are masked in anonymity. I guess real social media users have had enough of the toxic discourse if you call it that.

Other Facebook groups are even worse. Case in point is the group called “Ang Baruganan.” If you scan the posts in the group page, you will realize that no real users are commenting or posting on the page. It has been completely taken over by the trolls of all candidates of the city and the province.

It seemed that raising the level of public discourse is becoming less likely on social media. We have to face the reality that it is a practice in futility to be debating with a person cloaked in anonymity. There is no accountability and responsibility with what they post on social media.

Fortunately, my editor-in-chief thought of something that will benefit the electorate. He decided to give all the local political parties a space in the opinion pages of this paper — one day for every group each week. He named it “100% Politics.” This new sub-section within this paper’s opinion pages aims to raise the level of issue-based and fact-based public discourse on matters of politics and governance while the competing political groups keep with good taste and propriety, things that have been lost and which many people no longer value in other public discussion social media groups recently.

All the political groups have agreed and picked a day for their group columns. “100% Politics” started yesterday with city administrator Teodoro Sabuga-a Jr. writing for the incumbent administration (as expected, of course). In the coming days, we, the electorate, would witness a battle of ideas sans ad hominems and non-sequiturs.

The political groups should be able to present their respective development plans and reform agenda. They will have to convince the voting public who deserves to be supported and why the other groups are less deserving.

In the end, the voting public will benefit from this healthy but highly competitive public discourse.

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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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